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.

Teaser Trailer for INTO THE WOODS

I'm not overly familiar with the original stage play that has inspired director Rob Marshall's (Chicago) latest film, but it certainly sounds intriguing. The play debuted in 1986 and features a story based on Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and centers on a childless baker and his wife on their quest to begin a family. On this quest they are taken through the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales that explores the consequences of the characters' wishes and adventures. I have seen a lot of comments that have called this out for looking like Once Upon A Time with musical numbers which clearly isn't true as this came along way before the NBC show, but as NBC is owned by Disney, Disney has a certain stake in the whole fairy tale stories and those seem to be a hot property as of late it makes sense for a film adaptation of this to appear now. I have no relationship with Once Upon A Time as I tried to watch a few episodes on Netflix and couldn't get into it, but I am rather intrigued by this first teaser. The cast is expansive, the photography looks breathtaking and the original play won several Tony Awards when it premiered including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress for a role that is being played by Emily Blunt in the film. So, there is good reason to be excited. As for director Marshall, the guy made Chicago twelve years ago and has followed it up with Memoirs of a Geisha, Nine and the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean, none of which I minded (though Nine was a total letdown), but were all rather boring if I remember correctly. Hopefully Marshall has his act together this time and will be able to combine his musical stylings and big budget reigns to bring us something truly magical this Christmas. Into the Woods also stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, and Christine Baranski. Check out the teaser and several new pictures after the jump.

GET ON UP Review

When it comes to biopics of famous musicians they are a tough act to pull off these days. The formula is well known by now: the drive as a young artist, the obtaining of fame, the inevitable fall and the career redemption and life reflection in the final act. We can see the beats coming from a mile away and so it was with caution that I approached the story of James Brown in Get On Up from the director of The Help, Tate Taylor. While being cautious though it is difficult for me to not get caught up in these types of films and especially this one as I'm a big fan of funk music and was looking forward to how Taylor might encapsulate the full span of a life as tumultuous as Brown's. There was a manic energy to the entertainer that he seemed to carry with him everywhere that he clearly poured into his stage show, a place where he arguably felt more at home than anywhere else. I draw attention to this characteristic because it is an important quality in any entertainer and yet in the majority of these biopics there seems to be little focus on their passion for the music, but rather on the drama of their personal lives. No, this film is being made about this person because they became significant enough in their field for an entire film to be centered around them and so why don't we focus on what pushed them to such significance? With a nickname like "The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz" though it would have been difficult for a James Brown film to avoid the mans drive and passion which was purely the music and the performance that came along with it. There are scenes wholly dedicated to Brown's interpretation of a rhythm, his thought process on where it could go and his imagining of what he needs to feel in order to get himself and his audience on their feet. It is a testament to screenwriters Jez and John Henry Butterworth as well as director Taylor that they have not delivered a vanilla film in the vein of what we have seen before from this genre, but more something that skips through time highlighting the scope of Brown's varied life in non-linear fashion that culminates in an experience that feels it may actually justify the real man.

First Trailer for NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB

It seems every other year or so Ben Stiller retreats to one of his reliable franchises as a means for a hit in between doing the "one for him" project that is hit or miss given his track record as of late. After last years mild directorial success with the quiet Christmas day opening of Walter Mitty Stiller has retreated for one last trip to the ol' museum as he heads to London. As these things go it seems the only way to unlock the mystery around the tablet that started all of this and save the magic it possesses is to travel to the British Museum. I can remember taking my youngest brother to see the original Night at the Museum during the holiday season of 2006 and being eight years removed from that film as well as five from the suitable follow-up that failed to make much of a stir I can only imagine there wasn't much of a desire for this film. That said, I also remember really enjoying the first film for what it was and Battle of the Smithsonian was more of the same with the added bonus of Amy Adams and Hank Azaria. If there will be anything remotely surprising about this third entry I imagine it will be seeing what new historical characters the film adds, but the highlight of the trailer is Rebel Wilson taking over Jonah Hill's bit from the second film. The trailer also gets some good laughs out of a caveman that resembles Stiller and the majority of the cast seems to be returning, so hopefully this can be taken as a good sign with good meaning good fun if not necessarily substantial storytelling. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb also stars Robin Williams, Dan Stevens, Ben Kingsley, Ricky Gervais, Rami Malek, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, Bill Cobbs, Dick Van Dyke, and Mickey Rooney and opens on December 19th.

