Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Art of the Scare

Happy Halloween to everyone out there! Now that Hurricane Sandy has faded from our east coast, most of us (my condolences to those along the Jersey shore and New York City) can look to celebrating the holiday. Clearly my favorite part about Halloween is all of the scary movies I watch during the entire month. And in my humble opinion, no scary movie is greater than John Carpenter's Halloween (not to be confused with that laughable re-imagining done by Rob Zombie). I decided to place into context what makes the 1978 classic such a great film. I've brainstormed and discovered the do's and don'ts of successful horror movies, so let's get right to it.

RULE #1: Create a Memorable Villain 

As is often the case, a convincing "bad guy" can make or break any scary movie. Whether the film centers on the paranormal (The Ring), a slasher (Friday the 13th) or a figment of your imagination (A Nightmare on Elm Street), it's important to build a successful back story to the villain. But this becomes a very delicate process, because going too deep into the psyche of the "monster" can also create a backlash. For example, one of the greatest aspects to John Carpenter's Halloween is Michael Myers' lack of motive. It isn't until the second installment that we find out Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is the killer's sister. Thinking back to the original feature, Laurie Strode is seemingly the first person that the escaped mental patient, Michael Myers, feasts his eyes on, leaving no direct motive to his ensuing mayhem. Thus, the terror really begins to set in with the moviegoer. Why? Because no one can justify this serial killer's madness. Perhaps writers of failed scripts like the ones for Insidious and The Grudge should have known that the explanation of the villain is overrated. 

RULE #2: Set the Proper mood

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of any good horror film is the mood that the feature generates. What are some significant elements to setting an appropriate atmosphere? First and foremost is the movie's score. A haunting score can create massive amounts of tension with viewers. For years, uneducated directors thought it would attract larger teenage crowds if they filled their movie's soundtrack with contemporary rock and hip-hop songs. There's nothing less terrifying than listening to songs from the MTV top 20 countdown. How is the audience expected to be fearful of onscreen events if a film's score fails to meet the required mood? Simple dark melodies such as those from Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street or even just silence and the typical in-scene sounds like footsteps, phone rings and heavy breathing can all be used to enhance the chills. Some good examples of modern scary movies that use these techniques are The Strangers and Sinister, both of which are highly effective horror films.

Rule #3: Sometimes Less is More

Plenty of horror movies made a career off of their over the top brutality and gore. However, most of those films can't be taken seriously or really aren't that groundbreaking. It can benefit scary movies to tone down on the bloodshed and show a little less. And when I say "show a little less" I am not just talking about the gore, I also think the "monster" doesn't have to be visible during a scene for it to be effective. For example, many of the most terrifying moments in Jaws and John Carpenter's Halloween follow the perspective of the villain. A different point of view every now and again makes for some good scares Then, incorporate a slow paced pursuit of a likable main character and you're well on your way to pure gold. Finish it off with a climactic resolution and there you have it, a suspenseful and compelling horror film that's sure to leave a lasting impression.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Film: Flight

Starring: Denzel Washington (Unstoppable), Don Cheadle (The Guard) and John Goodman (Argo)

Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)

U.S. Release: November 2nd, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 138 minutes

Legendary director Robert Zemeckis lets his credentials speak for themselves. And with a loaded filmography boasting unquestionable hits such as Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and Cast Away, Zemeckis' long awaited return to live action is - as Ron Burgundy would say - "kind of a big deal". His triumphant return comes in the form of Flight, a dark drama about a troubled airline pilot suffering from a severe substance abuse problem. If that wasn't enough to get you excited, teaming up with Zemeckis in the leading role is Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. Now, with all of the proper ingredients securely in place, Zemeckis and company manage to elevate Flight to successful heights.

Denzel Washington stars as divorced airline pilot Whip Whitaker, a full blown alcoholic with an occasional taste for all different kinds of harder drug concoctions. But when a routine flight from Florida to Georgia experiences a disastrous plane malfunction, an under-the-influence Whitaker pulls off some nose-diving heroics that help to soften the crash. Having miraculously saved 96 of 102 lives on board the plane, Whitaker ironically finds himself at the center of a crash investigation. In the midst of a massive downward spiral, Whitaker embattles the possibility of criminal manslaughter charges and, even worse, his destructive substance abuse addiction.

Director Robert Zemeckis' Flight is a well-rounded and emotionally effective character study of one man's personal battle with addiction At the center of the film is Denzel Washington, a gifted actor who needs no introduction. Screenwriter John Gatins serves up a script that allows Washington to take his character's portrayal to some very dark and disturbing places. Almost effortlessly, Washington molds Whitaker's psychologically flawed character into such an alluring and spellbinding anti-hero. Although Whitaker rarely gives the audience any legitimate reason to sympathize with his condition, you'll want so badly for him to put down the bottle when the moments of truth happen to arrive. Even when Whitaker clearly deserves no remorse, Washington demonstrates an uncanny ability to elicit sympathy from the viewer. It's acting at its finest, and I would be downright shocked if Washington wasn't recognized with an Oscar nomination for yet another brilliant on screen display. In addition to the greatness of the film's leading star, actor John Goodman commands every second of screen time given to him. Everything from his perfectly cued grand entrance to his outrageously hilarious final scene, Goodman offers the feature's most likable character. And for as memorable as Goodman's drug-dealing character is, Zemeckis and Gatins never overuse him or rely too heavily on his efforts. As a result, Flight is a crowd-pleasing drama that satisfies at the hands of smart directing and superb acting.

Even though Flight works well as a character-driven drama, Zemeckis' return to live action is far from unscathed. For starters, Flight hits a noticeable lull during its second act which consequently disrupts the flow of the film. The movie begins in impressive fashion with its eye-opening hotel scene followed by a tension filled airplane free fall. However, the film's post-crash middle portion spends a prolonged amount of time focusing on a rather unnecessary character (the drug addict Nicole) and the depths of Whitaker's problems with alcohol. But just as the film begins to recycle itself to the point of exhaustion, Zemeckis returns to the investigation and closes out the film in an emotionally satisfying style. Another significant detraction from Flight is the inconsistencies of screenwriter John Gatins. While carefully-timed comedy has always been a major staple of Zemeckis' more dramatic work, Gatins fails to successfully land a couple of intended "funny scenes". The hospital scene with Whitaker's co-pilot Ken Evans (played by Brian Geraghty) is the perfect example of poorly timed humor. At what should have been a memorable Oscar-type of dramatic scene, Gatins swings and misses at mocking religious fanatics. Although Flight clearly suffers from infrequent interruptions in both mood and plot progression, a worthwhile conclusion makes it easy to overlook and ignore these tiny imperfections.

