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.

ENEMY Review

I'm not sure what to make of Enemy. It is unclear what exactly I'm meant to take away from the picture, but what is clear to me is that I can't stop going over certain scenes and trying to put together the significance of the actions of the characters, of the shot choices, the color palette, the deeply intentional mood and score and why it builds at certain points and simply sits and broods at others. I want to understand it completely, but I don't and I know even if I offered up a theory of what I thought the final scene means it would likely be completely different from the person who was sitting next to me in the same theater. It is a film and a story meant to elicit conversation, meant to stir up academic-like discussion and it is clear from the opening moments we are in for something extremely meditative that while equally as stark and emotionally haunting (if not more so) than director Denis Villeneuve's previous effort, Prisoners, is much more in tune with its scale and its compact story. Where Prisoners was a sweeping epic of large themes Enemy plays its hand close to the chest and is all the more intriguing for it. As each new scene plays out I couldn't help but to wonder what each little thing meant, what I was intended to take away and if it would result in some revelation I'd already imagined in my mind or if it might come completely out of left field and take me with real surprise. The film opens with a quote simply stating that "chaos is order yet to be deciphered" and as we watch the strange story unravel I couldn't help but to keep repeating this little phrase in my mind and wonder in what sense it was meant to apply to our main characters. The same could be said about any number of things that different people will pick out to latch onto, what is the deeper psychological meaning of the constant references to hands? I'm not sure still, but one thing that remains clear is that I found the film to be completely fascinating and I can't wait to watch it again, to dissect it further and to see just how many different conversations I can have about it.

BAD WORDS Review

Jason Bateman seems like he could easily be a bit of a jackass; not necessarily because he carries a rude demeanor but simply because he seems to expect a lot out of those he comes into contact with and doesn't care to waste his time if the other party isn't up to task on an objective the actor has in his sights. In his latest film, Bad Words, Bateman had many objectives on the docket he wanted to accomplish for besides just acting in and producing the film he has also made his directorial debut with the project and it seems right in line with the kind of dry, narcissistic wit that has infused his characters since taking the role of Michael Bluth in 2003. While Mr. Bluth might not necessarily be classified as a narcissistic presence what he did best for Bateman's career was to give him the everyman status a la Paul Rudd while supplying an explicitly dry style that was so prominent in his delivery and tone that he was given the ability to relate to the inner-most thoughts and complaints that those of the same mind set have against the different annoyances of society and family that he expanded on in a weekly series. While his character in Bad Words, Guy Trilby, is explicitly more narcissistic than Michael Bluth he comes from the same point of view where he has tried to comply his entire life with the rules of what define a moral and corjile society, but has finally decided to go off the rails and simply say and do whatever he feels like doing. Obviously, there was a breaking point for Trilby and that moment, or secret as the film tends to keep it, is what spurns this whole ridiculous and convoluted situation into being. The upside? Trilby knows how ludicrous and fittingly childish his actions are, but he simply cannot help himself. He sees the outcome of his run at beating out the aspiring children of a typically friendly spelling bee as the only way to come to terms with a certain event in his past and while he may be right in wanting (and deserving) some kind of vindication for what he experienced he still realizes what he's doing isn't right or fair in any sense of the word. It is in this caveat of what is at first presented as a purely smug mask that we come to sympathize with Trilby which gives us reason to not completely be offended by him and his movie while the outer shell he perpetrates is reason to divert any and all expectation.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Review

Wes Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel is many things, but at its heart it feels like a quiet epic, a love letter to time gone by with a narrative spanning decades that chronicles the exceptionally unexceptional life of one young man who was influenced by another and would have his world forever changed because of him. It is as much about the world one creates around themselves and how it determines the outcome of ones life as it is about the actual plot of the story which, be not afraid, contains prison break-outs, gun fights, affairs with older women and a fair amount of lies and deception. Over the course of his career, Anderson has created many an interesting world where his characters find their typically odd yet perfect little worlds rocked by some kind of event. Whether it be the Tennenbaums, Steve Zissou or even Mr. Fox each of these characters have a way of trying to retain the normality that has escaped them in the time of their lives that Anderson's films have chosen to document. With The Grand Budapest Hotel things are only slightly different in that the screenplay itself, for the first time in his career, was written solely by Anderson and this more intimate relationship with the material certainly makes for a strong showing by the director, one in which it feels this film is the epitome of Anderson's imagination, that he is fully operating within the confines of his own imagination that he has come to be inspired to create through the works of Stefan Zweig and his consistent themes of becoming lost in ones reality and while not only has Anderson seemed to inhabit the role of Zweig here he has also come to imprint that same mentality on his main character, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave, as one of our two storytellers overseeing the main narrative insinuates near the end of the film, may have come to live in a world that ceased to exist before he even entered it. It is this kind of thinking, these ideas beyond that of simply telling an entertaining story, but rather inspecting the mind of someone and how they look at their world and take on the challenges laid before them that makes Anderson's work so engaging and off-kilter, while this film in particular beautifully demonstrates the thin line that sometimes exists between real life and imagination.