CALVARY Review

From the outset of John Michael McDonagh's new film Calvary there is a deeply ominous tone due mostly to the nature of conversation and a single threat that lingers over the picture. The film is decidedly honest in the way it approaches the subject of life and pleasantly unpretentious in the way it deals with the psychology of religion and faith. These aforementioned subjects, these lines of thought and the conversations that spurn from them are always of an interest to me that surpass that of any material subject and McDonagh, working from a script solely of his own doing, plays with these ideas and themes in a way that entices without distancing itself from those who find solace in God. In a way, McDonagh uses the comforts and consolation given by faith and Christ as a cushion for the stories of human nature he chooses to explore here. Not only does the inclusion of a heavy hand in the church bring an interesting dynamic to the more individual stories being told, but it adds layers of concentration on sins and virtues and what, if anything, they add up to. It is easy to look at something such as Calvary and praise it for its beautiful cinematography, its gorgeous music, its fine performances and intelligently constructed screenplay that oozes with dialogue that screams serious thought, but it's the fine line the film walks between being serious about its subjects and ironic about their thoughts that make it all the more fascinating. McDonagh is a sly writer who puts an emphasis on character and lets the themes and ideas breathe through the development of these people and the interesting set of circumstances he has placed them in. The dialogue that says so much and could easily be read deeper into concerning the writers stance on certain issues and points of view simply come off as true to the character speaking them than as any kind of agenda or showy quality. It is to this effect that Calvary succeeds in being more than a story about the priesthood and the scandals that have come along with that profession, but what it's like to be a person in that role innocent of the stigmas and the vicious cycle that rarely forgives the exceptions.

First Trailer for THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

At this point, is anyone besides those either deep in Tolkien lore or who have seen the other five films interested in Peter Jackson's last journey through Middle-Earth? It is hard to tell as even the trailer for the final chapter in The Hobbit trilogy feels somewhat exhausted. The newly minted Battle of the Five Armies will surely run almost three hours and feature plenty of giant battle sequences, but the whole thing just feels rather tired at this point. I was never a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy though I certainly found appreciation in each of the films and while I feel like I'm in the minority who enjoyed An Unexpected Journey more than The Desolation of Smaug I don't know that I'm exactly looking forward to what the final installment has to offer. They are visual wonders, to be sure, but I certainly feel the overwhelming sense of CGI and extension of the story has turned this second trilogy into more of a financial than artistic endeavor. Don't get me wrong, I hope Jackson has something up his sleeve and proves my pessimism wrong, but if the trailer is any indication they may go out with more of a whisper than a bang. The first full-length trailer for the film is the same that premiered at Comic-Con over the weekend and is slow-paced, again featuring “The Steward of Gondor”, which was also used in The Return of the King. The film is being touted as the defining chapter of the Middle-Earth saga and so we will have to wait and see if the final product lives up to this claim or if the marketing simply hopes to cash in on the finale. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies stars Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom and opens in theaters on December 17th.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 29, 2014

