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 STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

By the time J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters over a year from now it will have been over a decade since the last Star Wars film was in theaters. This may conjure up bad memories for most seeing as George Lucas' prequel trilogy wasn't received well, but if there is any consensus on the prequels it's that Episode III is the best of the bunch. It was just before I graduated high school that I waited in line for the midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith and if Star Wars brings up anything more than the iconography of its characters it's nostalgia. These are event films in a manner no other films can strive to be. All of that said, this is just a teaser for a film that is still over a year away from release and so there is no need to pick apart anything we see here, but all the more reason to anticipate the film as this 88-second trailer offers more than I thought we'd ever receive. Opening with the familiar landscapes of what we assume are Tatooine we get a first glimpse at John Boyega (Attack the Block) in full storm trooper garb, Daisy Ridley riding across the desert and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) as a starfighter before it cuts to a mysterious figure that breaks out a new model lightsaber all while listening to ominous voiceover from a character I suspect we don't yet know the identity of. Of course, the excitement is at such a fever pitch by this point the only thing that could make it better is that shot of nostalgia and Abrams delivers with incredible aerial footage of the Millennium Falcon. I love how simply cinematic the film looks already and while I'm more than excited to see the final product I wonder if this is the last piece of promotional material I should watch so that my excitement remains intact and untainted. We'll see. The film also stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Max Von Sydow, and many more. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18, 2015.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Review

After seeing The Imitation Game earlier this week and how it concerned itself with addressing the life of a genius while centering around a pivotal narrative in his life I more or less expected the same from The Theory of Everything where instead of the subject being a mathematician they are a theoretical physicist. While my main complaint concerning the biopic is that most follow a typical template The Theory of Everything does so with seemingly no ambition to be anything more. This was unanimously my complaint with the story of Alan Turing while working to its advantage because the story it chooses to document is infinitely compelling. With the tale of Stephen Hawking though, the story is simply him. This is a documentation of his life events, but there is no driving force or specific goal behind it that desperately needs to be accomplished. A set objective isn't always necessary and great, intriguing films can certainly be made without the need of some overarching intent driving the narrative, but here it felt as if that certain something was missing. That said, director James Marsh who is mainly known for his documentaries, has crafted a movie that is more memorable for its performances and smaller moments than anything else. As far as what the film is actually missing to make up for its somewhat lackadaisical approach to plot is hard to say. It has the two young stars at the head aging unconvincingly, it centers around a man who had to overcome great odds in his life and accomplished a great many things despite those odds set against him, but it also never challenges the audience to feel his struggles. I imagine the majority of the American public would recognize Hawking's name if not for the reasons he is well-known and so one has to wonder why this story was worth telling if the real life Hawking received credit where credit was due. As the film progresses though I began to understand why Marsh kept things as simple as he possibly could; this isn't a story about a specific thing Hawking accomplished, but the pure miracle that he kept accomplishing things at all after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963.  I understand the approach and the finished product is a fine enough summation of what has been a rather extraordinary life, but that doesn't excuse the fact it still feels like something crucial is missing that might have made the difference in a good film and an exceptional one.    

First Trailer for Joe Wright's PAN

Joe Wright is one of my favorite directors, but I'll admit a lot of that stock comes from Atonement and Hanna. I have enjoyed his other features (yes, even The Soloist) and though we have yet to receive anything truly remarkable in this current crop of fairy tales and Disney animated classics being turned into live-action adventures, if anyone can turn this fad into something fun and interesting it would be Wright. According to the first trailer, it seems the director has at least stuck with his sense of aesthetic and turned Neverland into a living, breathing organism of weirdness rather than relying on computer generated worlds to make up his fantasy land. The one downside to the whole thing is that the Peter Pan story has been told so many times before that I wonder if anyone will be interested in seeing another film set around this world and these characters even if this time it is the origin of how Peter became the legend rather than a retelling. I can imagine the names attached will do the film a world of good and if nothing else, this engaging first trailer that feels inherently full of wonderment should do the rest. The market for these types of films has become somewhat saturated given the biggest trailer to drop last week was the live action version of Cinderella, but we have a lot more coming our way and as long as they continue to hire interesting directors like Wright to back them I'm game to see where they go. Pan stars Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried, Adeel Akhtar, Jack Charles, Taejoo Na, Nonso Anozie, Kathy Burke, Kurt Egyiawan, Lewis Macdougall, Leni Zieglmeier and opens on July 17, 2015.

