Wednesday, July 31, 2013

American Hustle and The Counselor Trailers

David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook had quite the showing during last year's awards season, and the director returns in 2013 with his caper film American Hustle. Boasting a complete all-star cast including Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Renner, American Hustle has all the makings of another Oscar-caliber film from David O. Russell. Although it feels more like a teaser trailer, check out what you can expect from American Hustle.

Much has been made about Ridley Scott's early awards season favorite, The Counselor. Michael Fassbender stars as a lawyer who finds himself completely over-matched after getting involved with drug dealers. With Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz on board, The Counselor could be Scott's return to Oscar glory.Check out the first trailer for The Counselor by clicking below.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Drinking Buddies

Film: Drinking Buddies

Starring: Olivia Wilde (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone), Jake Johnson (Safety Not Guaranteed) and Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect)

Director: Joe Swanberg (V/H/S)

U.S. Release: August 23rd, 2013 (Limited Release - Rated R)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 90 minutes

It doesn't matter if it's a painter, musician or even a filmmaker, any artist trying to break into a specific scene deserves an enormous amount of credit for putting himself/herself out there. Opening yourself up for criticism is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. Writer/director Joe Swanberg has worked diligently over the past 7-8 years attempting to make a name for himself in the film industry. With his most notable work coming in the form of a director gig for one segment in the indie horror hit V/H/S, Swanberg hopes his latest effort, Drinking Buddies, can put him on the map.

Kate (played by Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are co-workers at a craft brewery in Chicago. Both are in committed relationships with separate people, however, these flirtatious friends can't escape their undeniable connection with one another. When a weekend alone together tests their boundaries, Kate and Luke recognize that they must either act on their feelings or put an end to these mind games once and for all.

Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies is a 90 minute marathon that examines the inner-workings of an opposite-sex friendship. While the subject matter is genuine and heartfelt, the young director's delivery is both sloppy and uneventful. For starters, the feature's main characters make it far too difficult for the audience to desire a connection with them. Playing out like a childish and awkward middle school relationship, the sexual tension between Kate and Luke becomes too uncomfortable and tiresome for any moviegoer to invest their energy. In addition to the irritating mind games, Drinking Buddies offers little to no story at all. Clearly a character study about these two immature co-workers, Swanberg's newest release fails to capture a worthwhile identity.

Although the film never reaches its full potential, the blame doesn't fall on the shoulders of its well-rounded cast. Olivia Wilde stars and even shines at times in her leading role. This is the first time that Wilde has ever legitimately caught my attention by stealing a scene, and it happens more than once here. Furthermore, her male counterpart, Jake Johnson, continues to reinforce the notion that he can be an effective in carrying a major motion picture. Anna Kendrick also deserves a shout-out for her adorable supporting role. She has a knack for lighting up the screen whenever she's given the opportunity. But despite a strong collection of performances from his cast, Swanberg's flimsy story and awkward vibe make Drinking Buddies a hard sell.

One interesting fact to point out is Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies is a largely improvised film. And as I mentioned earlier, the writer/director should be applauded for his efforts in pulling off something that's extremely difficult. Yet, the truth remains that Drinking Buddies is frequently uncomfortable and often irritating. I understand the challenges of making a mainly improvised film, yet, there's nothing better than a well-written story. Unfortunately, there isn't one here.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C

Friday, July 26, 2013

12 Years a Slave and (NEW) Gravity Trailers

Just last week we featured a look inside of this year's crop of Oscar-contending films (Part One and Part Two). Since then, there's been an onslaught of trailers for many of this Fall and Winter's most anticipated releases. One possible Academy Award hopeful is Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. Following the real life story of Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York during the pre-Civil War era who was abducted and sold into slavery down south. McQueen's newest effort centers on the 12 year struggle that Northup endured while fighting to stay alive and regain his freedom. Starring an A-list cast including Brad Pitt, Paul Giamati, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, check out the trailer for 12 Years a Slave below.

While Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity debuted a teaser trailer months ago, the film has finally begun to release some new footage for audiences to see. With his latest offering we experience, first-hand, the intensity and torment of a space mission that goes terribly wrong. Although many are already branding Cuaron's Gravity as this year's Life of Pi, I have much higher hopes than that. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts hopelessly lost in outer space, check out the newest trailer from Alfonso Cuaron's Oscar-hopeful, Gravity.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hollywood Headlines 7/23/13

Over the course of the past week things have been stirring in Hollywood. First and foremost, geek-loyal fans of Star Wars can climb off of the tall bridges and building ledges as Lucasfilm has officially denounced the wide-spread rumors that director J.J. Abrams was jumping ship on Star Wars: Episode VII (more info here courtesy of Until Abrams confirms anything, it's safe to assume that he will helm the beloved franchises next installment.

Despite the fact that Man of Steel premiered this summer to mixed reviews, director Zack Snyder wasted no time generating buzz for the film's sequel. While a follow-up feature was quickly assumed after the movie's enormous opening weekend, Snyder upped the ante by confirming that his Superman sequel will also feature the DC character, Batman. By the hints floating around Comic-Con, the next addition will be billed something along the lines of Superman vs Batman ... yes, a battle between the two heroes (more info here courtesy of Entertainment Weekly). Furthermore, it's been reported that the DC hero Flash will receive his own film in 2016 and a Justice League super-installment in 2017.

When word broke that funny-man Sacha Baron Cohen would tackle the flamboyant role of rock-star Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biopic about the Queen vocalist, I was legitimately excited. However, Baron has officially dropped off of the film and rumors are circulating that it has to do with a clash between Mercury's former band members and their desire for a cleaner and more refined PG-13 project (more info here courtesy of With an Oscar-bait collection of writers and possible directors, Cohen must have been really upset if he walked away from this potential Best Actor opportunity. 

Finally, Harvey Weinstein's well documented dispute with the MPAA and their decision to refuse The Weinstein Company the rights to name their upcoming release, The Butler, after rival company Warner Bros. argued ownership of the title (from an outdated comedy short) has come to an end. After taking his case to the court of public opinion with an outspoken campaign against the initial decision, the MPAA has decided to overturn their ruling ... well, sort of. The feature, which will most likely be titled Lee Daniels' The Butler, has been given the permission to use the word "butler" in the title (more info here courtesy of While this petty foul play between rival companies is clearly entertaining, truth is the bickering does nothing to benefit the industry whatsoever.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Saving Mr. Banks Trailers

To many, Academy Award Winner Jennifer Lawrence will best be remembered for her 2012 role in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. However, it was Lawrence's The Hunger Games that ultimately surpassed the $400 million mark in domestic box office revenue. Just a year later and Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen in the highly anticipated sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Check out the trailer for Lawrence's follow-up film which is due out in November.

Due out in Mid-December is the Oscar hopeful Saving Mr. Banks starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. The film centers around Walk Disney (played by Hanks) and his desire to purchase the rights to the children's book series Mary Poppins in order to make a film about its title character. Yet, the author Pamela Travers (played by Thompson) has her reservations about making the deal. This family-oriented drama looks to recapture the wonder and magic of the beloved childhood classic. Check out the trailer for Saving Mr. Banks below.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Conjuring

Film: The Conjuring

Starring: Vera Farmiga (Source Code), Patrick Wilson (Young Adult) and Lili Taylor (Being Flynn)

Director: James Wan (Insidious)

U.S. Release: July 19th, 2013 (Rated R)

Genre: Horror

Runtime: 112 minutes

James Wan is a horror enthusiast, plain and simple. The director of the original Saw and Insidious has spent all of his rather young career refusing to break from the norm. He's arguably as dedicated to his craft as any other director out there. The only problem being that his craft comes in the form of horror movies. A genre that's often disregarded and kicked to the curb as if it were a piece of trash on the street. As a horror director, it proves difficult to garner the appropriate attention that you may actually deserve. Well finally, after years of providing quality scares to audiences all around the world, James Wan's The Conjuring has become the main attraction.

