Will Smith and Martin Lawrence Return for a Fourth Round in the Franchise and Continue to Deal with the Challenges of Aging in a Young Man's Game.


This Experimental Slasher Flick puts Audiences Literally In-Step with the Killer and Features Some of the Most Gruesome Deaths in the Genre's History.


Director George Miller Returns to the Wasteland with a Full-Fledged Epic that Balances the Titular Character's Story with the Bombastic Vehicular Mayhem.


This Latest Installment in the Planet of the Apes Franchise isn't Necessarily Bad, but is Probably more of a Forgotten Chapter in the Franchise Mythology.


Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Kick-Off the Summer Movie Season with a Big, Fun, and Funny Action-Packed Adventure that Fully Delivers on its Promises.



Who exactly was this movie intended for? I couldn't help but to keep asking myself this as Maleficent played out, unsure of what it wanted to be, completely torn between two drastically different tones. There was naturally something interesting about this different approach to the current trend of re-telling classic fairy tales in live action form and casting Angelina Jolie as the titular villain guaranteed nothing short of a fair amount of interest but the final result we've been delivered is nothing but a badgering of the original Disney animated film that proves trying something different is truly hard to accept if it isn't done right. While it is easy to give credit to the machine that is Disney for at least attempting to think outside the box rather than simply bringing the same story to the screen with real-live people (though it looks like 90% of the film is CG anyway) Maleficent is actually less innovative than Tarsem Singh's 2012 take on the Snow White tale. At least that movie had a different rhythm to get in tune with while here we get exactly what we expect and even a little less depending what age group you belong to. So, it was a strong idea with factors that lent themselves towards what could have been an interesting execution yet what we have as the final product is anything but substantial and a film trying to be so many different things it ends up failing on all levels. This brings us back around to the question of who might this movie actually be targeted at? There were certainly a lot of children at the screening I attended, mainly young girls, and throughout you could hear them giggling at the intended bits of comic relief and gasping as Jolie re-created the famous scene in which Maleficent casts her spell on the young princess. To those reactions I began to wonder what I might have thought of this had I seen it as a child. Would it have been one of those my parents might have bought when it came out on VHS and I re-watched over and over? The only equivalent I came up with was Stephen Sommers 1994 adaptation of The Jungle Book that also came from Disney. It was very much a children's film while playing on the darker tones of the Rudyard Kipling story and that is what first-time director Robert Stromberg (yes, they entrusted this summer tentpole to a first-time director) seems intent on doing here as well, but his over-reliance on special effects and muddled screenplay do nothing but disservice what vision he might have had.

First Trailer for KILL THE MESSENGER

I don't mind seeing Jeremy Renner take on the blockbuster and franchise roles that he's kept busy with since breaking out six years ago, but after his underwhelming showing in last years much-hyped American Hustle it is good to see the actor getting back to basics and playing someone like Gary Webb in a tough, gritty procedural like Kill the Messenger. The film is based on the true story of Webb, a journalist who stumbles on leads that take him to the beginning of the crack epidemic in America and the theories of conspiracy that go along with it. The trailer plays to the beats of films we've seen before about noble acts, where the main character sacrifices what is important to him for the greater importance of those he can inform but it looks to be executed with keen precision and high-caliber acting here. Adapted from Webb's book by Peter Landesman (Parkland) and directed by Michael Cuesta (Six Feet Under, Dexter, Homeland) this serves the kind of unnerving performance Renner can deliver a la The Hurt Locker and The Town. There is much to like on display here, but more than anything I'm looking forward to how Cuesta captures the specific tone of this genre and if the globe-trotting investigation aspects feel like something fresh. I'm intrigued if not by the inherently engaging story and truths it uncovered, but for the caliber of the cast they have recruited here to support Renner in what he no doubt hopes to be a definitive role that cements his leading man status. Kill the Messenger also stars Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, Andy Garcia, Tim Blake Nelson, Robert Patrick, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paz Vega and opens October 10th.

