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.

THE FINEST HOURS Review

Watching The Finest Hours is like going to a restaurant you know and trust and despite being satisfied when you leave, feeling as if there was definitely something lacking. The contents are all inviting and have an undeniably charming quality to them, but upon consumption you simply aren't as full as you'd hoped given the dish wasn't as rich as it had the potential to be. The Finest Hours is a handsome film, directed by Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm, Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl), and features both impeccable costume design and an earnest soundtrack not to mention a story that is genuinely thrilling. Pair these strong qualities with an all-around impressive roster of cast members not only in the key roles, but in supporting and minor parts throughout and it's nothing short of a guarantee that the film wasn't going to at least be a rather solid venture. And it is. In fact, that's exactly what The Finest Hours turns out to be with there not necessarily being any issues other than the fact it doesn't feel like an exception in the long line of cinematic adventures we're given throughout the year despite the story being one of an exceptional heroic act. For this reason, the movie adaptation of the story and of Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias' novel feels as if it is something of a missed opportunity in representing a story that could have really produced a great or even "exceptional", piece of fiction. Instead, The Finest Hours gives audiences what we expect in that it is consistently engaging, naturally tense in moments, and hits just the right amount of emotional beats to make the harrowing rescue mission all the more affecting in the end. It is in this emotional connection though, that the film doesn't connect as often as it should. Even without the love angle from which the film comes at the story there should be more than a handful of emotionally charged moments given both men at the head of these dueling narratives are staring death in the face. And yet, we never feel as emotionally invested in the proceedings as the characters clearly are. There is a disconnect and while it doesn't destroy the film, it certainly keeps it from realizing its full potential.

First Trailer for NINE LIVES Starring Kevin Spacey

Well, this may be the first contender for the worst trailer/idea/movie of the new year. Sure, it's January so we've had some stinkers already, but nothing has looked as outright terrible or as bad a decision as this does. In what is essentially The Shaggy Dog, but with a cat Kevin Spacey (yes, Kevin Spacey) teams up with the guy who made the Men in Black movies and Wild Wild West to play a titan of industry that has ignored his family and by some twist of fate gets turned into the cat he bought for his daughter for her birthday to further serve as a distraction for his absence. But, get this, the guy hates cats, so it's really quite humorous. How this thing was greenlit is beyond me, but I guess I could see how it might be a fine enough time for the whole family given it's a tired premise that has shown promising results before, but the final product that seems to have come out of that intention looks like something that wouldn't even appeal to the lowest common denominator of any single person's brain. Oh well, given its August release date it seems distributor Europa is looking to slide this one under the radar and make a few quick bucks off its family-friendly premise and attractive to older demographic big names. Spacey is still something of a draw, especially given his current run in House of Cards and while it would be nice to see the actor play something a little lighter than the politically sadistic Frank Underwood I would have much rather seen him put his time into something closer to Horrible Bosses than Nine Lives. Oh well, if you're intrigued at all-hit the the jump to check out the first trailer. Nine Lives also stars Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Malina Weissman, Cheryl Hines, Robbie Amell and opens on August 5th, 2016.

New Trailer for Laika's KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

While I wasn't necessarily on the Coraline train, I jumped on the Laika bandwagon with 2012's ParaNorman and have been excited to see what more they have to offer ever since. That late August, but fully fall-inspired release was an experience I didn't see coming and that it took me by such pleasant surprise is one that I'll never forget and am eager to re-live each Halloween. I was somewhat disappointed in 2014's The Boxtrolls in that I didn't mind it, but ParaNorman was always going to be a tough act to follow and it seemed Boxtrolls couldn't even compete if it wanted to. That said, I'm very much looking forward to this years late August offering after getting an extended look at the gorgeous visuals in this latest trailer. The film tells of Kubo who lives a quiet, normal life in a small village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This, of course, causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior. While the trailer is heavy on visual splendor we glean little of the actual plot and I really dig that. Laika and Focus Features are selling their product purely on the promise of an adventure unlike any other and the beautiful splendor of their combined stop motion and computer animation. The inventiveness looks to be notched up to eleven here and while Finding Dory, Zootopia, and The Secret Life of Pets all look and sound promising this may be the animated movie I'm most excited to see this year. Kubo and the Two Strings features the voice work of Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Ralph Fiennes, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro and opens on August 19th, 2016.