First Trailer for JURASSIC WORLD

I'm not necessarily what you would call the biggest fan of the Jurassic Park franchise, but I enjoy them well enough. I can remember being ecstatic about finally getting to rent the third, non Spielberg directed installment, when it arrived on DVD because my parents weren't big fans of going to the movies (and with five kids, I understand why) but mainly because I was then old enough to see one of the movies I'd heard so much about and been too young to see before. I saw snippets of the original throughout the years, but never watched the trilogy as a whole until buying the blu-ray box set a few years ago. I also revisited the original when it was re-released in theaters last year and was happy to finally be able to see it on the big screen. All of that said, I wouldn't peg director Colin Trevorrow's (Safety Not Guaranteed)  Jurassic World as one of my most anticipated films of next year, but it certainly ranks as one I'm excited to see and this first look at the film is definitely promising. While it is clear the CG is still in the process of being completed, what is important is tone and the tone of the trailer is perfectly balanced between a nostalgic feel (the re-working of the signature score) while setting up a natural progression (the park is actually open and functioning) while the humans at play can't help but to push things further to feel more in control, trying to play God again, and in return getting themselves into trouble. Visually, the film looks spectacular and just as sweeping and epic as any of its predecessors. I also enjoy the idea of a sequel that doesn't seem to exist to solely to re-make the original, butinstead actually tell a new story of where things could have realistically gone given the original premise. Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Judy Greer and opens on June 12, 2015.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 25, 2014

DUMB AND DUMBER TO Review

I was seven years-old the year the original Dumb and Dumber came out and as the oldest child was never privily to anything an older sibling might expose me too. That said, I never became attached to the original in a fashion that would conjure up nostalgic memories when catching it on cable or even when seeing the trailers earlier this summer for the long-delayed sequel. On the other hand, my wife who was six years-old when the original came out with a sixteen year-old brother and fourteen year-old sister looks at the first film as a comedy classic, as one that defines her adolescent years and one she can quote from back to front. That said as well, she wasn't very much looking forward to the unnecessary sequel as the original was probably a film best left alone. In the end, as someone who had no real emotional attachment to these characters I pretty much had the same reaction as the wife; it was a comedy, it was fine enough though nothing resembling great and it's unlikely it will deliver as much joy on repeat viewings (if it even gets that chance) as the original. Had the film been made closer to the original it might have worked, Jim Carrey might have delivered a duo of films on par with his Ace Ventura adventures, but at this point the attempt to capitalize on his past hits just feels desperate. This, on top of the fact of how old these guys look in their get-ups is just depressing. As much as people think critics (and I hesitate to call myself that as I'm simply an online movie blogger) love to rag on comedies I have said countless times on this site how much I love the subjective nature and the talented people it takes to bring these types of movies to life especially when they are able to leave a lasting impression. Even though I have nothing to do with the creative process or production, when I initially like a comedy that generally received bad reviews and eventually becomes something of a favorite to audiences I pride myself on that and feel a part of a bigger community, a community with a shared sense of humor. Unfortunately, a feeling of such insight didn't come to mind when watching Dumb and Dumber To, but rather the thought of how cruel time can be and how punishing the industry can be, especially on a funny man looking for a laugh.

