Friday, June 29, 2012

The Sessions Trailer

Originally titled The Surrogate, The Sessions is an award winning indie drama centered around a crippled man who wishes to lose his virginity and so he contacts a professional sex surrogate through the help of his priest. Starring Academy Award nominees John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, this Sundance Audience Award winner looks to stir up all kinds of emotions. Check out the trailer below.

Silver Linings Playbook Trailer

It was less than a year ago I received word from my mom that they'd be filming a Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper movie outside of my childhood home. The movie is titled Silver Linings Playbook and it's first theatrical trailer has finally arrived. Cooper plays a mental patient ordered to move in with his mother after being treated for depression. Directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter), check out the trailer below.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Film: Ted

Starring: Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) and Mila Kunis (Black Swan)

Director: Seth MacFarlane

U.S. Release: June 29th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 106 minutes

It goes without saying, Seth MacFarlane is the king of animation. And ever since the Family Guy and American Dad creator released the initial trailer for his debut motion picture Ted, the buzz has been spreading like wildfire. With such a huge stir circulating around the internet, MacFarlane decided to do what any smart businessman would do. He found a way to get Ted's release date moved up one month to June 29th, tomorrow. Now finally, one of 2012's funniest movies will hit theatres everywhere.

When a young and friend-less John Bennett (played by Wahlberg) makes a childhood wish that his stuffed teddy bear would come to life, the entire world is blown away by the miracle. Like many other flashes in the pan, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) quickly reaches celebrity status and then falls off the grid. A couple decades later, John and Ted are still best friends with no future aspirations. And when John's girlfriend of four years Lori (played by Kunis) gives him one last shot at growing up and ditching his best friend Ted, John quickly learns that it's never easy to let go of childish things.

Seth MacFarlane's Ted is an outlandishly hysterical experience that will definitely measure up as one of the year's funniest movies. The raunchy and vulgar teddy bear doesn't disappoint as the film never wavers from its sole intention, to constantly make the audience laugh. To its benefit, Ted is a comedy first and everything else is a distant second. Thankfully, MacFarlane's goal was to serve up one of the funniest movies of all time, nothing more. And although I wouldn't put Ted in the same category as comedic masterpieces such as Dumb and Dumber or The Hangover, MacFarlane delivers a hilarious premise to which he never squanders. The first time director plays the vulgar teddy bear card as far as it will take him, often using the film's R rating as a safety blanket. As a result, Ted blends together shock comedy, vulgarity, and well crafted dialogue into a perfect concoction of comedic success. There's no shortage of laughs here, which only validates Ted as the riotous comedy we all hoped it would be.

On the contrary, there's a few aspects of MacFarlane's debut that are open to criticism. First, behind the plethora of jokes, Ted is a hollow story filled with insignificant subplots. Secondary stories concerning Lori's boss and the film's main villain Donny (played by Giovanni Ribisi) leave very little impact and feel poorly constructed or effortlessly thrown together. However, with an outrageous premise like the one in Ted, expectations for a well thought out story must be tempered beforehand. Furthermore, another blemish in MacFarlane's work is the director's inability to separate Ted from his hit television show Family Guy. With Ted boasting the same voice as Family Guy's main character Peter Griffin, there's also similarities in the way  the script periodically uses flashback. Never feeling like its own entity, Ted occasionally unfolds like an overly long episode of MacFarlane's prized television show.

Keeping everything in perspective, it's impossible not to appreciate Ted for its sensational laugh out loud appeal. MacFarlane's able to keep the audience engaged and entertained for 106 minutes, even if it happens to feel recycled every now and again. In retrospect, Ted will meet your expectations without ever going above and beyond your hopes. And although there's only one dimension to the feature, did we really ever expect anything more? I can't argue against rushing out to see Ted in theatres, however, don't expect the greatest comedy of all time. Instead, you can expect a steady stream of laughs.

Stars: Three stars out of four

Grade: B

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Alex Cross Trailer

Yesterday, trailer for the cat and mouse crime thriller Alex Cross was officially released. In the trailer, we see Tyler Perry in rare form and a talented secondary cast including Matthew Fox, Edward Burns, and John C. McGinley. Check it out below.