HERCULES Review

Twelve years ago the Rock "arrived" with The Scorpion King in full swords and sandals glory. In the summer of 2014 he has returned to that well-worn genre that has lost much of the interest that Gladiator garnered for it in 2000. If anyone could bring films based in this type of world or adaptations of the stories in Greek mythology back into the casual movie-goers field of vision it would surely be the reigning king of action flicks, right? Over the past three years Dwayne Johnson has re-vitalized the Fast & Furious and G.I. Joe franchises while bringing new life to the Journey To... movies. In many ways, Hercules, was the test of just what Johnson could attract and handle on his own with only the significance of brand recognition assisting him. Sure, he's had flicks like Snitch and Faster that cast him as the sole marquee star, but this was an all-out Summer B-movie with a big budget, sprawling scope and, as the trailers would have you believe, large amounts of CGI fantasy. While I am happy to report that Hercules is both varied in scope and is quite expansive while offering genuine thrills it isn't the CGI-heavy bonanza of easy-outs that the trailers advertised and made me cautious in getting too excited for the film. About twenty minutes into the movie I began wondering whether the film would add up to anything more than escapism or if there might be something here, something deeper they were going for. I say the previous sentence not in the line of thought that I think everything necessarily has to be about something, but more in a curious fashion as to if director Brett Ratner would aspire to something more than what was expected. It was with something akin to a sigh of relief that when the credits began to role on this latest incarnation of the Greek demi-God that I felt wholly satisfied. Maybe expectations play a certain role in that, maybe this movie won't hold up after multiple viewings, maybe Johnson needs to stick to strong supporting roles that don't require so much heavy lifting and maybe Ratner shouldn't get the opportunity to do anything outside this wheelhouse again, but for what it is intended to be Hercules is good, if not forgettable, fun.

LUCY Review

Lucy is lightning fast. As soon as Luc Besson's latest European-tinged philosophical reflection disguised as an action film begins we are in the throws of multiple ideas and unknown situations. There is never a moment as the film begins to unfold where one wonders past what Besson's intent was with the film for, despite Morgan Freeman preaching to a choir of eager college students, we easily become wrapped up in these universal questions and ponderings. Not three years ago the highly regarded Terrence Malick crafted a film Roger Ebert placed on his "Greatest Films of All Time" column that contributed to the Sight & Sound poll. Malick's Tree of Life is a film that attempts to cover the span of not just one human life, but the existence of life on our planet and in some weird, off-beaten way Lucy attempts to explore the same thoughts and ideas with the added-bonus of putting our central human subject in a state of heightened reality. This all may sound quite strange given the trailers for this Scarlett Johansson-starrer made it look like a science-fiction action flick in which Scar Jo kicks ass after being betrayed and infused with a product that unlocks the other ninety percent of the human brain. Still, while all of this is somewhat accurate in the vein all of those things happen and you would certainly classify the film as science fiction, this is a movie more about the endless possibilities than it is who our heroine will fight next. Taking its cues from the myth that says humans only use ten percent of our brains, Besson explores what might occur if we were enabled to use the full capacity of our cognitive reach and he thinks some strange stuff might begin to happen. The thing about Lucy though is that this is a film you can't take overly-serious or become caught up in the semantics of if this could really happen and if it did, what it might actually mean if the entire human race were enabled to do as Lucy. No, what one must be able to do with a movie as (somewhat) outlandish as this is to take it all in on its own terms and enjoy it or leave it alone altogether. For me, I love an interestingly strange premise, the science fiction genre in general and Johansson has been on somewhat of a streak as of late so I was more than willing to look past any breaks in reality and simply enjoy Lucy for what she is: Besson's exploration of the nature of life through the eyes of the kinetic energy with which he directs.

WHAT ELSE I'M WATCHING #1

If any of you know me personally you know big changes are coming over the next few months in the form of my first child. I don't know how much of this new arrival will require me to adjust my movie-watching schedule or how much it might delay the viewing of new releases, but in the mean time I've been wondering what I might do to continue writing about film on a regular basis even if I'm not able to comment on the latest releases as soon as they come out. On the opposite end of this spectrum is the opportunity to go back and watch older films that I've never made time for. There are many films that, in doing my best to be a certified movie buff, I likely should have seen a long time ago. In all honesty I've only seen a number of more mature films from before the new millennium other than what I might have watched in film school and have combed through since. I was the oldest sibling in my household so I had no older brothers or sisters guiding me toward what might have been popular or significant in the late 80's through the 90's and my parents weren't much for watching movies so when someone is surprised I haven't seen a film considered a classic I blame them. I was mainly taken to the theater by my aunts who loved their popcorn and had a fair share of Hollywood crushes they didn't mind looking at on the big screen. Under these circumstances I was exposed to the full catalogue of Disney animated films and the wave of 90's sports movies for kids that are still endearing to this day, but many of the well-regarded films of each year are little more than reputations in my mind. This may turn out to be a failed experiment, but it's worth a shot, if not to allow me a space to write more once my daughter arrives in a few months, but to open my eyes to a world of movies I've only ever planned on getting around to before.