INTERSTELLAR Review

Where does one even begin? To describe a film as ambitious and overwhelming as director Christopher Nolan's latest is to take on as daunting a task as Nolan likely felt in making sure the science of his script was accurate. I don't know that anything I say in this review will perfectly capture the way I'm feeling about Interstellar because honestly, after three days of thinking, I'm still not sure I know exactly how I feel about it or what I think. I know that I was fascinated by it, I know that there is so much going on within it that I will need to see it again to feel I even somewhat understand it and I know that no matter how much I want to be able to say I either decisively adored or disliked the final product that kind of ruling won't come down until I've had multiple viewings and allowed plenty of time to pass. In this age of instant gratification where first weekends determine whether you are a success or failure, Interstellar offers an experience that demands to be contemplated, debated and seriously considered before ever giving anything close to a defiant verdict. I will admit to my initial reaction being that of pure awe while somewhat corrupted by the fact there were facets that didn't thrill me as much as others; sequences where the film felt it could have been trimmed or was a little too scatterbrained in contrast to the more precise scenes where Nolan is clearly in control of his spaceship. Ambition is key though and that is the one thing Nolan is never short of. Always pushing the limits, not only visually, but within the story, this time backed up by science that places the events of the film within the realm of real possibility. We are asked to make a few exceptions in how far we are willing to go with all we see being steeped in reality, but unlike some issues of the past Nolan and his screenwriter brother Jonathan have crafted dimensional characters that are able to keep the sentimentality in check. There is never a moment where the film regresses from not being one hundred percent about the actuality of the situation at hand and the facts that support it, but it is able to take into consideration what we cannot explain or fully understand and how that might indeed factor into what is best for the characters outcome. It is a genuine mix of heart and facts that meld together over the course of three hours leaving you bewildered, haunted, alarmed and mystified to the point you may not be able to swallow everything you just took in, but will certainly be able to appreciate the intent.

BIG HERO 6 Review

Before going into animated movies I'm always somewhat apprehensive due to the fact I fear I won't have much to say about them. They are entertainment intended for children and as a result often offer very little in the way of substance and thus not much to comment on. In the wake of Disney animations current uptrend though there was something to be optimistic about in Big Hero 6. Initially, I wasn't as over the moon about the idea of Disney mining more Marvel material so as to fill in their animated films as we have enough super hero movies at the megaplexes as it is. To lose a release from a major studio many look forward to hearing from each year to yet another comic book adaptation is understandably disheartening. At the same time, it makes sense with Pixar slowly losing steam in its winning streak and Disney's singular animation department delivering the one-two punch of Tangled and Wreck-It-Ralph before last years behemoth that still is Frozen. They needed to offset the princess tale with another video-game/male-centric adventure while not excluding any potential audience members. The good and relieving thing about Big Hero 6 though is that once the film begins and the story starts to roll you forget this is supposed to be a super hero movie at all. There are no capes, no grand transformation montages where our protagonist is supernaturally altered and given powers beyond his comprehension, but instead the film focuses on the interests of its cast of characters and their love of science that will inexplicably come off as nothing short of neat to the children in the audience that don't know they crave a more practical approach to the barrage of Marvel productions they've seen over the past six years. It was probably smart for Disney to officially partner up with Marvel and reveal a new legion of fans to a more obscure comic book though and by the end of the film, when the super hero element becomes more prevalent without ever taking over the narrative, I appreciated it moreso for its restraint and patience to tell an actual story rather than throw fifteen minutes of exposition at us before putting our heroes in spandex suits. Big Hero 6, for all its visual glory, is frequently entertaining though unfortunately it does ultimately lack the component that makes Disney films wholly involving and part of our coding.

First Trailer for PITCH PERFECT 2

The first Pitch Perfect was something of a lightning in a bottle experience. Nobody really expected anything from it, but it amassed such a loyal following and exploded in home video sales to the point that in two short years it is already a mainstay at slumber parties and in female dorm rooms. It is simply one of those times when the stars align and everything falls into place as good as can be expected for a film. The Barden Bellas are now a cultural mainstay while the film also allowed for Anna Kendrick to officially carve out her spot in the celebrity landscape and not to mention, score a hit song. While it feels like somewhat of a risk to possibly tarnish the reputation of the original by making a sequel there is also plenty of reasons to be optimistic about part two. For starters, Elizabeth Banks is in the directors chair this time around making her feature debut so I fully expect there to be some wacky, left field choices made. Next, the entire cast is returning and if anything comes across in this first trailer it is that they are all happy to be here and seem to be having a blast. I saw the first film with no expectation going in, but came away surprised and have re-watched it countless times since. It is just one of those films you can pop in any time and everyone can agree it's entertaining. I'm excited to see what Banks and co. have in store and can only hope it lives up to the awesomeness we all expect from it. Pitch Perfect 2 also stars Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Camp, Katey Segal, Adam Devine and opens on May 15, 2015.

