This Trip back to North Shore High Justifies itself by still being Sharp in its Observations of Vacuousness.


Director Ava DuVernay Adapts Isabel Wilkerson's nonfiction book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents and takes us on a journey of global investigation and discovery.


Director Sean Durkin Takes the Epic Tragedies and Triumphs of the Von Erich Family and Crafts a Devastating Story around Placing Your Convictions in the Wrong People.


Writer/Director Cord Jefferson’s Feature Debut Splits the Difference Between Searing Satire and Emotional Family Drama Coming out a Winner in Both Respects.


Emma Stone is Daring and Mark Ruffalo is Hilarious in this Surreal Fever Dream of Philosophy and Attempting to Understand our Nature through Unorthodox Methods.


At the age of sixty-one and twelve years after his last film in the role of James Bond I imagine Pierce Brosnan doesn't necessarily want to be starring in second rate excursions of Bond movies as someone called Peter Devereaux. I imagine he'd like to be making more calm, thought-provoking dramas or interesting character pieces, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards for the poor guy. He seems to have tried his hand at making low-risk romantic comedies and dramedies all of which have seemed to fail to give his career any kind of life after his exit from his most famous role. He has played in this genre before outside of the Bond franchise with 2005's little seen The Matador, but not since have we seen Brosnan so blatantly admit to audiences that he misses playing the British Secret Service Agent. He would seemingly like to be a well-regarded leading man in more mature fare, but it is likely he sees no other options in maintaining his relevancy and so we will continue to get things such as The November Man (I hear they're already moving forward with a sequel to this!) until he finds a role that will earn him an Oscar (though admittedly probably much later in his life) that will leave his legacy as something of a real cinematic presence and not just as the guy who once played James Bond. That would be the ideal way for things to go, but if he is determined to live in the now rather than with some sense of perspective he may pigeon-hole himself into the guy who never got over being Bond. It is easy to see Daniel Craig moving on after his term in the suit (despite the fact his non-Bond efforts have either failed commercially, critically or both since taking over the role), but that is an article for another day. Now, we are here to discuss The November Man and the merits of being a late-August release and how the fact this is a film as generic as anything we've seen this year will still get a passing nod because there simply isn't much else going on. I like Brosnan, I always feel I'm rooting for him and I found myself doing that here even though, every few minutes, I had to ask myself where these characters were, where they were going or what exactly they were doing to further the plot. It's that kind of movie, but when the credits roll you shrug it off an move on, no harm done.

First Trailer for Jon Stewart's ROSEWATER

I have never been one who takes instantly to tales of war or politics though once I sit down and give them a fair shot I typically become intrigued. While I am interested in Jon Stewart's directorial debut simply because I enjoy his other work it is also interesting that this seems like a project we wouldn't expect from him given his relation to satire and comedy. It is of course intriguing to see what Stewart might do in a different realm of entertainment and it is of course admirable he doesn't want to be pigeon-hole himself strictly as a funny guy, but given he is already regarded as an intelligent comedian it almost makes sense his first film as a writer/director is one that deals the reality of what he usually takes on from a different angle. The film is based on the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari and Stewart has adapted his memoir, Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival for the screen. Bahari went to Iran in 2009 to cover the elections for Newsweek magazine and interview Mir-Hossein Moussavi, but was arrested, interrogated and beaten for 118 days by a man known only to him as “Rosewater”. The description does a better job of making the story sound interesting than the trailer is able to as certain aspects feel manipulative, though I'm sure within the context of the full film they might play more genuinely. I can't say I'm overly anxious to see the film, but I'm certainly intrigued. Rosewater stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Golshifteh Farahani, Kim Bodnia and opens on November 7th.


