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.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION Review

Within the first minute of the latest Mission: Impossible film, Tom Cruise is sprinting across the screen. Within the first two minutes, Tom Cruise is walking across the top of an airplane. By the time one hundred and twenty five minutes have passed Tom Cruise has done so many unbelievable things and taken so many insane chances as Ethan Hunt that it's a wonder he's alive and ready to go on any more missions at all (is that a spoiler? Please). Currently, Tom Cruise is a mere four years younger than Jon Voight was when the first Mission: Impossible was released almost twenty years ago. Cruise realizes his time as international super spy and man of mystery is running out (why do you think he's so eager to get a jump on the next installment as he's indicated in the press rounds for this film?). Cruise knows his body won't be able to continue doing outlandish stunt work forever and he knows that the time is coming where watching him run, jump and shoot would be more funny than thrilling were he still to be relying on this franchise into his sixties. Cruise has maybe two more Mission films left in him and that's if they're more prompt than they've ever been with these movies. This perspective isn't brought up to be a downer or to make audiences more aware of the fragility of time, but simply to say that we won't always have the opportunity to walk into our multiplex and see a Tom Cruise action picture. Cherish this. That Cruise himself clearly pours so much effort and heart into making these movies and that he continues to choose directors who want to make them as authentically as possible while bringing their own unique style to the proceedings is also reason to be appreciative. While there have been, are and always will be movie franchises similar to Mission: Impossible, what makes Ethan Hunt different from James Bond or even Jason Bourne is his ability to grow. Hunt is wholly Cruise's character whereas Bond has a roster of representatives and Bourne has to deal with not really knowing who he is himself. Hunt, through the arc of Cruise needing this franchise just as much as it needs him, has come to represent our most intimate connection with Cruise, the actor, given it's the only character he's portrayed repeatedly. Under these circumstances, Hunt's arc from young upstart agent to desperate family man eager to escape his fate to a man who's now accepted what he's meant to be only makes each new installment all the more interesting-and Rogue Nation is no exception.

New Trailer & Posters for BLACK MASS Starring Johnny Depp

Black Mass, the third feature from director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), is one of my most anticipated films of the fall. It was recently announced the film would have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival as well as make an appearance at the Toronto International Film festival shortly before it's wide release date. While the first trailer teased the seeming sinister performance of Johnny Depp, this latest trailer highlights the thick plot of the film. 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 (Benedict Cumberbatch). 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 stills along with 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 as if 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. Black Mass also stars Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton, Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson, Jesse Plemons and opens on September 18th.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Retrospective

With the release of Mission: Imposible - Rogue Nation tomorrow I decided to go back and catch-up on the previous four films in the series this week. To be honest with you, I've never before sat down and watched the original Mission: Impossible all the way through. I'd seen bits and pieces and tried multiple times over the years to make it all the way through, but it never happened for one reason or another. So, in sitting down to watch the 1996 film that started it all I was surprised to find out there wasn't actually too much I hadn't seen. Basically, I hadn't made it around to the climactic action sequence on the train and that was about it-otherwise I'd seen the major set pieces and had enough to go on that I knew the gist of the plot. This isn't just a look at the first film though, as it's probably been the full fifteen years since M:I-2 came out that I've actually sat down to watch it again. I can remember going to the theater to see it as I'd just turned thirteen the month prior to its release and it was one of the first legit PG-13 films I saw on the big screen. I'll obviously get into more detail around it later, but to summarize-it holds up better than I expected and though it is definitely the least of the series still isn't what I would necessarily label as bad. It was also nice to return to J.J. Abrams third installment that I remember really enjoying when I saw it at the early Thursday night show in the summer of '06 and I've re-watched Ghost Protocol so many times since it's release four years ago there was hardly any reason to return to it other than the fact it's ridiculously entertaining. When it was announced in January that the fifth Mission film would be shifting from its planned Christmas release to the summer movie season in an attempt to clear the way for Star Wars: The Force Awakens it could seemingly only mean good things for the latest installment. I've been anxious to see where Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner would take the series ever since the conclusion of Ghost Protocol and so as we anxiously await the release of Rogue Nation, let's take a look back at the adventures that have brought us to this point.

First Trailer for SPOTLIGHT Starring Michael Keaton

Open Road Films has released the first trailer for director/co-writer Thomas McCarthy’s (The Station Agent, The Visitor) new film, Spotlight. This is somewhat interesting given McCarthy's last film, the critically dismissed The Cobbler, opens in the UK this weekend but is also expected given it was announced the film would have its premiere at the Venice Film Festival and screen at the Toronto International Film Festival yesterday. Telling the true story of the Boston Globe reporters who investigated and exposed the Catholic Church’s systemic cover-up of sexual abuse, this is a film that will both touch on some hot button issues while at the same time being immediately engaging for doing so. This first look at the film offers a solid look at both how McCarthy has executed what is essentially one of the biggest stories of the 21st century as well as the stellar ensemble cast he has recruited. Hot off his Best Actor nomination for Birdman, Michael Keaton will play legendary reporter Walter 'Robby' Robinson while it seems Mark Ruffalo will serve more as the lead in the role of Michael Rezendes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and political writer for The Globe. Spotlight was co-written by The West Wing‘s Josh Singer and also stars Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Len Cariou and opens in theaters on November 6th.