Once again, Robert Zemeckis gets the most out of his leading star and the payoff is another solid addition to his resume. Denzel Washington deserves all the praise he'll receive on route to a sure-fire Best Actor Nomination by the Academy. Despite his portrayal as a mightily flawed anti-hero, Flight's greatest conquest is how it forces the audience to be forgiving and slightly irrational toward Washington's rather unlikable character. Both highly entertaining and emotionally charged, Flight is far from perfect but still worth the price of admission. Take a shot on Flight and you won't regret it.

Stars: Three stars out of four

Grade: B+

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Film: Cloud Atlas

Starring: Tom Hanks (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), Halle Berry (New Year's Eve) and Jim Broadbent (Another Year)

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski (Run Lola Run)

U.S. Release: October 26th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Drama/Sci-Fi

Runtime: 163 minutes

One of the highlights of this year's Philadelphia Film Festival came in the form of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski's epic sci-fi adventure Cloud Atlas. Based on David Mitchell's award winning book of the same name, Cloud Atlas attempts to interconnect the entire past, present and future of human civilizations by weaving together multiple stories that span over six different centuries. In doing so, the trio of directors inherently offer a somewhat jumbled mess of concepts and ideas. But what a beautiful mess it is.

The best way to describe Cloud Atlas is to parallel it to a puzzle box. You see this complete and beautiful "big picture" that is pristine in every way imaginable. Each color delightfully complementing the other and the idea so flawlessly captured, it's just ... perfect.  But similar to the movie, you open the box and the perfection is broken up into pieces scattered everywhere. Each of these pieces waiting patiently for you to put them in their proper order, waiting to serve their purpose to the bigger picture. Cloud Atlas is an enormous six-movies-in-one journey, it's a puzzle. And for that reason, Cloud Atlas deserves every tiniest bit of your viewing attention. I firmly believe that it's a story so grandiose that it's virtually impossible to dissect and piece together the puzzle in only one viewing. And also for that reason, it not only becomes one of the most polarizing films in recent memory, but Cloud Atlas becomes a cine-phile's dream project. One that I proudly accept. You can be assured that I plan on watching the remarkable two hour and 43 minute journey many times in my future.

As creatively profound and visually groundbreaking as Cloud Atlas is, the film is by all accounts mightily flawed. But sometimes blemishes can give off a large sense of character, and that holds true with this feature. I recall leaving the theatre somewhat perplexed by what transpired on screen and thinking to myself "there was no emotional punch, there was no shining moment". And for a film of this magnitude, that type of impact is essential. For this reason alone, Cloud Atlas becomes an understandably displeasing adventure for much of its audience. However, lack of comprehension often leads to massive disappointment in all different kinds of art forms. I tried my hardest to look past this glaring fault and to place my focus solely on Tykwer and the Wachowski's message of an interconnected history of humanity. Recollecting the film in this light, I can honestly say that Cloud Atlas is one of the most fascinating movies I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.

To truly appreciate the entirety of Cloud Atlas, you must first be consumed by each of its stories on their own. The film does a remarkable job of giving an absorbent amount of life to all of the different stories and making them feel extremely unique and disjoint, yet so entwined to a larger agenda. And while none of the feature's long list of stars particularly stand out (except the underrated Jim Broadbent), Cloud Atlas and its numerous plot lines still serve their purpose and prove to be quite effective. Not only do the stories leave enough clues to unravel the mystery behind Cloud Atlas, they're exceptionally entertaining and they help you to ease your way through the lengthy sounding duration.

Trapped inside of Cloud Atlas is a beautiful picture waiting to be pieced together. With the appropriate amount of time and effort, it can be. Be warned, Cloud Atlas is definitely not a movie for everyone. It requires all of a viewer's attention and it demands a level of focus and thought that far exceeds the average Hollywood release. Therefore, we should both love and hate Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski's for this ambitious piece of work. If you're up for the challenge, there's plenty of greatness hiding inside of Cloud Atlas. If not, please move along.

Stars: Three stars out of four

Grade: B+

2012 Philadelphia Film Festival Recap

Now that 2012's Philadelphia Film Festival has officially come and gone, it's time to reflect on some of the fantastic films and performances that graced the screens throughout the entire 11 day event. I managed to make it through 20 of the 100+ scheduled movies. Here's a brief look at how I rated the 20 films and some of the finest actors, actresses and directors that I had the pleasure of enjoying. You will quickly notice a reoccurring theme about the top two films at the festival The Sessions and Silver Linings Playbook, both of which boast extraordinary casts and top notch directing. And while there were many good films at this year's festival, those two titles clearly stood out.

Best Picture: The Sessions (4 stars/A)

Writer and director Ben Lewin molds together a superb look at the real life story of Mark O'Brien. John Hawkes stars as the polio stricken poet who was confined to an iron lung for the greater part of his life. But when the 38 year old O'Brien begins to feel like his life clock may be expiring, he confides in a priest (played by William H. Macy) about a very personal issue. Wanting the blessing of Father Brendan, Mark wishes to seek a sex therapist (played by Helen Hunt) who will be accommodating to his condition and help him to experience sex outside of marriage. The Sessions is an often hilarious and touching true story that packs an enormous amount of heart. With one of the year's finest ensembles, John Hawkes and Helen Hunt offer Oscar-worthy performances that elevate The Sessions to 2012's upper echelon of films. 

Other Films:

Silver Linings Playbook (3.5 stars/A-)  Flight (3 stars/B+)
Cloud Atlas (3 stars/B+)  Stand Up Guys (3 stars/B)
The Atomic States of America (3 stars/B)  A Late Quartet (3 stars/B)
Gayby (2.5 stars/B-)  Future Weather (2.5 stars/B-)  Brooklyn Castle (2.5 stars/B-)
Quartet (2.5 stars/B-)  The Missing Piece (2.5 stars/B-)  Antiviral (2 stars/C+)
Hyde Park on Hudson (2 stars/C+)  Detonator (2 stars/C+)
Not Fade Away (2 stars/C)  Simon Killer (1.5 stars/C-)  The Comedy (1.5 stars/C-)
The Everything Will Be Okay Trilogy (1.5 stars/C-)  This Time Tomorrow (1 star/D+)

Best Director: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Honorable Mention:

Robert Zemeckis (Flight)  Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski (Cloud Atlas)

Best Actor: John Hawkes (The Sessions)

Honorable Mention:

Denzel Washington (Flight)  Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Honorable Mention:

Perla Haney-Jardine (Future Weather)  Jenn Harris (Gayby)

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

Honorable Mention:

Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas)  Billy Connolly (Quartet)

Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

Honorable Mention: 