WHIPLASH Review

The amount of self-inflicted sacrifice is intended to shape and deliver who we want to be. In certain areas there has to be some level of talent involved, in others it simply takes determination. In Whiplash we assume there is an inherent skill to our protagonists ability that has been present since he picked up sticks at a young age, but it is the amount of hard work and sacrifice that will prove whether he will turn out to be complacent or one of the greats. Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) has plenty of ambition, but it is his drive that will turn the story of his life into something people might discuss around a dinner table decades after he dies. As a child who was not given everything on a silver spoon and certainly not conditioned to believe anything I touched would turn to gold failure in certain areas became an expectation. Our present, cushioned society makes these truths indiscernible and so we garner generations where all that is expected is instant gratification with little endeavor or commitment required. Whiplash, while clearly drawn from personal experiences and small truths, is also and maybe even more of a commentary on if there is a line to be drawn in breaking down these barriers of reassurance. In what will likely be one of if not "the" defining performance of his career J.K. Simmons as conductor Terence Fletcher tells Andrew that there are no two words more harmful in the English language than, "good job." Fletcher has a philosophy that genius is not blessed upon an individual or built through congratulations, but rather because it is pushed to a breaking point where the only thing that matters is to never stop striving to be better. True greatness comes from real pain. Nothing will essentially ever be good enough for Fletcher and it is in this drive to prove him wrong that Andrew is unable to stop. With his second directorial effort Damien Chazelle has crafted a film so in tune with itself and its character arcs that it is nothing short of exhilarating to see unfold. While one should take the literal actions of the film with a grain of salt and look at the bigger, metaphoric implications it is making to get a clearer message of its ideas it nonetheless comes together to deliver one of the best and certainly one of my favorite films of the year.

Full Trailer for Live-Action CINDERELLA

I'm sure Disney is fairly relieved Maleficent did as well as it did earlier this year keeping their live-action adaptations of their classic animated tales on a winning streak. Granted, this streak currently only consists of Alice in Wonderland and the Angelina Jolie vehicle, but they have to be feeling pretty good about Cinderella's odds. While other attempts to bring these classic fairy tales (or at least familiar childrens stories) to life have been met with varying degrees of box office success (Snow White & The Huntsmen, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) there hasn't been one of them that is actually a good movie. I would say Mirror, Mirror was at least trying to be something different and innovative, but I didn't love it and financially it was one of the worst performers. Unfortunately, the latest in Disney's line of re-imagining their animated movies as big budget, live action spectacles doesn't seem keen to break this mold. If anything, it looks to copy the beats and look of Maleficent fairly closely and being completely complacent in that. While this new trailer essentially gives you a condensed version of the entire film I'd still like to be excited especially since Kenneth Branagh is directing and Cate Blanchett is playing the evil stepmother, but this first look at the footage sparks little interest. Maybe Bill Condon's live action Beauty and the Beast, Sofia Coppola's reported The Little Mermaid, Joe Wright's Peter Pan or one of the upcoming Jungle Book adaptations from Jon Favreau and Andy Serkis will change my tune (I hope so!), but only time will tell. Cinderella stars Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Sophie McShera, Holliday Granger, Nonso Anozie, Derek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgard and opens on March 13, 2015.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 18, 2014

BIRDMAN Review

Time is not kind. Time is the one thing we can't seem to make more of and yet the only thing, when it really comes down to it, that we could ever hope to gain. Birdman is about the moments in life when it really comes down to it. When everything in life seems so fleeting, materialistic or fake and we have a second of clarity that defines what is really important to us, what makes this existence worth enduring and even why we want to exist in the first place. Birdman is a character study wrapped in social commentary about the current state of cinema as well as a love letter written in blood to the idea of legacy. There are millions of avenues one could run down when it comes to telling a story about the basic experience of being human and those moments that define who we are, who we become or who we want to be despite our actions. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel) is interested in the moments that make up a personality and the effect or contribution that personality has on society, but he also wants to make a few other notions clear in the process. The guy hates comic book movies, clearly, or at least hates that they have become the cornerstone of the modern cinematic experience. It is hard to find fault in this opinion with as strong a case as his film makes, but then again this can all be perceived as pretentious and taking things too seriously since most comic book films have no intentions other than being escapism for the masses. As much as Birdman incorporates the world of super heroes and comic book movies into its structure to make a larger point the film is ultimately about the difference in love and admiration and how the quest to feel "special" will likely only leave you empty if you disregard those closest to you for personal gain and have no one to celebrate with when that gain puts you at the top of the mountain. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in Birdman. Both on the screen in front of you and as larger analogies Inarritu's film has a lot on its mind and is primarily so successful because it is so capable of conveying this multitude of thoughts and ideas in an entertaining and insightful manner.