NOAH Review

If there is one thing I've always admired and enjoyed about director Darren Aronofsky's films it is the ambition with which he constructs them and the innovation with which he operates within these worlds he builds. With Noah, the much talked about adaptation of the Bible story, Aronofsky has crafted what is essentially a mythological epic where our familiarity with the story and characters only serve as the intrigue to why we might be interested in what more is going on in this version. There has been much discussion over the content and the liberties Aronofsky has taken with the story from the book of Genesis, but if anything has been added or changed it seems to only serve the purpose of filling in the gaps of the story that the Bible didn't find necessary to go into detail about. To say that Aronofsky and his frequent collaborator Ari Handel have come up with some interesting theories and ideas within their script is a bit of an understatement. The bad news concerning this is that these sparks of creativity, where the story is allowed to diverge from the beaten path, begin to wear thin after the first hour or so. That isn't to say that the final hour and twenty minutes or so is any less interesting or drags as much of the inherent drama from within the family unit comes into play in these later stages, but it is the aura of those early scenes that stay with you as you leave the theater and the inherent attitudes of the characters that draw us in and make us question their sanity as much as we do our own faith, for better or worse. Noah is one of those films where I expected to walk in feeling one way and walk out with a new perspective on the difference between literal interpretation and what more accurately seem to be these metaphorical stories with implied lessons that influence over seventy percent of the worlds population. My world wasn't changed, my eyes weren't necessarily opened to a new way of thinking as I exited the screening, but what I did have was a sense of that still fresh ambition within Aronofsky. It is clear from the opening moments of the film that the director is still very much in tune with who he is and what kinds of films he wants to make and with as divisive a subject matter as this it is nothing short of rewarding to see that singular voice still come through.

First Trailer for HERCULES

I've never been one to join in on the hate-train that seems to follow director Brett Ratner around every turn he takes with each film (I liked Tower Heist well enough and X3 was never as bad as people claimed). That said, I expected a certain something from his Hercules epic starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the titular Greek God. The stills Johnson released via his twitter and other social media outlets throughout production are not justified by this first trailer as it looks much more in the vein of something like The Scorpion King than the Chris Nolan version of mythology (which is kind of what I anticipated). The over-abundance of CGI is never a good sign and it looks especially in bad judgement here given that every other shot is Hercules facing another computer generated monster while voiceover builds up to what may as well be just another reason for people to make fun of and doubt the credibility of this movie as a good or even fun product. I'd like to believe Ratner has done something interesting given the source material he is drawing from, but as far as first impressions go, this is not a promising one. All of that being said, The Rock has proved himself a valuable commodity over the past few years being able to breathe new life into dwindling franchises (Fast & Furious, Journey to..., GI Joe) and starring in interesting flicks like Pain & Gain, Snitch and Faster none of which ever seemed to get the credit they were due for what they represented, but all of which I enjoyed more than I probably should have. The point being he could very well bring something unexpected to this new telling of a story we've all heard, read and seen before so I go forward with a sense of cautious optimism, though I won't be surprised if I'm let down. Hercules also stars John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan, Rufus Sewell, Robert Maillet, Irina Shayk and opens in 3D on July 25th.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 25, 2014


