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.

Ranking the First Ten Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

If I were to go back to May of 2008 when I was a freshly-minted twenty-one year old deep in the heart of film school and brimming with the idea I garnered more knowledge than I actually did my rankings of the following films that have come out over the past seven years and created the most colossal machine in movie-making would look very different than the retrospective I'm about to outline for you. I certainly wouldn't expect to start where I do given the third film in the MCU is basically where things really got going while the first two entries are more or less setting the tone for what Marvel might do given these first efforts paid off in the right way. We all know now that at least that first effort paid off in a big way thanks in no small part to Robert Downey Jr. (who still owns this brand with something of a sadistic glee) which meant taking the MCU's only break in 2009 before spitting out a rushed sequel in 2010 that would put the end goal of The Avengers in motion. While I admired those early films in the MCU for at least having an ambition unmatched by any other franchise they have now become something of a TV series on the big screen that comes with its own challenges of having to individually stand on their own while owing much to the larger moving parts. This aspect has made the films both unique in the way we consume them while somewhat devaluing the individual stories as there is always the "what's next" question lingering as soon as the credits roll. And so, seeing as the MCU has now produced ten feature films with their eleventh, Avengers: Age of Ultron, opening tonight domestically it seems as good a time as any to recap where each of them stand in my humble opinion. Ranked mostly by their rewatchability factor with other facets considered for good measure here are the ten MCU films so far ranked from worst to best.

First Trailer for Woody Allen's IRRATIONAL MAN

While I still have much catching up to do when it comes to Woody Allen's filmography I have enjoyed taking a trip to the movies over the last four years in order to see what the prolific writer/director has in store for us. Beginning with Midnight in Paris it has been a hit then miss type of pattern as I next saw To Rome With Love, then Blue Jasmine and of course last year was Magic in the Moonlight featuring what looks to be the beginning of another string of collaborations with a talented young actress as Emma Stone returns in Allen's feature this year after starring alongside Colin Firth in Moonlight. This time though, Stone will star in a more contemporary tale centered around an alcoholic, melancholy philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) who strikes up a unique friendship with one of his students played by Stone. While this might be seen as a storyline many viewers will be able to separate from Allen's real life experiences the first trailer makes things seem as if the relationship that develops between Phoenix and Stone's characters might not be purely romantic, but instead hold a strangely unique aspect to it. In fact, the inclusion of Parker Posey and the seeming dynamic between her character and Phoenix's make this film all the more intriguing. Both Phoenix and Stone have been on something of a role as of late, choosing roles that truly challenge them and I'm hoping these roles were taken for the same reasons and not only for the opportunity of working with Allen. We shall see when Irrational Man opens on July 17th.

THE WATER DIVINER Review

The major reason as many people are discussing The Water Diviner as there seem to be can be sourced back to one single reason and that is the fact it serves as the directorial debut of one Russell Crowe. Would there be as much conversation around the film were it made by another first time director? Would the film have even been made had Crowe not put his weight behind it and chose it as his debut project? Probably not and so we can at least thank him for deciding to do something suitable for his stage in life by bringing audiences an adult drama that major studios don't tend to make much anymore. While this is by no means a substantial film it is more passable for its well-meaning story and, at the very least, to see where Crowe's inclinations lead him as a director and what we can take away from this semi-experiment that might apply to better, more assured products under Crowe's supervision in the future. That isn't to say The Water Diviner is a bad film or one that is actively trying to be nothing more than adequate, it is just simply that: adequate on every level without coming close to exception in any case. Some parts are stronger than others, some acting is better given what characters are included in a given scene, some scenes are staged more effectively than others with more interesting shooting techniques while the pacing is about as good as one could expect given the film doesn't know how to cut the unnecessary plot points that probably felt necessary in the script, but make the experience of actually watching the film drag on. There is no doubt that Crowe and screenwriters Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios intended for this to be something of a large, sweeping historical epic, but the scale of filmmaking is simply not here for that ambition to be met and the impact of the story is felt more through the acting of Crowe than any of his directorial choices that might have made this a more affecting and therefore more significant experience.

First Trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s THE VISIT

I was a bit surprised last week when sitting down for my Unfriended screening that one of the trailers that played before it was one I hadn't already seen. In highlighting the major trailers on this site and watching a good majority of them regardless (as well as sharing them on the sites Facebook page) I'm typically well aware of what might play in front of any given film given the genre. While I suspected I'd get a barrage of previews for upcoming horror flicks prior to Unfirended I certainly didn't expect to get my first look at the latest from M. Night Shyamalan. While the director who was once heralded as the next Spielberg has since fallen far from those graces it seems that if his latest is anything in the grand scheme of his career it would be the best shot he has to redeem himself. Not only is Shyamalan the man who reinvigorated the twist ending and engineered a new generation of horror, but he is the writer/director combo that ran out of steam and resorted to studio pictures that turned out to be worse than his original outings. While his last four films have been almost unarguably awful this take on the found footage genre from a script all his own can only be seen as a hopeful return to form. The trailer is more straight-up scary movie stuff than anything we've seen from the director before as well and so I look forward to seeing what he can do in this realm as much of his early, more heralded work resides in the thriller/mystery/drama categories. While this experiment could very well prove to be another dud in a career that once was on fire with creative juices it is hard to believe those first three (almost four) films were complete flukes. The Visit stars Kathryn Hahn, Peter McRobbie, Deanna Dunagan, Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge and opens September 11th.

EX MACHINA Review

This is a story of ideas. A story of very precise ideas. It is the ideas that make the story and not the other way around. This is a film that if you were to take all the attributes of any major summer blockbuster and put them on the opposite end of the spectrum it would be something similar to what we have here. In essence, this is people in rooms talking. As always though, it is the human mind and the countless contemplations we can come up with when given an interesting topic that fuel how fascinating such a simple set-up can be. There is no need for explosions, action or even a convoluted plot when instead all of the adrenaline these things strive to rouse in an audience are done through the power of conversation, of possibilities and of our own interpretations. Needless to say, writer/director Alex Garland's directorial debut, Ex Machina, is fascinating not just for the ideas it brings to the table, but for how well it executes them. It is a combination of many factors coming together to form a completely harmonious final product that feels labored over to the point of near perfection. It is clear this began with the script in that the aforementioned basic set-up doesn't take a single line of dialogue for granted. Garland is communicating tone, thoughts and themes among many other facets with his script and as he brings in actors to bring them to life these things only become more enhanced. As he brings in the production designer things are only implicated further. Everything about the film builds off one another until we reach a point where we're almost suffocating in the amalgam of philosophy, technology and mystery the film presents. That is, of course, until it reprieves us from the weight of those implications just long enough for us to catch a breath before delving back in to explore the unknown a little further. To put it bluntly, the film is enthralling in a way that is almost cryptic. There is nothing to warm up to here because it is a decidedly cold film, but despite that coldness this story of ideas pulls you in by the nature of its bleakness hitting a little too close to home.

WHILE WE'RE YOUNG Review

Before we start anything here, it should be noted that I've only seen two other Noah Baumbach pictures. While I've generally enjoyed what I've seen so far and certainly have an interest in earlier films such as The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding as of this writing I've only seen Greenberg and the rather infectious Frances Ha. I state this at the beginning to preface that while I found his latest, While We're Young, to be much more accomplished and substantial on first viewing than anything I've seen of his prior work I wouldn't be surprised to find out he was repeating himself in some way, on some major themes. Heck, some of what Ben Stiller's character goes through here feels like it has some shades in his titular Greenberg character, but I honestly don't remember that film well enough to say for sure. That concern aside, what I do know for sure is how strong this film hit me, how its ideas are universally relatable despite depicting a very specific niche and simply how magnificent the writing is. While the dialogue is quick and forms full characters who have specific and individual mindsets intact I can't imagine the hours poured over the page by Baumbach in order to create this natural ease with which each of these characters speak. In a word, the characters and the dialogue are more than archetypes or composites of several other people, but they are authentic and authenticity is essentially what While We're Young is all about. Baumbach, who both wrote and directed this film, is a man of forty-five. Stiller, who in real life is forty-nine, plays a very specific forty-four year-old and in that small detail it is apparent that Stiller serves as the Baumbach surrogate. Wondering how he came to be on the other side of life, the one where striking and profound realizations such as knowing things exist that he'll never do must be accepted. It is a film that both acts as a study in adjusting to getting older while at the same time dealing with accepting the generational differences of the current young people and the culture that existed twenty years prior. The film opens with the quote from Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder where Hilda suggests to Solness that he open the door to the younger generation he fears. The thing is it's not whether he opens the door or not that's the real decision, but how far.

