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.

YOU'RE NEXT Review

I've said countless times that horror is probably my least favorite genre and that I find little real pleasure in paying to see people killed or haunted and generally made uncomfortable for the sake of entertainment. I understand why people find it engaging and I have no problem watching scary movies, I just don't really look forward to it unless it's fall and the leaves and weather compliment the small towns that are often represented within the film. There is a strange, oddly comfortable layer of relatability and the fantasy of what might go down in these kinds of films is hopefully as far removed from your reality as possible. What makes this latest piece of original horror so enticing is that it could not feel more removed from the majority of its audiences likely realities, but that it is in on the joke the majority of its audiences would be making about if it were legitimately trying to stir up some scares from us. You're Next is a low budget riff on the home invasion thrillers that have been sprinkled through the genre since its inception. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (who have both contributed to the horror anthologies V/H/S and V/H/S/2) made this film a little over two years ago (the film premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival), but have been unable to secure a distribution deal for it and so it is with somewhat of a delayed reaction that we receive the film in all its goofy glory. To say I had fun with this film is to say something that might be easily misinterpreted, but trust me when I say You're Next works just as much as a horror flick as it does a comedy. There is brutal violence, a couple of specific shots that gave me the chills, and a body count that will appease anyone in the genre faithful, but on top of that it also has plenty of bad acting from its D-list cast, a musical score for the ages and dialogue that makes it even tougher for these already unskilled actors to allow us to even try and take them seriously. No, You're Next isn't a great film, it may not even be a very good one when we get right down to it, but to say it is not entertaining or that it doesn't have a certain charisma to it that pulls you in and elates your senses would be a tough argument to make and that alone is worth the recommendation.

First Trailer for THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

The career renaissance of Matthew McConaughey continues on as the once rom-com staple stars in director Jean-Marc VallĂ©e's (The Young Victoria) film based on the real life story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 and was given only thirty days to live. Woodroof's reaction to this disturbing news is naturally to figure out how he might cure himself, but when he learns the U.S. is still internally divided over how to combat the virus and is restricting medications he turns to smuggling alternative and illegal treatments into the country while not just helping out himself, but other patients. We've seen plenty of press for this film as it is the one where the set photos captured a scarily thin McConaughey, but it seems evident from this first look that all the hard work was indeed worth it as the character of Woodroof and his overcoming of the odds arc seems a perfect vehicle for the actor to give a dramatically effecting performance while utilizing his wealth of charm for the more comedic aspects of the film. I'm glad to see this isn't going to be a dour experience, but more a heartfelt drama that will contain the multiple elements and emotions that make up everyday-life. Though this is clearly McConaughey's show and he seems to be intent on getting an Oscar nomination, if not a win, there is an exemplary supporting cast here as well that seems to be doing some great work, especially Jared Leto. He clearly has the flashiest role as a transsexual that goes into business with Woodroof and the versatile actor looks to be bringing his A-game along with his co-star. The rest of the cast is made up by the likes of Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Denis O’Hare, and Bradford Cox. Dallas Buyers Club will have its premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival and I look forward to hearing the reaction. The rest of us will have to wait until November 1st when it opens in limited release and expands nationwide over the following weeks. Hit the jump to check out the first trailer.