MOJAVE Review

Knowing nothing about it, the plot, or its characters Mojave begins and quickly takes on a sense of aimlessness. Like its Hollywood wasteland setting, the hopes and dreams of whatever writer/director William Monahan (Oscar winning writer of The Departed) aspired for this to be seems to get lost in the shuffle of the day to day, and the existing lives that thrive purely on indulgence and artificial and material accomplishments that never get around to tapping into their true desires. Mojave, while constantly striving to be more, ends up doing little more than wasting away and ultimately wasting our time. More than feeling like wasted time though, Mojave feels like a missed opportunity due simply to the talent involved. Not only do we have the on-fire Oscar Isaac and the legitimately talented Garrett Hedlund for Isaac to both verbally and physically spar with, but we also have the likes of Walton Goggins and Mark Wahlberg in supporting roles. I won't even harp on the fact Monahan has charismatic folks like Dania Ramirez, Matt Jones, and Fran Kranz in minor supporting roles that he only utilizes for single scenes, but even the likes of Goggins is criminally underused in that a talent of his stature wasn't necessary for his six lines of dialogue. Sure, Mojave has some interesting things going for it as Monahan is a capable writer and pens some interesting back and forth about the measure of success and how it affects the narrative of one's life, but in the end none of it means anything. For all the flowery language and high-brow quotes our two leads pull out of their asses there is no substance in their actions, which I guess is the kind of demons they are attempting to chase away in the first place. How can their lives symbolize their deepest desires and greatest ambitions rather than simply being an on-going conversation about those dreams and desires? Bleak, no doubt, but that seems the writer/directors desired tone which in turn causes his movie to drag.

First Red-Band Trailer for Key & Peele's KEANU

The most I've seen of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele's Comedy Central show that has now come to an end were the clips that gained momentum on YouTube. I always found the clips entertaining and naturally pretty funny and Key has been especially prolific in smaller roles recently where he's stolen the the scenes in which he was included (Horrible Bosses 2, Pitch Perfect 2, Vacation-all golden). All of that said, this trailer for their first feature film (written by Peele and Alex Rubens) had me rolling as it quickly becomes apparent how ridiculous the duo is dedicated to being. Directed by Peter Atencio (who directed every episode of Key and Peele) the film revolves around two very suburban fellas, one of which finds solace in a cute kitten after his girlfriend breaks up with him, who get into a gang war when said kitten is stolen. While clearly a riff on 2014's Keanu Reeves movie, John Wick, this seems to be much more than simply a parody of that particular film, but the action genre as a whole and the always funny circumstances of placing two characters outside of their comfort zone. Kicking this promotional campaign off with a red band trailer isn't a bad idea either as it allows for some strong jokes with sensitive material to come through and set the tone for just what Key and Peele are attempting to capture which, to the comfort of their fans I'm sure, seems to be perfectly aligned with the comedy of their sketch show, but on a much bigger platform. Keanu also stars Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Jason Mitchell, Luis Guzman, Nia Long, Will Forte and opens on April 29th, 2016.

DIRTY GRANDPA Review

Dirty Grandpa is the kind of movie that longtime fans of Robert De Niro will scoff at and that others will see as Zac Efron continuing to hang his movie stardom on the only game in town that seems to work for him: R-rated comedies. By this point in time though, De Niro isn't hurting his legacy as much as he is simply continuing to do what he loves, but with less demanding material. The guy's legacy is cemented in the films he made and the roles he personified in his prime that are still discussed today. Dirty Grandpa won't hurt his legacy because no one will remember Dirty Grandpa two months from now. Efron, on the other hand, has been testing this reliable formula since Charlie St. Cloud and the indies he attempted didn't hit. The moment that not only The Paperboy failed to connect, but both At Any Price and Parkland failed critically and commercially it was as if Efron told his agent to only send him one type of script. Over the past two years Efron has starred in That Awkward Moment, Neighbors, We Are Your Friends and the movie we're discussing in this review. Just around the corner, the actor has four movies in some stage of production all of which are comedies, and all likely rated-R. So, what does this tell us about Dirty Grandpa? Well, it tells us to expect nothing more than the tried and true formula that has kept Efron afloat and that will continue to give De Niro paydays in the vein of The Intern and Last Vegas. These are perfectly fine, broad comedies that do what they are intended to do and little more. They open up with an accessible premise, do their job for an hour and a half, and wrap everything up nicely so we can go home feeling good about the ten bucks we invested in it. Dirty Grandpa certainly tries too hard in certain moments and director Dan Mazer (I Give it a Year) doesn't know how to balance the raunch with the heart very well, but I laughed often enough to qualify it as more of a win than a waste of time. At the very least there is genuine character development happening as the arc of the film depends on it and there is clear effort being made to craft a legitimately funny movie which is more than I can say for the total cash grab that is Ride Along 2.