Pauline Collins (Quartet)  Amy Madigan (Future Weather)

I will post full reviews in the upcoming days for some of the films I watched at this year's festival, so stay tuned. Also, if you caught any movies at the festival or if you agree/disagree with my thoughts, post a comment and let me know your opinion. Finally, thanks again to the Philadelphia Film Society for putting together another spectacular event.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

PFF: Closing Night Recap

The 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival unofficially came to an end last night in the grandest of fashion. With Academy Award Winner Robert Zemeckis in the building, the entire audience was eager to see his latest effort and the festival's Closing Night film, Flight. In the director's triumphant return to live action, Denzel Washington shines as airline pilot Whip Whitaker. At the feature's opening we're introduced to Whitaker in a trashed hotel room with empty beer bottles, recreational drugs and a naked flight attendant. To make matters even worse, Whitaker is expected to man a commercial flight in less than two hours. Then we come to find out that this is all in a day's work for the pilot, who clearly displays serious substance abuse issues. During a routine flight from Florida to Atlanta, Whitaker's plane malfunctions and the gifted pilot pulls some daredevil antics that ultimately saves 96 of the 102 lives on board the plane. However, an investigation into the plane crash reveals Whitaker's deeper issues and sends his life and addiction on a downward spiral.

Flight proves to be an highly entertaining and emotional journey. Washington is at his best and Zemeckis offers an appropriate platform for the versatile actor to astonish the audience. I was quite impressed with the film and had only a few small complaints. First, there's some questionable scenes that go against realistic logic and make you scratch your head. Also, Flight's second act proves to be tiresome. While attempting to hammer home the dark and emotionally destitute state in which Whitaker function's, Zemeckis loses the natural momentum of the film. However, the director sets up for a strong finale and a gratifying resolution. Take away these minor blemishes and Flight is the prototypical awards season movie.

In addition to Zemeckis' Flight, Saturday also featured two solid films in the form of Yaron Zilberman's A Late Quartet and the documentary Brooklyn Castle. A Late Quartet survives and excels on the shoulders of its core actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Imogen Poots. As for the documentary Brooklyn Castle, the amazing real life story was both eye opening and uplifting. Proving to be one of the finest daily schedules at this year's film festival, Closing Night did not disappoint. Check back in a day or two for my entire festival recap where I dish out my ratings for each film I saw and I hand out some personal festival awards for acting and directing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

PFF: (Second) Friday Night Recap

It pains me to admit it, but my cold has gotten the best of me once again. Still feeling under the weather for the second Friday evening of the Philadelphia Film Festival, I chose to skip out on the highly touted foreign film Holy Motors. My coughing fits have not only been wearing on me, but I'm sure they've distracted the multitude of movie goers surrounding me in the theatres. I did, however, bite the bullet for the 10pm showing of Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral. As the son of famed director David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises and A History of Violence), Brandon's debut feature closely examined the over-obsession our culture has developed for celebrities. In a world where everyday people pay to be injected with the exact same strands of viruses as their favorite celebrities, Antiviral takes a magnified look at this imagined compulsion. What Cronenberg's first feature lacks in believability and realism, he makes up for it with intrigue and psychological madness. And although Antiviral proves to be a sluggish and drawn out movie experience, its aura of destruction and mayhem make it seem as though you're watching a car accident in the slowest of motions. Believe me, you can't look away.

A Look At Today:

While today marks the unofficial "Closing Night" of the Philadelphia Film Festival (there will be screenings all day tomorrow as well), I plan on getting a full day of movies under my belt. First up is the astonishing documentary Brooklyn Castle. Perhaps one of the films I was most eager to see, Brooklyn Castle takes an in-depth look into a public middle school where over 65% of students live below the poverty line. However, this same school is home to the most winning Chess team in the entire country. Although these students have been drawn to chess as a door to a better life, state budget cuts have threatened the school's ability to keep the program alive. Check out the trailer for Brooklyn Castle below.

My second feature of the day comes in the form of A Late Quartet, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener. Then, after a short break and reception party with special guest Robert Zemeckis, I will flock to the Zellerbach Theater on the University of Pennsylvania campus to see the director's newest film Flight. Starring Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who miraculously saves his plane from crashing after a major malfunction, Flight stands as this year's Closing Night feature. Check out the trailer for Flight by clicking below, and remember to keep coming back for recaps of what the festival has offered.

Friday, October 26, 2012

PFF: Thursday Recap

While still trying to get over this cold I've had the past few days, I couldn't resist seeing the three movies I had slated for Thursday at the Philadelphia Film Festival. Starting the second week of the festival in intellectual style, I found myself at the Ritz East in Old City at noon in order to catch the informative documentary The Atomic States of America. The piece of work examined the risk vs reward involved with building nuclear power plants to sustain future energy demands. Filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce open your eyes to the dangers of nuclear energy created by a laughable regulation system put in place by the United States government. Eye opening and compelling, The Atomic States of America was clearly my favorite film of the day. Next up was the independent film Future Weather by director Jenny Deller. Deller benefits from a strong collection of actresses, including a budding young star named Perla Haney-Jardine who steals the film from its first frame. Attempting to parallel the dysfunctional relationship between humans and the environment with a dysfunctional family living in rural America, Deller brings an original story to life. And although this isn't generally my "cup of tea", I was largely impressed by the director's camera work. Future Weather was filmed very well and the editing was stellar, therefore, I expect to continue to see impressive work from Jenny Deller in the future. Wrapping up my screenings for the day was the one-time Oscar dark horse Hyde Park on Hudson starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney. While I am as big a Bill Murray fan as any, I must admit that Hyde Park on Hudson left plenty to be desired. Bill Murray stars as FDR while the film dives into the former president's personal life. Laura Linney plays Roosevelt's 5th (or 6th, as even she doesn't know) cousin with whom, it was later discovered, he has an ongoing affair. Although the story was interesting and the acting was fine, Hyde Park on Hudson fails to resonate and lure in the audience. It becomes overly difficult to sell adultery to the crowd and have them become accepting of the ordeal. And while Hyde Park on Hudson clearly fails at the attempt, subtle humor and delightful acting help it sustain some semblance of life.