First Trailer for BLACK MASS Starring Johnny Depp

Black Mass, the third feature from director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), landed just outside my top ten most anticipated films of the year, but if this first look is any indication it may well be one of the best of the year. While this is clearly just a teaser of what is to come it clearly knows where its strengths lie and that looks to be the sinister performance of Johnny Depp. Depp plays gangster Whitey Bulger who is the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston and just so happens to be the brother of a state senator. Bulger became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf while still conducting himself in all kinds of horrible ways. Simply put: I love movies like this-the ones that are now slight period pieces, crime sagas with a tone you can smell just from reading the synopsis or seeing the still above and a cast of great talent playing the story to its highest potential. I was a big fan of Crazy Heart and was on the loving side of Furnace when it came and went quietly at the end of 2013 and so, if nothing else, I look forward to what Cooper has to offer next and it looks like he has plenty to work with. Cooper knows how to elicit an atmosphere and in attempting his first period piece, that will be key to the critical success of the film as well as hopefully its commercial prospects. Besides Depp the film will also feature Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton, Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson and Jesse Plemons. Black Mass opens September 18th.

THE AGE OF ADALINE Review

Time is fleeting. We all know this just as we know time is the one thing you can't get more of. What then, would you do if you were granted an eternity? As with almost everything in life the speculation of possibilities is always greater than the reality and it turns out the same would be true of immortality, at least according to Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively). While these are the big questions posed in the film, what makes it all the more fascinating (as with any film spanning generations) are the dealings in where we're going and where we've been and who we are because of it. Adaline has a perspective that will forever go unmatched and because of that she finds it hard to connect with anyone in the present world, much less those who are the age she continues to look. With that mindset it is her observations that I, personally, would find to be the most interesting aspects to come out of this curse disguised by a blessing in vanity. This is highlighted in sort when we are treated to Adaline never encountering anything new, but instead always having a history to reference; even in something as seemingly insignificant as a park bench. The weight of contemplation, the effects of time never slowing down and the regret that will forever tinge our minds if we continue to in fact contemplate it all rather than experience our actual life seep into the consideration of what we would do were we in Adaline's position. Such lines of thought would seemingly make the exploration of having a power over time the most engrossing and while Adaline certainly hints at such themes, the main narrative ends up focusing on the one guy that is able to diminish our titular characters extensive perspective enough to make her love him. This looked to be a problem given the high concept would inevitably be squandered on a typical love story, but the larger ideas of how old we are not dictating who we are come through well enough that I can't complain too much.

TRUE STORY Review

The immediate assumption when seeing a movie starring both Jonah Hill and James Franco is that it is of course a comedy, but when you place the fact both of these guys are Oscar-nominated actors in front of that you can understand where things might not be all you expect. In a new collaboration between the actors simply titled True Story there is little to smile about, much less laugh at. All of that taken into consideration, I wasn't sure what to expect given this seemed a deliberate attempt, especially from Hill, to further his dramatic career while Franco is so over the map at this point it was up for debate how much time and effort he actually put into the role of a seemingly normal man who came home from work one night and murdered his entire family. To these points, suspicion was dismissed fairly early as director Rupert Goold (making his feature film debut) jumps right into the hook of the piece while following it up with an intense exploration as to why that hook might have existed in the first place. The readily available chemistry between Franco and Hill is on full display as the majority of the film concerns itself with these two central characters figuring out the other with the remaining facets outside these more fascinating moments being more by the numbers. We've all seen movies based on real life crime stories of course and have become accustomed to the beats they hit as far as how to figure out the big question of whodunit and why the typical protagonist might make certain mistakes, getting too close to the case for their own good, but this only happens in True Story part of the time and while it certainly detracts from the more fascinating relationship formed between Hill's Michael Finkel and Franco's Christian Longo there is enough here between the two of them to create a rather enticing piece of character study for the audience to decipher and ultimately decide where we come down not just on the accused murderer, but both of these men.