DIVERGENT Review

If Divergent is anything it is competent. Everything about it screams ambition, what it wants to be and the actual product itself shows it has the ability and the right amount of reverence for the source material to be successful in conveying the spirit of Veronica Roth's novel to the screen. The drawback is that while it is indeed capable and is able to make a suitable enough film for fans of the novel to more or less enjoy and pick apart, nothing about the execution of bringing this story to life screams exceptional or even, for lack of a better term in this case, divergent. I finished the first book in Roth's trilogy a few months back and have since moved on to the next one, but while I was suspicious of this new dystopian franchise with a young female heroine for the lead I was eventually able to look past the similarities between it and The Hunger Games and at least understand the merit people were finding in these books. It might be too much (or too early for me as I'm in the middle of Insurgent) to say that Roth's series is the better written of the two from a creative standpoint, but it is already clear that Suzanne Collins series lends itself well to the cinematic world even if people were weary of it at first given the titular event included the slaughtering of children. I, personally, thought Divergent would be the easier story to tell onscreen, but it becomes obvious within the first hour or so of the film that this may not be so as things and events begin to collapse in on themselves and it is only with the promise of another chapter and the idea that these plot strands with less attention paid to them this time around may rise to become more relevant in the future. It is an odd feeling because as the film unfolded and I was referencing the book in my head wondering when or if they would include certain scenes it became apparent the writers and the filmmakers weren't quite sure how to structure things. The film plays out well enough and we understand the point of why everything is happening, but we don't necessarily feel the tension or the growing fear that should be mounting in our protagonist until it is too late and we feel the film has gone on for too long without ever feeling whole.

First Trailer for THE GIVER

The Giver was the 1994 novel that I never made it around to reading despite the fact everyone around me was talking about it in my seventh grade reading class. I don't know how it slipped by me and feel really bad about having never caught up with it, but I guess the fact there is now a movie adaptation heading our way is as good a motivation as any to finally dive in. As I said yesterday when posting the first trailer for The Maze Runner, the race to find the next big Young Adult franchise spun from the pages of hit novels is in full speed, but while this initial teaser trailer wants you to believe The Giver is some kind of companion piece to Divergent (which opens this Friday and where you'll likely see this playing prior), the nature of the novel itself feels very different than the dystopian trilogies that have saturated the market as of late. This is a single novel that only recently received a sequel, but still, not in the common sense of the word and one that studios might find both difficult and rather pleasing to adapt into a straightforward film series. As for this first look at the footage though, I'm impressed with what scope the film seems to take on, but as we've seen so many versions of the "perfect futuristic society" lately they are all beginning to blend together and this trailer does nothing to say that The Giver has anything new to offer. I want to believe the narrative and the characters alone will be enough to set this apart and that the rumors about major changes being made when adapting the book for the screen are false as the original novel was a slim work and one I am definintely keen on diving into before August. The Giver stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift and opens August 15th.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 18, 2014

First Trailer for THE MAZE RUNNER

The race to find the next big young adult adaptation has been one of fierce competition and many failures and with the premiere of what has the best shot at claiming the title, not necessarily from The Hunger Games as it will only have one film left after Katniss leaves the screen for good, but more a placeholder that will make enough money to justify its two sequels while we wait on the next Hunger Games installment and then of course ease the pain of having nothing more to look forward to after Mockingjay Part 2 is released, are the screen adaptations of Veronica Roth's bestselling Divergent series opening this Friday. Thus the reason why we now have a trailer for another contender in what hopes to capitalize on this trend, but it seems the tide is more favorable toward The Maze Runner than something like Beautiful Creatures or The Mortal Instruments. I have yet to read the four-book series by James Dashner, but based on this trailer alone I plan on doing so before seeing the first film. Yes, it still centers around a group of teens in peril and having to fight against some type of system to no doubt prove how individuality can never be truly suppressed by conformance, but at least this time around the premise seems genuinely intriguing and nowhere near as forced or put together by a committee as some of the aforementioned young adult lit hits. Dylan O'Brien (Teen Wolf, The Internship) leads the cast as Thomas, a young man thrust into the middle of this maze that may hold the secret to why he along with countless others have been trapped inside said maze, but more importantly, how they might be able to make it out. The Maze Runner also stars Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Patricia Clarkson and opens on September 19.