A Look At Today:

As we approach the second and final weekend of the 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival, I have two movies on the docket for Friday evening. First up is the highly praised foreign film Holy Motors, which I am very anxious to check out and see what all the hype is about. Holy Motors will then be followed by a fitting thriller/horror treat in the form of Antiviral.  Directed by first timer Brandon Cronenberg (son of filmmaker David Cronenberg), Antiviral follows a man who is in a race against time. After Syd March has been infected with the same virus that killed superstar Hannah Geist, he must solve the mystery surrounding her death in order to save his own life. After that synopsis, I'm sold! Check out the theatrical trailer for Antiviral below and remember to keep checking back for a quick glance into what the festival has in store and what it has already offered. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PFF: Wednesday Night Recap

Wednesday night movie watching at the 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival included a sold out screening to The Comedy starring Tim Heidecker. Clearly a polarizing film, The Comedy's diverse audience found a few sporadic walkouts capped off with a sustained and supportive round of applause as the credits rolled. Personally, I didn't know what to think about the movie. Rather than the typical narrative, The Comedy finds itself as a collage of funny moments pieced together with no identifiable plot. And while I definitely found myself laughing at bits and pieces of the film, I was otherwise let down by the lack of structure and purpose being displayed onscreen.

A Look At Today:

As I sit here writing this I wish I felt as energized as I should about the trio of movies I have in mind for today. However, this cold has me coughing quite a bit, which can only be irritating to myself and my fellow movie watchers sitting around me. But assuming I feel up to the challenge, today's first feature will be The Atomic States of America. In 2010, the U.S. announced the first construction of a nuclear power plant in over three decades. This documentary warns of the dangers associated with building such facilities. Next on the agenda is the indie film Future Weather. The movie follows a thirteen year old girl living in rural America who attempts to secretly make it on her own after her mother runs off and abandons her in order to pursue a lifelong dream. Closing out the trio of movies is the potential Oscar-nominated film Hyde Park on Hudson. Bill Murray stars as president Franklin D. Roosevelt as he plays host to the King and Queen of England just prior to the start of World War II. Check out the trailer for Hyde Park on Hudson by clicking below, and remember to keep coming back for more festival recaps.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PFF: Tuesday Night Recap

Since I began feeling under the weather on Monday night, I refused to let it put a damper on this year's Philadelphia Film Festival. Doing my best to recover by a busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday that I have planned, I've decided to take it easy during the middle of this week. However, one film I would NEVER think about missing is the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas which played yesterday evening. As the acclaimed directors of The Matrix trilogy, Andy and Lana Wachowski have attempted to raise the bar by adapting the award winning novel. Despite my initial reservations about the three hour spectacle, Cloud Atlas is a wondrous and fascinating tale of epic proportions. As a clear work of art that tells a grand story, Cloud Atlas warrants every ounce of your attention and commitment. Anything less is simply unacceptable. And although I don't view the film as a top tier awards season contender, Cloud Atlas still proves to be a thrilling and unforgettable journey. I'm already looking forward to its DVD release so that I can sit down and closely dissect each little nuance to an otherwise big picture.

A Look At Today:

I plan on taking it easy again today in hopes of a full recovery by tomorrow. That being said, the only film I plan on catching today is The Comedy starring Tim Heidecker. You can check out its strange but intriguing trailer below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

PFF: Monday Night Recap

Just as the Philadelphia Film Festival started to get into full swing, I get sick. An unfair consequence that leaves me thrusting a clenched fist into the air as I curse the gods for their cruel sense of humor. As a result of my sore throat, runny nose and sneezing, I sadly decided to shorten my Monday night film watching. I only managed to catch one film for the evening called Simon Killer (I'll have to catch Shanghai at another time). Having seen director Antonio Campos' first feature After School, starring the talented up-and-comer Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower), I wanted to know if his second effort could match the disturbing and creepy vein of its predecessor. Simon Killer watches its title character rummage through France manipulating people and feeding off of strangers like a parasite. Simon is clearly a broke and lonely sociopath who shacks up with a kind-hearted prostitute, only to get as much from her as he can before he moves on to the next victim of his mental illness. But be warned about the slightly inaccurate title, as Simon's actions rarely translate to onscreen violence. Instead, we're left watching his character exist in a dark and disturbing place as he bottoms out. I found Simon Killer to be a tantalizing character study, however, it moves at a crawling pace and never holds back on its over-the-top sex scenes. I expect Simon Killer to appeal more to the European masses than moviegoers in the United States. And unfortunately for its leading star Brady Corbet who does a stellar job in the film, I'm not sure that Simon Killer will do for his career what After School did for Ezra Miller's.

A Look At Today:

While I still feel under the weather as I write this, I'm deciding to take it easy today as well. Yet, there's a BIG title playing today (and only today) that I can't miss. Therefore, I'll still find myself at the festival today catching the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas. The epic sci-fi drama comes from the directors of The Matrix trilogy and I'm curious to see what their latest effort has to offer. Check out the trailer for Cloud Atlas below and remember to stay tuned for the latest in festival news and updates.

Monday, October 22, 2012

PFF: Sunday Recap

Although Sunday's lineup at the Philadelphia Film Festival didn't carry as much notability as Saturday's, there were still plenty of intriguing titles floating around the city. I found myself at both afternoon screenings at the Prince Music Theater once again. This time, I was screening a collection of Don Hertzfeldt's short films known as The Everything Will Be Okay Trilogy and Philadelphia's own Shane Bissett and his first feature length film This Time Tomorrow. Being the first time I've ever seen the work on animation guru Don Hertzfeldt, I was left somewhat perplexed and mystified by his creation. One day later and I'm still left mulling over how I felt about The Everything Will Be Okay Trilogy. It's definitely not a collection I would recommend to just anyone, but the clever display of animation certainly has a niche in the film community. As for Temple Grad Shane Bissett's movie This Time Tomorrow, I would preface by saying that I commend any young filmmaker's courage to put themselves and their work out there for the masses. With Bissett's feature there were aspects I enjoyed and others that I didn't. He does an admirable job at developing his characters, smaller ones included. On the other hand, I felt the film's plot was overly superficial with almost no subplots or side stories to work with. What you see is what you get. And as a result, the 80+ minute picture unravels slowly and ultimately loses the audience's attention in between its brighter moments. However, kudos to Mr Bissett and the release of his first full length feature. Hopefully the young filmmaker will return to his hometown festival in the future with a stronger and more fully developed piece of work that better represents his talented vision.

After taking a moment to regroup from the pair of films, I exited the VIP Lounge and headed to Jonathan Lisecki's Gayby at the Ritz East Theatre. Clearly my favorite film of the day, Gayby follows Jenn (played by Jenn Harris) and her best friend Matt (played by Matthew Wilkas), who happens to be homosexual. But when Jenn decides that being single and living in the city is getting her nowhere, she proposes an idea to Matt and the best friends decide to have a baby together. However, an untimely one night stand leaves Jenn uncertain if Matt is the father of the child or not. Laugh out loud funny and over the top in the vein of 1999's But I'm a Cheerleader, Gayby survives on its jokes alone. Although extremely likable, Lisecki's characters never break through the one-dimensional barrier and give us someone to really attach ourselves to. Yet, the jokes run rampant enough to get you through this well paced comedy that's enjoyable to watch.