The Many Iterations of STAR WARS

Over at Marcelo Zuniga's YouTube channel one can find many Star Wars clips, but earlier this year he posted a four-video series comparing the changes to the original trilogy over the years. The most infamous of these changes came when George Lucas decided to re-release the original trilogy in theaters on the 20th anniversary of A New Hope in 1997. It is reported that Lucas spent $10 million to rework his original 1977 film, which was roughly what it cost to make the film originally. $3 million of that budget was spent on the audio track for the re-worked special edition alone. Lucas also spent $2.5 million each on the changes made to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I came across these videos while skimming through the news on Collider and couldn't help but to take a minute (or an hour) to watch them. The fascinating insight they provide growing with each video was expectedly entrancing. As I was allowed a glimpse at not only the added CGI scenes and digital effects that would amp up the scope of many shots it became the detail with which Lucas clearly approached these special editions that became most striking. There was much he couldn't accomplish in 1977 and so in 1997, with the advancements in technology his vision could be rendered proper. It also didn't hurt to renew the movies in the minds of both older and the younger audiences to prepare them for the release of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace in 1999. While we all know Lucas got a bit too carried away with the advancements of special effects in his prequel trilogy,a dn despite him likely being frustrated by not being able to create his original vision in 1977, he must be thankful for being born when he was and making the original Star Wars when he did. For, if the technology he so desperately craved was as common as it is now in the seventies, Star Wars would not have been the watershed moment in film history it is considered.

First Trailers for Michael Bay's 13 HOURS

As a big fan of Michael Bay's previous film between Transformers movies, I've been looking forward to seeing what he does next away from the Autobots. When we learned Bay's next project was going to be something of a Benghazi war story based on actual events it was surprising, but in a strange way made complete sense. Bay has always been an action director first and foremost and no matter how bad of a rap the guy gets, he is one of the best action directors working today. He is an auteur in his own right and even if you don't care for many if any of his films one must at least admit they are gorgeous to look at and can be insanely fascinating if not for the story they present, but the thoughts going through the directors mind in order to create something as bombastic as Bay typically does. With the blandly titled 13 Hours that features an even cheaper feeling subtitle in The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Bay enters territory that melds his take on true stories with that of what he has been perfecting his entire career. John Krasinski leads the film that tells of the six members of the military security team that fought to defend the Americans stationed at the embassy in Benghazi when it came under attack. It is also of note that Chuck Hogan (The Town) wrote the script while the Bay imagery is still fully intact if not looking like something akin to American Sniper or Zero Dark Thirty in it's tone if not it's aesthetic. James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3), Max Martini (Pacific Rim), Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is the New Black), and David Denman (The Office) fill out the rest of the main players with the film set to hit theaters on January 15, 2016.

Red Band Trailer for THE NIGHT BEFORE

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is putting in work in some high caliber projects this fall by portraying real-life figures Edward Snowden and Philippe Petit in movies for Robert Zemeckis and Oliver Stone. Seth Rogen is also portraying a real-life figure as Steve Wozniak for director Danny Boyle while Anthony Mackie will play a supporting role alongside Sandy Bullock in director David Gordon Green's Our Brand is Crisis that just received an Awards-friendly release date yesterday. Needless to say, these three young actors from varying backgrounds have a lot going on later this year, but that hasn't stopped them from getting together to make a comedy about getting together and continuing a tradition. In The Night Before (formerly titled X-Mas) Ethan (Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Rogen) and Chris (Mackie) come together for one last debauchery-filled Christmas Eve reunion before officially becoming too old for the tradition. Chris is apparently some sort of sports star which makes it difficult for the three to carry out their tradition without some sort of interruption and Isaac is getting ready to become a father which will mean holidays equal family only from this point on. There is the glaring omission of any reasoning behind Ethan's need to move on, but I'm sure that is where co-writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) will find his opportunity to include the more dramatic and emotional side of things. Taken on its own though, this red-band trailer delivers some serious laughs and looks to be a nice deviation from the family-friendly material that will crowd the cineplexes during the "most winderful time of the year." The Night Before also stars Mindy Kailing, Lizzy Caplan, Jillian Bell, Kanye West, Lorraine Toussaint, Heléne Yorke, Michael Shannon and opens on November 25th.

First Trailer for QUEEN OF EARTH

Listen Up Philip was and remains the only film I've seen from director Alex Ross Perry. This is not due to the fact I disliked the film, in fact, I rather enjoyed it if not being completely enthralled with it as some of the responses suggested I should. Perry has been quick to write and direct his follow-up though which certainly produces some interest given this first, very on the nose trailer. Carrying over from her supporting role in Philip, Elisabeth Moss headlines Perry's latest, Queen of Earth, with Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice). Telling the story of two women who grew up together and discover they've drifted apart when they retreat to a lake house together seems to essentially be the set-up for some kind of psychological breakdown on Moss's characters part. While this first look is very intentionally in the vein of something we might have seen in between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse double feature it is more the highlighted critical praise and washed out aesthetic that have me intrigued than anything concerning the story. This may not lend well to what the finished product may or may not turn out to be, but as a teaser it works immensely. I can appreciate what the director is going for and it is clear from his single prior work I've seen that he has a knack for writing very precise characters and thus very cutting dialogue. I can only hope this character development and promised psychological breakdown match the allure of the cinematography and tone being purported in the trailer. Queen of Earth also stars Patrick Fugit, Kate Lyn Sheil, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson and opens in limited release on August 26th.

SOUTHPAW Review

We are what we choose to be or so goes the saying someone said once upon a time and has been repeated countless different ways a billion times since. In the case of Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) though, one seriously begins to wonder what kinds of choices dictate a meteoric rise and then a literal loss of everything precious in his life. Is it simply defending his wife? Getting angry over a fellow boxer challenging his strength and insulting his woman in the process? Would we have done something different than Billy or was he destined for this path of loss and eventual redemption? That seems the simple answer, yes. You strip away the key stone and the rest of the rocks come tumbling down. Why does such an insignificant seeming choice dictate the remainder of your life? It is an impossible question to answer and one that would make anyone want to end their own life were they to contemplate it for too long. Yes, life is about choices-some that we are proud of, others that we will regret and then there are the ones that will haunt us forever. When we meet Billy Hope he is on the top of the world. He is the undefeated lightweight champion of the world at 43-0, he loves his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) more than anything and they have a young daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence), who Billy adores. He seems to make more money in one fight than most pro athletes do in a season as he, Maureen and Leila reside in a mansion outside of New York City while his boys (who came up with him through an orphanage in Hell's Kitchen as did Maureen) hang out and collect benefits. His manager, Jordan (50 Cent), seems more than a little sleazy, but his only real point of stress in the opening moments come from fellow boxer Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez). After the opening fight in which Billy takes a beating before finding the fuel to light his fire to deliver a knock-out punch, Escobar shows up to taunt the still undefeated champ into fighting him next. Proclaiming Billy's afraid to go against a real fighter, Escobar knows just how to get to Hope. It is in the split second decision to react to Escobar's taunts rather than think it through that Billy makes the choice that will alter his life and his career in unbelievably depressing ways, setting Southpaw up as little more than a familiar story that is carried by great performances.