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN Review

Let's just be up front about this whole Mr. Peabody and Sherman thing: it's a little weird. I mean, the whole concept and everything is a little out there when it comes to typical, safe family entertainment in that it's just straight-up odd to think about what is typically considered a pet adopting what typically takes care of said pet. That said, I'm not familiar with the original series that apparently ran as part of the Rocky & Bullwinkle universe and really had no idea of what type of story I was getting myself into or what adventure I was going to be taken on as I hadn't paid much attention to the marketing for the film, but as Dreamworks originals tend to go I expected to at least have a nice, colorful and randomly funny entertaining time if not receiving the deeper, more introspective character moments and more honest themes that come along with what we have become accustomed to with Pixar. Many people will disagree and say that Pixar has been slipping lately and I won't argue with you when it comes to defending the Cars series, but I enjoyed both Brave and Monsters University to a point that Mr. Peabody & Sherman can't even touch. Of course, this is really like trying to compare a January release to an Oscar-bait film as it seems Dreamworks productions have both lower standards and naturally a lower set of expectations for their final product than that of the major summer tentpoles Pixar is akin to putting out. Still, it is hard to discern the difference in the two when they exist in the same genre and are targeted (mainly) at the same audiences, but it is only when the first offering does well and/or have the right people behind it to truly invest and push it to something more, something deeper that we get the eventual sequels with a more pristine release date a la How to Train Your Dragon (we all saw how Turbo turned out last year when they through a non-franchise, non-re-make in the throws of summer). With Mr. Peabody & Sherman the studio has concocted what is essentially an extended TV episode and it feels this way without me, again, never having seen the original show. It is fine that it is episodic though because it is so brief of an experience that instead of coming away feeling short-changed, we feel satisfied with the amount of adventure packed into these pint-sized characters.

First Trailer for GET ON UP

I don't know what affinity Chadwick Boseman has for playing real-life characters, but if his latest turn as James Brown is anything close to what he delivered in his breakout role last year as Jackie Robinson then we could be in for something pretty special. Get On Up is director Tate Taylor's follow-up to his Oscar nominated debut The Help and if the trailer indicates anything it is how epic this film might be. It is hard to gauge how much story to include in films like this as even the most recent examples of these music biopics such as Ray and Walk the Line attempted to cover as much ground as possible and it seems that this will try and do the same, but with plenty of funk to spare. I love films like this as I love music as much as I love movies in general and to see any legend such as Brown's life brought to the screen and realized as gloriously as this trailer hints it has been, has to be a win in some regard no matter how the complete film actually turns out. What is truly exciting about the trailer though, besides the radically different persona Boseman seems to have taken on and embodied, is the supporting cast Taylor has assembled and the layers at which they hint at within the bigger scope of these typical fame stories. The bad part being these kinds of films typically follow the same pattern as in we get the rise, the unavoidable fall and the redeeming conclusion that gives way to a satisfactory life before the unavoidable death. Brown's actual life is so interesting though, coming from South Carolina in extreme poverty to being crowned with the title of "The Godfather of Soul" and essentially revolutionizing certain musical stylings and influencing countless performers that it would almost be impossible to make a non-interesting film. Get On Up also stars Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Tika Sumpter, Jill Scott, Dan Aykroyd and opens August 1st.

VERONICA MARS Review

I've never seen an episode of Veronica Mars and thus had no interest in what answers this fan-funded feature might provide seven years after the three season show was abruptly cancelled. All I can equate this to is my love for Arrested Development, its too-soon cancellation after three seasons and my massive anticipation for the fourth when it was announced and rolled out on Netflix last year. If anything, I feel empathy towards the fans of Veronica Mars and find Kristen Bell a pleasant enough presence to take a peek into what all the fuss is about. It would be silly to think that starting from the end and working backwards would provide the same kind of reaction or emotional impact those who have been waiting for this will receive so it is with obvious warning that my opinion on the Veronica Mars movie is that of a person unacquainted with these characters and their past traits and relationship, their little quirks, their inside jokes or what makes some of the reunions at Veronica's ten year high school reunion that much more special than others. All of that said, this was a serviceable enough film and it provides a nice bit of whodunit which I always enjoy, but I had to come away from it wondering if I, or anyone else for that matter, would be too impressed with it if it stood on its own. Now, facts are that this movie would have never been made if it had to stand on its own (literally, the fans of the series who were upset about the ending they got put up the cash for this to be made because no one else would), but still, like we take each episode of a TV series we have to take this on its own terms especially since it is operating in the arena of big screen entertainment rather than a weekly series. Rob Thomas, who created the show, writes and directs here and the most obvious thing about his care with this film are the characters themselves and preserving what they were and what they have become and for me that is what made this film something a little more than average, something slightly more intriguing than I expected that will have me streaming through these seasons whenever they become available and really allowing me to become a part of this world that has clearly always existed, but that I have never been a part of before. Veronica Mars may not exactly be grade-A cinema, but it is a fun, hard-hitting murder mystery that will seemingly satisfy those who've been waiting for it and introducing others to a welcome unknown.