In his feature directorial debut Charlie McDowell has taken a very intelligent, very inventive script from Justin Lader (who also makes his feature screenwriting debut here) and makes the final product all the more engaging with his talented cast and visual trickery. It's not that this isn't anything we haven't seen before, we understand how certain elements of the story are achieved visually, but that the film makes the impact of what we see more important by what it implies rather than the fact it is simply "neat" is refreshing. Much of The One I Love is about implications though and in being structured around such things one may think it will leave you with a yearning for more concrete conclusions, but in all likelihood you'll be satisfied by the exploration taking place. The exploration is that of the most universal emotion in our world-love. At this point, between the music we hear, the movies we watch, the books we read and not to mention the surplus of information we now receive about the lives of those around us thanks to social media one would think we'd be tired of talking about and dealing with the downsides of love, but somehow McDowell and Lader have managed to bring an interesting, insightful look at the word, the emotion and what it means when it's put into action. They take the idea of the thought of love and all its flourishes as so much more attractive than the reality of being someones companion that they make it unattractive in the sense that maybe it isn't for all of us. Why has the human race become so enamored with the thought of legal companionship, of narrowing it all down to being with one other person and allowing that to sum up our time spent here on earth? It seems an unnecessary question given the constructs of our society, but really, why? Reproduction maybe? So many people have kids out of wedlock these days it almost isn't a justifiable reason and yet love is still the one thing everyone chases after in hopes that it will one day bring about the peace and happiness we are all instilled to believe we are destined for as children. I don't know that we should all denounce the quest for love, it seems to have worked well for myself and many of those around me, but that The One I Love hooked me into thinking about the pros and cons of a single emotion and all it triggers is a sign of genuine intrigue.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 26, 2014


In the spring of 2005 my newly minted eighteen year-old self highly anticipated director Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of the Frank Miller comic Sin City. Keep in mind this was a world before Christopher Nolan's genre re-defining Batman Begins or Zack Snyder's influential visual stylings of 300 and so to see something so inherently original in its take on both aesthetic and story was exciting even if I wasn't familiar with the source material. Add on to that the fact Rodriguez enlisted the creator of the comic book as his co-director and gathered up an expansive cast that included Bruce Willis, Benecio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, Michael Madsen, Powers Boothe and the first interesting role Mickey Rourke had taken in some time (essentially the one that made him cool again) and you had something people were generally intrigued by. Almost a decade later though and the anticipation for any such follow-up to the film has long since faded and thus the original would have likely survived best if left alone rather than trying to return to the days of former glory with a sequel that doesn't really expand the world of the titular environment as much as it gives us the same things we were treated to the first time around, only this time with less of a punch to the gut. Less punch because we've seen them before, less surprise because we know the characters better, more of the same because we realize the characters weren't as developed as our first impression led us to believe. In short, the sequel more or less points out the flaws of the world in which it exists rather than enhancing or expanding the universe the original set-up and when a sequel does this it only makes its existence feel all the more forced than necessary. There are of course a few redeemable aspects here, the stark visuals still elicit a certain mood and look stunning on the big screen and the addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his storyline is engaging and deserved more screen time, but these aren't enough to spice up what is overall rather boring and a flat narrative. There will always be a certain nostalgia for the original Sin City given it's place in time and my stage of life when it was released, but if there was any hope A Dame to Kill For might do the same, re-create those feelings, or even spark interest in eighteen year-olds today those hopes were dashed when Rourke's narration began and the style was more cloak and pattern than function to deepen story or theme.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2014

I never much consider it, but I don't know that I could make a list of ten of my favorite films at this point in the year yet. I don't know if there have been enough, but I imagine I could pull some of those I really enjoyed but didn't necessarily come to think of as exceptional onto the list and be satisfied. I say this because as I began to put together my most anticipated list for this fall and winter I began to realize that if my hopes and excitement for each of these films pays off in the way I hope it does, this could just as well be a list of my favorite films of the year. That may seem a simple conclusion to draw given these are the ten films I'm most excited to see the remainder of the year, but what I mean to say is that I think the following films I'm most excited about have the potential to surpass anything I've already seen this year. Having done this a few years now though it becomes apparent there will always be a few of these films that ultimately don't move you or live up to the ambition their early marketing suggested. It always feels like a good majority of these films are still largely mysteries despite the fact the longest length of time between now and the last release on the list is four months.