PIXELS Review

This is not your yearly dose of Dennis Dugan's Adam Sandler if that's what you're thinking. No, as big as Pixels looks in its marketing it actually is on the big screen. There seems to have been no expense too big, which includes flawless special effects, big action set pieces, legitimate craftsmanship and, unfortunately for Sandler, the hiring of quality actors to play opposite him that only stand to make him look all the more lazy. While this isn't your typical Dugan/Sandler fest in the vein of Grown Ups or Jack and Jill it is still Sandler phoning it in, doing what he's done every summer since about 2002 when Mr. Deeds more or less set him on a patterned course. There have naturally been deviations both in his comedy and into more serious territory since then, but the comedian always returns to his safe zone and delivers exactly what he believes his teen and contemporary audiences want from him. There is too much going on in Pixels for this to count purely as another Sandler bomb though and fortunately Pixels won't be judged on the immediate reactions of modern critics looking to dismiss the movie because of a single component before even walking into the theater. It is sometimes shocking, the vitriol which is spewed in Sandler's general direction, but I admit the majority of it is well-founded. With Pixels though, it will be the children of today who truly define what role this film will play as part of our pop culture society. In case you are unfamiliar with the name Chris Columbus (and no, not the Italian explorer) he is the guy that brought to life some of my generations favorite childhood films whether they be both Home Alone 1 and 2, Mrs. Doubtfire or even the first two Harry Potter films. Columbus has a knack for tapping into what makes kids enlist their truest sense of wonderment and he seems to have modernized that technique here while still remaining true to the decade that gave him his start. I'm not saying Pixels is as good as anything else in Columbus's filmography, but I am saying kids will love this movie and likely champion it through their teenage years and into their twenties as a haze of nostalgia will keep their love of it intact.

Full Trailer for THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

It's hard to believe The Hunger Games franchise is coming to a close, though it seems Peeta confirmed there will be some type of spin-off or prequel in a few years time. What is strange about The Hunger Games series though is that I tend to care less about them in between installments despite having read all of the books and still being interested in the film adaptations. I was beginning to put together my most anticipated list for the fall movie season the other day and I completely forgot we had the finale to Suzanne Collins trilogy coming out. I don't know if this means I'm not really excited to see the movie or if in the three years since the first film premiered I've grown tired of these types of films. That said, I still get excited for a good super hero movie so who knows, maybe I'm really just not that pumped for it. Either way, you won't see it on my list despite this full trailer for the film looking nothing short of fantastic. I guess it could be due to the fact I wasn't able to catch Mockingjay - Part 1 in theaters and thus it felt like less of an event, but I will still be seeing Part 2 in IMAX opening night as director Francis Lawrence has seemingly put together a worthy final chapter to the three rather solid films that have come before it. While Catching Fire is easily my favorite so far, Mockingjay - Part 2  may well in fact top it given it's the conclusion and it looks packed to the brim with both action and drama. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Julianne Moore, and Donald Sutherland all return when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opens November 20, 2015.

TRAINWRECK Review

Judd Apatow is something of an enigma due to his seeming omnipotence over the comedy world in television and film. In truth though, he's only made five feature films and directed a handful of TV episodes for series he had a hand in creating. I understand the complaints lodged against Apatow and his comedies, but regardless I'm a big fan of his. In a strange way, Apatow seems to want to do with comedy what Christopher Nolan is doing with mainstream blockbusters. His movies are large in length, deep in character and entrusted with themes bigger than just those intended to make people laugh. Apatow is telling human stories and including the humor so often involved, but so difficult to naturally convey. To capture the genuine way we exchange laughs and cultivate jokes through piles of conversation and inside references is no easy task, but Apatow is attempting to crack this the best he knows how and, if nothing else, he should be applauded for the effort. Apatow wants to make comedy as epic and cutting to others as it is to him. While his last two features (Funny People and This is 40) didn't receive the warm critical reception of his first two (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up) I couldn't help but feel I understood the journey he was on and the goal he was trying to reach. With his latest, Trainwreck, Apatow has ventured into new territory which is likely for the best when considering his career trajectory while simultaneously keeping his legacy intact. Trainwreck, though, doesn't feel like an Apatow film. This is due to the fact that it really isn't. Trainwreck is an Amy Schumer film through and through and there is nothing wrong with that, but any seasoned comedy director could have delivered this product. This is Apatow's first feature directing gig where he didn't also write the script and the lack of investment becomes apparent. Beginning with a shot that elicits the quality of the photographs produced in the early eighties I imagined we were going to get a full throttle collaboration between two solid, comedic minds that understand perception and honesty to the point of delivering it in a funny manner. The comedy isn't the problem, the characters aren't an issue and the story is fine for what it is, but the directing seems to default to autopilot rather quickly so as to competently document The Amy Schumer Show. Apatow let's Schumer take the reigns and doesn't infuse the project with his own flavor, making him feel more like a director for hire than a collaborator.