WORLD OF TOMORROW Review

At first glance, this sixteen minute short film is something of a pretentious piece for the artistic and academic crowd dealing with the universal head scratcher that is, "what is the meaning of life?" Of course, when given the necessary dues this animated short comes to mean much more than simply a restating of existential questions heard many times before. While writer/director Don Hertzfeldt has been crafting such animated shorts for upwards of twenty years now this was my first foray into his world and what an impression it has left. If nothing else, the large ideas presented in such simplistic form are a staggering juxtaposition of where we come from and what we come to be is enough to grapple with, but this idea and this attempt to cut to the core of the actual meaning in our existence is what impresses more. In essence, World of Tomorrow is a compact science fiction epic that quickly and concisely sets up its plot of a clone of a clone who, 227 years from the modern setting of the film, contacts her original self to tell her about what her life is going to be like for her remaining years (which just so happens to be a few centuries). Sound complicated? Sure-it could easily be construed as a complex premise that is constructed specifically for a certain type of outcome that will reinforce the writers desire to display his cynical view of our future, but more it seems Hertzfeldt's desire with his latest is not that of looking into the eyes of the apocalypse, but more to bring our attention to what type of future we're setting ourselves up for and to possibly avert the worrisome course we're currently on.

New Trailer & Posters for SUICIDE SQUAD

It seems strange that after last summers Comic-Con fiasco where Warner Bros. attempted to have the first footage of Suicide Squad taken down after it was pirated and leaked that they would already be releasing another trailer for the film. Given they were unsuccessful in having the footage removed and ultimately decided to release the high-quality version and because the movie doesn't come out for another six more months one would imagine another trailer would be held at least until the release Batman v Superman, but here we are. The CW aired a special tonight titled The Dawn of the Justice League hosted by Kevin Smith and Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer at DC Entertainment, and in lieu of simply giving another thirty second TV spot for Bats vs. Supes DC and WB opted for this two and a half minute peek at the second film in their cinematic universe that runs the risk of feeling old by the time the movie arrives in August. That said, the trailer is pretty fantastic and it's clear director David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) is really in tune with this band of anti-heroes whose story he is conveying. While I would have kept more of Jared Leto's Joker in the shadows as the first trailer revealed just enough I won't say I wasn't excited to see the footage I just know I'd have been more pleased if I hadn't seen it until I saw it in the context of the film. 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, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, as well as Jim Parrack, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, Common, David Harbour, Ike Barinholtz and opens on August 5, 2016.

First Trailer for NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING

While I wasn't lucky enough to be surprised by the 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer last night in front of my 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi screening I did catch the first trailer for the sequel to the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron hit Neighbors in front of Ride Along 2. If you recall, in 2014 Rogen and Efron kicked off the summer movie season with a rather inspired piece of convoluted yet still natural comedy that placed a boy who was really trying to mature into a man next to a house full of his younger selves. Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg have always been interested in scavenging their own psyches to try and crack just what it is about the male brain that puts off maturing for as long as possible and with Neighbors (as directed by Forgetting Sarah Marshall helmer Nicholas Stoller) they found both a hilarious and somewhat weighty way into the topic by having a man unsure of if he was ready for the responsibility he'd already committed to face down multiple versions of himself. When it became a huge hit ($270 million worldwide on an $18m budget) the idea of a sequel was inevitable and thus here we are. While I was skeptical as to how they would craft a similar situation to the first while still keeping this one different enough it seems they've found a way back into the conceit without being any more convoluted than the first time around while also finding good reason to bring Efron's character back as well. I laughed out loud multiple times during this trailer and so while we definitely didn't need a sequel to Neighbors I'm kind of glad we're getting one. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising also stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Rose Byrne, Selena Gomez, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Lisa Kudrow, Carla Gallo, Billy Eichner, and opens on May 20th, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 19, 2016