CHILD 44 Review

Child 44 is a movie that seems to want to be one thing, but doesn't know how to be that thing. It has ideas of how to be this grand period piece/spy thriller yet it isn't sure how to convey the inherently intriguing story it is dealing with. There aren't necessarily too many facets occurring or even a lack of focus, it's simply put: a script issue in that the gripping story wasn't told in the most gripping of ways. It is actually somewhat impressive that what was seemingly used as the shooting script was able to make it to that stage in the first place. If the film I saw was taken directly from the screenplay, and it's highly unlikely there was any improv on this set, then one would imagine it would come to light pretty obviously that there were some major structural problems that needed to be reassessed. Instead, director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) and his exceptionally talented cast drift through this somber and distinctly cold film without seeming to notice that the pieces weren't congruent. There could be any number of reasons Espinosa and his crew didn't take note of these shortcomings while in the midst of shooting as I imagine there is a great pressure to get things done in a certain amount of time and under budget, but while something should have come of this in the editing room (where many directors admit the a film is truly made) the major issues still come back around to point their fingers at the script. Based on what the final product delivered this was more like the second draft of a screenplay rather than one further down the road, one that was able to find its voice and emphasis on particular themes. Adapted from a novel by Tom Rob Smith and written for the screen by Richard Price (who hasn't written a feature since 2006 and has tellingly worked more in television) the editors were unable to craft a slimmer film from the footage that was shot because each moment admittedly relies on a detail in the previous scene to move forward despite the two halves of the film feeling completely disconnected.

New Trailer and Posters for TOMORROWLAND

Director Brad Bird's next live action feature, Tomorrowland, has been brewing for some time and I'd love for Disney to keep it that way as this film seems steeped in mystery, but lo and behold we have a third and hopefully final trailer today. With a screenplay from Lost co-creator and head scribe Damon Lindelof and direction from Bird, who has done nothing but prove himself time and time again (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), I am extremely eager to dig into this collaboration. What I'm most hopeful for with this film is that it will present an interesting world to actually explore rather than simply letting itself become wrapped up in a standard plot. While I'm thankful this latest trailer doesn't give away too much concerning whatever that plot might be it certainly only piques my interest more in the inventiveness of Bird and how well he executes it as the highlight here is clearly a set piece that takes place early on in the film. I'm really rooting for this one to be a break-out hit as it's in a rare position of appealing to almost anyone no matter their age and so it seemingly shouldn't be difficult to find an audience. Disney will also be unleashing six minutes of new footage from the film before Avengers: Age of Ultron so while they've done a solid job on the marketing front so far, let's hope it doesn't go bottoms up three weeks before we get to see the film in its entirety. George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Judy Greer and Keegan-Michael Key star. Tomorrowland opens May 22nd.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 21, 2015

Teaser Trailer for BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

My apologies for being late to the game with this one, but I've been away from the internet for the majority of the day (and man, did it feel pretty good). This is the biggest kind of news though so I imagine I should write something up about it considering it's what any die hard movie or comic book fan has been looking forward to for nearly two years now as it was at 2013's San Diego Comic-Con that director Zack Snyder announced his sequel to Man of Steel and that Batman would officially be joining Superman on the big screen for the first time. Since then it seems every bit of information surrounding the film has been teased out into news story after news story. Well, after a quick twenty-second tease yesterday (Thursday 4/16) on Twitter from Snyder the official teaser trailer leaked online late last night while Warner Bros. has now officially released that same trailer online with promises that those attending the special IMAX screenings of the trailer on Monday will still be the only ones to see extra footage. I can only imagine how long it will take for that footage to leak online. For now though, go ahead and hit the jump to check out the trailer as well as my thoughts on what we've seen so far. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Scoot McNairy, Jason Momoa, Holly Hunter and opens on March 25, 2016.

UNFRIENDED Review

Unfriended is one of those fun thrillers. One of those quick, harmless scary movies that fully intend to make you jump, but are just as funny as any mainstream comedy you've seen as of late. Of course, the comedy is meant to throw you off your game, to make you comfortable before it all comes crashing down and the original intent of the film is fulfilled. While Unfriended clearly knows what it is and exactly who it is meant to play for, it is much smarter than its facade suggests and it only comes off this way because it clearly knows its target audience well enough to pull the gimmick of the film off almost flawlessly. That gimmick being the fact the entire film takes place within a single computer screen. It's an interesting concept and actually allows for a large amount of character building to be conveyed without a word being spoken (the ads on the side of our protagonists Facebook page hint at what she's interested in as do the multiple tabs opened in her Chrome browser), but more than this it takes advantage of every piece of social media technology at a teenagers disposal and turns it into a weapon against them. Sure, it is exaggerated at points and though we never feel anything is really at stake given we're expected to believe a dead girl has come back to haunt her friends from beyond the keyboard, the main idea holds steady while the rather precise story is executed at a pace that never allows the audience to become bored. In fact, it's just the opposite as the further down the rabbit hole we go the more fascinating it is to see just how much we divulge of ourselves online and how easily that can come back and be used against us. That is what the throughline theme is here, if there is even one to be found: that, eventually, the lives we lead on the clouds of the internet may someday meet up with our actual reality and the result for most might be pretty messy. Of course, Unfriended isn't really into teaching lessons or serving as a cautionary tale to a generation absorbed by their tech, but more it just wants to have a little fun with current trends and in this regard, it succeeds to the point of obtaining guilty pleasure status.