First Trailer for MISSISSIPPI GRIND Starring Ryan Reynolds

My hope is that Ryan Reynolds is officially on a roll (pun totally intended). It's clear he is working really hard to climb to the same realm of pedigree that his counterparts in Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal and Bradley Cooper have reached, but so far that credibility has alluded him. This isn't necessarily unfair given Reynolds was basically ushered in as the new "it" guy in 2002 with the breakout success of Van Wilder. He followed this up with a predictable run of fair to pretty good minor comedies, while clearly beginning to reach for more by 2007 with The Nines. Trying his hand as an action star hasn't exactly panned out (though he seems to have finally found his niche by combining his knack for comedy with his physique in Deadpool) and the indie flicks have never garnered enough critical praise to allow him to transcend his broad reputation. Over the past year though Reynolds has starred in The Captive, The Voices (which I still need to see), Woman in GoldSelf/less (yes, a typical action film, but I'm willing to bet Reynolds signed on to work with director Tarsem Singh) and now Mississippi Grind in what can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to try and find an unexpected avenue to reinvigorate his career. You only get lucky with so many The Proposal's and Safe House's before you're resigned to doing nothing but Croods sequels and it's clear this is not where Reynolds wants to end up. Grind received glowing reviews out of it's Sundance premiere earlier this year which speaks well to it's potential, but that VOD release date in August prior to its September 25th theatrical release doesn't. Mississippi Grind also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Robin Weigert and Alfre Woodard.

New Trailer for Latest James Bond Film, SPECTRE

Prior to Daniel Craig taking on the 007 role, I have little to noe knowledge of the series. while I intend to rectify this issue I'm completely fine with Craig being the Bond I first grew accustomed to and his series of films being the ones that define my appreciation for the series. It is just what happens when series continue for as long as Bond's has and you inevitably have multiple generations coming to the table. While I obviously wouldn't count myself among the Bond faithful and am not what you would exactly peg as excited for the next installment, each of these films inherently feel like a big deal on their own so there is something to get interested in at the very least. As for this new, full trailer from the second Sam Mendes-helmed Bond picture things are getting pretty interesting as it is clear they are keen on connecting each of the Craig films to create a bigger world for the legendary character. While world-building has become something of a default in the wake of Marvel's success producers and general Bond overlords Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have seemed to want to keep a connective strand between these films since doing so for the first time in Bond's history with Quantum of Solace. Growing off the teaser released back in March this trailer further hints at the repercussions of Skyfall and how a piece of Bond's past will put him on the trail of the titular organization. Joining Daniel Craig for this go-around is Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, David Bautista, Léa Seydoux and Stephanie Sigman. Spectre opens on November 6th. Check out the new trailer as well as new stills of the latest Bond girls after the jump.

WHAT ELSE I'M WATCHING #5

I started this series of articles just over a year ago and yet I have only made it to the fifth entry. I don't know if that's from a lack of watching other things outside of the newest film releases in an attempt to drive as much traffic to my site as possible, but as I write this fifth entry I'm thinking of plenty of things to talk about. I like to think I watch enough stuff, even if it's not Walking Dead or Game of Thrones and even if I still haven't made it around to cracking open the Kubrick collection I received for Christmas last year (I'm going to do it! Next month! I'm promising myself now!). As far as what other films I've been watching though, there are a few. Most are things on Netflix that I either started and abandoned, destined to come back around to at some point (I'm talking to you, Shakespeare In Love), or one of ESPN's 30 for 30 documentaries that I have become fascinated with and can't seem to stop watching. The first one I consciously took a look at was Jordan Rides The Bus. I followed this up with Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks. As a child of the 90's who loved basketball this was my way in, my introduction to this world of the narrative combined with sports history and the first of many "what-if" circumstances that would come to the forefront of my consciousness as these types of scenarios surround each and every player in each and every game. It segued from basketball to football and back and forth from there. I've even ventured out and watched one concerning baseball, Fernando Nation, while currently having a total of thirty-four more in my Netflix queue that range from the likes of tennis and track to hockey, boxing, cycling and even more baseball.

Full Trailer for THE GOOD DINOSAUR

With Inside Out making a big impression this summer and filling the emptiness left by two years without a Pixar production it feels somewhat selfish to so willingly accept another feature so quickly. That said, The Good Dinosaur has been such a struggle to produce I'm sure both Disney and Pixar are as happy to have it completed as we are to see it. With pre-production possibly beginning as early as 2009 with an original 2013 release date on the books, The Good Dinosaur has seen its fair share of ups and downs including a complete voice cast overhaul as recently as last month. Bob Peterson (a co-director on Up), who came up with the idea for the story, was originally slated to direct the film until August 2013, when he was removed from the project and replaced by Peter Sohn (who had previously served as co-director) in October of 2014. All of this is to say that for all the moving parts and disjointed working conditions the creators behind the final product seem to have crafted something especially stunning, at least in terms of visuals. Little can be gleaned from this first full trailer as far as the story goes, but the aesthetic of the naturalistic environments juxtaposed by the more cartoony character designs is certainly interesting. The music, from what I assume is a sample of Thomas Newman's score, is also hauntingly beautiful before segueing into Of Monsters and Men's "Crystals." Needless to say, despite not knowing much about what is going on here my interest is piqued and I can't wait to see if, for the first time, Pixar can deliver two gems in a single year. The Good Dinosaur features the voices of Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Jack Bright and opens in 3D on November 25th.

First Trailer for THE REVENANT Starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Anything that Leo DiCaprio works on these days seems destined to be on my most anticipated list. Whether it's that the guy has truly impeccable taste or the luckiest timing in the world, he seems to be consistently picking the right projects. Truth is, it is a combination of those things that have set DiCaprio up for appearing in and championing projects made by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrmann and Martin Scorsese (and that's only in the last four years!). The timing aspect is most evident though in that not only is DiCaprio finally working with heralded director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel), but he is working with him on the follow-up to Iñárritu's Best Picture Winner, Birdman. The fact that DiCaprio is one of the most well-regarded actors working today combined with Iñárritu's current clout and the added bonus of starring Tom Hardy (who is on his own hot streak as of late with Mad Max and the awesome looking Legend coming out this October) in the supporting role gives off the impression everything fell in line perfectly for this film to be positioned as an awards season favorite. I'm sure the filmmakers and stars would gawk at that previous sentence though given the difficult and tumultuous shoot they reportedly experienced. Iñárritu shot the entire film with outdoor lighting in the rather inhospitable Canadian wilderness over nine months. It looks as if the hard work and long days paid off though as this first look trailer is absolutely breathtaking. Working from the real-life story of Hugh Glass who was left for dead by his companions following a bear mauling in the early 19th century, Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki show once again that there is always a new way of looking at things. Besides DiCpario and Hardy the film also stars Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and Lukas Haas. The Revenant opens in limited release on Christmas Day before expanding wide on January 8, 2016.