First Trailer for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

I have no idea and no real desire to find out what the big hoopla around Fifty Shades of Grey is all about and the first full length trailer for the film does little to change that line of thought. I understand they were originally some kind of offshoot of Twilight fan fiction that drew fire for its sexual content and forced author E.L. James to publish the stories in an episodic nature on her own site. I understand how this can be seen as a win for viral marketing and do-it-yourself publishing, but the content has always been at the question of its validity for me. I know little of the story except for the fact it contains some seriously sexual content and has been made into a film by a female director that might at least bring the masses of mommy's over thirty who devoured the books the adaptation they've been craving. It seems husbands will be oblivious to what their wives are watching while the trailer makes it explicitly clear that the presumably R-rated film will contain all of the carnal pleasures and erotic nature of the source material. The one thing that does intrigue me about the trailer is the look of the film. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) applies a sleek, very modern aesthetic to the worlds of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey that will likely look dated and categorize the film squarely into this decade in the future, but also hints at an oddly pure and direct tone that seems in line with the narrative and its central character. Fifty Shades of Grey stars Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Ehle, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden, Max Martini, Eloise Mumford, Dylan Neal, Rita Ora, Victor Rasuk, Callum Keith Rennie and opens on Valentine's Day 2015.

BEGIN AGAIN Review

I am a sucker for movies that deal with the creation of music or the business of it in any way and so it is with fair warning that I say I delightfully indulged in the charms of Begin Again. I suppose there is nothing really wrong with indulgences when they come from director John Carney and contain talent such as Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Catherine Keener and what is hopefully only another notch in a string of performances that will eventually lead to a major breakout for James Corden. Carney broke onto the scene in 2006 with his simple, music-infused love story that was Once and even garnered his stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová an original song Oscar. Now, I have admittedly not made it around to seeing Once, but understand it to be a much slower, more meditative experience than this more mainstream, pop confection that illustrates the pure bliss of the moments in music that cause you to soar. I read an interesting quote from director Richard Linklater a few weeks ago where he talked about how he felt more like an extra in a movie during the big moments of his life; ones first kiss, graduation, weddings, funerals and the idea that none of these events actually belong to you, but that you are simply cast in them. I find this interesting because it says a lot about the basic human instinct of how we reflect and classify our memories and more importantly the memories that are intended to be significant. What brought this quote to mind is that Begin Again operates in the moments that aren't intended to be major, but instead stem from a more natural, organic place that leave a mark on your life that belongs solely to you. They aren't moments everyone might share, but are specifically tailored to the experience of life that you have created for yourself and only register as such when you're in the middle of them and you realize it is a piece of time you will never forget. I can imagine it was difficult for Carney to nail down exactly how he might convey those types of complex emotions and the nostalgia and sentimentality that comes along with them while presenting a present situation, but Begin Again not only illustrates his love for music, but why music is so integral in making these moments real, heartfelt memories.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 22, 2014