NEED FOR SPEED Review

The first trailer for stuntman turned director Scott Waugh's sophomore effort, Need for Speed, hinted at something more than your typical video game movie; it was orchestral and well put-together with pedigree and something slightly haunting, solemn and meditated about its approach to the unexplainable infatuation people can have not just with cars, but with danger. What the final film actually feels like though is a slick pop confection with good intentions, don't get me wrong, but whose lyrics are nothing but vapid and a chorus that is completely forgettable. I don't play video games at all and despite the fact the Need for Speed gaming franchise is one of the most successful of all time I can't help but feel like this flick missed the bandwagon and is coming around at least ten years too late. This would have been another fine-enough companion piece to the phase that gave us Torque, Biker Boyz, Stallone's Driven and of course the original Fast and Furious title. Still, even the F&F movies aren't really about street racing anymore and even if they were the only incarnation of that series this seems to have taken any note of would be the fourth with its dry plot points and inability to build the right kind of tension or drama and that is the least favorite for most fans of the series. Waugh has a good eye, his shots are nicely put together and if nothing else the film looks spectacular, but even with this kind of compliment comes the stipulation a film about ex-cons, street racers and cross-country road trips that include outrunning the police at every turn shouldn't look as "nice" as the film makes them out to be and certainly not as clean as these guys are able to maintain. It simply all feels a bit forced, a bit strained and the audience can sense that. There is a line in the film where Imogen Poots character, Julia, says to Aaron Paul's Tobey Marshall that she understands that driving fast is necessary, but driving like a maniac is not and especially with the intention Paul's character has in mind. I only wish first-time screenwriter George Gatins would have followed some of his own advice and allowed the fast driving to guide the script rather than indulging in the presumed wants of the audience and delivering action for its own sake rather than allowing it to drive the narrative.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 11, 2014

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE Review

It has been seven years since the original Zack Snyder 300 hit the big screen and the big question surrounding its belated follow-up was always going to be if the novelty of the look of the film had worn off. It was a worthy concern as it seems every major action film since has if not taken cues from the tone of the color palette and enhanced nature of it all than at least the slo-mo of the action that then speeds up to real time, making the strikes from spear to flesh all the more cringe-inducing. It was something fresh and new at the time, Snyder coming off his big win that was the Dawn of the Dead re-make and taking notes from Robert Rodriguez, but going in a different direction and one that would become more of a cultural mainstay than the more cult-worthy Sin City. Like that graphic novel, 300 was also adapted from a Frank Miller work and while Rise of an Empire doesn't take its marching orders from any pre-written comic book it at least tries to make-up for the lack of originality in the visuals by pushing the narrative to more complicated, layered lengths than the original. While 300 was never a film that needed a sequel and really deserved not to have one as a proper sequel could never be concocted Rise of an Empire ultimately gives us the events that surround the actions of the Spartans as they chose not to cooperate with the rest of Greece to fight off the invading Persians. It comes to light even more than it did in 300 that if the Spartans were anything but brave, they were arrogant and in many ways the events documented in this second film minimize the glory and honor that many in the audience no doubt imagined went along with Leonidas and his brave three hundred's beautiful deaths. They went into battle expecting death, but left their women and children with the likelihood of being turned into slaves by Persians anyway? It doesn't make much sense and ultimately seems selfish in order to adhere to the code of how they were raised than anything resembling bravery, but the good thing of all this is realizing Rise of an Empire stirred some thought in me and invoked a reaction and participation with the film I never expected to have.

First Trailer for SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

Way back in 2005 I went to see Sin City for my eighteenth birthday and became so caught up in the visual style of the world Robert Rodriguez created as he brought the Frank Miller comics to life that I don't rightly remember much of what the story concerned itself with. I remember simply being impressed and overwhelmed by it all that the fact it was broken down into several different narratives with an insane amount of characters and a balancing act hard to get a grasp on the first time around didn't bother me much. It was one of those films that seemed to demand a sequel upon its release and it became easier and easier to forget the initial film with each passing year (instead we got Miller's horrible solo effort The Spirit in 2008). I will admit to not re-visiting Sin City much over the past nine years, but would be lying if I said I wasn't the least bit excited to finally see Rodriguez and Miller continue their tales of Basin City. This time around, Joseph Gordon-Levitt heads up the impressive roster of new and returning cast members that will weave together two of Miller's stories. With 300: Rise of an Empire out tomorrow it is only fitting we now get our first look at the other Frank Miller adaptation this year. While 300 has become the more definitive staple of Miller's visual style it was always clear Sin City was the more ambitious in terms of both style and substance and if the first trailer is any indication (according to the early reviews for Rise of an Empire) it seems the follow-up to Sin City will also be the more substantial in terms of narrative even if the visual effects look like they have a long way to come before that release date. Let's just hope this doesn't skew towards cheap knock-off more than authentic replicate as Rodriguez's Machete Kills did last year. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For stars Josh Brolin (taking over for Clive Owen) Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Stacy Keach, Julia Garner and opens on August 22nd.