This marks the fourth year in a row that I have seen the annual Woody Allen feature in theaters and it would be a lie to say I'm not growing fond of the tradition. Of course, there is no telling how much longer this tradition might continue as the prolific writer/director is nearing seventy-nine and I can only imagine will continue to remain as consistent for so much longer. Allen continues to defy expectations though as he continues to both craft interesting enough stories for relevant actors to embody and piece them together in rapid fashion. It is hard to even pinpoint at what stage of life Allen first put the idea we're currently watching on screen to paper, but I can only imagine he has a drawer full of premises that he pulls from every year and crafts a screenplay around yet all the while is jotting down more ideas to add to the drawer. It will be interesting to see what he leaves us with as the next few features are likely to be some of his final ones, but if there is anything particularly telling about his latest it is that the guy isn't scared of getting old. Magic in the Moonlight may be able to pull off seeming like a romantic comedy for intellectuals and even as the film slogs to its inevitable conclusion it seems Allen would have liked to convince himself of this as well, but really the film is simply another exercise for Allen, the writer, to voice his complaints about mortality, the mystical side of life and belief in a higher power. He does this with both vigorous and insightful dialogue that is conveyed through what is at least an inventive situation. It also doesn't hurt he has placed the film in what we perceive as a more innocent period of time (1928) to soften the blow of his logical observations and make them feel more farcical than forceful. I am one who doesn't mind the arrogant, slightly egotistical nature of Allen especially when it has been imbued upon as charming an actor as Colin Firth and there truly is, as is typically the case, some finely-crafted dialogue here that cuts to the heart of the conflict our central character feels, but as a film in and of itself Magic in the Moonlight feels more minor than the significance of its ideas.

New Trailer for ANNABELLE

It is hard not to be weary of spin-off movies in that they seem like quick cash grabs where there is no possible way a fair amount of thought or development was put into creating it. They simply exist to mine the potential of more money from something that was previously successful and has a distant link to the latest product. Annabelle seems a perfect example of this as The Conjuring barely came out a year ago and introduced us only slightly to the title character here and now we already have a full trailer after the teaser dropped just over a month ago. The teaser was effective in that it was minimal (much in the vein of the first Conjuring trailer). This second clip from the film gives us more insight into the plot of the film and more of an idea of what we can expect story-wise. The film looks to have the same visual style and tone as one of James Wan's horror films, but John R. Leonetti has taken over directing duties here after serving as DP on The Conjuring. While overall, this looks to hit many of the familiar beats of demonic possession films the hook is that we all wanted to know more about this scary little doll after her curse was put on hold by Ed and Lorraine Warren. I actually enjoyed Wan's sequel to Insidious last year more than The Conjuring, but am still interested in this because I like the type of horror utilized in his movies and it looks like that has been mimicked well here. I wish they wouldn't have given away some of the scares we see in the trailer, but hopefully that means they have a good amount left up their sleeves. Annabelle stars Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard and opens on October 3rd.


Movies such as Let's Be Cops live or die by the chemistry of the two leading actors and there is no debate that Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. like being around one another. Throughout the entirety of this feature they look like they had some serious fun making this movie together, but only so much of that comes through in the final product. As the saying goes: if the film were half as fun to watch as they seemed to have making it we might have been in for something that rivaled the recent success of the Jump Street series, but it doesn't. What this actually feels like while watching it is just a large amount of incompetence. It has a lazily constructed plot centered around an incohesive way of telling its story with even lazier comedy that comes purely from the improvisations and tones in which Johnson and Wayans deliver their dialogue and gyrate their bodies. If we really want to break it down though, Let's Be Cops is about as sub-par in the buddy cop genre as one can get. With both of the Jump Street movies there is the hook of the boys going undercover at high school and college which is always interesting (they try to do that here with the gimmick of not actually being cops, but again, it just seems more idiotic than funny), in Bad Boys there is a real sense of responsibility and peril to go along with the palpable chemistry (not to mention the pure R-rated Bayhem of the second one) and the same could be said for any of the Lethal Weapons. The pairing of personas such as Mel Gibson and Danny Glover was a hook in itself, but putting them in a legit action movie with character at the forefront only meant better results than expected. Let's Be Cops is a comedy though and one that wants to play on the archetypes of the aforementioned films while riding the coat tails of the Jump Street movies in hopes they too take off. Why they couldn't have found a different premise to execute the chumminess of Johnson and Wayans over, I don't know, but as it is I can only hope we don't get any sequels to this steaming mess of a movie.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 19, 2014