The Conjuring follows the real life story of famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they work diligently to help rid the Perron family of an evil and demonic presence that's terrorizing their newly purchased farmhouse.

While it's easy to write off such a bland and generic premise to a scary movie, it's a simplistic approach that actually helps Wan's latest effort resonate so well with moviegoers. Much like the horror classics that I grew up loving such as John Carpenter's Halloween, Wan has finally begun to realize that sometimes it's a lot scarier to give a little less. And as a result, The Conjuring succeeds by allowing the audience to frighten itself. In his similarly based earlier work, Insidious, Wan showed a lot of promise with his attention to key horror elements such as sound, suspenseful build-ups and successful timing. However, where he shows a dramatic improvement over his earlier paranormal effort is in his restraint. With Insidious, Wan demonstrated a lackluster need to give an overly detailed and contrived explanation for the evil presence in the film. An unnecessary but often forced fatal flaw for many scary movies. Yet, in The Conjuring, the director shifts his focus from the origins of the demon to the characters themselves, and it pays off handsomely.

Now, for as much as I thoroughly enjoyed The Conjuring from start to finish, there are a few issues that arise with the film. For example, there aren't many distinct differences between James Wan's newest release and the other dozens of paranormal movies that have found their way to the big screen over the last decade. It's a difficult sub-genre to find a sense of originality. But despite the deja vu feeling that you've seen plenty of the same before, The Conjuring elevates its game by crafting meaningful characters and offering a solid collection of fine actors and actresses. The performances aren't groundbreaking, but they're all stellar and convincing enough to carry the film. Moreover with The Conjuring's diluted sense of originality, Wan tries to mimic the the comedic elements from last year's horror release The Cabin in the Woods. Characters such as the Warren's helper Drew and the police officer Brad are both meant to lighten the mood at times. I didn't find them to be necessary to the film at all and Wan could have done without them. However, The Conjuring ultimately leapfrogs all of the blemishes surrounding its creative shortcomings and wins the audience over with its clever scare tactics and strong performances.

Let me be frank, this is by no means an amazing film. In fact, most horror movies aren't. But if you enjoy a good scare and you can tolerate some of the awful talkers and laughing-to-hide-their-fear people that are guaranteed to flock to the theatre for this one, then I highly recommend taking a chance with The Conjuring. It's well paced and delivers some really interesting special effects that are worthy of praise. With high expectations, even I wasn't disappointed.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

DVD Outlook: July 2013

While June's DVD selections were extremely mediocre, July's take a small step forward. With many middling releases as well, July's biggest boost comes from the #1 selection on my Top 5 of 2013 (so far) list. Here are some DVD releases you should look forward to this month:

Trance - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)

As my favorite film of 2013 (so far), director Danny Boyle's Trance is a mind-bending and spellbinding journey into the world of hypnosis. Boyle, who is best known for directing hits such as Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Trainspotting, places the audience inside of an art-heist gone wrong. And when the thieves' insider, Simon (played by James McAvoy), can't remember where he stashed the valuable piece of art, they must resort to hypnosis. Backed by Boyle's always stylish directing and a collaboration of great performances from McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson, Trance is one of 2013's early-year highlights.  (JULY 23RD)

42 - Not Yet Reviewed - (No full review available)

While I'm doing something here that I RARELY ever do, I'm going out on a limb and recommending Brian Helgeland's 42 without having seen it myself. I plan on checking out this biopic of Jackie Robinson and his breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball very soon. With my first trip ever to MLB's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY scheduled for this weekend, now seems as good a time as any to check out 42. Despite the fact that I haven't seen the film, I've heard only average to good reviews and I anticipated that any fan of sports movies and drama will be able to find a silver lining in the movie. (JULY 16TH)

Evil Dead - 2 and a half stars out of 4 - (No full review available)