SEX TAPE Review

Once again we have reached a point in the summer movie season where we not only get what we expect this time of year, but where those expectations seem to be filled out of some sense of obligation rather than an organic idea. If you have been reading this site for any period of time you know I tend to be kind to comedies as I seem to have a soft spot for them and their actors; a wishful kinship if you will. That this kind of relationship exists makes it difficult when I know a movie isn't great (or even very good) but the fact I still found moments to laugh at forces me to want to give it more credit than it's due. Expectations likely play a role in this slight bit of sympathy for Sex Tape as anyone might tell you not much of them existed for this film. I always secretly hope that these raunchy, ridiculous comedies will be better than audiences and critics expect and will do their best to prove them wrong, especially those including anyone from the long lost its steam Frat Pack or Judd Apatow's gang of misfits. This latest collaboration with director Jake Kasdan (Orange County, Walk Hard) though has Jason Segel seeming more on auto-pilot than ever. Segel is a naturally funny guy and a better writer than he gets credit for as he is able to tap into those "that's so true" moments with such ease, but he is doing nothing more than his typical shtick here. The last time Kasdan and Segel met-up was the not-so-much better Bad Teacher, but Segel was used to such minimal effect there it felt like a bit of an inside joke that he could show up, do his thing and retreat into the background. Kasdan was having fun with the heightened reality of the premise and Cameron Diaz owned the titular role to the point it drew crowds given the comparison it was basically Bad Santa with a sexed-up Diaz. In Sex Tape, the trio attempt to deliver that same kind of raunch with a broad and outlandish premise, but the well runs dry about halfway through because it never takes off in the way it should or even could have.

BLUE RUIN Review

There is a stillness to Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin that is inescapable and transfixing from its opening shots. There is a sense of calculation, of very precise intention in its tone and color palette that lure you in with their solemnity and then blow your expectations out of the water with its blunt violence. It is a technique that is tough to put ones finger on in terms of how exactly we become so intrigued in a story we know very little about. We meet Dwight (Macon Blair) as he sits bathing in a tub, but stumbles out and through a window when he hears noise from outside. We pick up on clues that are dropped in each moment and we begin to piece together who this man is and how he came to be at this point in his life. His appearance suggests a large amount of mystery and misery. He is brought into the police station by a sweet-natured female officer who informs him of news that likely floods his minds with endless possibilities and scenarios, but all we hear are the words of the officer assuring Dwight that he will be fine. They are words he doesn't hear and that he doesn't intend to try and uphold. From the outset of this vague premise we follow Dwight as he more or less sets out on a revenge-fueled mission that can only end a number of ways, none of which are particularly promising for our protagonist. What I enjoyed about Blue Ruin though is not that it both elicits thought and tension as well as it does pure entertainment (though these aren't bad reasons to enjoy it at all), but that it gains these qualities and moves with its ever-increasing momentum because of the directorial choices being made. Saulnier makes very determined decisions in his shot selection and environments to both imbue his film with a strong sense of style and also tell a rather simple and cliched story in a way that feels fresh.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY Review

Having re-watched the first Purge before going to see this quickly developed sequel I was reminded of what a good premise had been so messily squandered in execution. The idea of focusing in on one situation or opening up the world and giving a more well-rounded view is a difficult dilemma. Had the writer/director of both films, James DeMonaco, done with his premise the first time what he's done here he might have been criticized for trying to do too much. After having seen the sequel though it is clear that with such a layered and complicated world the possibilities might have been overwhelming to DeMonaco who chose to keep things simple the first time around. With the first film becoming a financial success though the studio was quick to greenlight and push into development a follow-up less than a year later which can, presumably, only boost a guys confidence. With that confidence DeMonaco has opened up his slightly futuristic world into what his one lawless night a year might be like not only for different individuals, but different classes of people according to society's structure. Given expectations weren't high for The Purge: Anarchy I'll try not to get too excited about how much better it is than the original while hopefully re-enforcing the fact it's still not a great or exceptional piece of cinema. Instead, this is a film that knows its end goal and accomplishes those goals well and does in fact deliver more on the promise of its interesting premise than its predecessor. From the advertising to the blatant acts of violence described as patriotism these films have always had a commentary in the back of their minds on the class systems of society and where our current situation may lead us. In this vein of thinking these films are more science fiction than horror in the way they preach nonviolence with violence and describe how escalating violence and economic issues brought the country to a breaking point that resulted in this annual event. These are naturally the more interesting aspects of the film and in Anarchy DeMonaco plays each of them up as he highlights the experiences of different groups of people from different ethnic and economic backgrounds creating a more captivating story and strong jeopardy we can all relate to.

TRANSFOMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION Review

Is escapism really that if the relief we seek turns out to be just as unpleasant as the reality? It is questions such as this that begin to seep into your mind during the exhausting, nearly three-hour experience that is Transformers: Age of Extinction. Director Michael Bay has no intentions of creating anything other than grand escapism here in that this is not a film intended for a specific audience or niche, but is mass appeal in the largest sense possible. The thing about Bay that most people hate is that he has the mentality of a 12 year-old boy and composes his films from that perspective while being technically proficient. While there will be those who ask what might be wrong with the imagination of a pre-teen boy splattered across an IMAX screen the answer is technically, nothing, but might result in some incohesive story elements and slight exploitation of the young female body. There are stereotypes thrown around here from time to time, but the racism has been dialed back considerably from the truly messy second installment, Revenge of the Fallen. There is no mention of Sam Witwicky anywhere and thus there is no forced feeling of having to evolve that character from where we saw him last allowing for the new humans to simply exist in order to aid the giant robots in whatever quest they are out to achieve this time. The film is unnecessarily, even punishingly long in that you'll be sitting in the theater for over three hours if you arrive early and catch the previews. Bay could have easily kept this at a strict two hours while providing some solid entertainment, some stunning visuals and a story the majority of us could follow with ease, but he doesn't. Bay is not one to avoid indulgence and so what we have actually been given is an over-complicated version of a rather simple story that in being so big forgets the little things such as a reason for shoe-horning in robot dinosaurs. To be fair, Age of Extinction is in some ways an improvement over the last two films in that Bay seems to try and take the criticisms he's given and apply them to improving his work (the streamlined story, the less distracting human characters) yet in the end it more or less feels like we're watching the same things we've already seen before.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Review

2011's re-tooling of the Planet of the Apes franchise was a surprise in many ways, but mostly in the way that it was really good. I went into the film with modest expectations. Having only ever seen the 1968 original and the Tim Burton re-make I wasn't soaked in the lore of the franchise and didn't hold out hope for a resurgence in the narrative. Still, when you go into a movie framed as somewhat of an origin story and understand where it ultimately has to lead there is a level of intrigue you can't exactly put your finger on and that is what Rise of the Planet of the Apes capitalized on and did so in ways that made the picture, as a full body of work, excel in many ways. With those kinds of expectations set for the sequel and the fantastic trailers that have been rolling out over the past six months it was difficult to adjust one's excitement for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in a fashion that might not be cause for disappointment when the movie finished playing. While I tried to avoid the trailers after the second one was released it was almost impossible to not see several television spots over the past month as Twentieth Century Fox has done well to position this as one of if not the major event movie of the summer. There was a lot of general love for Rise as I can recall speaking with friends who don't go to the movies regularly and them telling me they decided to go see it and how much they enjoyed it. That kind of attitude seemed to resonate with the average movie-goer and will no doubt translate to bigger business for Dawn, but while I can imagine this sequel being more than a satisfactory trip to the movies for those who enjoyed Rise once the excitement calms down it will likely become more clear the film suffers from not having as much substance, as much allegory or as much emotional depth as the first did. While it should not be thought I didn't enjoy this film (it is actually thoroughly enjoyable and will be worthy of repeat viewings) it is not a film that aspires towards the greatness of the first and because of this lack of complexity it feels all the more safe, all the more generic and any other adjectives such as these that allow Dawn to distance itself from the attributes that made Rise so interesting and entertaining.