Teaser Trailer for MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN

It is easy to dismiss director Jason Reitman's last film, the overly sentimental and rather sappy Labor Day, but for what it's worth I didn't mind the film. If not for it's higher class of acting based in a Nicholas Sparks world at least for the cinematography and somewhat melodically paced story. It was though, admittedly odd coming from the same filmmaker who made dramedy's along the lines of Juno and Young Adult while going slightly darker with the superb Up in the Air. With his latest, it looks like Reitman will once again be skewing towards the darker side of things rather than retreating to a safe haven of comedy after Labor Day was lambasted by critics. Based on Chad Kulten's novel of the same name the film will follow high school students and their parents and how all of their lives have seemingly become dictated by the Internet, social media and the new types of "connections" we all have. The trailer is quite a downer, but at the same time is immensely engaging and seems to promise some rather intense situations and revelatory situations concerning a fair amount of the characters glimpsed. It seems to be quite reminiscent of the very much underrated Disconnect from 2012 while mimicking the tone of The Social Network. Even after Labor Day though I am still very interested in anything Reitman attempts and so I'm eager to see what twist he puts on this now typical cautionary tale. Men, Women & Children stars Ansel Elgort, Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Kaitlyn Dever, Dean Norris, J.K. Simmons, Timothée Chalamet, Olivia Crocicchia, Emma Thompson and will have its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival while opening in limited release on October 3rd.


As Richard Linklater's twelve-year journey to document the human experience in our most formative of years comes to a close its main subject literally stares into an indeterminable distance and metaphorically across a horizon of endless possibilities. There is something serene about this final note, something not so much uplifting as it is promising though I suppose the promise of possibilities could stimulate such optimistic feelings. To be honest, it feels somewhat intimidating to even try and craft a response or essay around the epic that is Boyhood. There is a distinct looseness to the project that doesn't adhere it to the serious, more prestigious films that have been straddled with the title of epic, yet it is most definitely that. Filmed over the course of twelve years using the same actors Linklater has pieced this unique project together as he went along, letting it develop naturally and in this organic sense of what life is, where it's going and what it becomes Boyhood feels wholly unique in a way no other film can touch. The question though was always going to be if whether or not the final product of what the film turned out to be might ever match the ambition of the idea behind it. As much as I feel intimidated by the film and everything it represents that I in no possible way could hope to capture in a few short paragraphs was still worried it wouldn't be all it was built up to be. There was such praise, such interest, such unanimous passion for this film that it felt it would be a crime to take any issue with it. As the film began to roll and the groove became recognizable though I could only hope it proved in some way to surpass what I thought might unfold, that it might take me by storm and bring me into what everyone else was seeing. Needless to say, I think I understand where they are all coming from. As that aforementioned final scene is let loose upon us and we know the end is near it all begins to sink in, what we have just experienced. There isn't a particularly significant story at play here, but it is meaningful in that every person in the audience can in some way relate to one of the characters, situations or emotions that unfold through the life of Mason and in turn we feel a part of this film. A transcendent experience, more than any numbing or even thought-provoking entertainment could provide.


I somehow managed to make it through all of middle school, jr. high and high school without ever cracking open a copy of Lois Lowry's The Giver. This wasn't due to the fact I was trying to avoid the work; I can remember seeing other kids reading it all around me in my seventh grade year and the cover with the old man and his wiry beard is an image that will always strike me as intriguing, but for one reason or another I was never made to sit down and read it and by the time I was in high school it was a distant memory. Why a feature film adaptation hasn't been made before now is quite curious, but with the recent wave of young adult adaptations it is also pretty clear why we are getting a version of this story now. Unfortunately, despite the fact Lowry tapped into exploring the themes and ideas present here in a way that younger audiences might understand first this doesn't automatically mean the film version will be as appealing or revelatory. Today, we live in a world of Harry Potter and Twilight where books that teens actually read are turned into massive franchises ultimately marginalizing the literature. In this world every quasi-popular series has been taken, given the Hollywood treatment in an attempt to launch a franchise and if they fail they're never heard from again. It is a vicious game won only if you have a large enough, pre-determined fanbase. There have been some unfortunate casualties (Beautiful Creatures) and some that were dead on arrival and deserved to be (The Mortal Instruments). Still, as the pack exists right now it is The Hunger Games and everything else. There is an air of earnestness about this version of The Giver though from the construction of its aesthetic to the performances given by actors that would widely be considered above this material that it doesn't have to be the big kid on the block. Sure, it is another cautionary tale set in a dystopian future (though the Chief Elder would have you believe it's a utopia) where one young person who has grown accustomed to a certain, strict way of life is declared different and breaks the societal rules that eventually lead him/her to discovering what the adults couldn't, but there is something sincere trying to be said here. There is an honesty to the production and a conviction in its story and ideas that is hard to shake while completely satisfying as a movie-going experience.