ANT-MAN Review

There was always going to be a cloud of doubt, suspicion, or sense of "what if" hanging over Ant-Man after director Edgar Wright exited the project. Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), an auteur in his own right, was the man who convinced Marvel that the pioneering Avenger was plausible on the big screen in the first place. Wright and screenwriter Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) completed the final draft of the script that serves as the basis for what will now forever play on DVD's and Blu-Rays. Wright was the one who cast the majority of the actors here. He was so close, in fact, to being at the helm of this project they had to delay the shooting schedule in order to find his replacement. All of this is to say that despite Edgar Wright not technically being the director of Ant-Man, one can still very much feel his fingerprints all over the film. That isn't to say this is an Edgar Wright film though, let that be clear, as I still believe Wright would have made a much different picture than what's been delivered. Given what we have though and that actual director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man) came into the fold so late it would be wrong to not give the guy credit where credit it is due as he adds a competent and fun if not exactly enthralling piece to the Marvel cinematic puzzle. Along with this cloud of doubt there was always the question of how far was too far. Sure, Marvel pulled off Thor (a mythological Norse diety who wields an enchanted hammer) and they successfully made a talking raccoon and sentient tree cool with last years Guardians of the Galaxy, but was a shrinking man who communicates with ants just a little too much to ask for? Whether it be the way Wright originally wrote the story that weaved in the many advantages of being small with a large army behind you or the rather exceptional special effects that make these sequences and these capabilities more sophisticated, the film works. There is no doubt leading man Paul Rudd's humble turn is due much credit for this as well. Regardless, while Ant-Man may be minor when compared to his companions, this is a film that feels fresh and as much its own thing as we've seen from the earth-based MCU in a long time.

Teaser Trailer for JOY Starring Jennifer Lawrence

Well, the love-fest between director David O. Russell (Silving Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper continues with Joy. Joy has somewhat famously become known as the "The Miracle Mop Movie," but tells the story of Lawrence's titular character who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right after seemingly being smothered by generations of tradition and pressure to live a particular type of life. While I wasn't as high on American Hustle as most were, Silver Linings was one of my favorite films of 2013 and one I can still return to without hesitation. To this effect, I'm fairly excited to see what this trio of collaborators have come up with next and, if nothing else, Joy looks to have more of a focus to it than Hustle while still being highlighted by several strong performers. O. Russell's signature style is intact, but there is a distinct look to this film with some glaringly beautiful shots and an aesthetic that makes the time period more than relevant. The musical choices feel a bit odd and overbearing here, but hey, it's just a trailer (and a teaser at that) and most importantly, it gives a sense of what the movie might be as well as the broad gamut of emotions it will run. If nothing else, I can only hope the film is an excuse for O. Russell to pull another exceptional performance out of Cooper as he has been the beacon in both of their collaborations prior. Joy also stars Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, Dascha Polanco and opens on Christmas Day.

First Trailer for SISTERS Starring Tina Fey & Amy Poehler

With Trainwreck hitting theaters this weekend, Universal has premiered the first look at the new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy, Sisters. It can only be surmised that anything featuring the talents of Fey and Poehler will be nothing short of greatness, but the jury is out on Sisters and won't be back until Christmas. As much as my twenty-one year old self enjoyed Baby Mama (and don't get me wrong, I'd probably still enjoy it today) as well as their numerous Golden Globes gigs there is something about this trailer that seems to be, well, forced. Whether it is the 80's nostalgia aspect, the love story featuring the (admittedly hilarious) Ike Barinholtz or the attempt to switch things up by having Fey play the outlandish persona and Poehler take on the more prudish one, I can't put my finger on it. Still, there is a lot of hope here as Fey and Poehler's chemistry is undeniable and the screenplay comes from long-time SNL, 30 Rock and Oscars writer Paula Pell as well as being directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect). While the trailer indicates nothing short of a good time it is easy to see the beats this thing is going to hit, but that doesn't mean we know the jokes that will come along with it and I understand that. I'm eager to see what they come up with as I genuinely laughed two or three times throughout the course of this nearly three-minute clip and yet I still feel the need to be cautious. Beyond the headliners, the film has a comedic supporting cast for the ages that includes Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Adrian Martinez, Rachel Dratch, Bobby Moynihan and John Cena. Sisters opens (the day after Star Wars: The Force Awakens) on December 18th.

Comic-Con Trailer for SUICIDE SQUAD

While many seemed to doubt the organizational skills of Warner Bros. when it came to their own comic book universe, their showing at Comic-Con this past weekend has certainly silenced many. With the one-two punch of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and now the first look at director David Ayer's (Fury, End of Watch, Training Day) Suicide Squad the DC comics universe is more than ready to stake their claim in todays cinematic landscape. The integration of both Batman and Superman into this world is already very much apparent as there are allusions to The Joker in the BvS trailer while we explicitly see that Ben Affleck's Batman is present in this footage. While I was concerned over how quickly WB seemed to put their plans for a rival comics universe in motion they also seem to have hired people who are very much in tune with the material and who share a common vision for the universe as a whole. It should be noted that WB attempted to have this footage taken down after it was pirated and leaked from Comic-Con on Saturday, but after being unsuccessful have decided to release the high-quality version. This move is defended by President of Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution for WB, Sue Kroll, who says they, "cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.”  Suicide Squad also stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Will Smith as Deadshot, Jai Courney as Captain Boomerang, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, as well as Jim Parrack, Adam Beach, Ike Barinholtz and opens on August 5, 2016. 