CHEF Review

The wisest thing you could do before going to see Chef is to make sure your stomach is not on empty, but you also don’t want to be full off a big meal either. A nice pre-movie snack is suitable as you likely won’t make it through the film if you go in on an empty stomach, but will be more than mad at yourself if you go in stuffed not allowing space in your tummy for a dinner afterwards that might at least attempt to rival the look and taste of what you just witnessed being crafted on screen. It is with this middle of the road mentality (and hunger) that you receive something wholly fulfilling from Chef and if nothing else are surprised at the deeply affecting ways in which this film, that may initially come off as nothing more than superficial, moves you and teaches a well-worn lesson. For, despite the full buffet of A-list names on the roster the food (or any idea, goal, theme, etc. you want to apply there, really) is the real star of writer, director and star Jon Favreau’s latest. Favreau, who has been around the block and back in terms of directing makes his glorious return to what he clearly has a knack for in terms of pure, character-driven stories here. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is clearly more than a capable director as he not only crafted the under-appreciated Zathura, the now holiday-classic Elf (we forget to give him the credit he deserves on that one) and launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we now know it with Iron Man while not buckling under the pressure of turning around and delivering a competent sequel, but he also poured his heart and soul into the writing of the cult classic Swingers (launching not only his own, but buddy Vince Vaughn’s career) and then returning to the characters for his feature directorial debut with Made in 2001. He’ll soon return to the world of big budget tentpoles, but it is with great delight that we first get this small, delicately prepared dish that not only gives us a break from the larger productions the summer season is known for offering but more than providing an interesting diversion is the fact this is a truly solid and moving film that while featuring the food as its star attraction, is more about the heart and soul that is poured into the creation of that food that makes the final product, that full meal if you will, all the more satisfying.

LOCKE Review

Much is required not only of Tom Hardy in director Steven Knight's Locke, but from the audience as well in which I mean it isn't for the the likes of everyone. As someone who is deeply entrenched in the world of movies, where they've been, are currently at and where the trends point them towards going it is always nice to see a film take a certain amount of risk and to see it pay off is even more rewarding. I realize that not everyone will see the merit not only in Hardy's highly nuanced performance, but in what it actually takes to maintain interesting, compelling drama for nearly an hour and a half without resorting to anything more than a man in his car and the world he once knew falling down around him, but Locke illustrates brilliantly how it can take very little to create something of significant impact. There is hardly a minute of this film where Hardy is not on screen and when he's not we are only given brief moments to take in the dimly lit highways of England as Hardy's Ivan Locke makes his way towards London. Even Locke himself is barely able to focus on the road and the world around him because his mind only has the bandwidth to deal with a certain amount of things, granted they are highly emotional items, and in the case of this particular night where we meet him and stay with him in real time he is performing a balancing act of personal and professional tasks that see both of them going nowhere but a place he least expected to end up. It is a bleak film, with a dim color palette and ambiguous atmosphere where all of the information we are able to gather is from our titular character and those he speaks with on the phone. It is not so much what an accomplishment Locke is in terms of pulling off what it did with its restraints, but more that it was able to do so much with them. Within these confinements Knight and Hardy were able to pull off what doesn't feel like a stunt for the sake of attempting something daring but instead have crafted a film that feels as if it is all the better for using the elements it has to build the suspense and create the right kind of mood for which to most honestly convey this story to the audience. It is actually a thing of wonder as I remember being so doubtful of a similar premise four years ago with Buried, but was as almost impressed with how well it was pulled off as I am here, almost.


There is always a sense of trepidation within me when approaching a Seth MacFarlane comedy as I've never been a fan of Family Guy or any of his other animated outings. This is not necessarily because I don't like them, but because I've never really become interested enough to actually sit down and watch them. I realize this isn't MacFarlane's fault and that I might actually appreciate his brand of humor if given the chance. That is almost what happened after seeing Ted two years ago and being surprised by how much I actually enjoyed and laughed at the outrageously broad comedy. I say almost because I still never watched a single episode of any of his television series' or Star Wars parodies, but instead I looked forward to what he might do next in an effort to sustain the good will he received from Ted and bring to the big screen another one of his ridiculous premises only to have it hit with a certain, under-appreciated crowd. MacFarlane makes it clear throughout his latest feature in which he stars, directs and co-wrote titled A Million Ways to Die in the West that he is the underdog and always has been. He seems intent on making very clear not only that he is accustomed to playing this role in life, but that he truly embodies in Albert, his character here, the kind of person it takes to become the guy who'd rather talk things out intelligently than put up their dukes. In fact, he's learned from his no frills father that life isn't easy and so he resorts to ridiculing everything and everyone around him while ultimately feeling like he's never good enough. There is nothing wrong with this and as a general consensus I imagine audiences will agree with his tactics, but it is also made clear that Albert is better than you and he knows it, but he can't bring himself to say it to your face. It's a tough position to be in and an even tougher attitude to pull off when preaching to the crowds that will flock to see this in hopes of another original comedy. The thing about MacFarlane's comedy (and again I'm only speaking from the experience of having seen this and Ted) is that while he condescends and outsmarts his opponents the majority of the time he never makes us, the audience, feel as if we're in on the joke with him, but instead that we are as stupid as those he is talking down to.