Initial Reaction: Video Review - 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI

This week one of my good friends and I began an endeavor to make record of our initial reactions to the biggest movie of the week with a short, but informative video review. Yes, this is another YouTube movie review channel where two white guys sit around and talk about what they think of "film," but given both of us studied digital filmmaking in college and love movies in general we felt compelled to put something together. Our goal is to bring short, but initial impressions to our audience shortly after walking out of the theater. We kick off our show and 2016 with a review of the latest from director Michael Bay, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, starring John Krasinksi, James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, and David Denman. The movie tells the true story of an American Ambassador who was killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya and the security team who struggles to make sense of the chaos. Hit the jump to check out the first episode of INITIAL REACTION and thanks for watching.

RIDE ALONG 2 Review

The first Ride Along movie came out a little over two years ago. I saw that movie in theaters opening weekend, but admittedly haven't returned to the film and never felt any desire to do so (there are much better Kevin Hart comedies out there if you need to fill your Hart quota). Going into this unnecessary, but inevitable sequel (the first earned $134 million domestically on a $25m budget) I attempted to conjure up some type of memory of that first film, but other than the basic premise I had nothing. I couldn't even recall enough to know where they might go with things in this sequel. As it turns out, and if I remember correctly, not much has changed. Hart is basically still at security guard status in terms of how Ice Cube thinks of him and the whole point of the endeavor this time around is so that Hart's rather ignorant and annoying character might prove himself good enough to be a detective rather than simply a police officer. The effort put into story here is almost insulting as writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (two of the four original screenwriters) essentially throw a bunch of clichés at us while having Hart's character try and comment on how clichéd they are by correlating them to the Grand Theft Auto-like video game that he's obsessed with. If you're wondering, yes, playing video games along with the online persona he's created in "Black Hammer" are the biggest character developments of Hart's character that we get. As for Cube, he sticks with the same, stern attitude that hates to put up with his partner's incessant talking, but is somehow okay with this guy marrying his sister and being a part of his life for the foreseeable future. It is this daunting thought that gives way to the epiphany of allowing Hart's Ben Barber to accompany his James Peyton to Miami for what is supposed to be a quick trip to obtain and question a witness. Of course, things don't go as planned and bigger crimes are connected to even bigger crime bosses and you know what beats this thing is going to hit and where it's going from the beginning.

First Trailer for 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE Takes Audiences by Surprise

Apparently some folks were treated to a trailer for a Cloverfield sequel that no one knew was happening in front of their 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi screenings last night, but I wasn't one of them. While I did see the first trailer for Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising in front of Ride Along 2 that doesn't seem to have made its way online yet (though I expect it at any minute) I would have loved to have been surprised by the fact this earnest-seeming trailer would actually turn out to be a "blood relative" of the mystery box movie that used this same tactic eight years ago. While I am more a passive fan of the original rather than one of those who place it among the great monster movies of all time I am still excited at the prospect of what this new movie brings. Taking over for original helmer Matt Reeves is Dan Trachtenberg, who gained attention for his short film Portal: No Escape. Originally going under the title Valencia, what we now know as 10 Cloverfield Lane was written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle. In the trailer things start out cheerily enough as we are introduced to what are supposedly the only three actors in the film: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., and John Goodman before it creepily peels back the layers to reveal a more hostile environment than initially expected and an unknown truth about the outside world. What secrets this movie holds I'm sure it will keep close to its chest as I doubt we'll even get another trailer given the film opens in less than two months. Going the opposite route of overexposure consider me hooked by the mystery of it all. 10 Cloverfield Lane opens March 11th, 2016. Hit the jump to check out the trailer.