Comic-Con Trailer for BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

This post might now be late to the game, but it is content worth posting none the less. A lot of things were talked about and released over the weekend with San Diego Comic-Con taking place, but the new trailer for Zack Snyder's Man of Steel follow-up was arguably the biggest. We caught our first real glimpse of footage from the film back in April, but this new, three and a half minute trailer is absolutely bonkers. Offering in-depth looks at both how the film connects to MoS and why the caped crusader is so angry at the last son of krypton, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice looks to be every fanboys dream come true. Mind you, this is all said with a sense of optimistic reservation as director Snyder is a master of the movie trailer. I can remember seeing the Watchmen trailer for the first time in front of The Dark Knight and despite not being familiar with the source material, adoring it. The same could be said of Sucker Punch which looked insanely cool and was an original property to boot. That the final products for both of these films turned out to be somewhat underwhelming was disappointing given their promise, but also makes it tougher to get too excited for a Snyder film based on their trailers. MoS also had a fantastic trailer, but I am among those who really enjoyed that film and that affinity has not faded with repeat viewings. Can Snyder's ultimate super-hero smackdown live up to the greatness this trailer promises? We'll find out soon enough. 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.

SELF/LESS Review

What do you say when everything you've just witnessed is as down the middle as you could imagine? There was an undercurrent of suspicion, hope, and possibility given the sheltered release date that strive to place Self/less as alternative programming. It seemed, if nothing else, like a safe action bet in the vein of Safe House to mainstream movie-goers with added credentials of Ben Kingsley and director Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals) for those more invested in current cinema. Singh is known for insane and typically crazily creative visuals, but all of those touches are for the most part absent here as Ryan Reynolds tries once again to prove that he can be good in a dramatic role. Ultimately, we are taken through a few action beats and little more. When the most unique aspect of a Singh picture is some of its editing choices, one has to wonder what brought him to the project and what made him choose this traditional and standard approach to the material rather than adding his own flourishes. Whatever the reasoning might have been, what the director delivers with the final product is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment that operates in the sci-fi/action genre but does little to expound on it's rather interesting premise. It eventually devolves into a series of chase scenes. The first hour or so of the film had me going along with it as we are given the outline for the somewhat complicated main idea. What would you do if we were able to manufacture immortality? The question is posed up front and in our main character falling victim to the possibilities of such promises Singh expertly paces (again, thanks to some nice editing choices) the first half of the film to methodically execute the questions that would naturally arise around such power. Singh then sets up the possible avenues for where the remainder of the film might go. It is the choice of writers David and Alex Pastor to go the route of the bad guys hunting down their rogue experiment that damns the film from becoming more than just that middle of the road movie. Self/less certainly had potential but out of nothing more than laziness and wanting to avoid more complicated, thought-provoking territory that potential was squandered on a film that will be easily forgotten.

First Trailer for BROOKLYN

John Crowley's (Boy A) adaptation of Colm Toibin's novel of the same name garnered a lot of high praise coming out of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year and now we have the first trailer for it. Acquired by Fox Searchlight for $9 million the film tells of a young woman who is uprooted from 1950's Ireland and heads to Brooklyn in pursuit of a new life. The screenplay was adapted by Nick Hornby who's also written An Education and Wild as well as the novels that High Fidelity and About a Boy were based on. Adding to this clout is the rather impressive cast that is led by Saoirse Ronan. I've been a fan of Ronan's since seeing her in Atonement eight years ago and enjoyed the career trajectory she is taking as Hanna was one of my favorite films of the year in 2011 with The Lovely Bones and How I Live Now being admirable shortcomings before finding a stride again last year with Grand Budapest. Given the critical response this film has received I expected something more from the trailer, but I can see where things might be going and why, if executed as well as they seem to have been, this film will have the kind of punch that ends up placing it in more than a few Oscar categories. The period setting, the classic love story angle, the pedigreed supporting cast and the clear talent behind the camera as well as the Awards-friendly release date all prime this with a lot of expectation and though I'm a little skeptical I'm excited to see if the final product can live up to all its promise. Brooklyn also stars Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Julie Waters, Jim Broadbent and opens November 6th.

AMY Review

In many ways, I'm the exact type of audience member director Asif Kapadia (Senna) had in mind as he constructed his latest documentary. I was never a huge fan of Winehouse when her meteoric rise hit the U.S. in 2006, but it was more out of a lack of interest in the personal drama swirling around her than any disdain for the music she was creating. By the time of her death in 2011 the drama, drug abuse and drinking came to overshadow anything the singer was doing or had done in the world of music and thus I didn't really care to take any interest. Of course, shutting out the external influences and strictly listening to her voice the talent is undeniable. In Kapadia's new film, we are given an all-access pass, warts and all, to the singer's trials and tribulations and the eventual downward spiral that became so out of control, the crash was inevitable. What makes this documentary cater to my frame of mind is that it is an attempt at restoration in many ways. Sure, you probably know this famous person because of their off-stage antics and problems, but there is more to it than that the film tells us and thus a reason to listen to what the film is trying to say in its plight to restore the proper legacy that Winehouse's talent deserves, if not her career. The opening footage we see of Winehouse comes from a time far removed from that of where she would go. At the tender age of fifteen or sixteen (which we would later learn was already plagued by the beginnings of bulimia) she sings happy birthday to a friend and you can already hear the flourishes of her voice and the jazz-like influences that are present. The singing of a song as broad as "Happy Birthday" also shows in simplistic form how impressive her voice was while playing to the "sameness" in relation to audience members lives. It's a surface-deep introduction that we realize doesn't cut to the core of who this young lady is, but is just enough to hint there is a lot more and no doubt something very interesting going on beneath the surface. In short, it hooks us.