New Teaser Trailer & Stills For STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Next month will mark a decade since we've seen a new Star Wars film in theaters, but all of that is about to change come December. Every other movie in town has pretty much cleared out and with the Star Wars celebration kicking off in Anaheim, California this morning we have already been blessed with a second teaser. While watching the live Force Awakens panel this morning featuring director and co-writer JJ Abrams as well as head of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy they teased a few new details about the seventh installment including a formal introduction to droid BB8 while bringing out new leads John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac to talk as minimally about their characters. Besides some vague backgrounds on each of their characters and how they may or may not be connected with one another there wasn't much to take away despite the new stills of each of them adding to the excitement. Veterans of the series including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew all made guest appearances as well, but told us nothing about the new film-until that new teaser was released. There will be much dissecting and speculating I imagine, but for now let us just bask in the glory of seeing Harrison Ford return to the role of Han Solo and give any long-time fan chills for days. The film also stars Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Crystal Clarke, Pip Anders, Warwick Davis , Kenny Baker, and Max von Sydow. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens December 18th.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2015

It's that time of year again, the summer movie season is upon us. As always, this annual commencement of super hero blockbusters and action films galore with high budget comedies and low budget horrors both looking to break out in their respective genres begins with the first weekend in May. As you likely already know with the present media blitz attacking every screen you look at it will be the latest Avengers adventure that will be kicking off summer this year, but there is a whole lot more to talk about and a whole lot you might not have heard of yet. It was actually pretty difficult to break down the release schedule this year into just ten films that I'm genuinely excited to see. There are several indie comedies including D Train, The End of the Tour and The Bronze that I'd have loved to include as well as some other musical/dance themed flicks like the sequel to Magic Mike or the Meryl Streep starrer Ricki and the Flash that in a weaker year might have made the cut. There are also plenty of horror flicks coming out this summer between two sequels (Insidious Chapter III and Sinister 2) a re-make of Poltergeist and the interesting indie that is Maggie. Speaking of Maggie, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, don't expect to see anything in the way of Terminator Genisys or other franchise revivals like Jurassic World on here because I'm just not feeling them too much. Don't get me wrong, I'll still see them and I especially hope World proves my expectations wrong, but I can't say I'm overly excited for either. The summer also carries a barrage of promising comedies that I always look forward to and while one sticks out above the rest there are plenty of others (Spy, Ted 2, Masterminds, Hot PursuitVacation) that could turn out to be better or even a break-out hit. Anyone who's read this site before knows I have a soft spot for comedies, but what hurt to cut even more was some of the strikingly dramatic material this summer has to offer.

THE LONGEST RIDE Review

I don't know that I've ever reviewed a Nicholas Sparks film on this site before. There often seems no point due to the fact that if you're seeing these movies you know exactly what you want and what you're getting and while that is probably the case here as well, there was something unquestionably intriguing about the tone set by the trailers for The Longest Ride. The musical choices that included Banks "Waiting Game," signaled something of a forbidden, almost haunting love story that might be worth tuning into due to the team behind translating the Sparks story to the screen felt uncommon. It's not out of the question given love stories depend more on the way they're told and the chemistry of the actors involved to be successful than that of the actual story and with director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Notorious, Faster) there certainly seemed potential for something interesting. Love is such an intangible thing it's always difficult to capture the essence of what makes it so special without resorting to cliches and typically that is what Sparks ends up doing. The Longest Ride fortunately doesn't fall prey to the trap of some of the more recent Sparks adaptations in that it doesn't go completely bonkers in the end and makes all kinds of convoluted twists with the only significance being to shock the audience. I haven't seen Safe Haven, but heard it was quite a doozy while I actually caught The Best of Me a few weeks ago and despite the set-up hinting at nothing down the road it became fairly evident where things were heading the moment a couple instances took place one after another. With that in mind, what there is to appreciate about Ride is that it is little more than a basic human story about figuring out priorities and becoming satisfied with a routine that only has a few contrivances forced on it in order to create conflict, but none so outlandish it makes the viewer realize the ridiculousness of it all. It at least feels like an earnest attempt to portray love whereas the majority of the recent Sparks films feel more like cash-grabs capitalizing on manufactured emotions.