Monday, June 25, 2012

People Like Us

Film: People Like Us

Starring: Chris Pine (Unstoppable) and Elizabeth Banks (Man on a Ledge)

Director: Alex Kurtzman

U.S. Release: June 29th, 2012 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 115 minutes

Alex Kurtzman has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry as both a writer and producer. As a credited producer on films such as The Proposal and Eagle, Kurtzman's biggest achievement came in 2009 when he landed a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination by the Writers Guild of America for his work on Star Trek. Now, no one can ever discount the hard work involved with writing and producing, but there's clearly a much larger sense of ownership that goes into directing a film. And with the release of his directorial debut People Like Us, Kurtzman can finally know the feeling.

People like Us follows a struggling salesman named Sam (played by Pine) who, upon discovering his father's death, reluctantly returns to his childhood home in California. Sam then meets with his father's attorney and is handed an old shaving kit containing $150,000 cash and a note asking him to deliver the money to a complete stranger. Sam soon discovers that his father's fortune is intended for Frankie (played by Banks), an estranged half sister that he never knew existed.

Alex Kurtzman's People Like Us is a highly sentimental drama that resonates favorably with the audience. Mostly supported by its leading stars Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, this rather bland story benefits from the strong performances given by its entire cast. Although I am no overwhelming fan of Banks, she is absolutely at the top of her game and more than serviceable in her role as Frankie, a down on her luck single mother. Furthermore, Pine is once again brilliant and his convincing performance serves as a fresh reminder of the actor's ability to carry a movie. In addition to an effective cast, People Like Us also succeeds because of its well written screenplay. Dramatic throughout, the feature's script manages to pepper in witty dialogue to complement its sporadic jokes. In doing so, People Like Us remains entertaining through its entirety, thus, propelling itself past the run of the mill drama and into a much more appreciated realm of film.

On the flip side, People Like Us tries almost too hard to cater to emotions at times and, therefore, gently toes the line between sincere drama and Lifetime Movie of the Week. But despite the occasional over-dramatization, People Like Us ultimately rises above the sappy cliche drama. Another weak aspect of the picture is the unoriginal manner in which the story unfolds. Predictable to a fault, every moviegoer can pick its "been there, done that" chain of events out of a lineup. But thankfully for People Like Us, there's enough charm and fast-paced dialogue to keep this re-hatched story from ruining the experience.

Alex Kurtzman's directorial debut People Like Us outlasts the stereotypical drama and stands out as a fun and engaging tale. While the feature is obviously flawed and somewhat over-sentimental, its fine cast and clever dialogue keep the film interesting. If you're searching for an alternative to the standard "Summer Blockbuster", this is a fine choice. And although I wouldn't urge anyone to immediately rush out to theatres to see People Like Us, the movie can be enjoyed by all types of moviegoers.

Stars: Two and a half stars out of four

Grade: B-

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Casey Affleck to direct Josh Hamilton Biopic

Casey Affleck always seems to be following in big brother Ben's footsteps. First came the acting, where Ben Affleck broke through the barrier in 1997's Good Will Hunting. Then, in 2007, Ben moved behind the camera for his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, only to cast his little brother Casey in the leading role. Now, Casey wants a shot at the director's chair and he already knows what he wants to film. The younger Affleck has reportedly been shopping around the idea of writing and directing a biopic based on the life of MLB drug-addict turned superstar, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, who was the first player selected in the 1999 draft, gave into temptation and quickly found himself addicted to alcohol and crack. The baseball prodigy eventually worked his way through rehab, where he ultimately met his wife, and was given one last opportunity to play baseball in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds. Since 2007, Hamilton has been one of baseball's most feared hitters, creating an amazing comeback story that Affleck hopes to bring to life. There are no two things I love more than movies and baseball, therefore, I hope someone gives Casey Affleck the green light.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Taken 2 Trailer

Make no mistake about it, we all loved Liam Neeson's father of the year performance in the 2008 action packed thrill ride Taken. So much so that a sequel was green lighted and, finally, the trailer for Taken 2 has arrived. Due to hit theatres on October 5th, the sequel's trailer doesn't quite pack the punch of the original film but, with Liam Neeson, you never know. Check it out for yourself

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Anna Karenina Trailer

Just a few days ago we were given the trailer for a potential Oscar-hopeful with Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. And today, we've given a second trailer from a possible Oscar contender. Director Joe Wright's (Atonement) latest effort comes in the form of Anna Karenina, a look into a 19th Century high-society Russian affair between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Double Dipping: Rock of Ages and That's My Boy

After the depressing opening weekends for Rock of Ages and That's My Boy, I've decided to give both movies an abridged review. There really isn't a whole lot to say about either of these films, so I'll keep the reviews short and straight to the point.