A Look At Today:

On my schedule for tonight are Antonio Campos' Simon Killer and Mikael Hafstrom's Shanghai.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

PFF: Saturday Recap

Outside of Opening and Closing Nights at the Philadelphia Film Festival, the first Saturday always includes a fantastic lineup of movies. This year was no different, so I returned to the Prince Music Theater again for 9 hours and four consecutive film screenings. First up was the Sundance hit The Sessions starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. I've been told over and over again about the high caliber performances they both give in this stunning true story about a 38 year old virgin confined to an iron lung who seeks out a sex therapist to help him "do the deed". Hawkes is simply outstanding in his role and I'd be downright shocked if he weren't recognized come awards season. The Sessions was a touching, but often hilarious, film that succeeds at tugging on the heartstrings. The movie packs an enormous emotional punch and it sets the bar high (along with David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook) for the rest of the entire festival.

After The Sessions, many in the audience dried their eyes and joined me for the next feature on the schedule called Stand Up Guys. Roadside Attractions was nice enough to give the Philadelphia Film Festival a copy of Stand Up Guys months before it plans to hit theatres (January or February 2013), making our audience only the second in the world to have screened the movie. Exclusivity being my thing, I sat back and enjoyed another fine film starring the legendary trio of Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. Stand Up Guys follows Val (Pacino) as he is released from prison 28 years after a job gone wrong. Never squealing on his crew, he's greeted outside of the prison gates by his best friend Doc (Walken). The only issue being Doc has been ordered to kill Val by 10am the next day. The pair embark on one last crazy adventure that includes breaking their buddy Hirsch (Arkin) out of a retirement home, stealing a fancy sports car and helping a battered female stranger seek revenge against her attackers. Stand Up Guys was a strong feature that flashed glimpses of the Pacino of old. Keep an eye out for this one in early 2013.

The third title on my schedule was another movie, like The Sessions, garnering some Oscar buzz. Directed by the great Dustin Hoffman in his first attempt behind the camera, Quartet focuses on the crazy collection of retired musicians and opera singers living in Beecham House. This British comedy stars Maggie Smith as a famous opera singer who finds herself moving into the retirement facility which is also home to an ex-husband of hers named Reggie (played by Michael Gambon). The old pair of lovers struggle to put their past behind them in order to perform at Beecham House's annual Gala in hopes of boosting ticket sales to help save their retirement home. Quartet's brightest spots come from an excellent supporting turn given by Billy Connolly as the hysterical and still lustful (despite his old age) Beecham resident named Wilf. Quartet is simply a good movie never short on laughs, but Hoffman really struggles to offer those Oscar-worthy type of scenes necessary to make an impact during the awards season.

My Saturday evening concluded with a fourth and final feature called The Missing Piece: The Truth About the Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa. Obviously a documentary, The Missing Piece attempted to bring to life the true motive of Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian immigrant who stole Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa right off of the wall of the Louvre in France during 1911. For two whole years French police were baffled by the disappearance of the painting, with many believing it would never be recovered. However, in 1913 Vincenzo Peruggia migrated back to Italy where he was arrested for the theft and the painting was returned to Paris. But a larger question remained, why did Peruggia steal the Mona Lisa? Was it out of patriotism for his native country? Or perhaps for a huge financial gain? Then again, maybe he was just crazy? You'll have to check out The Missing Piece and discover the answer for yourself.

A Look At Today:

On the schedule for today are three lesser known films. They are The Everything Will Be Okay Trilogy, then Philadelphia's own Shane Bissett's (Temple University) feature length directorial debut This Time Tomorrow and finally Gayby. I'll be closing out the weekend on a lighter note, but remember to keep coming back for all of your 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival updates.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

PFF: Friday Night Recap

The Philadelphia Film Festival's Friday night at the Prince Music Theater in Center City was anything but low key. As the large audience packed into the theatre for David Chase's major motion picture debut Not Fade Away, it was clear that the excitement for this year's festival is clearly unprecedented. Unfortunately, the Soprano's creator gave the crowd a first effort that left plenty to be desired. With the anticipation for Not Fade Away rising through the roof, Chase's film offered no sense of direction. The picture fails to find a necessary purpose or a valued theme. Not Fade Away begins and ends as the type of meaningless story that you kindly smile and nod through. And although the film delivers some powerful moments throughout, Chase clearly struggles to settle on an appropriate conclusion. There were a few instances when I expected Not Fade Away's credits to begin rolling, however, I was left to continue pushing on through the muck. Lost within itself, Not Fade Away proved to be nothing more than a mediocre set of jumbled ideas and head scratching sequences.

Following Not Fade Away and playing as the final feature of the evening at the Prince Music Theater was Damon Maulucci and Keir Politz's Detonator. The film spans one evening in the lives of two former prominent punk scene musicians about a decade after their underground stardom came to a halt. Detonator offers an intriguing look into the struggles of musicians as they lose the battle to adulthood. The film resonated with me since I too was a musician playing in the Philly Punk Scene about a decade ago. Just as Maulucci and Philadelphia native Keir Politz demonstrate so well, there's an impenetrable urge for musicians to desperately cling onto their dream for as long as humanly possible. While the idea for Detonator is both original and genuine, the film follows a cyclic pattern where most of the second act feels redundant and its 90+ minute runtime begins to wear on the audience. However, Detonator concludes in a satisfying fashion that ultimately does the film justice. The feature is a solid effort from the pair of Columbia grads who are sure to continue branding innovative ideas through their film company Mortar Films.

A Look At Today:

On the docket for today is a string of four consecutive movies at the Prince Music Theater once again. The schedule is filled with big-name features and some sure fire Oscar bait. First up is The Sessions which premiered at Sundance this year and boasts awards season buzz for the performances given by John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) and Helen Hunt (Cast Away). The Sessions will be followed by Stand Up Guys starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. With a star-studded cast such as this, you can imagine my massive level of excitement. Then, my third film of the day is from a first time director who needs no introduction, Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman's Quartet is a British comedy about a retirement home for opera singers that has garnered tons of praise, especially for the performance of its leading star Maggie Smith. To conclude my four-feature day will be the documentary The Missing Piece, which tells the story of the infamous man who stole Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" from the Louvre in 1911. It should be a busy, but entertaining, day of film. Remember to keep in touch for the latest from the festival!