BLUE JASMINE Review

As I'm not typically excited to see a Woody Allen film it came as a surprise when the trailer for his annual effort, titled Blue Jasmine this year, was immediately one that intrigued me and had me anxiously awaiting its arrival at my local cinema. After finally arriving I am again surprised by how taken I am with the film and the way in which it approaches its subject and above all, the craft of the writing. It has always been apparent, even to a Woody Allen-amateur like me, that the writer/director has a much stronger hand when it comes to his scripts than his direction. Still, Jasmine offers such a layered and complex character at the heart of its rather melodramatic story and is brought to life perfectly through an Oscar-worthy performance from Cate Blanchett that we don't look to the film for answers concerning plot lines, but instead we watch it to see the path this tragic character goes down. There is never any doubt that Jasmine's plight will not be a happy one, but as much as I'm not overly-familiar with Allen's older works I know that much of it skews closer to comedy than any other genre and while there are a few laughs here and there throughout the film this is ultimately a very dour, very emotionally complex film to watch and invest yourself in. So much so that when the film does come to an end there is almost a sense of relief that we are finally able to break away from Jasmine's troubles and issues and happy to encounter our own once again. This may not sound like a necessarily good time at the movies and to be honest, it's not. Still, there is something to the titular character that draws us in where, if we were to encounter her in real life, would no doubt push us away. We are literally watching a train wreck in motion as Jasmine falls deeper and deeper into the depths of lunacy and yet we don't feel sorry for her as much as we come to examine how she became the woman she did and that is what Allen is interested in; subtly building on the details and leaving clues for his audience to not only see Jasmine as she is in her now, almost repulsive form, but how easily she came to be that person. This is top notch writing and acting presenting a gloomy character study with the most vital of energies.  

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 27, 2013

EDITORIAL: Affleck Is The Bat and There's No Going Back

God...Talk about REALLY BAD casting...And now begins the second downfall of the Batman series...the film after this will probably introduce Robin...then Batgirl! I am NOT seeing this movie if he is in it. There are over a million better choices, they could have picked someone off the street at random and made a better choice.

If you are taking in these sentences as my reaction to the recent news that Zack Snyder, director of Man of Steel and its upcoming sequel that will feature Batman, has cast Ben Affleck as the caped crusader well, you would be wrong. First of all because this wasn't my reaction (not even close) to the initial announcement and second because, despite the fact they are reactions, they are not aimed at Mr. Affleck. No, all of the above comments were made on various websites anytime between April and August of 2006. The person on the receiving end of all this criticism was Heath Ledger. When it was announced director Chris Nolan had cast the charismatic Aussie in the role of Batman's most notorious nemesis there was no shortage for cries of blasphemy or people proclaiming no one would ever measure up to Jack Nicholson from Tim Burton's 1989 film which in itself caused controversy by casting an actor known mainly as a comedian to play a vigilante that dresses up like a bat. As we all know now, both of these decisions turned out to be pretty well gauged and the people behind the scenes actually did have a pretty good idea of what they were doing. The argument will naturally be made here that Snyder is no Nolan (no, he isn't) or Burton (debatable, both have a flair for placing style over substance) and that he doesn't really know where he wants to go with this new incarnation of Superman and has simply placed Batman in the center of it to make the transition from stand-alone super hero films to crossovers more convenient for the folks over at DC to put together a Justice League film that might finally put them on track with what Marvel studios has now been doing successfully for over five years. If that is true the fan boys crying foul at the hiring of Affleck certainly stand a better chance of being proved right, but I'd like to believe that with the point Affleck is at in his career he sees something in this project that he can bring to the table. A fresh and interesting version of the Batman we've yet to see on screen before. Regardless of what direction this ends up going though, judgement should be reserved until July 17, 2015 and not a day sooner.

First Trailer for DIVERGENT

I've yet to read the Veronica Roth novels on which this latest cinematic attempt to capitalize on the "wildly popular" young adult book series is based. Though I can tell there is a difference between Divergent and the likes of those attempts that have failed to capitalize on that wave of pop culture this year such as Beautiful Creatures, The Host, and most recently, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. My wife is a ninth grade English teacher and it is easy to pick up on which books are actually connecting with a majority of the students and which are more brought about by false hype trying to convince audiences they are in fact popular. Divergent seems to be in that category where there is a genuine interest in the material and the eventual movie version which we gained our first look at yesterday. As I said, I haven't read the novels so I don't know the details of the plot or the motivations of these characters. The first trailer certainly gives off a Hunger Games vibe as it positions a teenage girl at the center of circumstances she doesn't believe she can overcome and offers an overseeing government that forces her to act against her will. In this case, Kate Winslet is literally forcing the act of free will out of the citizens she commands. Beyond this, all I know is that our protagonist portrayed by the lovely and talented Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) doesn't fit into any of the factions her society divides people into based on their personality. As a result, Tris (Woodley) faces certain consequences that will no doubt put her in harms way. The film also stars Theo James, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, Christian Madsen, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ben Lamb, and Amy Newbold. Divergent opens in traditional theaters and IMAX on March 21, 2014. Hit the jump to check out the first teaser trailer.