Film: Rock of Ages

Starring: Julianne Hough (Footloose) and Diego Boneta

Director: Adam Shankman (Hairspray)

Rock of Ages is a big screen Rock musical following Drew (played by Boneta) and Sherrie (played by Hough) in LA as they pursue their Hollywood dreams. With an energetic soundtrack supporting this two hour plus marathon of a movie, Rock of Ages is both fun and entertaining. Supporting cast like Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand are used to perfection to deliver a surprising amount of laughs.

To its discredit, the feature decides to dive deep into each subplot. As a result, the runtime continues to climb and the occasional yawn ensues. For example, a character like Stacee Jaxx (played by Tom Cruise) would have been better served as a cameo rather than a main focal point of the film. Instead, Rock of Ages ends up feeling like an overlong experience with wasted potential.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C

Film: That's My Boy

Starring: Adam Sandler (Jack and Jill) and Andy Samberg (I Love You, Man)

Director: Sean Anders (Sex Drive)

Adam Sandler hasn't been very nostalgic lately. The one-time king of comedy has left his fans disgruntled (to say the least) with recent pictures like Jack and Jill and Grown Ups. But That's My Boy was going to be the one, the movie that resurrects Sandler's R-Rated career. Unfortunately, That's My Boy squanders the opportunity with an irritatingly raspy-voiced Sandler and more Vanilla Ice than anyone would ever care for.

The film does offer up some riotous and vulgar humor, but its annoying quirks and outlandish story overshadow any highlights. That's My Boy is a feeble attempt at old school Sandler and it looks as though we'll have to wait even longer for his triumphant return.

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: C-

The Master Trailer

The trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master has finally been released. The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a WWII vet named Lancaster Dodd who decides to start his own religion and coax a young drifter (played by Joaquin Phoenix) into being his right hand man. Dodd's character and religion is supposedly based off of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, which should certainly make for an intriguing tale.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pitch Perfect Trailer

Saved By the Bell had a "College Years", so why not Glee? In the singing comedy Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick (50/50) and Adam DeVine (Workaholics), we follow rival groups of college-aged a capella singers battling it out with one another. Giving off a remarkably similar feel to the hit television show Glee, Pitch Perfect is due out in theatres on October 5th, 2012.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

For a Good Time, Call ... Trailer

The newest Red Band trailer has been released for the raunchy R-Rated comedy For a Good Time, Call ... and it definitely sports some laughs. Due out in limited release on August 31st, the vulgar trailer follows two non-practical roommates who start a huge money making venture into the world of phone sex. The film, starring Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor, also features appearances by Justin Long and Seth Rogen.

Safety Not Guaranteed

Film: Safety Not Guaranteed

Starring: Mark Duplass (FX series The League), Aubrey Plaza (Funny People), and Jake M. Johnson (No Strings Attached)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

U.S. Release: June 8th, 2012 (Limited Release - Rated R)

Genre: Drama/Comedy

Runtime: 94 minutes

Mark Duplass is as versatile as they come. While the average Joe would only recognize him for his hilarious work as Pete on the FX original series The League, Duplass has made his biggest impact on the movie scene as a writer, director, and originator of "Mumblecore". Mumblecore is a term used to describe a large number of independent U.S. films released since the early 2000's. These films are detailed by an insanely low budget, minimal production value, and amateur acting. Mark Duplass, along with his co-directing brother Jay, helped spawn this branch of indie filmmaking and produce low budget features focusing mainly on naturalistic and sometimes even improvised dialogue. Since then, the directing duo has managed to make somewhat larger pictures with 2010's Cyrus and 2012's Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Although Mark Duplass has gone from being behind the camera to in front of it, with his latest work Safety Not Guaranteed, he and first-time director Colin Trevorrow offer up one of Summer's biggest underdogs.

Safety Not Guaranteed follows Darius (played by Plaza), a young keep-to-herself woman working as an intern for a Seattle magazine. When her boss Jeff (played by Johnson) decides to investigate a small town's classified ad requesting a partner for time travel, Darius and a fellow intern named Arnau join the team. Once  the trio identify Kenneth (played by Duplass) as the author of the ad, Darius eventually gains his acceptance and becomes a partner for Kenneth's "mission". While spending so much time together, Darius begins to see Kenneth in a different light and wonders if he's far less crazy than the everyone else believes.