First Trailer for THE EQUALIZER

Folks, Denzel Washington will turn sixty years old this December, but lucky for us he shows no signs of slowing down as he continues not only to act in films and lead them, but to lend his name to high-octane, adrenaline pumping pictures that one would think more in line with what Jason Statham and Mark Wahlberg are looking to add to their resumes. To follow-up his fun-time team-up with the aforementioned Wahlberg in last years 2 Guns Washington has enlisted in a re-make of the hit 1980's show The Equalizer under the helm of his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. As a child of the 90's who was born in the late 80's I have no real connection to the source material or know what the premise of it was besides a guy kicking ass and taking on missions, but if there were those worried the film adaptation might change things up there seems no reason to worry as the first trailer for Fuqua's film shows off little more than Denzel kicking butt and taking names. The thing of note here is the style in which all of this is done as Fuqua clearly has a consistent tone nailed down while seemingly borrowing from Guy Ritchie and his Sherlock Holmes films as Washington's Robert McCall visualizes his altercations before engaging in them while Fuqua's camera takes us inside his mind and shows us step by step what McCall plans to do to the bad guys in slow motion then allows the scene to play out in real time in which McCall utilizes his environment to brutal results. It is a technique we've seen before, but will likely work well because so much of it depends on the mind it takes place within and Denzel Washington, being one of the last real movie stars working today, is no doubt a charismatic and interesting place to be. Needless to say, I'm eager to see what this seemingly straight-up B-movie actioner has to offer. The Equalizer also stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Martin Csokas, Haley Bennett, David Harbour, Bill Pullman and opens September 26.


Everything about our comic book movies that we receive these days are dictated by what works in others and what has become outdated, but when it comes to the X-Men films they are the ones who set the trend of what has now been flourishing (for the most part) for nearly fifteen years. With their latest installment they continue to be able to change with the times while also sticking to their roots and using what has come in the past to influence the relationships between the characters and make the impact of the events that occur in the latest installments all the more powerful. I was a big fan of First Class three years ago as it was able to give the series a much needed fresh start after the perceived misstep of The Last Stand (which wasn't ALL that bad) and the definite blow that was X-Men Origins. Not only was the series getting a fresh start, but it was also a chance to see what has always been the core of the franchise, the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, blossom and become the iconic battle of ideologies that guided each of the original X-Men trilogy films. In saying that the X-Men films continue to adapt to the current climate of superhero films is to reference how this latest installment, which is technically the sequel to First Class, incorporates the idea of continuity and world building. The idea to bring in everyone from past films, essentially creating an all-star roster for an embodiment of everything the past films have been leading up to is the new niche studios are pushing after the success of not only The Avengers, but the Fast & Furious films. The X-Men have always been an ensemble though so their way of putting a spin on this approach is to connect the original franchise with that of the First Class world and in doing so have created a universe where every X-Men film that has been made can co-exist in the same space (except for maybe Origins, but that bears little matter here) and in that regard Days of Future Past doesn't quite feel as spectacular or as epic in scope as it probably should, but it is still highly entertaining and more satisfying on a level that leaves us with a film that will resonate with us the more we watch it rather than becoming less impressive over time because it's nothing more than empty spectacle.

First Trailer for Woody Allen's MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

It is at this time the of year, every year that we begin to see the promotional material for the annual Woody Allen film appear and 2014 looks to be no different as we've finally received a first look at the trailer for Allen's effort this year. I have enjoyed more of Allen's work than not over the past few years and with the talent he has rounded up for this one I can't see it going anywhere but in the column of those more appreciated than the black sheeps of his filmography, but there is always the chance it could simply exist and leave nothing of an impression on the directors ever-expanding catalogue. Set in the 1920's against the backdrop of France and it's wealthy jazz-age socialites it tells the story of an Englishman, played by Colin Firth who seems to be in a countless number of movies these days, who travels to assist a wealthy family in unmasking the spirit medium that has tricked them into believing her. This mystic of sorts turns out to be none other than Emma Stone who, as the plot thickens, is so charming and likable that he is either falling under another of her spells she is fraudulently perpetuating or she actually is the real deal. Firth's charming yet older Englishman is cautious to buy into such uncertainties that seem to challenge his common sense. The trailer hints at a possible love story near the end, but I hope that with Firth being fifty-four and Stone turning twenty-six later this year they hold off on what could be perceived as rather creepy and simply keep this to a light-hearted comedy that explores the psychology of faith and beliefs as Midnight in Paris did with our perception of time and nostalgia. Magic in the Moonlight also stars Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver and opens in limited release July 25.