THE WORLD'S END Review

It's almost as if Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright were sitting around listening to Soup Dragons, reminiscing and thought what if that were the basis for the characters in the final installment of their Blood & Ice Cream trilogy. So lovingly referred to as this due to the recurring appearance of the Cornetto ice cream treat in each of the films that all began with 2004's Shaun of the Dead. That hilarious send up of the zombie film that was still able to function as a legitimate zombie film in itself surpassed any expectation or American satire that had come about recently. The same could be said for Hot Fuzz, doing for big, over the top, action movies what Shaun did for Zombies. With the third and final film in their trilogy Director Wright and stars Pegg and Nick Frost have not necessarily landed on another genre to spoof, but instead have mixed the formula up a bit while still holding true to the values that made the first two not just funny and enjoyable, but solid films in their own regard. The World's End comes to us in a time when we've had more than our fair share of apocalyptic ventures on the big screen and even this year what will likely end up being the second best comedy of the year (after this one, of course) is This Is The End. While The World's End isn't necessarily dealing with the end of days and is more a reference to the final pub at the end of a pub crawl that exists as a central plot device the name surely wasn't going to go to waste, not when this team of sci-fi loving writers, directors, and actors could layer on a level of the genre in their own film. And yet, while there are elements of those kinds of hokey, early sci-fi epics here the film never makes it its mission to pick up the tone or character traits from these films, but instead use them as a metaphor, a way to re-enforce the heart of the story they are trying to tell. In the end, this way of thinking is what has made these films and the people involved with making them so beloved by fan boys. Not because there are necessarily memorable laughs, but because they create characters we care about and tell stories we can relate to.

First Trailer for PARKLAND

My favorite segment in Lee Daniels' The Butler was that of seeing our titular character interact with President John F. Kennedy. James Marsden does a terrific job of portraying the young man elected to lead our country under some of the most polarizing moments in this country's history, but his death is an event in itself that has shaped many citizens memories and has left a mark on our history books that is still widely discussed and the circumstances of that day still widely speculated upon. The feature film debut of director Peter Landesman, Parkland, seeks to recount the events from the perspective of some of the more unsuspecting civilians involved that day. Getting its title from the Parkland Hospital in Dallas where Kennedy and both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby all died the trailer nicely sets up the tone and period piece aspect. The comparisons will certainly come up and be made to Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK and though I was somewhat tepid to the idea of getting another film based around the death of Kennedy I must admit the trailer pulled me in and made me want to see the film. Taking on the events that occurred that fateful day and opening up the landscape to explore avenues such as the doctor who had to attend to the President with little warning or the man who captured the assassination on his camera who would become a more integral part of the investigation than he ever imagined seems an interesting route to take. Backing this choice up is the casting of actors more than capable of making the everyday person someone we could learn to follow and become invested in. Zac Efron and Paul Giamatti seem as if they should receive special mention as they look to be doing the heavy lifting here while a stellar supporting cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Jackie Earle Haley, Ron Livingston and Colin Hanks as well as being produced by Tom Hanks doesn't hurt the films credentials. I wasn't aware of Parkland before seeing the trailer, but it is certainly on my radar now and I'm eager to hear of the reception it receives when it premieres at the Venice Film Festival and hopefully hits theaters before the end of the year. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER Review