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI Review

Director Michael Bay is not someone you would call subtle. As the director of films like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys I & II, and the Transformer series it is clear to see the guy doesn't mind indulging just a smidge. Typically the guy gets a pretty bad rap for crafting films of spectacle with very little substance, of putting forth his uber-machismo attitude that displays the women in his films as little more than figures of sexuality, and for generally allowing his movies to get away from him as the action (and more specifically the explosions) take over. That said, 13 Hours: The Revenge of the Dark of the Moon is very much a Michael Bay film. Of course, it is a film that Bay has been wanting to make for some time now and that desire, that passion clearly shines through. One could add to the list of Bay's tendencies his penchant for idolizing the American flag and the country it represents. When it comes to America or at least the American military, Bay seems to believe in absolutes and by absolutes I mean the guys on the ground, the soldiers, the people doing the dirty work are the kind of people we should all aspire to be. And maybe that's true, maybe the way Bay has depicted the six men who didn't have to do what they did on September 11, 2012, but chose to risk their lives to save other American lives is completely accurate. I have no qualms with how these heroes are represented as 13 Hours doesn't look to get political, but simply aspires to tell the story of the type of man it takes under such circumstances to make shit happen. My qualms with the film come when these men have little to no substance to them, when they are more or less interchangeable, and when the attempts at adding some weight or personal insight to the situation are so blatantly obvious it takes you out of the movie. Still, those who go into 13 Hours knowing what they want and what they're getting will undoubtedly describe this as nothing short of awesome and the type of pro-American film liberal Hollywood doesn't make enough of. Instead of being pro anything though, I like to imagine most filmmakers simply try to lend each story they tell a sense of well-rounded perspective, but with Bay there is no inhibition about the actions of these men and to even question as much is a fallacy. And so, 13 Hours is the culmination of everything Bay has ever wanted to put to screen and while it's certainly an entertaining action flick it still doesn't connect in the affecting way his over-powered soundtrack suggests he wants it to.

2016 Oscar Nominations

Here we are once again with the 2016 Oscar nominations and while I attempt to limit any coverage of the awards season hoopla (simply because there are so many to cover and too little to care about) the Academy Awards are obviously the biggest show of the season and so it was with great anticipation I awaited this morning’s announcements. My initial reactions are that of being generally pleased. I’m happy to see The Big Short get a lot of love (mainly Adam McKay’s Best Director nod) while also somewhat taken aback by the lack of love for Steve Jobs (especially in the lack of an adapted screenplay nom for Aaron Sorkin). There are no glaring admissions this year as there was with Selma in 2015, but many have already started complaining that once again the actor’s race is completely whitewashed. Out of twenty nominations not a single person up for an award is not Caucasian. The admission of the likes of Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, Will Smith for Concussion, and both Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler for their work on Creed are being called out, but as awards analyst Sasha Stone reminds us, “Chris Rock is the host so I'm pretty sure he'll get them where they live.” The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio (who will undoubtedly win Best Actor this year) and directed by last years Best Director/Best Picture winner Alejandro González Iñárritu leads the pack with twelve nominations, followed closely by Mad Max: Fury Road with ten then The Martian with seven (with director Ridley Scott strangely omitted from the Best Director list) and Spotlight with six. For further analysis as well as my thoughts on this morning’s announcements hit the jump.

First Trailer for MONEY MONSTER Starring George Clooney & Julia Roberts

For years now Geroge Clooney has been attempting to reinvigorate the genre that has kind of graciously been labeled "movies for grown-ups" with the likes of Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, The American, The Ides of March, The Descendants, and even The Monuments Men. Sure, he's thrown in a few guarantees like Gravity and the what seemed to be a home run in Tomorrowland, but he largely likes to star in, produce, and direct films made explicitly for the more mature crowds. With the release of a new Hail, Caesar! trailer yesterday and the films February fifth release date looming it is no wonder we now have a trailer for Clooney's other offering this year. Re-teaming with Oceans Eleven co-star Julia Roberts (who's been doing her part for grown-up movies as well with last years average, but still underrated Secret in Their Eyes) the two have taken the leads in the latest directorial effort from Jodie Foster (yeah, this thing would have been huge in '96). The film follows Clooney's Lee Gates, a TV personality whose insider tips have made him the money guru of Wall Street. Things get tricky when Kyle (Jack O'Connell of Unbroken) holds Lee and his entire show hostage on air threatening to kill Lee if he does not get the stock up 24 and a half points before the bell. Naturally, Lee's ratings soar as the entire country tunes into the media frenzy while at the same time shedding light on a possible scandal involving the company in question. The story is timely, the performers are top notch, and Foster while coming off a rather shaky previous feature has done enough work in TV lately that having her at the helm inspires more confidence than doubt. Needless to say that while the trailer doesn't do much for me stylistically there is too much promise to not be excited. Money Monster also stars Giancarlo Esposito, Dominic West, Jack O'Connell, Caitriona Balfe, Greta Lee, Emily Meade, Chris Bauer, Condola Rashad, Olivia Luccardi, and opens on May 13, 2016.