Colin Trevorrow's directorial debut, Safety Not Guaranteed, is a shining example of the anti-Summer blockbuster. Serving as an eye-opening reminder that you don't need a huge budget or mind-blowing special effects in order to make a successful film, Safety Not Guaranteed delivers everything you want in a movie watching experience. Without a hitch, the feature blends together a heartfelt script including a top-notch love story, a touch of science fiction and more then enough laughs to leave the film feeling almost effortless. An enormous amount of credit must be given to the movie's writer, Derek Connolly, who has already won a 2012 Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance for the script. Connolly, who is also making his major motion picture debut as a scribe, avoids any first time mistakes as the screenplay is absolutely flawless. Rarely can a writer use words to craft such remarkably genuine characters, but Connolly strikes gold with this one. In addition to Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed benefits from having a masterful collection of actors and actresses to help bring the words to life. The feature is brilliantly headlined by Mark Duplass, who once again reminds us that he brings so much more to the table than just directing. In his role as Kenneth, Duplass exemplifies a childlike sense of wonder and allure so well that it ultimately helps drive the performance given by his leading counterpart, Aubrey Plaza. In what is also her first leading role, Plaza's quaint beauty and genuine charm perfectly complement Duplass as their onscreen chemistry is indescribably unreachable. With so many "first timers" on the film, Safety Not Guaranteed goes beyond expectations and becomes a fresh, full of life experience.

Some may argue that Trevorrow and Connolly drown the movie in sentiment, but I'd disagree. While Safety Not Guaranteed definitely attempts to cater to the viewer's emotions, there's so many other aspects of the film to appreciate. Everything from the picture's laugh out loud comedic one-liners, to its sci-fi backdrop and subplot revolving around Jeff and his former high school fling (which is used to parallel the idea of time travel in some weird sense). Safety Not Guaranteed intends to leave a mark on its audience on various levels and, without question, it certainly does. With about 10 minutes left in the film, you realize that there's a million different ways the movie can conclude, and Trevorrow chooses the perfect one. You'll walk out of the theatre completely satisfied from start to finish and, believe me, that's a tall order these days.

With Summer blockbusters like Marvel's The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises set to destroy box office records, it's inevitable for a tiny diamond in the rough such as Safety Not Guaranteed to get lost in the mix. However, Colin Trevorrow's directorial debut is a must-see on all accounts. If you're into a well-written, sensationally acted drama that will keep you laughing throughout, look no further than Safety Not Guaranteed. I can confidently call it one of 2012's finest films.

Stars: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B+

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flight Trailer

Denzel Washington stars in Flight, an action-packed thriller surrounding an airline pilot who miraculously crash lands a plane after a mid-air malfunction. Although his heroics saves nearly every life on the plane, details start to emerge and a media frenzy leaves everyone grasping for the truth. Check out Flight's first official trailer below.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Film: Prometheus

Starring: Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Swedish Version), Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Charlize Theron (Young Adult)

Director: Ridley Scott (Gladiator)

U.S. Release: June 8th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Sci-fi/Action

Runtime: 124 minutes

Since legendary director Ridley Scott (Gladiator and Black Hawk Down) first announced the plans for his newest science fiction endeavor Prometheus, many have speculated that the film would be a prequel to the director's most prolific picture to date, 1979's Alien. Let me preface this review by saying that Prometheus is only "kind of" a prequel. Less so a prequel and more so a deeper examination into the Alien universe that just so happens to come full circle. Now, with all cards on the table and a midnight and 3D showing of Ridley Scott's Prometheus behind me, let's get to the good stuff.

Set in the waning years of the twenty-first century, Prometheus follows a crew of scientists on a space mission to a planet believed to hold all of the answers to the origins of the human race. Meredith Vickers (played by Theron) and her human-like robot sidekick named David (played by Fassbender) lead the team of space travelers to the darkest depths of the universe. Once the crew arrives, head scientist Elizabeth Shaw (played by Rapace) and company find themselves in a battle to save Earth and the existence of the human race.

Scott once again elicits a visionary journey into the genre of science fiction. Prometheus is a delicately crafted riddle, purposely meant to stifle the viewer. Succeeding on an absolutely profound and visual level, Prometheus is a once in a lifetime optical euphoria. Scott goes beyond creating a world, he's officially created a universe. The effects are simply mesmerizing and beyond anything we've seen before, it's truly groundbreaking territory. Prometheus is without question a visual masterpiece, yet the plot intentionally asks far more questions than it ever intends to answer. By leaving an abundance of the story utterly unexplained, Prometheus has two consequential effects on the audience. First, it challenges viewers to really use their brains and think hard to try to piece together the bits and pieces they've been given to make sense of the whole experience. Depending upon the viewer, that can either be a positive or a negative. Furthermore, by leaving many aspects of the film open ended, Prometheus will ultimately feel like a rather feeble and weakly constructed set of ideas that cheapens the movie's stunning visuals. As a result, it appears as though Scott and writer Damon Lindelof have delivered a magnificent creation that even they know very little about.