THE GUEST Review

First things first: I pretty much loved every single aspect of director Adam Wingard's The Guest and only give it a less than perfect score because while I love and revel in it, it certainly isn't something to be regarded as exceptional. It's not exceptional because it isn't necessarily innovative, but it is still highly entertaining and well-constructed because it knowingly draws from very specific inspiration. Horror movies of the late 70's and early 80's as well as the thrillers of the same decade infuse every angle of Wingard's tale of uncertainty. He plows over every moment in the film with his unabashed soundtrack fueled by synthesizers and one note tones that dispel any notion we should take this seriously. Instead, seasoned moviegoers will acknowledge this as an exercise in form, of style and take note of how every story, even the most generic of ones, can be made fresh and interesting with a unique directorial approach. The same was true of Wingard's previous effort, last years You're Next, in that it was a self-aware, goofy riff on the home invasion thriller. With The Guest though, Wingard has stepped up his intent in not confining himself to a single genre, but rather expanding the story possibilities to afford him endless opportunities while keeping the tone in check with those films that clearly inspired his childhood ambition to be a filmmaker. As the film begins we are introduced to David (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey) and with only the 80's inspired soundtrack to overstate his subdued line readings we are immediately entranced into the world of who this man is and what his purpose might be. His surroundings are minimal, but his presence is immediately worthy of note and Wingard knows what he has both in terms of technique and in Stevens as a performer and with that he mines them to their full potential. Again, The Guest, isn't anything that should necessarily be celebrated as a triumph or as wholly original, especially in the wake of Drive a few years ago (which this film could easily draw comparisons to) but nonetheless it is a hell of a lot of fun and well worth ones time.

Teaser Trailer for THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT

It is difficult to even remember what exactly occurred and what the ultimate goal was in last springs Divergent, a film based on another young adult dystopian trilogy with a female heroine. As much as I was anticipating the film because I generally enjoyed the first novel, the further I get away from it and now having battled through the second book I can't seem to muster much excitement for the film adaptation. Naturally, Summit has decided to extend the final book in the series, Allegiant, into a two-parter, but the big question right now is if Insurgent will even do big enough business to justify continuing the series. On a budget of $85 million Divergent brought in $288 million worldwide so there is clearly a fanbase here, but the $54 million opening weekend number and almost half of that worldwide total coming from overseas doesn't leave a lot of confidence for room to grow. Comparatively, the first Hunger Games film made more in its first day of release than Divergent did in that opening weekend. In lieu of this foresight Summit has already announced that Insurgent will be brought to us in 3D which will certainly add some type of boost. The problem with The Divergent Series (as it has been dubbed by its studio) though is a question of quality. The first film didn't receive great reviews and a lot of that honestly had to do with the complicated world building that was necessary. This will not only cause trouble for initiating new viewers as the series goes on, but the books seem to get progressively worse as well. I'll of course give the second film a shot as I'm eager to see if it makes a more interesting film than read, but at least this first teaser offers something intriguing in its minimal approach. The Divergent Series: Insurgent stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, Daniel Dae Kim, Suki Waterhouse and opens on March 20, 2015.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 11, 2014

THE HOMESMAN Review

Nowadays when one sees Hilary Swank gazing past the camera and through to the unknown on a poster we typically imagine it as a precursor to some uplifting tale where her character is the catalyst for change. One would again think that is the case with The Homesman as her Mary Bee Cuddy is certainly the most honorable character we come in contact with, but this isn't an uplifting drama that feels manufactured to redeem your confidence in the human race. In fact, if the film says anything about the human race it is about the savagery from which we spawned and the role of the female in the old west. Cuddy was a feminist without knowing the word to describe herself. She was a woman who heralded the strength of being a woman on her own, supporting herself and an advocate for equality all while feeling out of place because of the time in which she lived. It is an unfortunate scenario to say the least, but it certainly makes for an interesting character study and director Tommy Lee Jones seems to understand the ideas and themes he is playing with as his character, George Briggs, is both confused by yet struck with admiration by the confident and brave Ms. Cuddy. In The Homesman, what we have is a straight-forward tale of straight-forward people. There are no artistic flourishes (though much of the framing here results in a gorgeous visual prowess) or intent to be subtle about the politics of what topics the story is playing with, but rather Jones presents this story in a very matter-of-fact manner that suits the time period and the personalities of most while leaving the audience riddled with an unexpected clarity. It is one thing to say something turns out different than you expected because that would more generally be the case in film, but it is another to say you didn't expect what something had to offer and while I expected to get a fine enough western from an actor/director who clearly appreciates the genre, what I received was a meditative, heartbreaking and downright moving look at what life promised (or couldn't depending on how you look at it) during that time and how sometimes that wasn't enough to keep on going.