Sylvester Stallone has defied what it means to be restless. The guy is beyond restless, he is still hungry and at 68 that is truly astonishing. You might think he and half of his co-stars in this third flick in the Expendables franchise might be tired of going through the motions and introducing new characters who are old friends with simple backstories, but defy you they will and with The Expendables 3 Stallone and crew have turned up the volume while toning down the blood and the swearing. I will admit to always having a good amount of fun with these movies and never really seeing any need to complain as they know what they are and more or less deliver on what they promise. To that point, I actually enjoyed what I can remember about the second one more than what I can remember about the first largely due to that finale where Stallone along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis lined up and just gave us what we desperately hoped the first would deliver, not to mention the hand to hand combat showdown between Stallone and Jean Claude Van Damme. I appreciated the mixing of Stallone's mentality with Jason Statham who more or less is leading a new wave of action heroes today. These were elements we are meant to enjoy because of what they represent within the context of pop culture society and so I was at least appreciative for the countless winks and nods, the bad dialogue and the blood that spewed everywhere because that's what audiences wanted and that's what this mixed bag of knitty-gritty 80's stars and newly relevant tough guys planned to deliver. As we come to the third chapter in the saga though it is as if you can feel the toll the last two adventures have taken on our aging actioners no matter how much they try to mask it. The new rating wipes out a lot of the more honest aspects of what kind of relationships exist in a large group of all men and it certainly takes the CGI blood down a few notches (now there's just impact sounds!), but the elements of a large cast and a big action scene every now and then are still here, but the energy is clearly stalling.


Life After Beth gets off to a strong start. From the trailer or even the awkward glare of Aubrey Plaza (Parks and the Recreation) on the poster that features the pun of a title there was a glimmer of hipster cool to this play on the zombie genre. Besides the casting of Plaza the inclusion of Mr. Indie himself at the moment, Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), speaks volumes to the kind of tone and atmosphere that first time writer/director Jeff Baena (who is Plaza's boyfriend) was attempting to capture in order to convey his attitude on this somewhat satirical, somewhat personal account. The sardonic aspects of the film are meant to function solely as a method of heightening the rather typical main narrative that follows the relationship of a boy and a girl and their break-up and how sometimes the saying "you don't know what you got till it's gone" is a bit of a false heading. I sound a little jaded though, I realize, which mainly comes from the fact that Life After Beth seems to believe it's both smarter and hipper than it actually is while almost counting on the public persona of its two leads as a way to convince audiences of both its intelligence and cool factor. In truth, the film feels oddly flat and struggles to collect any kind of coherent tone as the story goes off the rails early and is never able to find its way to anything resembling substance. Let's get back to that strong start though, because things certainly looked promising when the films score by the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club roared into play as the title card filled the screen and we are then taken into a small, often forgotten little moment that perfectly encapsulates the types of moments this film should be filled with. DeHaan's Zach Orfman stands in an aisle of a grocery store looking at the paper plates and napkins trying simply to find black napkins. He has been to a number of stores, that is clear, yet has failed to come across the only color napkin that might be suitable for a post-funeral gathering. When an uninformed employee suggests he try a party store as that color napkin is more of a seasonal item for Halloween we understand the confliction Zach is feeling and the dark humor in the observation. It is a moment we don't think of until we experience it ourselves or see it unfold in this fashion. We understand what is being reached for, but the remainder of the film fails to live up to these small, simple hopes I held after this gem of a moment.

New Trailer for THE BEST OF ME

I don't think I've watched a Nicholas Sparks adaptation since maybe Dear John or The Lucky One, but even if that's true I don't remember much from either of them. Last years Safe Haven looked pretty horrible though I hear the ridiculous ending is worth a rental. For some unexplainable reason though I can't help but hold out a little bit of interest in the latest incarnation of Sparks' love story that centers on two young lovers who were driven apart in their teens and reunite after twenty years only to have the same demons arise once again to test their love. I mean, that sounds ridiculously cheesy already, but the trailer doesn't make it look half-bad and conveys the theme of not being able to make up for lost time, lost experiences and all that come with it in a rather affecting fashion. The unexplained can only be brought some kind of understanding by the level of casting at play here. Paul Walker was originally slated to play the lead role, but was replaced by James Marsden after his untimely death. With Marsden as well as Michelle Monaghan in the leads there is a better sense of credibility to the proceedings while the scenes featuring the younger versions of their characters may not come off as such. Liana Liberato has done solid work in the past (trust) though I can't judge Luke Bracey by anything but this trailer. I highly doubt this will break the Sparks mold in any fashion, but there can always be hope it might be slightly better than the standard. The Best of Me also stars Caroline Goodall, Gerald McRaney and opens on October 17th.