Friday, October 19, 2012

PFF: Opening Night Recap

The 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival kicked off in grand fashion last night at the Zellerbach Theatre on the University of Pennsylvania's campus. Getting the ball rolling was David O. Russell's latest feature Silver Linings Playbook, and the festival couldn't have asked for a more fitting Opening Night film. Truly encapsulating the aura of Philadelphia fandom, Silver Linings Playbook is a spectacular representation of our fine city. Starring Philadelphia native Bradley Cooper, David O. Russell's freshest piece of work is both downright hilarious and immensely heartfelt. Silver Linings Playbook is an exceptional example of superb filmmaking and David O. Russell surely has a hit on his hands. And once again, Philadelphia brings a sure-fire Oscar contender to the city's film festival. Expect a full review of the feature in the upcoming days.

A Look At Today:

On my schedule for today are Soprano's creator David Chase's own Not Fade Away and a Philadelphia based film called Detonator. Not Fade Away re-teams Chase with James Gandolfini as the father of a son who attempts to form a rock band and make it big during the 1960s. Set in suburban New Jersey, Not Fade Away marks David Chase's major motion picture debut. Remember to keep coming back for all the latest news and insight into this year's festival.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Philadelphia Film Festival Begins

Brace yourself Philadelphia, as Academy Award Nominee David O. Russell returns to the City of Brotherly Love for the Philadelphia Film Festival's Opening Night feature Silver Linings Playbook. The picture was shot locally throughout Delaware County and, since its award-winning world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, critics have been raving about Silver Linings Playbook and the Oscar hopes that it's sure to carry. I can't wait for the festivities which begin tonight at 8pm at the Zellerbach Theatre at the University of Pennsylvania's campus and continue on through Sunday October 28th. Here's a short look at some of the movies I'm slated to catch during the first weekend of the event:

Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a former teacher fresh out of the mental institution and court ordered to shack up with his parents Pat Sr. (played by Robert De Niro) and Dolores (played by Jacki Weaver). While Pat has every intention of getting better and reconciling with his ex-wife, things get complicated when he meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence) with problems of her own. Check out the theatrical trailer for Silver Linings Playbook below.

The Sessions

John Hawkes stars as Mark O'Brien, a 38 year old man confined to an iron lung and determined to lose his virginity. Through the guidance of a priest (played by William H. Macy) and with the help of a sex therapist (played by Helen Hunt), Mark sets out to make his dream come true. Check out the trailer of The Sessions below.

Stand Up Guys

Val (played by Al Pacino) has just been released from prison after 28 years for refusing to rat out a criminal associate. His best friend Doc (played by Christopher Walken) picks him up and the pair re-team with another old friend named Hirsch (played by Alan Arkin). The old gang set out on a wild night for one last hurrah before Doc takes his final assignment, killing his best friend Val. Check out the trailer for Stand Up Guys below.

These are far from the only movies I have planned for the first weekend of the festival. Check back regularly to catch the latest on what I've seen and what I have coming up. It's a great way to stay connected and get the latest info on some Oscar hopefuls such as Cloud Atlas, Hyde Park on Hudson, Quartet, Flight and many more. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teaser Trailer: Carrie

We all know the general rule of thumb, Hollywood remakes are often brutal mockeries of original artistic genius. However, by just looking at the first batch of images and the newly released teaser trailer for Kimberly Peirce's (Boys Don't Cry) re-adaptation of 1976's Carrie, how can you avoid the excitement? Just to clarify, Peirce's film isn't necessarily a "remake". 2013's Carrie has been adapted from Stephen King's novel itself, rather than the original Brian De Palma feature. This all sounds like semantics, I know. Maybe though, Peirce and her talented leading duo of Chloe Grace-Moretz (Let Me In) and Julianne Moore (Crazy Stupid Love) can actually pull this off. Here's to hoping that it's possible. Carrie is tentatively scheduled for a March 15th, 2013 release. Check out its teaser trailer below.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Double Dipping: Sinister and Butter

Film: Sinister

Starring: Ethan Hawke (Brooklyn's Finest)

Director: Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)

Genre: Horror

Scott Derrickson's Sinister finds its way to theatres everywhere this weekend, and the R-Rated horror film doesn't disappoint. Ethan Hawke stars as Ellison Oswalt, a struggling true crime novelist who has failed to match the acclaim from the first book he wrote nearly 10 years ago. While relocating his family closer to the scene of the crime, Ellison purposely omits the fact that they're actually purchasing the home where an entire family was murdered (with the exception of one daughter who has gone missing).

Sinister follows in the wake of other supernatural horror movies we've grown to appreciate over the past decade such as The Ring and The Woman in Black. Ethan Hawke is a more than qualified actor and his performance certainly gives a sense of validity to the film. Furthermore, Derrickson (who also penned the screenplay) does a fantastic job of dropping subtle hints all along the way to the movie's satisfying conclusion. Although Sinister finds itself developing in the mold of horror flicks we've seen before, the scares are frequent and the story is creative enough to separate itself as its own entity.

Despite a sense of originality and some quality scares, Sinister has a few noticeable downsides. The film slowly progresses its plot through the use of constant redundancy. The audience dives deeper and deeper into the story through the use of "found footage" by Hawke's character. And no matter how terrifying these reel to reel images are, there's still a massive sense of repetition involved with Sinister. But all in all, Sinister's glowing aspects far outweigh its deficiencies. Thus making Sinister a rather enjoyable horror flick that I recommend seeing.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Film: Butter

Starring: Jennifer Garner (Juno), Olivia Wilde (People Like Us) and Yari Shahidi

Director: Jim Field Smith (She's Out of My League)

Genre: Comedy

I first came across Jim Field Smith's Butter almost one calendar year ago at the 20th annual Philadelphia Film Festival. As a late entry, Butter's credits rolled to an overwhelming applause by the surprisingly satisfied crowd. Like me, many other moviegoers in attendance really didn't know what to expect from the comedy. But without a doubt, we were all satisfied with one of 2012's funniest films.

Butter follows Laura Pickler (played by Garner) and her butter-carving legend of a husband Bob (played by Modern Family's own Ty Burrell). When the butter-carving community respectfully asks Bob to step away from competition to make way for the next great sculptor, whoever that may be, Laura goes on the offensive and decides to take up the hobby herself. Refusing to give up the glory that comes along with being the wife of the greatest butter carver in the world, Laura enters the competition. In a quest for keeping the gold medal in her family, Laura's only roadblock is an African American foster child named Destiny (played by Shahidi).

As a valiant challenger to Ted as the year's most politically incorrect film, Butter gets by on an over-the top screenplay and a constant ambush of outlandish scenes. The satire is a well paced 90 minute joy ride that never bores. Although the R-Rated comedy progresses nicely, it attempts to squeeze in a rather sentimental side as well. But it's easy to look past the schmaltz and recognize Butter for what it truly is, a fun-filled viewing experience.