On an entertainment level, Prometheus flows rather well and never feels too dull or boring. The two hour plus feature manages to keep the audience's attention, even throughout a handful of disturbingly irrational scenes (i.e. Rapace's abdominal surgery). Although the scares are surprisingly minimal, Scott does an adequate job of keeping the audience engaged throughout the film and it's a shame that the story leaves so many loose ends. In addition to its entertainment value, Prometheus offers a well rounded and effective cast. Charlize Theron never disappoints and Michael Fassbender's phenomenal work on screen only seems to reiterate the fact that he was undoubtedly robbed of an Oscar Nomination last year for his work in Steve McQueen's Shame. Also, Idris Elba is slowly starting to make a name for himself and I can see massive amounts of talent pouring out of every performance he gives, including this one. With the aid of an intriguing story and a wonderful cast, Prometheus leaves its mark as an entertaining and memorable thrill ride.

Make no mistake about it, sci-fi lovers and avid fans of Alien are sure to enjoy this new and fresh thought provoking exploration into the franchise. But as a whole, I was greatly disappointed by Scott's refusal to answer enough of his own questions. Obviously you must commend the director's attempt to address the curiosities of life's deepest and darkest mysteries. However, his lack of explanation for many of his character's vital on screen decisions seem to cheapen the whole experience. And if Scott wants to center a film around difficult and meaningful life questions, then the responsibility is solely on him to approach the ideas in a cohesive and constructive manner. Instead you get Prometheus, a visually stunning yet ambiguous journey that ends up feeling somewhat meaningless.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4.

Grade: C+

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Django Unchained Gets a Trailer

Leonardo DiCaprio is gearing up for a pretty big 2012. First came the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, and now Leo is doubling down in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. And now that the trailer has finally arrived, all we have left to do is count the days until Django Unchained finally opens up in theatres everywhere.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers News, The Dark Knight Rises and More

A mighty congratulations is in order for writer/director Joss Whedon and his mega-hit Marvel's The Avengers. The superhero all-star movie has officially become the third highest grossing film of all time, it only trails James Cameron's pair of blockbusters Avatar and Titanic.

In other news, we've recently discovered that Christopher Nolan's epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, will sport a theatrical runtime of 2 hours and 45 minutes. Leaving it 10 minutes longer than The Dark Knight and 25 minutes longer than Batman Begins. Furthermore, it was recently leaked that Warner Bros. executives wanted to force the hand of Nolan and have the director star Leonardo DiCaprio as notable villain The Riddler in the final installment. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., Nolan calls his own shots (I'd say that it's worked out pretty well for him so far) and decided to go with Tom Hardy as Bane instead.

Finally, it's funny how things come full circle as The Bible (ya know, the BIG book) is officially "in". Just last year we heard about director Darren Aronofsky's (Black Swan) plans to bring the story of Noah to the big screen. The film will star Russell Crowe as the main biblical figure and Aronofsky has just added a few more names to the cast. However, Aronofsky isn't the only big named director tackling a biblical tale. Fresh off of his European release of Prometheus (which hits U.S. theatres on Friday June 6th), Ridley Scott recently announced his plans to make a movie about Moses. When you've got big shots like Aronofsky and Scott telling the stories, who needs Sunday School?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Bourne Legacy Trailer

Move over Matt Damon (no matter how much we loved you), as budding star Jeremy Renner takes the reins of the Bourne franchise. With The Bourne Legacy due to hit theatres this summer on August 3rd, we can only hope it follows the action-packed tradition of its predecessors. Take a look at the latest trailer, and judge for yourself.

Friday, June 1, 2012

May 2012 Poll Recap

The results are in for May 2012's poll question asking, "Which summer blockbuster will gross the highest amount". After the historic opening for Marvel's The Avengers, the upcoming release for Christopher Nolan's conclusion to the Batman trilogy doesn't seem like such a "sure thing" anymore. However, The Dark Knight Rises edged out the victory by claiming 50% of the vote. Marvel's The Avengers took home the silver medal by finishing with 41% of the votes. The only other film receiving any support was The Amazing Spiderman (8%), hmm ... I wasn't aware that Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield read my blog. Be sure to check out the June poll (located in the upper right hand corner) which asks, "What is your favorite Christopher Nolan Film".