Walking into something like Million Dollar Arm you know exactly what you're going to get and so you are likely fine with that because you're choosing to walk into it in the first place. One may see the trailer for it and think it is worth giving a shot because the story seems interesting and heartfelt (plus it's based on a true one, so that's always a bonus) and it was made by Disney, a prominent feature in all the advertising as well as the fact it comes from the producers of Miracle and Invincible, so it is a safe bet there is nothing truly offensive but rather material that is inspiring and wouldn't hurt to take the children to if you feel like going to the movies, but not sitting through an animated flick or one of the several comic book movies out at the moment. It makes sense, but when it comes down to it that is all Million Dollar Arm ever really feels like, alternative programming. That being said there isn't anything necessarily wrong with the film given the way it has been chosen to be told or how it is executed except for the fact that it is about twenty minutes shorter than those other comic book movies crowding theaters right now yet still feels twice as long, especially in the second hour when we better know the formula of where the movie is going and instead of delving into the highlights and lowlights of those spaces in time, director Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl) seems forced to make things fit squarely into the archetypes of all the inspirational Disney sports drama that have come before it. Screenwriter Tom McCarthy (a truly talented writer and director) knows how to make a film interesting and fresh while keeping things quirky while at the same time dealing with as universal a topic as sports (please take a look at his 2011 film Win Win) but here it seems he is more a writer for hire that was brought in to get this real-life story down on paper that would appease the board at the Mouse House and create a nice, safe starring vehicle for an almost done with TV Jon Hamm. Again, no offense to be taken anywhere around this project (they even find the time to acknowledge what could be considered slight racism) and there are actually several moments of nice realizations, intimate portraits and interesting facets about the world of baseball, but as a whole the final result leaves us not with a Remember the Titans-like feeling, but something closer to that of The Greatest Game Ever Played; remember that one? That's what I thought.  


The Immigrant is one of those films that is completely mediocre in terms of how it makes you feel when it's over and the impression it leaves on you, but is dressed up so fancy in period decoration and costume as well as high-caliber talent that it would like you to gloss over the fact it's completely average in favor of the hat trick it was able to pull in making you think it might actually be something exceptional. There is no reason to think it wouldn't be anything of the sort as it sports a leading Joaquin Phoenix performance, something you only seem to get these days if you have something specifically special for the actor, yet here Phoenix seems to be trying to make something out of nothing for the most part and is more than likely doing this as a favor for frequent collaborator James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers) while the rest of the cast that makes up the leading trio is either hardly given anything to do (Jeremy Renner, also trying hard and only coming off more successful because his character is more pleasant) or is Marion Cotillard who typically signals truly sophisticated cinema, but here turns out to be nothing more than a one-note performer that we're agitated by and therefore unable to sympathize with at all. As I sit here and write about The Immigrant I'm confronted with the fact that I went into this not knowing what to expect really in terms of what kind of cinematic experience it would be, but as with most films I based expectations on credentials and this films in particular are golden. Phoenix all but swore off acting after Gray's last film and that was an interesting little drama that played with the tone of the film matching the tone of life as it walked the fine line between lighter, more comedic moments and the inherent drama present in the situation, but while that film felt balanced and purposeful The Immigrant is a complete melodrama that can't even match the interesting aspects of its exaggerated characters for the length of its running time. All of that said, I was never really bored and there is obviously potential with where this story could have gone, but it recesses too often and wastes so much talent on hand that I can't help but see this final product as little more than average and disappointing as opposed to what could have been.