Don't be alarmed by the rather poor reception that Butter has received. Despite the lack of critical acclaim, Butter is a hilarious comedy that finds itself alongside some of the year's best. Mainly available on Video on Demand, you won't be let down by this rental. So if you're spending the night sitting in and looking for something funny to watch, I highly recommend giving Butter a chance.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hitchcock Trailer

As a very late entry in the upcoming Award's Season chase for Best Picture, Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock has finally introduced itself to the world. With the trailer we're greeted by an aging Alfred Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (played by Helen Mirren) as they overcome obstacle after obstacle to bring to life one of cinema's greatest films, Psycho. Hitchcock is due for a late-November limited release in the U.S., but you can check its trailer out below.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Seven Psychopaths

Film: Seven Psychopaths

Starring: Colin Farrell (Total Recall), Sam Rockwell (Conviction) and Christopher Walken (Kill the Irishman)

Director: Martin McDonagh (In Bruges)

U.S. Release: October 12th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 109 minutes

We've all heard the phrase, "sophomore slump" before. It often refers to a sub-par second performance given by an athlete, author or even a Hollywood director. After a successful Oscar Nominated effort for his debut film In Bruges (albeit for its screenplay), Martin McDonagh returns with his follow up feature Seven Psychopaths. Boasting a star-studded cast with the likes of Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson, it goes without saying that McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths is anything but a "sophomore slump".

Marty (played by Farrell) is struggling with the screenplay for his next movie "Seven Psychopaths", but with the right kind of inspiration it could be a masterpiece. Yet, when Marty gets caught up in a dog-napping fiasco with his best friend Billy (played by Rockwell) and Billy's partner in crime Hans (played by Walken), escaping a maniacal cold blooded killer like Charlie (played by Harrelson) may be all the inspiration Marty needs.

Seven Psychopaths is the type of imaginative and twisted off-the-wall comedy that resonates with audiences for a lifetime. Behind the creative genius of writer and director Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths gets by on a clever script, crafty dialogue and a collection of gifted actors. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of McDonagh's second feature is his ability to engineer multi-dimensional characters that the audience naturally clings to. Through the use of brilliant narrative and an onslaught of hysterical scenarios, Seven Psychopaths becomes a timeless comedy that clearly requires multiple viewings. Another aid in developing such strong characters comes from the versatile ensemble that McDonagh brings together. Most notable is Sam Rockwell who offers up an Oscar-style performance as Marty's best friend and dog napper extraordinaire, Billy. Rockwell takes control of the feature and commands the audience's attention with every precisely timed punchline and perfectly branded nuance. Despite Rockwell's elevated level of performance, Seven Psychopaths succeeds because of the entire collective work of its talented cast. The manner in which Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson feed off of Rockwell and each other is nothing short of groundbreaking. Their witty back and forth banter is absolutely hysterical and almost rhythmic. McDonagh manages to bring together a cast for the ages and a script that's perfectly complementary to this group of actors. And as a result, Seven Psychopaths finds itself as this year's best comedy.

In order to find any blemishes with McDonagh's second effort, you really have to get nit-picky. One obvious flaw rests in the complete lack of realism to the story and its circumstances. However, we're dealing with a comedy here so, in retrospect, how believable does the film really need to be? In fact, one of the most admirable qualities of Seven Psychopaths is its ability to transcend normalcy and take you to a world far crazier than the typical movie experience. Furthermore, a more unforgivable flaw occurs in the brief post-credits scene that McDonagh unfortunately decides to include in the film. This short-lived pay phone scene is awkward, strange and all together out of place. Completely unnecessary, it's worth noting that the director could have done without that one. Otherwise, Seven Psychopaths is a wild, energetic and insanely fun time.

Many writers and directors find difficulty in elevating their work after a successful debut. McDonagh not only reaches the same level as his first feature In Bruges, he far exceeds it. Seven Psychopaths only reaffirms McDonagh's creativity and ingenuity among Hollywood's best and brightest, illustrating that the writer/director has a long and prosperous career ahead of himself. Seven Psychopaths is never short on laughs and the comedy proudly sets the bar for its genre. Superbly original, Seven Psychopaths hits theatres everywhere on Friday October 12th and it's definitely the type of laugh out loud experience that you won't want to miss.

Stars: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: A-

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Double Dipping: Arbitrage and House at the End of the Street

Film: Arbitrage

Starring: Richard Gere (Brooklyn's Finest), Brit Marling (Another Earth) and Susan Sarandon (Jeff, Who Lives at Home)

Director: Nicholas Jarecki

Genre: Drama/Thriller

After a successful showing at this year's indie-packed Sundance Film Festival, Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage is a fitting film for our country's current economic situation. Arbitrage follows a hedge fund magnate named Robert Miller (played by Gere) who seemingly has it all. As we are introduced to Miller on his 60th birthday, the successful businessman and devoted patriarch appears to be living the American dream. However, we soon catch a glimpse into the darker side of Miller's life where an adulterous affair and dirty accounting tricks to protect his company's image show a desperate man. When a terrible accident leads to potential homicide charges, the financial guru needs to outsmart a local investigator (played by Tim Roth) who's right on his trail.

Jarecki's thriller Arbitrage is a well paced independent film loaded with top tier acting and a solid screen play. Taut in every way imaginable, you can't helped but get sucked into this venomous story of greed and murder. Gere, along with supporting cast such as Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and rising star Brit Marling, help elevate Arbitrage to the upper echelon of its class. In addition to the well rounded cast, Arbitrage boasts a constantly progressing plot with smart and crafty dialogue. This is hands down one of the most refined screenplays of the year. Fitting to the times we're living in, Arbitrage is still playing in select theatres and available on Video on Demand. This gripping financial thriller is clearly worth checking out.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Film: House at the End of the Street

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) and Elisabeth Shue (Hope Springs)

Director: Mark Tonderai (Hush)

Genre: Horror/Thriller

While it feels difficult to classify House at the End of the Street as a horror film, I have to accept the genre for what it has regrettably become. The slasher films of old have been pushed aside as Hollywood has paved way for the newer PG-13 style horror/thriller that is commonly marketed to a teenage audience. Business suits and dollar signs have stolen my beloved genre and replaced it with mediocre slop such as House at the End of the Street. While I will begin by saying that House at the End of the Street is by no means the worst of its brand, the feature still offers no redeeming qualities. Centering on a broken mother/daughter relationship, the new style horror flick follows Elissa (played by Lawrence) and Sarah (played by Shue) as they upgrade into a rural, more suburban, neighborhood. Living in what can only be described as the house of their dreams, they discover that everything isn't perfect with their new home. Unfortunately, their neighbor's house was the setting for a brutal murder a few years back. And even worse, secrets still remain there.