First Trailer for ANNIE

I've never been familiar with the story of Annie and have never seen any version of the stage play nor the 1982 film that I assume most would look toward as a point of reference, but it is hard to ignore the noise this one is making. I appreciate Will and Jada Smith as well as Jay-Z (we've always known he had an affinity for the musical) want to give young Quvenzhan√© Wallis a real shot at this movie star thing and not make her simply a flash in the pan that became the youngest Oscar nominated actress ever only to go on to not find her real acting chops until her mid-20's. I get it and I can appreciate that and the fact all of their friends like Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz were willing to jump in and help establish the young girls name by playing roles in a re-make that maybe don't suit their personas, but their names fill the bill and will no doubt have families butts in the seats come Christmas 2014 and this is the obvious choice because nothing screams the holiday season like a musical. The big question hanging over this one though is will anyone really care about it in the film community? No, is the definitive answer to that question and it is clear the film has not been made for the purposes of higher art, but simply to exist as a fun piece of entertainment that will keep kids occupied and their parents up to date on the latest trends as they can see what has been updated from the version they know and how the modernization makes this feel all the cooler to their kids, but will no doubt be just as dated as the previous versions in less time. I hold no prejudice against this new or any version of Annie, but that is only because I'm not familiar with them and so I will see this new adaptation because I enjoy the people partaking and director Will Gluck is a reliable source for solid comedy and so I hold nothing but optimism for this project, albeit cautious. Annie also stars Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Zayas and opens on December 19th.

THE PAST Review

I am always hesitant to approach foreign films on the idea of not being aware of the culture in which they take place and therefor being unable to relate to the situations these films might present. I have always felt this way yet always known the only way to combat such tendencies is to better acquaint myself with more foreign films. I try to do so from time to time and when I heard Asghar Farhadi's much acclaimed follow-up to 2011's A Separation would finally be making it to my neck of the woods I was more than anxious to see what the director had crafted this time around. I remember being in awe of how well Farhadi's previous film was able to so easily capture and wrap me up in the simple issues of the family dynamic that was taking place in front of us and that the smallest of details, of changes in routine would be the event that spurned the main conflict the film was dissecting. It was such a simplistic, yet completely intriguing set-up that I wondered why films and namely those from my own country did not use this technique more often. Something such as The Past is an easy film to look at and see its obvious virtues, but these are only obvious because Farhadi has no doubt worked extremely hard to capture the naturalistic tone and conversation between these characters that allow it to feel effortless, as if we were simply observing the actions of these real human beings rather than the fact they were conjured up and plotted out by a singular source. When taking the film on from this perspective it is even easier to see the level of craft and skill involved in what the final version of this film presents and how well the characters have been realized because, as it is staged, we peel back the layers of who these average-seeming individuals are and the baggage they carry with them. It is truly a testament to the idea that each of us carry our own, interesting stories and that we all have something to tell though wouldn't want to necessarily share. The characters of The Past are that of people we could live next door to (despite the fact this takes place in France with influences from Iran) and their issues are those common enough to buy into the drama while complicated enough one wouldn't wish them on another. Through this power of simplistic, relatable narrative Farhadi has mastered the character drama.