LIFE ITSELF Review

It feels a bit backward to write a critique about a documentary that holds the subject of the man who arguably made film criticism what it is today. While there have been plenty of minds and influential voices in the industry of film criticism there is no argument that both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert cast a shadow over that world and are the most recognizable names on the pull quotes of your childhood VHS tapes. I always wondered as a child what made these two particular men that much more qualified to give us their opinion on movies and what made that opinion more valid. It wasn't until after Siskel passed that I came to appreciate the anticipation that came along with waiting to see what Ebert and Richard Roeper or whoever might be joining him in the balcony thought of the new films opening that weekend. It was a safe environment, a world where arguments could be had, creative endeavors discussed and yet there were no hard feelings because despite the often difference of opinions everyone always realized that ultimately art will always be subjective. What helped me understand and what made it comforting though was that the point of Ebert and his shows criticism was to tell the audience to strive to seek out the best kind of entertainment possible. I remember realizing you didn't have to completely trash a film to be a critic and you didn't have to necessarily like every indie movie because it was an indie movie or that it was "okay" to take a film for what it was intended to be and judge it on that basis alone. At The Movies never felt like criticism in the vein of making fun or demeaning, but was always constructive. After seeing the entirety of Life Itself it seems such romantic ideas of Ebert and his criticisms were just that and instead the man who gave the "two thumbs up" slogan a life of its own was as much a flawed individual as the most flawed person you might know. Ebert had his bouts with alcohol, his indulgences in narcissism and his arguments with Siskel that highlight some of the more interesting parts of this doc, but to see him near the end of his road, in his most fragile state, is to put a full life in real perspective and understand what it means to live a life in your own movie and not in the trailer for it.

First Trailer for EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS

While Ridley Scott may not have had the best luck in terms of critical or commercial success lately with his latest he has seemed to place all of his figurative eggs in the baskets of those that have whether it be in story or the actors conveying it. This year alone we've had several religious-themed films made on small budgets only to reap big rewards (God's Not Dead, Heaven is for Real) as well as secular takes on bible stories such as Noah that maybe didn't make as much money as expected ($359 million worldwide on a $125 million budget), but were well-received by the majority of critics if not as ecstatically as one might expect a new Darren Aronofsky film to be. Into this mix Scott will place his take on the story of Moses and in doing so has recruited the likes of Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton to bring this famous, well-worn story to life. This kind of precedent didn't exactly bode well for Noah which the studio felt it had to place a label in front of and ultimately seemed too grand a jump for those resting comfortably in the Bible belt, but if Scott's filmography is any indication this film will be more in the tradition of grand historical epics than innovative interpretations and artistic expression. That is what the trailer seems to hint at anyway as the focus is on the scope of the kingdoms and the richness of the detail as much as it is the character and story. Scott knows how to make an epic in the vein of old Hollywood though and has had success in doing so. Is he simply re-hashing one of his last great original efforts with the packaging of the now reliable religious angle? We'll see, but if the trailer is any indication this will at least be a thrilling picture if not necessarily an insightful, motivating work as its source material intends to be. The film also stars Aaron Paul, Sir Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaveopens and opens on December 5th. Hit the jump to take a look at the new Exodus: Gods and Kings trailer and posters.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL Review