MINIONS Review

Minions, while inherently funny is wholly insignificant and unnecessary. For parents, Minions will be ol' reliable, for children who enjoyed the Despicable Me films it will be what they've been waiting for, but in terms of the actual quality of the product it couldn't be more vanilla sans for the ridiculous amounts of innuendo and subtext these guys are able to get away with due to literally half of the dialogue in the film being unintelligible. At the very least, I guess this flick might open up the idea to children that watching foreign films can't be all that bad as with those you are at least given subtitles whereas with Minions one has to count on interpretation of tone and inflection to elicit the intended comedy. The thing is though, and this became apparent in the Despicable Me sequel, is that it seems the folks behind these colorful fun fests are forgetting the minions are not only inherently funny, but inherently sidekicks despite the fact this film, their own feature, is about them seeking out a boss to serve. If the minions only goal in life is to function purely as sidekicks it only seems fitting they would remain in that role in any movie they might appear in, but when a movie only happens because the first was a surprise hit and the multiple sequels and spin-offs are concocted more because the iron is hot rather than there being any actual ideas of value you're going to run into such dilemmas. When the small Illumination Entertainment company scored a $540 million hit with the original film and it's sequel notched nearly a billion worldwide three years later you better believe they were going to milk this now-franchise for all it's worth. The minions instantly became cultural mainstays and so I understand why a feature of their own was ultimately inevitable, but it doesn't mean it makes any more sense. Get what I'm saying? They are sidekicks, they are good in small portions, but a little bit of these little yellow creatures goes a long way and in giving them a feature length film things have simply gone overboard as the weight of an entire narrative on the back of a character created purely for comic relief is too much for them to carry.

First Trailer for GOOSEBUMPS

If you're a kid who grew up in the nineties then odds are you read a Goosebumps book or two. If that first sentence is true odds are also pretty good you woke up on Saturday mornings to enjoy Fox Kids line-up of cartoons and other child's entertainment that, at one point, included a live-action adaptation of some of the more popular stories from the books. I remember enjoying it fine enough, but I also remember going to Wal-Mart in order to pick up the next book in the series every month or so. The consistency with which author R.L. Stine pumped these things out was rather insane. As hardly anything can be released with expectations of doing well without being based on an already established brand these days it comes as no surprise that we now have a new film adaptation of Stine's series, this time brought to you by the team who gave us 2010's Gulliver's Travels (remember that one?). Still, without holding anything against it, this first trailer for the kid-friendly horror comedy is somewhat surprising if not rather by the numbers. From this almost 3-minute clip it is easy to glean what story beats will be hit upon and what tone of humor is being chased, but all in all it looks pretty solid in terms of the idea of how to bring multiple characters and stories from the books to life while incorporating a semi-fictionalized version of Stine himself in the form of Jack Black. The monster designs look pretty neat and the trailer got at least one legitimate chuckle out of me, so here's hoping the film is more about the journey than the destination. Goosebumps also stars Amy Ryan, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Ken Marino, Kumail Nanjiani and arrives just in time for Halloween on October 16th.

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL Review

Everything about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl screams artsy film festival fodder. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, in fact a decade ago that description would have suggested anything but a bad thing, and yet there is such a stigma around films molded on the tendencies of Wes Anderson now that they've become ripe for criticism. What also doesn't help Me and Earl and the Dying Girl's case is the level of self-reference it operates within. At one point, how can we expect any person or movie to exist without a certain level of self-awareness when the environment we live in is a heightened social media one where each of us are called out for the cliché's of our life and yet, on the other end, there is still the viable option of embracing one's self or one's story wholeheartedly to the point the audience is enveloped in the earnestness. It's a tough choice to make and just because Me and Earl and the Dying Girl decides to go way in one direction doesn't immediately make it a recycled, overused picture that lacks real meaning or effect because the techniques it uses to convey it's story may no longer be as fresh or meaningful as they once were. This is the area where some seem to have accused the film of being trite or even irritating, but beneath all of the style that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has smothered upon Jesse Andrews quip-heavy screenplay adapted from his own novel I find it hard to believe anyone could justly deny the emotion and straight-up craft the film also packs into its running time. This brings us to the beginning of the film where our protagonist and narrator, Greg (Thomas Mann), can't decide how best to begin his story and thus debates between a trope such as, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." or simply remaining in his head so as to guide us through his thought process. As the latter wins out we are given examples of what Greg might consider the best of times and what might qualify for the worst. Before springing into the title credits Greg looks to his left to see what would indicate that what he's recently experienced, what he's going to tell us about, were indeed the best of times even if he didn't realize it in the moment.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 7, 2015

MAGIC MIKE XXL Review

In the summer of 2012 the idea of Magic Mike seemed little more than a way for the studio and Channing Tatum himself to push his celebrity and sex appeal even further than The Vow and 21 Jump Street already had that year. When the film ended up having a $40 million opening weekend with only a budget of $7m it was clear Tatum was no longer just an added-value element, but something of a movie star in his own generations right. This was a film with no previous film in the franchise, no brand recognition, no book or memoir it was based off of, but instead was solely the product of Tatum sitting down with writer Reid Carolin and hashing out a story around his early days as a male stripper. Billed as a film for the ladies, Magic Mike actually turned out to be something of a heavy handed dramatic piece as directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, the Ocean trilogy) that wasn't exactly what the target audience expected. There was still plenty of dancing and grinding and a whole bunch of humping, but beyond this the film examined the social stigmas of such a career choice and the difficult task of leaving that kind of a life behind despite someone only being able to last in that lifestyle for a small window of time in their life. This latter part is where the sequel, Magic Mike XXL, picks up and more or less runs with the idea of knowing this won't last forever so let's give it one last hurrah. There aren't as many deeper themes going on here, in fact there isn't really much going on at all other than the goal of having a good time and in that regard, the Kings of Tampa succeed. Magic Mike XXL is not the same kind of film its predecessor was, but this sequel doesn't attempt to be that kind of film either. Instead, XXL is its own beast entirely and while that may, on the surface, make it less of an artistic success than the first this exclusively fun, road trip movie turns out be just as good and just as insanely stylistic because it never loses sight of what makes these movies tick: the characters.