WOMAN IN GOLD Review

Woman in Gold is a perfectly fine film. It is as competent as it is generic. The issue with the film though is that it so clearly wants to be more than that. It has a sense of needing to feel important based on the origins of its story when, in reality, the fashion with which it's told and the narrative structure it's delivered through make it appeal as little more than light, afternoon fluff with only a slight edge in existing over something that is purely melodramatic. There is nothing wrong with being no more than an afternoon distraction or even a slight piece of information that serves to highlight little known aspects of major events we've heard about time and time again, but Woman in Gold, while recognizing a number of themes dealing with mortality, isn't the heavy handed drama it seems to want to be or thinks it is. And so, while director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) and first-time screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell may or may not have been aiming for one thing by casting Helen Mirren in a role so perfect for Helen Mirren it's almost cliche to have her actually play it and doing the opposite with Ryan Reynolds as he plays against type while dealing with a story that involves Nazi's it would of course seem one would have the perfect formula for a pre-packaged Oscar contender. What Curtis and Campbell have actually delivered though is ironically something largely opposite the heady and often too artsy for mainstream movie-goers the Academy does nominate in delivering a by the numbers account of a true story that both rouses the human spirit and will no doubt be appreciated by older audiences for its clean sense of class and respect for history. More times than not it is the straightforward, fluff-type films that serve ones interests better and for that, Woman in Gold has nothing to be ashamed of simply because it doesn't reach the heights it seemed manufactured to scale. I'm not necessarily saying this is a film worth seeking out, but it definitely isn't a bad option if you're looking for something to take your (grand)parents to this weekend.

Full Trailer for Marvel's ANT-MAN

With Avengers: Age of Ultron just over the horizon and the hype building to a fever pitch with the marketing campaign in overdrive it is easy to forget that Marvel has another movie coming out this summer. Maybe this was done on purpose given the road to completion was a rocky one for Ant-Man, but if the new trailer is any indication the worlds smallest hero is ready to put up a fight for his space in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In a strange bit of news that came out over the weekend with Avengers having it's main junket that included interviews with Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige; Ant-Man will not be the first film in Phase Three as suspected, but will apparently serve more as a culmination to Phase Two than Ultron. This is rather interesting given, up to this point, Ant-Man has felt like little more than an after-thought with questions surrounding if it will even be significant to the larger going-ons of the MCU, but Feige has confirmed that it very much does. While these connections were never going to determine the actual quality of the final product they would certainly assist in separating it from being significant or "just another comic book movie" in a summer saturated with these types of films. On the plus side, I look forward to seeing Paul Rudd in a leading action role and the balance of humor, action and most importantly: relevance seem to be in check in this second, full-length trailer making me, for the first time, pretty excited to see what's in store for us. Ant-Man stars Rudd in the titular role along with Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Judy Greer, Tip “TI” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Wood Harris, Martin Donovan, Jordi Mollà, Michael Douglas and opens on July 17, 2015.

LOST RIVER Review

In his feature directorial debut Ryan Gosling shows us first and foremost just how stylish he can be. Very much concerned with the framing and cinematography of his piece, Lost River relies on both of these camera elements accompanied by the Johnny Jewel soundtrack to set the very specific tone that Gosling wants to elicit. Specific is the key word here because without this preference to create a distinct style that evokes a certain time period (or more specifically the photography of that time period) then Gosling's directorial debut would be almost void of anything else. And yet, the way in which everything has been composed and the way the subtle and sly story is brought to the surface is strangely fascinating. Not necessarily good, but certainly fascinating. We never really feel (or at least I didn't) that there is a solid grasp on anything that is happening. It is understood that there seems to be a super natural element to all that is going on, but compared to something like American Horror Story which tends to finely balance its style with its content while fully embracing its genre, Lost River is unable to give us a compelling story while delivering some rather interesting visual choices. Even in the climax of the film where our assumed protagonist fights to end a curse that has been put on his town and Ben Mendelsohn dances his little heart out the cinematography delves into dark shades so that we can hardly tell what is going on. It's as if Gosling has something very specific (there's that word again) that he wants to say, but is afraid to state it too explicitly. What is it exactly that Gosling's film is trying to accomplish? I don't know that I could tell you. It's too easy to say that it's all style and no substance because while the style of the piece is front and center there is clearly something attempting to be said here; a statement trying to be made-I'm just not completely clear on what that is.  