First Trailer for SELMA

Is it me or does this awards season seem more packed than usual? It is late to the game releases such as Selma and American Sniper that make me wonder just how far some of these films will wait to really start their engines. It seems December is more ripe than usual with the likes of Wild, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Unbroken and Big Eyes all releasing within a few weeks of one another and all seeming to want to put in their bids for certain categories. Selma and the aforementioned Clint Eastwood film though will stagger there releases over the Christmas/New Year season in hopes of capitalizing on the January drag by escaping the overcrowded Christmas day schedule and boosting their box office by drawing on those unable to see some of the more prestigious pictures until after the new year.  I imagine director Ava DuVernay's prime focus will settle on that of the lead performance by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., but there is a lot of potential here and if it turns out well first-time screenwriter Paul Webb is looking at good odds and the supporting cast is almost as massive as last years The Butler, which this immediately conjures up comparisons to. What feels better about Selma though is that it inherently seems to have the importance, rage and vitality to it that Lee Daniels film thrust upon itself. I am extremely intrigued by the film and really hope it delivers on what this great teaser promises. Selma also stars Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Andre Holland, Omar J. Dorsey, Tessa Thompson, Tim Roth, Common, Wendell Pierce, Giovanni Ribisi, Cuba Gooding Jr., Colman Domingo, Oprah Winfrey and opens in limited release on Christmas Day before expanding on January 9, 2015.

Full-Length Trailer for THE GAMBLER

I've yet to see Karel Reisz's The Gambler from 1974 starring James Caan though I imagine I will get around to it before Rupert Wyatt's remake expands nationwide in early January. Mark Wahlberg takes over leading man duties as Jim Bennett, an English professor with a serious gambling addiction. Besides the fact this seems more low-key than it should be given the onslaught of "awards" films this season, it is also somewhat mind-blowing to see the different turns Wahlberg keeps making in his career to not only stay relevant, but broad in the biggest sense of the word. Going from original B-movie fare like 2 Guns to the stirringly solid Lone Survivor back to blockbuster bombast with Transformers and now onto this clear best actor bid before delivering his first sequel in Ted 2 next summer, the guy is on a streak that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon. As for the trailer itself, it is effortlessly cool with a look and style that oozes confidence and hints of performances that could be nothing short of revelatory given the way everyone, John Goodman especially, seems to be bringing something different to the table. Wyatt, who before this directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, seems to have a very clear and precise vision here that has been executed to the Nth degree as even some of the single shots in this trailer conjure up a reaction without the aid of any dialogue or context. Having not seen the original I am probably more excited about the prospects of this film than if I held Caan's version close to the heart. Instead, I am genuinely looking forward to why Wyatt, Wahlberg and the rest of their team decided this was a story worth re-telling. The Gambler also stars Jessica Lange, Brie Larson, Michael K. Williams and opens in limited release on December 19th and expanding on January 2, 2015.

WHAT ELSE I'M WATCHING #3

So, this past weekend I became a dad for the first time and while I find it difficult to even draw my attention from my new little girl in my life to write this, the time inbetween feedings and poopy diapers is ripe with opportunity to watch movies and binge on television shows. For instance, last time within this column I told myself I would rectify the fact I'd never seen Robin Williams Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting and just yesterday saw it was now streaming on Netflix and was able to watch it throughout the day in bits and pieces. As for the film itself, after getting past how young Damon and both Affleck's look, I was struck by the conciseness of the dialogue with which they were able to boil down such specific streams of thought into perfect summations of understanding. Damon did a great job in conveying these difficult, mini-monologues that could have easily proved to be pompous or too neat to be dialogue, but the character he creates allows for this suspension of belief in that such a radical genius could exist. And of course there is Williams, who brings balance to the over-thinking yet content Will that is established in Damon's performance. Williams was always a force to be reckoned with, but as Sean Maguire he excels at being both the guy who our protagonist knows he can count on while keeping him in check. It is a difficult line to walk, but it is easy to see both why he won the Oscar and why that speech was so emotional. I haven't seen every Williams performance, but I have to imagine this one is near the top.