Time for a a little bit of an embarrassing admission: I've never seen Chocolat. I haven't seen The Cider House Rules either, well at least not all of it though I can recall starting it about a half dozen times. What I can say is I distinctly remember being in the eighth grade and my art teacher trying to convince me that it would be a more rewarding experience to go see Chocolat than Vertical Limit, which I was clearly anxious to see and would choose over an artsy film any day of the week (it had Robin in it!). Needless to say, all this time later I still haven't made time to visit director Lasse Hallström's well-reviewed romantic drama starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp that would seem to make the most pleasant double-feature with his latest film, The Hundred-Foot Journey. If we're being honest though, there wasn't a large amount of interest in this film for me, a 27 year-old who was more excited to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than an adult drama about the vast difference in cultures and their respectable inclinations even when a minuscule distance separates them, say a hundred feet? The Hundred-Foot Journey is a film no better described than being purely pleasant. It is a movie that could easily pass a weekend afternoon and be completely satisfying in doing so. There is nothing inherently wrong with a movie like The Hundred-Foot Journey, but it is to be understood going in that it is nothing but insubstantial froth. It is the dessert to a lazy, stress-free weekend or even the bubbly anecdotal answer to a demanding or trying couple of days. Either way, most will receive the same feeling from this slightly high brow Hallmark movie in that it paints a world where the outside conflicts of our existence never enter into the picture and the small trials and tribulations of our characters, while certainly major in their lives, leave little worry with the audience because we know exactly where things are heading and how *pleasantly* they will all turn out.


It's somewhat disappointing this is going to likely end up as a one off. As a kid, I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as I suspect most did who will be writing reviews of this latest incarnation and were born between 1980 and 1993. We identified with one of the personalities, we latched onto one of the colors and had to have everything in that hue while collecting all of the action figures and devouring the animated series and Jim Henson movies. For me, TMNT were the definitive super heroes, the pre-cursor to Power Rangers that grew to be a place of nostalgia where one could always retreat and find comfort in something as discomforting as green ooze. I can even remember becoming excited for the post-Power Rangers attempt to rejuvenate the series with The Next Mutation, but I felt the same way as it seemed most did as the series only lasted one season. I grew up, things changed and I didn't hear from the Turtles for a period of time. It seems though that Nickelodeon is trying to capitalize on their recently purchased rights of the Mirage Studio characters as they have a new CGI animated TV series airing and have partnered with a few other studios to bring the heroes in a half-shell back to the big screen once again. It always felt like an inevitability that the Turtles would one day return in the form of a feature film (2007's TMNT certainly didn't do anything for me), but I never had much ambition for what it could be or what direction it might go given the advancements in technology and the touchstones the early 90's films have become. It seems breaking that stigma has refused to give in as the press surrounding this latest live-action movie hasn't been the best. With each film I try to walk in with an open-mind and sense of optimism though (it's what I like to think keeps me distanced from the jaded critics who allow the amount of movies they see to change the perspective of how mainstream audiences might receive a film) and when it comes to something with as ridiculous a premise as turtles who are not only teenagers, but mutants and ninjas fighting a guy who now looks like a transformer you can only hope the filmmakers realize what they have for what it is. For me, Jonathan Liebesman's film is exactly that while doing its best to incorporate the look and feel of what super hero movies have become in this day and age.