Full Trailer for SINISTER 2

I was a big fan of 2012's Sinister as I find Scott Derrickson one of the most effective horror directors today and am somewhat disappointed to hear Focus features would be going forward with a sequel to the film without him. Instead, they handed the reigns to director Ciarán Foy whose prior work I have no knowledge of and his last film, Citadel, sits at a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, Sinister only sits at 63% and I would easily rank it as one of the top ten horror films since the dawn of the millennium. It should also be noted that Derrickson along with original scribe C. Robert Cargill again collaborated on the script for the sequel so at least we know the story will continue in a way that the makers of the original saw fit. As for this first look trailer while it does contain some generally disturbing imagery and I like seeing James Ransone back and reprising his role as the Deputy that seems to have more to do this time what scares me (and not in a good way) is the amount of screen time our main antagonist gets. The first film was smart and skillful about not divulging the physical form of Buhguul, but instead kept him to more of a presence that in the end upped the creep factor all the more. In this trailer he is all over the place (just look at the screen grab below) and so I'm really hoping the effect isn't lost on showing too much of the baddie this time around. Naturally, I'll still see the film and will remain optimistic given my affinity for the original, but I don't know that I'll be surprised if I come out wanting to pretend this sequel didn't happen. Joining Ransone are Shannyn Sossamon, Tate Ellington, Nicholas King and Robert and Dartanian Sloan. Sinister 2 hits theaters August 21st.

'71 Review

Despite the fact '71 was put together by newcomers to the world of feature films you wouldn't know it from the hard-boiled style and breathless pacing that enables it to become an intriguing tale of a single soldier. Led by Jack O'Connell (Unbroken) this is not the movie you might expect given the promotional material or even the synopsis. Instead, this is a veritable history lesson that breaks an event down to its most human element. To give you a sense of just how basic the film gets is to know that within the first twenty minutes our main character is holding bits of one of his comrades brains in his hand. There is a close-up of this. It quickly reiterates to O'Connell's Gary Hook how close he is to death, that separating him from the unknown is simply how fast he can run from those who have killed his mate. It is his immediate reaction to flee the scene that sets him on a course for a night of unexpected challenges and consistent life-threatening experiences that test his will to live and his faith in mankind. These larger themes are hinted at, sure, but only if you choose to take them away from the film. The beauty of this rather simple tale though is that, if you wish, you can take it as it is and for what it offers in its most basic of senses with that being a historical action film that just so happens to genuinely strike a chord. While there isn't much to it other than atmosphere and performances director Yann Demange has managed to pull out the details of this ongoing divide in Northern Ireland to create a compelling study of humanity that speaks volumes about the larger situations at hand. While O'Connell does fine work as a British soldier cut off from his unit and left to survive alone on the streets of Belfast it is the films ability to manage the multiple storylines going on within the different mindsets and allegiances that really stands out. And while I enjoyed '71 more than enough to recommend it I still can't say it struck me as something exceptionally substantial, but more as something of note due to its attention to The Troubles, an issue I didn't have much knowledge of prior to seeing the film and something I imagine many others on this side of the pond will have in common with me.

First Trailer for ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Making major waves out of the Sundance Film Festival in January Me and Earl and the Dying Girl won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. Needless to say, my interest was piqued. It's always nice to see what films will come along throughout the year that you didn't expect, that you didn't see coming because they really have no major credentials and zero precedent. This feels like one of those types of films; the summer indie akin to something like The Way, Way Back, The Kings of Summer or The Spectacular Now from a few years ago that really captured the essence of that transition from being in a state of adolescence to that of actual maturity. While the trailer also tends to make it look an awful lot like those types of films it has a nice enough little hook that it divulges about halfway through that should stand to reason why cinephiles who attend things like The Sundance Film Festival enjoyed it so much. As a kid who fell for the movies early and attempted my own versions of features and shorts with little more than a handheld camera, I too was taken by the trailer. It only helps the film has received such solid accolades so far as it truly does look like a touching and extremely soulful film that would be disappointing were it simply looked over as another indie movie that simply existed. Given all of that, I really hope the final product lives up to the hype and promise it delivers in this first look. Starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Jon Bernthal, Molly Shannon, RJ Cyler and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, most notable for his work on American Horror Story, with a screenplay from Jesse Andrews based on his own novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl opens on June 12th.