New Trailer for THE WITCH

I caught director Robert Eggers debut feature at TIFF back in September and even then the hype for the film had remained at something of a fever pitch since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year. While my expectations might have played a role, I came out of the film somewhat disappointed in the product as it was certainly an interesting experience, but ultimately hadn't lived up to what the hype promised. This is no fault of the films, but on a basic level of film criticism The Witch is essentially a well crafted horror film with an aesthetic and mood that is undeniable, but a story that doesn't connect on the creepy levels as consistently as it should. Given the many promising factors of the film this was a let down, but even I will give the film credit for really going for it when it does indeed decide to go for it. I am interested to see the film again, but this time with leveled expectations. After all, it was my fourth and final film of the day when I saw it originally and I was more than a little exhausted, so there certainly stands a chance I will like it much more upon repeat viewings. As for this new trailer, studio A24 certainly knows how to sell its product for despite knowing what happens in the film this minute and a half clip still gave me chills. I am anxious to see the general audience response to the film and if they come out pleased as so many scary movies are nothing short of crap this time of year. Despite the fact I didn't outright love the film I'm still rooting for it and hope that Eggers is given prime opportunities in its wake as he certainly knows how to put together an effective atmosphere and will only get better at executing story through that atmosphere as he garners more experience. The Witch stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ellie Grainger, Harvey Scrimshaw, Katie Dickie, Lucas Dawson, Ralph Ineson, and opens nationwide on February 19, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 12, 2016

2016 Oscar Nomination Predictions

With the Golden Globes now out of the way and the winners more or less settled as to who might be primed for Oscar glory from such wins it is a perfect time to predict who the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will honor with nominations this Thursday. Yes, nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards will be announced this Thursday, January 14th at 5:30 a.m. PST (13:30 UTC) (8:30 a.m. EST) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater and we are here today to simply predict who might fall into the major categories. While I certainly plan to post my predictions for who I think might win in these respective categories prior to the awards ceremony on February 28th, that is not the competition we will be debating today. Today, it is more about which nine or ten movies will make the cut in the best picture category, will Michael Keaton get a best actor nom or will he possibly compete against Mark Ruffalo in the supporting actor category for Spotlight and so on and so forth. There is a lot of strong competition going on this year as last nights Globe winners highlighted the potential of both The Revenant and The Martian while previous front-runners, Spotlight and The Big Short were shut out. That doesn't mean too much when compared to where the Oscars will take things (though I think Brie Larson's win for Room and Sylvester Stallone's win for Creed both bode well for their Oscar chances), but the more interesting races will be that of if the Picture/Director categories will be a split or if Alejandro González Iñárritu actually stands a chance of repeating his best picture/best director win from last year. It is easier to predict the acting categories based on last nights Globe wins-I could easily see all four of the drama winners repeating at the Oscars next month, but where things get interesting are in the more technical categories as well as the biggest award of the night, best picture. Enough about the dynamics of the possibilities though, let us get on with the predictions...