Full Trailer for TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

It has been three years since we've seen Optimus Prime and his fellow Autobots on the big screen and that last impression left by Dark of the Moon was at least better than Revenge of the Fallen though it came with -an air of conclusion, that this was the end of a good run and one that would be re-visited by youngsters again and again as time went by and the films became more regarded for what they were rather than what grown-up fanboys wanted them to be upon initial arrival. They are beautifully rendered images of giant robots fighting one another that provide guilty pleasure entertainment for the more sophisticated mind and awe-inspiring wonder for those who are just discovering what movies can really do when the cinema screen is taken advantage of. Unfortunately, most of Michael Bay's films get a bad wrap on the fact he takes pleasure in consistently directing as if he were a 13 year-old boy. Still, when this mentality is applied to the premise of, again, giant robots fighting one another I don't necessarily understand why it is a bad thing and have to wonder how it could be done better? Today we get our first look at the fourth installment in the series (the one Bay said he wouldn't be back for, but is) and how the franchise will live on with Shia LaBeouf (I think it will be fine, they got Mark Wahlberg). I was skeptical of where Bay would take his robots this time around, but getting a certified movie star like Wahlberg to take the leading role does nothing but lend this installment a renewed sense of credibility. Though it is hard to take a robot riding a dinosaur robot while holding a sword seriously, the first trailer for Age of Extinction does its best to make us believe this will be a nice departure from the previous trilogy and that there is renewed reason for us to be investing in these robots again. Transformers: Age of Extinction stars Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, T.J. Miller, Titus Welliver, Han Geng, Sophia Myles, Li Bingbing and opens June 27th.

2014 Academy Awards Round-Up

It is easy, as a member of an unofficial community of online film lovers, to forget that the majority of America tune into the Oscars in order to see some of the most famous movie stars in the world act like normal people and reward themselves or better yet, recognize the best of what they had to offer, from the previous year in the art of motion pictures. Host Ellen DeGeneres certainly made it clear she was there to make these stars act like us normal folk as she ordered pizza and took selfies all night (though her selfies, as featured above, cause Twitter to break). Still, as part of this kind of film loving community the Oscars have come to mean little more than a game of politics and who has the best backers promoting their films or who is willing to do the most campaigning for their nominations and hopeful wins. That being said, this years winners and the ceremony itself turned out to be a rather entertaining spectacle and was well distributed with little to no surprises, but highlighted some of my personal favorite films of the year. Gravity was the big winner taking home seven statues (most of these in technical categories) while 12 Years a Slave took home the biggest prize of the night and was able to capture two other wins in some major categories. Both of these films were in the top three of my favorites from 2013 and while I was obviously rooting for Leonardo DiCaprio to take home his best actor Oscar for what I believe will eventually become regarded as his career-defining performance, the speeches from both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto who won for best actor and best supporting actor for their turns in Dallas Buyers Club both showed their understanding of the impact their performances carried as well as the state of mind in which they continue to strive to do better work. If you were watching only to see what to rent from Redbox in the coming weeks though, you at least received a few great recommendations.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 4, 2014

NON-STOP Review

With what has become somewhat of an annual or biennial tradition, we all wait with eager anticipation to see what type of fun, B-movie situation Liam Neeson is going to get himself into next after transcending the lines of the serious and prestigious realm of actors to become nothing short of everyone's favorite action hero in early 2009. Not only did Taken mark a change in pace for Neeson though, but it was the first time, in a long time, that it really felt everyone was on board with a movie and that it had all the parts to please everyone no matter what demographic you fell into or what genre you enjoyed the most. Neeson was there for the serious film-goers, the action was there for the male and younger crowds while the storyline concerning a kidnapped child put the older sets in a "what would you do" type situation that was all-around engaging and was simply the perfect storm of elements that made agreeing on Taken an easy thing to do, a wagon we could all jump on and not feel bad for doing so. While Neeson has seemingly embraced this new-found identity as he has translated it into some fun (Unkown), some poignant (The Grey) and some not so great (Taken 2) experiences that show no signs of slowing and with Non-Stop he may have made his most middle of the road, yet still fascinatingly interesting B-movie to date. There is a sense of something a little extra here, an element not necessarily present in what would be considered your typical first quarter release, but something that heightens not just the quality of the overall picture but the experience it entails and if Non-Stop has anything going for it more than the fact it fits squarely into Neeson's new catalogue is the experience it offers the first time around. It is one of those tightly structured, elaborately plotted thrillers that consistently dares the audience to get in on the game of who is behind it all and this one in particular happens to be extremely satisfying in its execution while giving its justification more weight than we might expect, turning what could have easily been this brainless, exploitation flick into something that might make Hitchcock proud, or at least allow him to have a good time watching it. Non-Stop may not be something that will endure, but in that moment, in that present as you first experience the story unfold it is nothing short of guilt-free fun.