Full Trailer for STEVE JOBS

I was surprised to find myself experiencing a new, full-length trailer for Danny Boyle's biopic of Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender before my screening of Magic Mike XXL last night. I've been looking forward to the film for quite some time now and this trailer only justifies that excitement as it looks completely rapturous. Said to be made up of only three scenes, each backstage at the launch of one of Apple's iconic products, the screenplay comes to us via Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) and you can really tell as the trailer oozes above average intelligence being conveyed in perfectly articulated words that will bring the alleged "genius" of the title character and all that comes along with that title to the forefront. Kate Winslet also stars as Joanna Hoffman, one of the original members of both the Macintosh team and the NeXT team, with Seth Rogen portraying Steve Wozniak, the man who single-handedly developed the 1976 Apple I or the computer that launched the company. Katherine Waterson of Inherent Vice will play Chrisann Brennan, Jobs high school girlfriend and an early employee of Apple before it went public who is also the mother of his first child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Perla Haney-Jardine). The impressive cast is only made more so by the additions of Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, who became Chief executive officer of Apple on April 8, 1983 who held that position until leaving in 1993 while Michael Stuhlberg will play original member of the Apple Macintosh development team Andy Hertzfeld. This is most definitely one of my most anticipated films of the fall and with the credentials this thing has going for it I won't be surprised to see it as one of the Oscar frontrunners come the beginning of 2016. Steve Jobs opens October 9th.

TERMINATOR GENISYS Review

After the one-two punch of Rise of the Machines and Salvation it's unclear who exactly was clamoring for more Terminator films, but Arnold Schwarzenegger's career clearly called for a boost and so here we are. It is easy to be cynical, but it's difficult to let go and embrace an entity for what it might be regardless of the strings attached and the fifth film in the Terminator franchise certainly had some heavy strings attached to it. From the moment the title was revealed with its misspelled subheading there has been something of a backlash towards the film, an inherent feeling that whatever this could be it would really only be little more than a cash grab and excuse to reinvigorate its stars dwindling career. The trailers, posters and overall spoiler-heavy promotional campaign did little to booster any kind of confidence in the final product and only added to the complete lack of interest on my part as the expectations really couldn't have been much lower. Given that environment I came away from Terminator Genisys rather surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. This brings us to the question of if a movie can be entertaining without necessarily being what we might typically consider "good"? As far as director Alan "Thor: The Dark World" Taylor is concerned it seems he thinks so as he has again crafted a cookie-cutter studio film that follows the template of any other action film and, if nothing else, creates an entertaining film that I was able to consistently have fun with as it continued to defy my expectations of not actually being horrible. The real tragedy of the project is that there might have actually been more to tap into here. With the two listed screenwriters being Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island, Alexander) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) the expectations are again leveraged due to the somewhat bad quality of many of their credentials, but it's clear a lot of thought and planning was put into re-tooling the storylines of the first two films so that Arnold's T-800 might have a more substantial role and so Paramount might launch another trilogy of films. The problem is, the film never utilizes the social commentary or ideas around mortality that it touches on sporadically to be anything more interesting than a two-hour sizzle reel of action scenes.

First Trailer for Rocky-Spinoff CREED

I've always relegated the Rocky films to something of a memory where I know I've seen the majority of them (specifically the first, second, fourth and Balboa, so I have a little catching up to do), but it was in the underrated Rocky Balboa (or the sixth film in the franchise) that I really caught a glimpse of what made the series mean so much to so many people. It was the film that came at the right time for me as I was really beginning to dig into cinema. That film deserved more than the pre-ordained bad word of mouth it received, but was too damaged to salvage once people saw it was actually a solid little closing chapter to the series. Almost ten years removed from that film though and we have a new chapter in the Rocky Balboa story, but this time it isn't about Rocky-we're talking Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed (as played by Carl Weathers) in the first four Rocky films and his quest to follow in his fathers footsteps despite never knowing him. This first trailer for the film that comes to us from Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and once again stars Michael B. Jordan is as appealing as anything I've seen so far this year. While this film will clearly capitalize on the nostalgia of the subject it is also clearly very much intended to be Johnson's story and Jordan seems to be giving a wholly dedicated performance that will only push his star further, and if we're lucky, spawn his own boxing franchise. I love the style in which Coogler has seemed to capture the film and the music beats that match those of the footage gives off a sense of adrenaline with one of the final shots of the trailer inducing chills in even the most passive of Rocky fans. Creed also stars Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Anthony Bellew and opens on November 25th.

TED 2 Review

What works in Ted 2 is what made the first film a runaway smash and that is the undeniable chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and the titular potty mouthed bear voiced by writer and director Seth MacFarlane. What doesn't work about this unnecessary but warranted sequel are coincidentally the same things that didn't work the first time that being the dispensable subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi's character. Don't get me wrong, I think Ribisi is an interesting actor and the weird, off the wall stuff he does in these movies is not what makes his parts bad, but more they simply feel tacked on and only present to create some kind of conventional plot that allows our heroes to overcome some kind of danger so that we get a happy ending. The thing is, MacFarlane has enough of a conflict on his hands here that Ribisi's subplot is even more extraneous than it was in the first film. The same can be said for many of the jokes in the film in that they are largely superfluous. No matter how funny they might be the majority of them don't pertain to the story in any fashion. In fact, Ted 2 feels less like a real movie and more like a series of scenarios MacFarlane thought might be funny to see these characters in that are strung together by the overriding quest to prove Ted is a person. As a result of this series of one-note jokes (and others that are revisited more times than necessary) the script feels patched together with the biggest example of this being the comic-con set finale that seems to only serve as the backdrop so that MacFarlane can make as many pop culture references as his heart desires. This, for me, is a double edged sword as I appreciate the references to a degree (I laughed at Patrick Warburton showing up dressed as The Tick than anything else in the movie) in that I enjoy a rough around the edges R-rated comedy that has a flair for pop culture awareness and lampooning such culture, but the over-reliance on these jokes for its source of comedy makes it obvious there is little care taken to evoke jokes from the actual story and therefore makes the story feel less important. In the end, Ted 2 is a movie that I laughed at quite frequently, but could have just as easily done without being as I saw the first one and this sequel (especially by the third act) ends up feeling like a complete retread of the original.