Though not initially overcome with excitement for this project the good word of mouth and box office success increased my interest in the latest from director Lee Daniels. This lack of excitement doesn't come from anything more than the fact I didn't really enjoy Daniels' last effort, The Paperboy. I completely expected to be intrigued by that film as it seemed a modern film noir with plenty of genre elements at play with solid actors like John Cusack and Nicole Kidman doing interesting work, but instead it was a disjointed mess of a movie that not even the renaissance of Matthew McConaughey could bring out of the gutters. With The Butler Daniels has decided to take on a different beast entirely and tell a historical drama but from the point of view of a quiet perspective, someone who stood in the rafters and saw time pass, decisions be made and did little on his own accord to influence those decisions other than simply be who he was. That he continued to fill a subservient position for such a period of time did more to change the hearts of those he never imagined and seemingly much more than the countless sit-ins and protests that we hear about when schooled on the civil right movement. While Lee Daniels' The Butler is littered with stars, recognizable faces, names and historical events it is first and foremost the story of a man not many knew of before this film shined a light on and Forest Whitaker does a superb job of bringing that mans story to life. Add in the elements of his oldest son taking the opposite route and becoming entangled in those events we now recall with shame as played by up and comer David Oyelowo and an imperfect marriage that is only come to be appreciated in the correct way with the necessary passing of time and perspective as portrayed so effortlessly by Oprah Winfrey and you at the very least have a very engaging, very interesting film. Just because a movie is "based on a true story" (which if you do a little reading, you'll find much of this film has been manufactured) though and concerns an exceptional human being doesn't mean the film based on he or she will come out the same way. Lee Daniels' The Butler is not a great film necessarily, but it is a good one and yes, an important one.  

KICK-ASS 2 Review

The first Kick-Ass was one of my favorite films of 2010 and though it was never the huge hit folks would like to assume it now was simply because it was a super hero flick, it garnered a strong enough following and was of high enough quality to garner a second installment. I, personally, have really been looking forward to this sequel and though I've never read the source material I'd at least be willing to bet that this continues to honor the tone of the comics if not copying the story lines exactly. What was so fresh and shocking about the first film was that it was able to so seamlessly weave together the tones of several different genres of film. In both the original and the sequel there is plenty of action, a fair amount drama and a dominant wave of comedy. Most importantly, just like the first film, Kick-Ass 2 knows what it wants to be and goes for it with no regards as to what others think or who might be offended by it. Plenty of people have cited the morally reprehensible actions of the characters in this story as inexcusable or declining into the very thing it is satirizing, but I can't help but feel the film does a fine job of doing exactly what it sets out to do. Was I as impressed with this sequel as the original? No, but that would have been a tough thing to do anyway and with original director Matthew Vaughn not returning and Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) taking over it was pretty much impossible. And while there are several factors that make Kick-Ass 2 a step down from the original, the main thing being that the novelty of it all is now gone and we are more nestled into this ridiculous world. What helps it rise above being a complete misfire though is that it puts its focus in the right place: Hit Girl. Though the titular character is still a major factor the film goes back and forth, giving equal time, to both the unfortunate situation he gets himself into and the evolution of Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz). This and the brutal honesty with which it tackles the tropes of the genre it's satirizing help what could have easily been a lackluster sequel into a satisfying follow-up to one of the more shocking films of the past few years.