First Trailer for FREE STATE OF JONES Starring Matthew McConaughey

In my most anticipated of 2016 article posted last week I placed writer/director Gary Ross's Free State of Jones at number eleven and so one can imagine how pleased I am to finally see some footage from the upcoming civil war drama. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Newt Knight, a Southern farmer who led a rebellion against the Confederacy during the war. Knight's opposition to both slavery and secession, led the farmer and soldier to launch an uprising of poor white farmers that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a "Free State of Jones." Knight's relationship and post-war marriage to a former slave, Rachel Knight (Consussion's Gugu Mbatha-Raw), effectively established the region's first mixed-race community. While the nearly three minute trailer more or less seems to give away large portions of the films story that same story is so compelling it is difficult to deter my anticipation for the full film. McConaughey looks to be in full McConaissance mode as he leads the film with the charisma and layers of depth that crafted his resurgence a few years ago. Visually, the film looks stirring and I have enough faith in Ross alone (whose directing credits outside the initial Hunger Games film include Seabiscuit and Pleasantville while he also penned the screenplay for Big) that both his screenplay and his final product will be worthy of attention no matter how much the promotional material tends to give away. That said, I'm more than eager to see how the final product turns out and can't wait to see what drew Ross to this material. Free State of Jones also stars Keri Russell, Mud's Jacob Lofland, Mahershala Ali, Room's Sean Bridgers, great character actor Gary Grubbs and opens on March 11, 2016.

THE FOREST Review

I've never seen an episode of Game of Thrones. I'm not even sure I could tell you why so many people love it or what the basic premise is. The reason I tell you I'm not familiar with this pop culture phenomenon is because it's inevitable the star of The Forest will garner much good will for her leading lady debut due simply to the fact she's a seemingly well-respected character on that hit TV show. Because I only recognize Natalie Dormer from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay films I have no frame of reference with which to know what I should or shouldn't have been expecting from this January horror release. Of course, that is the other major factor in how one will perceive The Forest before seeing it: it's a January horror release. Generally, studios tend to dump their scrap pile on audiences in the month following the barrage of Oscar hopefuls that they (the studios) hope will continue to earn money throughout awards season while simultaneously clearing their shelves of any long-gestating projects that simply need somewhere to die. In this sense, January is more or less a graveyard of long lost B-movies that will make a few bucks and then disappear after a single weekend never to be heard from again. Once again, in this sense, it seems pointless to even write a review for something like The Forest which will so clearly be dismissed and then buried beneath the rest of January's dull releases to the point by the time this thing comes out on DVD and Blu-ray three and a half months from now most people won't even remember it came out in 2016. Still, I was hopeful that the seemingly buzzy Dormer would make good on her promise of being a performer of integrity and buck the trend of January horror films to deliver something both psychologically disturbing and legitimately scary at the same time. Instead, The Forest is one of those horror movies that feels as if it was pieced together by a creative team that's only watched a few bad horror flicks and still decided they knew well enough what they were doing to take their own crack at it. Relying solely on cheap jump scares and a supposed twist ending that were clearly meant to have audiences reeling, The Forest will instead only leave most dumbfounded that we're expected to be impressed.

Teaser Trailer for THE CONJURING 2

I never made it around to seeing 2014's Annabelle, the spin-off of director James Wan's successful 2014 horror film, The Conjuring. I heard it wasn't very good and by all accounts it seemed little more than an excuse to exploit the success of Wan's take on the Warren's assisting the Perron family with a haunted house issue. After struggling through the impossibly difficult shoot that was Furious 7 Wan returned to the comfort zone of the horror genre and has crafted a sequel to that 2013 smash. Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return for the sequel, subtitled The Enfield Poltergeist, as demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. This time around Wan and his co-writers Chris and Chad Hayes take the story from a true-to-life case file that involved a single mother and her children living in the Enfield borough in London during the seventies. Warner Bros. released the image above last week revealing one of the children (Madison Wolfe) who claimed to have heard knocking sounds in the walls and demonic voices, as well as having seen objects moving on their own. While little more than this basic premise can be gleaned from the teaser trailer the most vital aspect of any horror film is mood and tone and Wan is no stranger to adapting just the right tone for his ghost stories and there seems to be no exception here. While I enjoyed the first Conjuring I wasn't as big on it as most, but hopefully this sequel will surpass the original (it wouldn't be the first time for that to happen with one of Wan's horror franchises). The Conjuring 2 also stars Frances O’Connor, Simon McBurney, and opens on June 10th.