Director Mark Tonderai's House at the End of the Street is cheap on scares and attempts to be far more creative than is ever needed. The good old fashion horror scares have been replaced by diluted thrills and an abundance of plot lines that are completely unnecessary. Hollywood has become consumed by its obsession with giving a purpose and meaning to everything and everyone. Whatever happened to classics such as John Carpenter's Halloween? Why can't we just have an escaped mental patient looking to murder for no reason at all (recall that the secret behind Michael Myers and Laurie Strode isn't revealed until the sequel)? There's an obvious lack of creativity in the horror genre and all these lackluster attempts at reinventing the wheel end up falling flat on their face. The latest such release, House at the End of the Street, proves to be no different. Despite its talented lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, and her most valiant efforts to deliver something worthwhile, House at the End of the Street is just another stereotypical run-of-the-mill teen horror flick. By missing this one, you aren't missing anything at all.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C

Friday, October 5, 2012

Trailers: Broken City and The Guilt Trip

Academy Award winner Russell Crowe and Oscar Nominee Mark Wahlberg return to the big screen in the crime thriller Broken City. Wahlberg stars as an ex-cop trailing the wife of New York City's Mayor (played by Crowe), who ultimately finds himself caught up in a much larger scandal. Scheduled to hit theatres in January 2013, you can check out the trailer for Broken City below.

On a much lighter note, the trailer for Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand's mother/son comedy The Guilt Trip has been released. While attempting to sell his latest invention, Rogen stars as an amateur inventor who decides to take his single mother (played by Streisand) on the cross country business trip. Filled with laughs galore, you can check out the trailer for the Christmas release The Guilt Trip below.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Film: Argo

Starring: Ben Affleck (The Town), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Bryan Cranston (Drive)

Director: Ben Affleck (The Town)

U.S. Release: October 12th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Runtime: 120 minutes

Sometimes it's easy to forget, but Ben Affleck already has an Oscar win under his belt. He took home a Golden Statue in 1998, along with co-writer Matt Damon, for his Good Will Hunting screenplay. But despite his early career honor as a screenwriter, Affleck has managed to find his niche in the director's chair. With a phenomenal debut in the form of 2007's Gone Baby Gone and a successful follow such as The Town, Affleck quickly found himself among the elite directors in Hollywood. However, with his third directorial effort, Argo, slated to hit theatres everywhere on Friday October 12th, Affleck graces us with his finest work to date.

Set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when militants scaled the fences and stormed the U.S. Embassy, Argo follows CIA exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) and the efforts he put forth in rescuing six Americans who escaped the kidnapping. While these six men and women discreetly took shelter in the Canadian Ambassador's house in Tehran, the U.S. and Canada were in a race against time to try to rescue them covertly.

Ben Affleck's Argo is a flawless instant classic that molds together brilliant direction, a dynamic screenplay and skilled acting. At the helm of the feature, Affleck uses editing techniques such as quick cuts to help build the action and suspense throughout the duration of the film. Furthermore, the director intertwines real life footage with his own reenactments, and the similarities are amazing. Affleck truly makes you feel as if you're reliving the horrific standoff. Through his efforts, he creates an aura of authenticity that's vital to the success of the film. He's quickly proven that he's a visionary director with a keen appreciation for detail. I've become very impressed with his work and I firmly place him among Hollywood's finest. In addition to Affleck's directorial efforts, perhaps screenwriter Chris Terrio is the unsung hero behind Argo. Boasting the smallest of credentials, Terrio crafts a screenplay for the ages. Using the most precise combinations of comedy and drama, Argo perfectly fluctuates between a tension-filled thriller and a surprisingly lighthearted affair. Argo is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with come Awards Season. Its strengths begin with the foundation of its script and flow all the way to the top with the vision of its director, Ben Affleck.

Another commendable aspect of Argo is the extraordinary cast used to bring this astonishing true story to the big screen. Led once again by Ben Affleck as the film's central character Tony Mendez, Argo actually sees its most shining characters in the form of its supporting cast. Most notable is a shoe-in Oscar worthy performance given by Alan Arkin. Arkin stars as Hollywood Producer Lester Siegel who helps generate buzz for the fake movie being used in Mendez's covert operation. He gives a performance every bit as strong as his Oscar Nominated turn in 2007's Little Miss Sunshine. Arkin and his onscreen counterpart John Goodman are used like chess pieces to complement Argo's more compelling moments. Goodman, who portrays real life Hollywood Makeup Artist John Chambers, teams up with Arkin to provide quick wit and jocular dialogue essential to balancing out the ebb and flow of the movie. In addition to the pair of funny men, Bryan Cranston gives a stellar standout performance as Jack O'Donnell, Tony Mendez's boss in the CIA. To Argo's benefit, Affleck makes the right decision by never attempting to take over the screen. While the wise actor/director shines when it's needed, ultimately he allows the film's interesting plot lines to lead the way. In doing so, he gives his colorful supporting cast every opportunity to fill in all of the empty spaces and completely round out the feature.

All in all, Argo is an amazing true story that manages to translate perfectly to the big screen. Affleck goes above and beyond both of his previous efforts and offers the best film I've seen in years. Argo is a faultless masterpiece and sure to make some noise in the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor categories at the 2013 Oscars. Arriving in theatres nationwide on October 12th, Argo is the "must-see" picture of the year. Be sure not to miss it.

Stars: 4 stars out of 4

Grade: A+

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

September 2012 Poll Recap

Recognizing the release of Lawless, September's Poll Question of the month revolved around rising star Tom Hardy. The question asked, "Which Tom Hardy film is your favorite"? The votes have been tallied and in a hard fought battle Christopher Nolan's Inception reigned supreme. Inception managed to lead the way with only 33% of the total votes. Nolan's 2012 summer blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises finished in a close second with 26% of all votes. Other films receiving votes were Lawless, Warrior and Bronson which all tied with 13%.

Paying tribute to Ben Affleck's October release Argo, be sure to vote for this month's poll question which is located in the upper right hand corner of the website. October's question asks, "How would you rate Ben Affleck as a director"?

The Lone Ranger Trailer

Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp team up yet again for The Long Ranger, which is scheduled to reach theatres in 2013. With the newly released trailer, we get to see Armie Hammer as The Long Ranger and Depp as his loyal Native American companion Tonto. With the trailer we get to see Depp in what is sure to be another unforgettable role. Enjoy the trailer for The Long Ranger below.