The exorcism/possession movie should be retired for the moment and given some time to breathe. The idea of scaring people through a visual medium while relying on the inherent mysterious and otherworldly aspects of religion has officially become tired. Of course, if Hollywood were to stop cranking out horror movies centered around exorcisms it would pretty much be akin to them doing away with action movies based around super heroes. It's not going to happen so at the very least we should be able to hope for a film that is competently put together (which seems to be asking for a lot in these days of found footage) while also bringing something new to the table. Deliver Us From Evil has always had the potential to bring a fresh perspective on things to this tired genre given several factors including its director, Scott Derrickson. Derrickson has slowly been making a voice for himself over the past decade now as this marks his third trek into the realm of horror after 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose and 2012's Sinister. Yes, even he has already crafted an exorcism film which proves to be somewhat of a template for his latest that again melds the idea of a scary movie with another genre of film entirely. In Emily Rose it was that of a courtroom drama, Derrickson pulling back the small bubble of a world that these supernatural events seem to happen in on film with no repercussions on a larger society and showing us what would happen if they did. It is what happens when one takes their subject matter seriously and as both the director and co-screenwriter Derrickson is able to give his stories the utmost respect in terms of credibility and that type of approach can only work for a director as it has done again here in Deliver Us From Evil. All of that said, this latest addition (which feels like the end of a horror trilogy before Derrickson moves on to Marvel) is a lesser work than Emily Rose or Sinister in that it doesn't have the same edge or thrill to its pacing or proceedings. Where Emily Rose felt urgent and truly disturbing Sinister was a meticulous slow burn that, admittedly, has a clunky third act. Deliver Us From Evil has all the elements to keep us interested and intrigued from the get-go, but never does it feel as compelling as it should until the final scenes.

TAMMY Review

There was and seemingly remains something off about Tammy. Not just in the case of the titular character that Melissa McCarthy portrays, but in the nature of the film itself. After following up her breakout in Bridesmaids with successful runs in Identity Thief and The Heat along with a slew of smaller, supporting roles in major comedies and two stints on Saturday Night Live it became clear McCarthy was the real deal. Still, the idea she next chose to venture out on a low-budget road trip comedy directed by her husband Ben Falcone and was a project they wrote with one another seemed completely understandable. There was an intimacy to it that no doubt was unheard of in the mainstream crowd-pleasers she was taking part in before. McCarthy had earned her name above the title and so she was going to use that power to make something closer to her heart. This could only signal that the comedy and the execution of the story would be something that was cultivated by the husband/wife team and would certainly come across with more of an edge and better developed characters than most comedies these days, right? One would think so, but for all this pent-up optimism I held for Tammy she let me down in the toughest of ways in that not only did she not make me laugh or love her, but that there is essentially no reason for this movie to exist. That probably sounds a little more harsh than it should because it isn't the characters or even the situations that don't come up with anything it's just that they don't come up with anything new. I didn't really know what to expect from the film upon walking into the theater, but when it instantly became clear that this would be a film of self-discovery and redemption for a life without risk and full of regret through the format of a road trip comedy I was done. We've literally seen McCarthy go through this same evolution in the same way in the aforementioned Identity Thief so what was it that drove her and Falcone to make this movie over anything else? Likely a question we'll never get a satisfactory answer to, but nonetheless the point of Tammy was to capitalize on McCarthy's brand of humor and persona and while she is all over the place here she does no favors for herself or anyone around her as any laughs that came from the audience were more out of sympathy than anything else.

New Teaser Trailer for FOXCATCHER

After hearing about this film for what feels like well over a year and wondering what kind of shape it would take, what type of performances it would contain, and how it would look we now are beginning to get our first real look at the film in motion as Sony Pictures Classics has released another teaser trailer. Dierctor Bennett Miller, who's made both Capote and Moneyball, is a director I've been intent on watching and this story he's decided to tell now seems to perfectly mix elements of his previous two films. Telling the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) who develop a relationship with eccentric multimillionaire and sports enthusiast John du Pont (an unrecognizable Steve Carell). This teaser certainly captures the dark tone of the story it's telling while the marketing team has decided to highlight Tatum in a performance they are keen to get him an Oscar nomination for. I am ultimately more interested in what seems to be a genuinely chilling dramatic turn from Carell and would be surprised if he doesn't get an Oscar campaign as well. That this tragic story has been put in the hands of a director so adept at telling real life stories in the most effective of ways lends this project a great amount of credibility and hopes for something exceptional that might show audiences both a story about two men they would have otherwise never heard of and a film that truly moves people and pushes those involved to the limits of their talent. This thing is filled to the brim with potential and after recieving multiple prizes at this years Canne Film Festival, I can't wait until Oscar season. Foxcatcher also stars Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall and opens on November 14. Check out the latest trailer after the jump.