LOVELACE Review

There is a certain disconnect between myself and the time period in which Lovelace takes place. The early-70's are a time I've completely come to know through there representation in films and the popular music of that time. Watching a film set around that period and concerning the star of one of the most popular adult movies in history is like coming to fully realize the underbelly of the time period while at the same time getting to know a character who might have just as easily been the subject of a Lifetime movie. Essentially this is what Lovelace becomes as the real story of Linda Susan Boreman is one of an abusive marriage as well as a testament to the type of control people can subject others to. While this is certainly nothing to be made light of and it becomes clear just how tragic Linda's story really is, this standard bio pic account does nothing to make us feel much for Linda other than the inherent sympathy anyone would feel for a woman who has been part of an abusive relationship. The only thing that differentiates Lovelace from being featured on the television for women station is the caliber of talent involved and the vulgarity that comes along with Linda's profession. The only other film I've seen in which directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were at the helm is the similarly low key biopic of poet Allen Ginsberg, Howl. While I wasn't particularly attracted to that film either it at least conveyed the story in a way that would have likely made the subject proud. It had an element of originality to it and intertwined real interviews, animation, and heavily documented re-enactments that at least flowed together to create an interesting piece of work. When compared to that inventive approach Lovelace is completely straightforward with only a structural shift in the middle of the movie that is more jarring than effective. I didn't mind the film, but I didn't necessarily enjoy it. Linda is an interesting person and has a story worth telling and there is enough talent invested in her portrayal and the people around her that make this movie worth seeing if not just to see how a soul can become so easily lost, but for how success can look different to the people on the outside and the person at the heart of it all.

PRINCE AVALANCHE Review

There are several factors Prince Avalanche inherently has going for it when it comes to my humble opinion. First off would be the fact that it offers the chance to see Paul Rudd, a comedian I could watch do pretty much anything, in a much smaller film and in a more restrained role with more to him than that of the everyman smart ass type he's fallen into over the past few years. Second would be that it is directed by David Gordon Green, a Little Rock native, and someone who has an eclectic resume to say the least. I mention Green's hometown only because we get very few directors who rise to prominence from my neck of the woods and so it is a real treat to see them doing so well and being received positively in the harsh environment of Hollywood filmmaking. What Prince Avalanche represents though is anything but the Hollywood system. This is a minor film with a big heart and one that doesn't attempt to solve the worlds problems, but instead simply asks its characters to figure out who they want to be and what they need to do at this point in their lives to make that happen. Green first became known for his smaller films such as George Washington and All the Real Girls, though the only one of his early efforts I've seen is Snow Angels, featuring a wonderful performance from Sam Rockwell and a turn from Kate Beckinsale that shows she truly can act. Snow Angels is a very serious film and so it came as a surprise when Green decided to follow it up by joining the Apatow production family and partnering with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg for Pineapple Express. While Express is a minor stoner comedy classic, Green tripped up on his next broad comedy outings with Your Highness and The Sitter. All of this is to say that Green has finally provided himself the opportunity to mesh both of the genres he's worked in before and in melding these two tones into a small, quirky film he has produced something that is not only oddly hilarious, but also something highly potent with characters that get inside your soul and make you smile.

ELYSIUM Review

Elysium is as much a disappointment as it is a success. While director Neill Blomkamp's first feature came out of nowhere with no sense of expectation and no precedent, it is because not only of the success of that film, but the quality that the bar was pretty high for his sophomore effort. I was especially intrigued by Blomkamp's second effort due to the way he was able to integrate such a strict science fiction plot into a documentary-like style in District 9. The worlds were blended so seamlessly to the point the audience was able to accept that this was not only an allegory for apartheid, but was a finely crafted, and emotionally poignant piece of filmmaking. While much of that could also be applied to Elysium the difference unfortunately comes in the latter part of that description where, while there is ample amounts of allegorical messages and high-tech science fiction, there isn't that element of the film that hits an emotional connection with the audience that makes the film as memorable as the way the directors previous film. What makes the movie just as much a success though is the fact that despite all of this, it still represents some of the better things about large scale filmmaking in today's world. Blomkamp made District 9 for a reported $30 million, but Sony gave the director a reported $115 million for his follow-up and to this great advantage the director created a fully encompassing world that gives the film real scope, real consequences, and a platform big enough to tell a story that parallels the issues of immigration and health care in today's world. While the more money you have the more extravagant the film can be, but what seems to have been lost in the process is the personal touch that was such a crucial element in his debut feature. All of this is to say that while I thoroughly enjoyed myself in terms of pure entertainment value (there are a few great fight scenes, interesting characters, and a bevy of baddies), but I was hoping for more of a compelling story, something that might move me, affect me, or leave me thinking about the film days later. Instead, what we have is an average action flick more in the vein of White House Down and 2 Guns than a film that has aspirations bigger than delivering thrills in the form of explosions.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2013