New Trailer for Christopher Nolan's INTERSTELLAR

At the screening I attended of Godzilla last night I was almost as excited for the movie as I was the fact the new trailer for Chris Nolan's latest was attached. In that trailer we are taken just further than the teaser that was delivered last December took us. There is plenty of new footage here and the main focus of it is the relationship between Matthew McConaughey's Cooper and his son and daughter. The trailer gives away little in terms of plot, but plays up the idea the poster introduced last week with its tagline that reads "Mankind was born on Earth. But we were never meant to die here.” We get a few shots of Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck who I'm going to venture to guess are the adult versions of McConaughey's children which already makes the idea of the last line in the trailer all the more engaging and possibly all the more heartbreaking. Beyond that I won't pretend to know more than I actually do as I love how Nolan continues to leave much to the imagination with his trailers. The only other information as far as plot is concerned derives from a synopsis that states the film is about "a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations of human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage." This is easily the film I'm most anticipating this year and if the reason put forward in any of my previous comments doesn't explain why maybe the cast roster will. Besides McConaughey, Chastain and Affleck the film also stars Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, David Oyelowo, Wes Bentley, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, David Gyasi, Mackenzie Foy, Bill Irwin, Timothée Chalamet, and Matt Damon. Interstellar opens November 7, 2014.


Admittedly, I have never been a fan or seen much of the supposed entertainment value in what a giant lizard fighting other monsters brings to the table other than spectacle, but for some reason Hollywood feels a need to keep going back to this well to the point it seems they have something they really want to unearth, but can't put their finger on. I was only eleven years old when Roland Emmerich's version of the King of the Monsters hit the screen and for the most part I enjoyed that one with my easy to mesmerize mentality. It has been a long while since I've re-visited that take and was never able to get into the string of films featuring the creature produced by the Toho Co. What has always evaded me is where audiences find substance in this idea that watching a mythological monster, sometimes played up as the lesser of two threats, has anything more to say other than it looks pretty awesome when he fights these creatures, but only if we know the city's they are destroying in the wake of their battles to determine who resides at the top of the food chain are completely abandoned. Otherwise, we just feel bad for the countless lives being lost in one seemingly small motion of this monster rather than being able to enjoy the majesty of what is taking place before us. Coming around to director Gareth Edwards take on the monster though, Godzilla, the marketing did something unexpected and actually had me fairly excited to see what this new film might bring to the table and if the studios may finally have been able to press that button or unearth that value they so desperately are searching for with this property. I guess, if I were to say anything in this introduction without giving specifics away it would be that Edwards has given over to the more serious undertones that were the point of origin for the character in the first place and with that he has crafted a film as much about the story and the impact of the fact Godzilla exists rather than simply producing a film that goes exactly where your instincts want to take you. That the film subverts the obvious ideas and goes in a completely different direction assured me that audiences don't really know what they want when it comes to a Godzilla movie, but would no doubt be satisfied with monster-fighting on an epic scale and while Edwards Godzilla is not the exceptional piece of popcorn entertainment I was hoping for, he still delivers on many levels.


I'm all for attempting innovation and being abstract and I understand to a certain extent I feel what director Richard Ayoade was trying to do here, but that it just isn't all that compelling and thus the reason I found it to be so dull. In fact, I felt like the whole time I was watching Ayoade's sophomore effort that I'd already seen this film and to much better and more engaging effect last month with Enemy. I liked his previous effort, 2010's Submarine, fine enough but never found it to be anything substantial or anything that moved me or left a mark in any way, but the idea alone of watching Jesse Eisenberg and his two distinct but recognizable personas go at it throughout the course of a film was intriguing enough on paper that to see it come to fruition must be an interesting experience to say the least, but as The Double rolled on and it became more and more evident that I wasn't going to be able to pick up what Ayoade was laying down I became all the more disappointed in myself strangely enough because unlike with Under the Skin, I truly feel like I'm missing something here, that Ayoade is such a clever, witty and intelligent individual that I must be missing a point or metaphorical reason he chose to convey this simple story in such an unconventional manner. Sure, I could applaud him for being daring and different in the way that he constructs his own world and his own society and his own rules in which that society functions that is just different enough from ours to be weird and the people act just weird enough in conjunction with the world that it all seems a little out of left field, a little uncomfortable and because of that I appreciate it rather than look down upon it because, well, at least he's trying. The fact of the matter is though, and I said this with Under the Skin also, is that trying to be different and actually accomplishing something original are two completely different things and whether it simply be because I enjoyed the style and tone that director Denis Villeneuve employed on Enemy more than that of Ayoade's here I felt that Enemy accomplished that level of uniqueness to greater effect than what The Double leaves you with because in all honesty I walked away from The Double with nothing more than a headache full of questions. Why did I stick the film out if I only saw it crashing and burning the moment I realized it wasn't going to be my cup of tea? Maybe to prove I can appreciate the academic, open mind of an artist and at least try to draw some meaning from it, but instead I was left cold with nothing to ponder and no questions that burned.