In what will surely be hoping to become a serious Oscar contender this fall, Eddie Redmayne of Les Miserables portrays Stephen Hawking in the doctors formative years where he meets and falls in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde (Felecity Jones). Hailed as the extraordinary true story of one of the world’s greatest living minds this biopic certainly has a certain level of intrigue to it. The other factors that allow me to find this more interesting than the rather vanilla trailer suggests is the fact it is directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire). Marsh is not a director that has necessarily allowed himself to be restrained to one category or genre, but instead actually floats between making narrative features and documentaries. I can only imagine with this kind of history and pool of knowledge to pull from the filmmaker will find an interesting way to tell a good story while also successfully capturing the essence of his subjects and what makes them as much as the events worth paying attention to. Most people know Hawking received the earth-shattering diagnosis of motor neuron disease at age 21 which here seems to function as the reason audiences will need to get behind these characters and root for Hawking and his wife to defy impossible odds while breaking new ground in medicine and science. The films screenplay by Anthony McCarten is based on the memoir "Travelling to Infinity" written by Hawking's wife Jane and so there should be a certain level of insight here on the more personal parts of Hawking's life that could prove to deliver on those Oscar hopes. The Theory of Everything also stars David Thewlis, Emily Watson and will have its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival next month while opening in theaters on November 7th.


Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man is one of those movies I can appreciate, but will likely never have the desire to sit through again. Funny enough, you could say the same of his previous film, The American, which was my introduction to the filmmaker. The American was a surprisingly restrained film in almost every aspect of its being-from the images we saw, the music that complimented them and on to the central performance from George Clooney. In many ways it was a break into the studio system for Corbijn while showing the suits he very much had his own way of telling a story. If A Most Wanted Man does anything with this kind of power it actually plays more in tune with what we have grown accustomed to in the genre of spy thrillers while still keeping the pacing at a slow boil and the action to a minimum. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this of course, especially when you have the source material of John le Carré (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) to work with and as well pedigreed a cast as is on display here. By virtue of its cast and credentials alone this would strike most as an interesting film, but as a mature audience you come to actually appreciate the film for the line of thinking it promotes. It is a slow, methodical film that deals as much in the details of its plot as it represents the perceived perception of man in his many different incarnations. This theme, while heavily influenced by the title, is demonstrated in Corbijn's film by how individuals may be portrayed in certain circles as perfectly respectable, harmless even yet in others are wanted for possible terror motives. Obviously, the film depicts an extreme case of this nature, but it still conveys the necessary needs to see the bigger picture and describes how recognizing the smaller aspects might compliment said bigger picture rather than going bullet by bullet and crossing them off. It is an intriguing approach and one that makes you consider the nature of absolutes while never painting any of its multiple characters as necessarily bad or evil, but simply as people trying to do a job and come off as successful as possible. It is impossible to facilitate a fair and unbiased opinion in every situation, but A Most Wanted Man's characters strive for this ideal in each of their actions.


In the late summer of 2006 a friend and I went unsuspecting into our local dollar theater to see a few movies we'd missed earlier that year. One we had no idea of what we were getting into, but were interested in due to the fact it featured Elizabeth Banks in a starring role was Slither. It was one of those experiences you walk away from as a nineteen year-old kid and wonder what the hell you just watched. At that age everything needs to fit squarely into a category, it has to have some semblance of order for you to think it is acceptable in the adult world and this was an R-rated horror film so that was what we expected, or at least that is what had been advertised. What Slither actually turned out to be was a literal gross-out comedy that played on the several homages it contained to horror films of days past and was more in the vein of Evil Dead than anything else. I say all of this not only to reference my introduction to the work of director James Gunn, but more to put into context the kind of non-expectations I'd set for Guardians of the Galaxy. I didn't want to know what to expect, I didn't want to understand the universe and I certainly didn't want to have any preconceptions about who these characters were given their ridiculous appearance. I'd walked into Gunn's strikingly strange Slither with zero expectation and walked out fully appreciating it for its wackiness and ability to transcend genres while clearly doing whatever it wanted. I hoped for the same thing from Guardians despite the fact Gunn had submitted himself to the powers that be at Marvel. I don't look at Marvel as this monster who assumes creative control and only hires directors willing to do their bidding because it is clear they have a plan for where they want all of this to go and they are looking for those willing to work with them on that ultimate goal, which anyone should be able to appreciate. What I do worry about with each Marvel film is the lack of any original voice coming through in conveying these necessary stories. The stories can be cohesive without the tone or style being the same and while the earth-bound Avengers began to feel more serialized in phase two, Guardians is able to break that mold not only by taking place in the cosmos but by brimming with creativity in every scene of its execution.