It has been somewhat of a rough year for film. Though at the time of this writing I've found two or three films I absolutely loved this year and left a lasting impression on me with several others being great, but not necessarily anything exceptional. Exceptional is what we are always looking for as we head into the latter part of the year and studios begin to offer up their Oscar bait. 2013 will be no exception, but the surprise this year is just how many blockbusters have been saved for the final quarter. There are usually one or two December releases that stand to be critical and box office champions, but most are more adult fare that do well with critics and have long legs when it comes to box office numbers. While there will be plenty of these kinds of films still vying for a place on the ballot come next February there are also a fair amount of well-made films that are part of franchises that studios are looking to make a pretty penny on. Whether it be Marvel, young adult adaptations, or re-makes there is something for just about everyone on the docket for the remainder of this year. It was a tough task, to narrow down four months of releases to just ten films, so I've naturally included a quick briefing on five extra flicks that almost made the list at the end of this article. As for the big ten, I can tell you that I'm seriously anxious and optimistic for each and every one of them. Also, just because a film didn't make any part of this list doesn't mean I don't think it will be good; it could mean I'm just not as excited for it as the films that did make the list and it could also be due to the fact I haven't seen much from it at this point. Both guaranteed blockbusters such as the next Hobbit film and smaller fare that has received great festival buzz like J.C. Chandor's All is Lost didn't make any part of this list, but that isn't because I don't want to see them. There promotional material just didn't get me as excited for as the films listed below did. The way I look at it, the following ten films are what I would choose to see were I limited to only that amount for the rest of the year. So here we go...

First Trailer for THE MONUMENTS MEN

The Monuments Men is one of those movies I knew I wanted to see long before there were any trailers or promotional material for it. Based simply on the cast and the intrigue of George Clooney returning to the directors chair to tell a story that seems perfectly suited for Spielberg's filmography, I was hooked. The film is based on the true story of an unlikely World War II platoon composed of museum directors, curators, and historians who find their pleasure in works of art and literature not in battle and bravery. Still, FDR tasks them with the job of going into Nazi Germany and recovering pieces of art before they are destroyed and lost forever. Clooney's last foray behind the camera was 2011's Ides of March which was a fine enough political thriller while this film seems to be operating on a much bigger scale. While the first trailer isn't too impressive as I wasn't inspired, filled with laughter or heartbreak, and inherently felt no immediate reaction to it whatsoever I am still intrigued and hope that the final product might offer all of these things. With actors like Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Bill Murray making up the team of historians it is hard to worry too much and Clooney is also starring along with directing the picture so there is still much to be optimistic about, I simply expected more from the first look. There is nothing of intrigue here that would lead me to want to see the film were it filled with actors and makers who didn't have the resumes these guys do. I do like the look of the film as it seems Clooney and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (The Descendants) have captured a tone that elicits the harsh atmosphere of war and the palette of an old picture while still having the sharpness of a present film. The music doesn't fit as I imagined something more symphonic to go along with the story, but the rapport between the actors is also of a lighter tone than I expected, so not getting what we want isn't always a bad thing as I'm sure it will be a joy to just see Goodman, Balaban and Murray play off one another. Let's just hope this is indeed more along the lines of Ides of March (if not better) than Leatherheads as far as quality goes. The film also stars Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, and Hugh Bonneville. The Monuments Men opens on December 18th.