FAST & FURIOUS: A Retrospective

In anticipation of seeing Furious 7 the other night I decided to re-watch some of the earlier Fast & Furious films I hadn't seen in a while in order to simply refresh my memory. Given Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 have been released within the last few years and that I actually have reviews for them posted on this site I didn't bother going back and giving them another look (don't worry though, they've been seen multiple times over the last few years), but instead watched the original The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious. Within each of these is something to marvel at; no matter it be how far the franchise has come from its humble beginnings, how much of the current films can actually be seen in the DNA of the 2001 original or even how things that happened in the past could possibly come back around to inform what other films may come after Furious 7. Where the franchise will go from here is one of the most interesting questions given Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner will no longer be a part of the series and prior to this has only been absent from the prequel/alternate storyline Tokyo Drift. While there are certainly plans for an eighth film (and probably a ninth and tenth if things go Universal's way) I can only hope that Diesel and screenwriter Chris Morgan continue to both bring back series stars like Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Eva Mendes and Cole Hauser and expand their international cast to include the likes of an already pining Helen Mirren. Before we look too far into the future though, I'd like to take a trip back through the first four Fast films I haven't previously written about on this site, so without further adieu...

FURIOUS 7 Review

At this point, if you're into what the Fast & Furious films are doing then you're completely into it. There is no way out if you've come this far and I can't imagine anyone having a problem with that if you indeed have. At this point, it also seems the films feel the same way. Up to a certain point, one could have taken in the individual films as such, but the mythology has grown, the cast continues to expand and if you're not caught up with the going-ons between Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang in correlation with the Shaw brothers (Luke Evans and Jason Statham) as well as with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and how it all ties in with Tokyo Drift then you may as well start from the beginning. For, as much as it is the insane action sequences and over the top fight scenes that keep the masses hungry for more it is the history of this now fifteen year-old franchise that keeps the heart pumping as healthily as it is. People will come for the action, but stay for the characters. It's really as simple as that and there essentially isn't much more to say, but the seventh entry in what was originally a street racing franchise has way too much going on to relegate it to little more than a footnote in a bigger universe. More than another chapter in an ongoing saga, Furious 7 will always be significant for the real world circumstances surrounding Paul Walker's untimely death and how that plays into this film. It was also always going to be rather significant, if not a turning point for the franchise at large, because it was the first time we'd be moving past Tokyo Drift chronologically. When Han (Sung Kang) showed up in Fast & Furious to hint that these events, five years after the original film, came even before the events of the third film (which technically, would actually be the sixth film) there has been a building towards a certain point and by the end of Fast & Furious 6 that point had been reached. What happens next? Furious 7 is the answer to that and while this latest film is certainly more poignant for reasons beyond its control it never forgets its main mission and continues to thrive on its self-awareness of just how outlandish it has become.

IT FOLLOWS Review

This could have gone rather bad were director David Robert Mitchell not completely sure of how he'd be able to pull it off. Because, let's face it: the idea of someone walking after you isn't exactly frightening at first thought and could easily be interpreted as comical were it not presented in the right way. Presentation is key and Mitchell has this down to a science in It Follows as everything from the framing to the movement of the camera and into the accompanying score is drilled down to precision so as to evoke the most effective reactions. In that the film feels so specific in its making allows for the final product to feel assured in its execution and thus its ability to play on the minds of those taking it in for the first time. As much as people like to imagine we are smarter than the characters on a screen, especially in scary movies, It Follows makes one question that confidence by building up the mystery of the circumstances and pitting both the characters and everyone watching them in a race against time whether they realize it or not. While things could have gone one of two ways really easily with this simple yet somewhat profound little horror flick, the quality of the production and the keen sense of being able to capture exactly what he wanted has seemingly allowed for Mitchell to create a horror film that isn't necessarily as scary as it is intimidating and eerie. One could easily read the synopsis and laugh, one could easily read the synopsis and find it trashy given the certain set of rules with which the films central conceit operates, but in understanding why it all works as well as it does and why it makes sense, why certain elements are more than critical, is to see it play out with your own eyes and try to deny the cool yet disturbing feeling that washes over you and takes you in. That is what It Follows does best, that is why it deserves the praise it has received so far; because it takes you into its world and doesn't let you go. Even as you leave the theater it raises the hair on the back of your neck making you turn your head to check if anyone's there.