There has been so much made of the trial that Devil's Knot dramatizes that the film itself almost seems irrelevant at this point. If you've seen any of the three Paradise Lost documentaries or for a more complete look at the eighteen years after what happens in Devil's Knot, last years excellent documentary West of Memphis, than you already know everything there is to know about this trial with ample amounts of theories and extraneous evidence to boot, but while West of Memphis encapsulated this entire ordeal from beginning to present when it turned from a trial about the murder of three little boys to a witch hunt for three other boys and the eventual plight to free them from the prison cells that constantly reminded them of the actions they were wrongfully accused of, Devil's Knot is simply looking to see what made everything go so wrong from the inception of this incident and more importantly, give a voice to the often forgotten victims and their families. The film is very open to interpretation in terms of what avenue you prefer to travel when it comes to this well-publicized case, but it certainly lays inclinations to what the current state of the case would best indicate. With such a sprawling story, a large cast of characters and multiple perspectives from which you could approach this it always seemed the choice to go with a documentary as far as chronicling the events of this case was the most efficient thing to do, but with Mara Leveritt's 2002 crime book of the same name proving an interesting and well-read piece of source material it was unavoidable that at some point a narrative feature might be attempted that pulled from the well that has seemed to officially run dry. The interesting question here is whether or not the film might be more highly looked upon were there not so many other films surrounding this same set of events because this film, on the most basic of principles, is still engaging due to the horrible circumstances under which these murders happened and the horribly botched job that the police did with the investigation that, when paired with the fine, but admittedly passive performance of actors at the caliber of Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, you are bound to find a few things making it worth a look.


Ever since realizing Hollywood made more than just family friendly entertainment I have yearned to return to a world where I am surrounded by the likes of fun, innocent family fare that reminds me of my childhood and it is always reassuring to know that the children of the current generation are receiving their fair share of memorable movies that might put them in a sense of nostalgia when they get older and discover the brutal action films or raunchy comedies. I only bring all of this up because today we have the first trailer for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day which has been adapted from a short story by Judith Viorst and it looks to perfectly fit into this aforementioned canon. Centered around our young titular character (Ed Oxenbould) who is experiencing one of the worst days ever his troubles only become amplified when the rest of his family (who typically have the best of luck it seems) begin having horrible experiences as well. The comedy looks light and cheesy and this definitely seems to be in the vein of live-action Disney flicks where the kids are able to understand and grasp the life lessons being taught more so than the adults and bring a resounding sense of peace to the family unit when faced with troubling circumstances, but it also looks as if it could be surprisingly entertaining if not interesting for older audiences, mainly due to the caliber of talent on screen. I'm pretty much game to see anything that features Steve Carell and so I'm intrigued by what he saw in the screenplay or if it was simply his relationship with director Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids, Youth in Revolt, The Good Girl) that led him to take on the project. The film also stars Jennifer Garner, Bella Thorne, Dylan Minnette, Megan Mullally and opens October 10th.


Neighbors feels natural. For all its contrived plot set-ups that for no seemingly apparent reason allow a large, stereotypical fraternity to move off campus and into a typical suburban neighborhood where children play and senior citizens work in their gardens, it still feels completely natural. There is an honesty, an authenticity to the way in which the characters interact with one another and go about developing relationships with those around them and their changing worlds that make what is essentially an extended investigation into a premise rather than a full-fledged story work as well as it does. I'm a lover of comedy, whether that springs from a longing to not let go of adolescence (a theme explored in Neighbors) or simply because I've always felt a more inherently deep connection with those that make you laugh rather than those that deliver strong drama I am always excited to see what people (actors, directors, writers) have to offer in the comedic genre and while this genre will no doubt always be the most subjective it has retained somewhat of a reliability factor due to the specific groups of actors working within it over the past decade or so now. There were a few years between 2008's Pineapple Express and last summers This Is The End where it seemed Seth Rogen had seen his career pinnacle come and go, that he'd had his good run in Knocked Up, Superbad and Express while his next few broad efforts (Zack and Miri, Observe and Report, Funny People) were all somewhat underwhelming either critically or commercially which only caused him to reassess and go in a different direction, some of which worked (50/50) and some of which didn't (The Green Hornet). With his resurgence not only as a comedic actor, but as the writer and director of last years summer hit he has seemed to hit a comfortable stride that has allowed him to surround himself with the right people (new and old friends) and to make the kind of strong, raunchy comedies he was always meant to while continuously diversifying the types of stories he is telling and the kind of comedy he is conveying. I may be getting a little ahead of myself as this is his first effort since This is The End, but that is how confident I feel about Neighbors.


Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy set a high standard for comic book films. Not only did they have ambitions to be the best of their kind, but the best kind of film period. They looked to transcend the genre and that is more than well and good because I am a huge fan of Nolan and what he did for Batman, but in many ways that can only be the right approach for so many comic book heroes. Not every super hero benefits from being dark, brooding and grounded in reality. This idea of grounding everything from these fantastical, imaginary worlds into the reality that surrounds us will not always be possible and that is what director Marc Webb seems to have tapped into with his re-booted Spider-Man series that looks to fully embrace the world of the comics. Unlike many I was a big fan of the 2012 re-boot starring Andrew Garfield as the masked webslinger for despite the fact it lacked credible or sometimes even remotely intelligent dialogue (an issue that continues here) as well as relying too heavily on special effects in its clumsy action sequences (an issue both improved upon while still heavily leaning on the computer generated crutch) it was a Spider-Man film, that for the first time felt like it captured the spirit of the comics. I'll be the first to admit I am not a big comic book reader, but Spider-Man is an exception and was always a personal favorite of mine growing up. Not only for the little bit of comic reading that I dabbled in, but like Batman and the X-Men it was for the 90's animated series that pulled me into these worlds in the first place. What I enjoyed about 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man was that it seemed to fully immerse itself in the world of its relatable protagonist and was unafraid to try and bring to the screen the more ridiculous of Spider-Man's villains which included a giant lizard in a lab coat. Seeing these actual worlds jump off the pages and onto the screen is what comic book fans have presumably wanted for years yet now that Nolan's Batman films have re-defined what a credible super hero movie is it is easy to look at those that don't adhere to the same rules as something of a lesser accomplishment. It is by the fact fans should come to the realization that this may be the closest in regards to all aspects of the way a movie can be made that a motion picture has captured the essence of what makes a comic so entertaining and endearing through its world building, its dramatic beats, its character development and most of all, its silliness. In short, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 really bowled me over.


Last summer I watched a film already forgotten by most called Girl Most Likely in which Kristen Wiig essentially portrayed the same person she did in 2011's Bridesmaids. One hates to keep bringing up old news and as much as I and surely many others appreciate Wiig not easily folding and returning to do a Bridesmaids sequel for little more than financial reasons I'd at least hoped she might take another shot at a big studio flick that let her have a good portion of creative control, but since her starring break-out Wiig has done little to further her star in the mainstream save for a few supporting roles and voice work, but mainly she has stuck to the indie/festival circuit scene; a move that can be easily admired, but may force Wiig's leading lady career to run its course quicker than anyone would have anticipated three years ago (and maybe that's not what she wants, fair enough). My point being that even though Wiig could have done as many before her and quickly found her niche through a series of hits and misses she has instead opted for the relatively newer, more credible route of starring in smaller films that not many will see, but for one reason or another will make Wiig feel better about what she is contributing to the arts at the end of the day. And though I may have personally preferred to see Wiig go the big, mainstream route and create a filmography all her own of giant successes and notable titles she has instead amassed a resume of TV show appearances and movies such as Hateship Loveship that show the broad comedian of Saturday Night Live has more to offer than simply being the most ridiculous or outlandish person in the room. In the case of this latest film what we have is a rather droll experience. It is both engaging yet unappealingly odd in the way that we want to become invested in the story because we feel a compassion for Wiig's character, Johanna, but she remains so distant from everyone, never really opening up despite the arc of the narrative focusing on her finding a slight bit of happiness in what feels like an overwhelming world to her fragile self. It is these characteristics that allow Wiig to play a different kind of person than we've seen her as before. There are many things to enjoy, to smile at about the film while also being unusual to the point it seemed I should be cautious about it, keeping my own distance, which ultimately left me feeling somewhere in the middle about the experience as a whole.