WE'RE THE MILLERS Review

I love early August comedy releases. Though this spot is usually reserved for a Will Ferrell comedy every other year and thus may be the reason it holds a special place in my heart, We're the Millers does a fine enough job of filling that void until Ferrell unleashes his massive sequel he's saved for Christmas this year. While this has been a particularly stale year for American comedy, not to mention this summer, with the most memorable thing to come out so far being the very meta, very elaborate inside joke we all felt a part of that was This is the End. What was unfortunate about that film was that it didn't leave the big cultural impression I expected it to, or hasn't immediately anyway. It may pick up steam once it arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD as it will no doubt become my default funny flick to toss in when I'm bored, but as for We're the Millers I was hoping for a little something more, something lasting from the summers final funny effort. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber hasn't made a feature film in five years and that one, titled The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, didn't exactly do much (I'd never even heard of it). Before that, his last film was 2004's Dodgeball. Now, I loved Dodgeball as it came during that sweep of a summer that also included Anchorman and was preceded by Starsky & Hutch in March. It was a consistent set of comedy monopolized by the likes of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, and Ferrell. It is clear those days are long gone now as not even a Wilson/Vaughn reunion flick garners much excitement, but Thurber is at least intent on trying to keep that type of comedy intact and continuing the tone by any means possible. For, if nothing else, what I took away from We're the Millers was that initially underrated feeling that I will come to love in the long run. I know there are jokes I missed, inflections on certain lines I will laugh at more when I hear them again, and certainly something more to the characters of David and Kenny that I'll end up feeling more akin to and as a result laugh at their jokes even more. It is a comedy that, while funny enough on first viewing, will undoubtedly grow on me as time goes by. That may not be the best compliment to pay a film right out the gate, but as for now that is the biggest highlight of this high concept comedy.

Full Trailer for THE COUNSELOR


Ridley Scott's The Counselor is one of those films you simply cannot wait to delve into. While it didn't make my top ten most anticipated films of the fall it is certainly in the top fifteen and I'm highly anxious not only to see what Scott has done direction wise but also what screenwriter and No Country for Old Men scribe Cormac McCarthy has put together here. Either way, it must be something rather engaging as the cast it has attracted is insane. Just looking at the banner above you can see that this could easily serve as alternate programming or a great double feature for David O. Russell's American Hustle. Though I haven't read too much into the film as I'd like to be surprised by what the makers have in store I understand the story centers around an attorney as played by Michael Fassbender who partners with Javier Bardem's crazy-haired character to sell drugs worth millions of dollars. This naturally leads to Fassbender getting in far over his head as other nefarious characters come into play and Fassbender's lawyer has to figure his way out of the position he's put himself in. The reasons he might need to put his hands in that kind of fire are left unexplained as of now and how much of a role his love interest, played by Penelope Cruz, might have is yet to be seen, but I'm loving the look and tone of the trailer. Each of the characters seem to have a defining style and presence while the overall film has a strong sense of what it is and how it wants to compliment the people involved in the story it is telling. It all seems very well calculated and slick and I can't wait to see how it turns out. The film also stars Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer, and Goran Visnjic. The Counselor opens on October 25th. Hit the jump to check out the latest trailer.

2 GUNS Review

Contraband was an exercise in complete complacency for me. Director Baltasar Kormakur crafted little more than the standard action flick with the assumed hook of it centering around smuggling on cargo ships. The film mixed a few "family first" morality tales in there and sported a strong enough cast to help the material rise above something that would have otherwise been nothing more than a barely acceptable TV movie. The same could be said about Kormakur's follow-up, 2 Guns, but I had a lot more fun with this one than I can even remember plot points from Contraband. While the film fits squarely into the genre of shoot-em up, buddy action flicks 2 Guns doesn't allow itself to be restrained by the conventions while at the same time playing to the strengths of those kinds of films. Neither of these characters are cops and neither of them really care to be friends (though Wahlberg's Stigman is certainly open to the idea), but while it is the odd couple chemistry that keeps this train moving I was also impressed with just how far the movie was willing to go to try and avoid the standard cliche's of its genre while still being more than willing to include a Mexican drug cartel and scenes with massive amounts of gunplay rather than intelligent or calculated conversation. Beyond this there is nothing especially insightful to be said about the film, but for what it's worth there should be a level of congratulation here for the simple fact that it isn't horrible. Truly though, with such hot commodities as Wahlberg and Washington in the leading roles that was never an option. Both guys have a strong following, much of which likely overlaps, and the sole fact they were teaming up was going to make for a good time at the movies even if the story offered nothing. That there is just the smallest amount of substance here that makes the experience all the more stimulating is a plus and reverts it from expectations that it might be one too many times Denzel has played a cop and there was no other fate for this than being dull. At the very least 2 Guns is entertaining and in reality that is what audiences go into this kind of movie for; that it offered this value in spades makes it nothing short of a success.