Movies I Wanna See Most: 2016

As always, there is a lot to look forward to this year at the cinema. In attempting to look through all of the major releases for the upcoming year that are already on the calendar I've come across more than enough movies to keep a variety of audiences entertained, but what follows is not just a list of films I'm most excited to see (though that is surely the bulk of it), but also commentary on just how difficult it's become to both look forward to and be excited about the onslaught of super hero films I know we will inevitably receive. I'm a fan of comic book movies and am looking forward to seeing all seven of the major ones that will be released over the course of 2016, but to allow them to take over seven individual spots on my list seems ridiculous and something of a waste. Everyone who's been to the movies in the last two months (and if you've seen the Star Wars numbers coming in you'll know that's a lot of people) know there is a new Batman V. Superman movie coming out and another Marvel movie where Captain America and Iron Man face-off. They may even know that Ryan Reynolds is playing some kind of version of Ryan Reynolds in a red suit, but while I'm as hopeful as the biggest fanboy that Deadpool turns out to be as great as the wonderful marketing campaign has led us to believe-it's an obvious choice, an obvious movie to anticipate. Does that mean every film on my list is a smaller film that you probably haven't heard about yet? No, not at all. There are of course films like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Star Trek Beyond, and Star Wars: Rogue One sprinkled throughout because, guess what? I like Harry Potter, Justin Lin, and Star Wars so I'm genuinely excited to see how those movies turn out. By stating the obvious at the beginning though, by saying that, "Look, there are going to be this many super hero movies this year and yes I'm pumped for all of them, but here are a bunch of other movies that might interest you that I'm excited about," this list might provide insight to a film you didn't know was coming down the pipeline prior.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT Review

At this point in his career writer/director Quentin Tarantino runs the risk of being a parody of himself. Playing up the most obvious and popular aspects of the kinds of films he tends to make his latest, The Hateful Eight, tends to skirt that line more than a few times, but dammit if overall this is an experience like no other. What is being said? What is the objective? What is the point, if you will, of collecting eight or more disparate souls in a single confined space and allowing them to exhaust each of their personal vendettas against the world on one another? It would seem Tarantino would need to have some type of idea or some larger theme he intends to tackle when setting out to write a project that concerns the relations of a variety of characters shortly after the end of the Civil War. As with his two previous efforts that have addressed history and it's inconsistencies in equality, The Hateful Eight looks to bring up old wounds and address them freely. Unlike his previous two efforts though, The Hateful Eight is not a revenge tale in the larger sense of the genre, but more it is a contained mystery that asks whodunit and has the audience play a guessing game as it holds the answers just out of arms reach until the inevitable bloody end. Of course, the similarities to playing a game of Clue don't detract from the quality of the film as Tarantino goes back to more fully relying on what made his initial films all the more engaging and distinct: the talking. At ten minutes shy of three hours The Hateful Eight is certainly something of a journey, but it never feels like an endeavor. More, the film is an exercise in detailing a portrait of this point in time and the varying perspectives that contributed to the climate of America. By confining these eight very different, very volatile individuals into a single location Tarantino is able to make many statements, but mainly the guy seems to offer the idea that the state this country was founded on and how it came to fruition after we finished fighting ourselves is that of an unstable one-with qualities seeming to still echo into today's society.

ANOMALISA Review

Note: This is a reprint of my review for Anomalisa, which originally ran on September 21, 2015 after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival. I am publishing it again today as it hits theaters this weekend.

Who is Michael Stone? It is the question we can't help but to ask after he arrives at an upscale hotel in Cincinnati in Charlie Kaufman's first stop-motion film. We ask this due to the fact we have followed this man from his flight, through the airport, on a cab ride and into the lobby where other guests whisper his name as he walks by. We come to learn that Stone is a speaker famous for a book he published about customer service. As mundane as this sounds it is of course with some purpose as Kaufman's entire exploration of the character of Stone has to deal with the mundanity of life in general. As with the majority of projects written by Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and the one he's directed prior (Synecdoche, New York) Anomalisa also deals with themes of identity, mortality, our relationships with other people, and the big question that is, "what is the meaning of life?" This latest experiment scales things back to a simpler form though, where the complexities of these existential ponderings aren't all-consuming. Rather, they come in the form of keen observations that perfectly summarize the vapidness of the majority of our interactions on a daily basis. This, paired with the chosen visual style of the film is rather inspired as not only does it allow Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson the chance to visually illustrate what might have otherwise been conveyed through dialogue, but it also allows a rather uninteresting story to be told in an interesting fashion.