First Trailer for Neill Blomkamp's CHAPPIE

While I was more of a fan of Elysium than it seemed like most people were, director Neill Blomkamp's claim to fame is still going to be his directorial debut, District 9. This is clear from the way in which his third film is being touted. It doesn't seem like nineteen months is long enough to turn around a film, especially one as technically involved as this seems to be, but Blomkamp has done it and to be honest this looks much better than I would have expected given the turn around time. It seems Blomkamp had done most of the time-consuming work beforehand on this one though as Chappie is seemingly a feature version of  his own 2004 short Tetra Vaal, with elements from his 2006 short Tempbot that features a similar-looking robot protagonist. Given all of that information I looked ahead to the trailer if not for it being another Blomkamp film, but for the fact it added an element of openly admitting it was a robot movie that inherently includes the fact artificial intelligence is built into the titular robot and not saving that as the big revelation. The look of the trailer is similar to both of Blomkamp's previous features in that it was shot in Johannesburg, South Africa but also in its grungy futuristic aesthetic. The visual f/x look flawless, the tone seems to be a mix of darkly cool and broadly funny while it will also be interesting to see Hugh Jackman play against type as the seeming villain of the piece. Chappie also stars Dev Patel, Ninja, Yo-Landi Visser, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver and opens March 27, 2015.

First Trailer for MINIONS

I've said it before and this will no doubt be the last time, but I always feel the spin-off is a cheap way to over-extend something that worked unexpectedly and is now being mined to death. With Despicable Me 2 becoming a bonafide worldwide smash last summer though and the third film not coming out until 2017, Illumination Studios was quick to capitalize on the popularity of Gru's minions and give them their own feature. Now, while I, like most people in the world, enjoy the minions and their shenanigans while trying to assist their criminal mastermind leader-giving them a whole feature to themselves initially felt like a bit much. They are great as supporting players, as comic relief, but to be the stars is to ask the question of how much will they overstay their welcome? With the first trailer for next summers easily titled Minions, directors Kyle Balda (The Lorax) and Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me 1 & 2) have taken us back to the beginning of life on earth and seem to have delivered the origin story of these little yellow creatures that influenced a fair amount of events throughout history eventually leading them to New York City in 1968 where the lore of these Igor-inspired servants becomes much deeper and more entrenched in villainy. I am always cautious to the idea of spin-offs or any piece of entertainment that feels specifically manufactured for the sole purpose of exploitation and profit, but darn if the film doesn't look like it will deliver the goods. Minions features the voice talents of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Katy Mixon, Chris Renaud, Steve Carell as well as Coffin and opens on July 10, 2015.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 4, 2014

First Trailer for FURIOUS 7

It has been a tumultuous year for the cast and crew of the seventh film in the Fast & Furious series. I wasn't overly interested in the series until Justin Lin came along and decided there was something worth investing in. While Tokyo Drift felt like something of an audition for the director it has come to serve as a catalyst of sorts for the series. Going back in time to before the events of the third film, Lin brought us up to date with last years Fast & Furious 6 and from there on out we faced the unexpected. The unexpected came in tragic form last November though with Paul Walker's untimely death which sent the James Wan directed sequel into re-writes, delays, and an unquestionable future. Through all of this it feels like the series has become more of a cultural mainstay and closer to peoples hearts which will no doubt up the interest in the seventh film, but more than anything it will be nice to have one last opportunity to see Walker portray the character he will be most remembered for. I was and am beyond excited to see Jason Statham joining the cast this time around as the brother to Luke Evans Owen Shaw whom Statham is now out to avenge and it will be interesting to see how this plot plays out, but more than anything the future of the entire franchise rests on this installments shoulders as we wonder and wait to see where the crew will take us. Furious 7 also stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Ronda Rousey, Tony Jaa, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black, John Brotherton, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell and opens on April 3, 2015.