FRUITVALE STATION Review

Fruitvale Station is a difficult movie to deal with. It is a very moving picture that doesn't attempt to manipulate its audience or contrary to what you may believe going in, have an agenda more than telling the basic story of what happened on those fateful early hours of New Years Day 2009. Since its premiere at this years Cannes Film Festival there has been nothing but positive buzz swirling around the film and typically I'm speculative of these films that seem to garner unanimous praise based simply on the idea that if I look too much into the critical reception I will expect too much from the film rather than being able to take it in for what it is and what it was meant to be. I mention this because despite the fact I tried to avoid chatter around the film it is pretty impossible if you follow any film site, but also because none of that hindered my viewing experience. There is something very pure about the journey this film takes you on despite its content highlighting the downfalls and tragedy of a young black man in suburban America. Director Ryan Coogler makes his feature film debut with this simplistic, no frills approach to a story that needs nothing extra to make it as emotionally charged as the simple facts of the story leave us feeling. I go to the movies to see interesting stories, meet interesting characters and if I'm lucky become emotionally invested in the conflicts these characters come into contact with. We root for our protagonists and we hope they can conquer the challenges the antagonists present them with whether that be a supernatural force, an opposing government, or something more personal like a mental illness. What makes Fruitvale Station the exception to the rule is not that it is "based on a true story" but that it doesn't follow the conventional arc of a movie in that we know what we're getting, we know there is no happy ending, and that even though we can't escape the heartbreak of the events this movie sheds light on there is a profound meaning to come from the way Koogler and his cast convey a story that might never be known to those outside the community it's documenting. There are no excuses for how wrong things ended for Oscar Grant, but if its any testament to his legacy this film will serve to both make people aware and inspire others looking to make a change.

First Trailer for LONE SURVIVOR

On the eve of the release for Mark Wahlberg's latest actioner, 2 Guns, we have received the trailer for yet another of Mark Wahlberg's actioners, but this one seems to be shooting a little higher than his current team up with Denzel Washington. For Lone Survivor Wahlberg has partnered with director Peter Berg (The Rundown, The Kingdom, Hancock, but also Battleship) to tell the real life story of the failed June 28, 2005 mission "Operation Red Wings". The purpose of the mission was to have four members of SEAL Team 10 (portrayed here by Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster) capture or kill Taliban leader, Ahmad Shahd. It is known that Marcus Luttrell (Wahlberg) is the only member of the team to survive, but just because we know how things end doesn't mean this won't be a fascinating study of soldiers and the small aspects of their day to day lives. All their mundane actions made more poignant by the untimely fate they meet at the conclusion of the film. With a limited release scheduled for December 27th and an expansion on January 10, 2014 it seems the movie is being pushed for some awards consideration and this at least shows good faith in the project. As for the trailer I was surprised by how generic it ultimately looks, more as if it were based on a video game than the true acts of courage the poster so proudly carries. That isn't to say the final product will feel this way and I honestly hope that it doesn't. Berg has made some solid films, but hasn't left his mark on something great yet. This type of story certainly has the potential to do that. Wahlberg is on a roll right now with a string of well received films and box office successes and with the well-intentioned patriotism it seems this is at least destined to do well in the States. Lone Survivor also stars Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, and Jerry Ferrara. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.