As a huge fan of horror movies, I was skeptical about Fede Alvarez's remake of the cult classic, Evil Dead. However, I was shocked to experience a terrifying and most certainly over the top horror extravaganza. If you love gore, violence and some of the freakiest things you'll ever see in a mainstream movie, then Evil Dead is right up your alley. When five friends in a remote cabin discover a mysterious book and unknowingly summon an evil demon living in the woods, their survival feel highly unlikely. Although the film is clearly overbearing, especially in its finale, there's still more than enough for any true horror fan to enjoy. (JULY 16TH)

Honorable Mention: For anyone who doesn't mind catching a foreign film, I am recommending Ron Morales' Filipino thriller, Graceland (7/23), as well as Ken Scott's french-spoken Canadian film, Starbuck (7/23). In fact, Starbuck has been remade into an American movie being released this November starring Vince Vaughn called Delivery Man. And finally, my last recommendation for the month is one I give with many reservations. Spring Breakers (7/9) is a trippy and stylish film that is sure to alienate many and please a few. If you think it could be something you'd enjoy, check out my review and take a chance on it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Out of the Furnace and Old Boy (Red Band) Trailers

Just last week Reel True owner, Greg Rouleau, and myself took a look at many of the big-time Oscar contenders in our Oscar Preview Part One and Oscar Preview Part Two. As we published the posts, the first trailer appeared for what looks to be a sure-fire contender during the winter months with Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace. Christian Bale stars as Russell Baze, a small town man who is forced to take matters into his own hands after local law enforcement refuses to investigate the disappearance of his brother (played by Casey Affleck). Also starring Woody Harrelson in what looks to be a spectacular villainous role, check out the trailer for Out of the Furnace below.

Scheduled to hit theatres just in time for the Halloween holiday is Spike Lee's Oldboy starring Josh Brolin. The remake of the South Korean film of the same name follows a man (Brolin) who was held hostage for 20 years only to inexplicably be released back into the world. But once the man is given his freedom, he embarks on an obsessive mission to seek vengeance on his former captor. Check out the Red Band trailer for Spike Lee's Oldboy below.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oscar Preview (Part Two)

Yesterday we examined the big-named Oscar-contenders that are scheduled for releases in September, October and November. Looking back on recent history, however, it's clear to see that December is always the busiest month for Oscar-caliber releases. Here's a look at what films you need to keep an eye out for in December 2013.


Dallas Buyers Club – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen or heard about Matthew McConaughey’s massive weight-loss for the role of an HIV-infected Texas electrician named Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Dallas Buyers Club”. Woodroof is known for battling the medical establishment and drug companies in the 1980s, as well as his search for alternative methods to treat the virus. If one thing’s for sure, it’s “ugly-ing up” and physically commiting to a role like this gets you brownie points with the Academy. (Dec 6)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): McConaughey (Lead Actor), Jared Leto (Supporting Actor).

Inside Llewyn Davis - The Coen Brothers always find themselves in the Oscar mix, and after taking the Jury Grand Prize at Cannes and rave reviews from those lucky enough to catch it in France, "Inside Llewyn Davis" looks to be headed for a 3rd straight Best Picture nom for Joel and Ethan, and the 4th in their past 5 films.  Let's not forget the John Goodman good-luck factor, as the big man has starred in the past two Best Picture winners. (Dec 6)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Oscar Isaac (Lead Actor), Carey Mulligan (Supporting Actress).

Out of the Furnace – Writer/director Scott Cooper’s (“Crazyheart”) thriller, “Out of the Furnace”, offers a gripping premise and an intriguing cast. The extremely talented Christian Bale stars as Russell Baze, a man who is forced to take matters into his own hands after law enforcement fails to search for his missing brother Rodney (played by Casey Affleck). With Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker on board as well, we could have a huge surprise on our hands. (Dec 6)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Bale (Lead Actor), Harrelson (Supporting Actor).

Saving Mr Banks  - The second of Tom Hanks lead contenders is John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks".  Hancock's 2009 film "The Blind Side" was a somewhat surprise Best Picture nominee, although it benefitted from a year where the nominees were stretched to a mandatory 10 films.  “Saving Mr. Banks”, however, looks like another family-friendly story that could truly earn its spot in the best of the year. (Dec 13)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Emma Thompson (Lead Actress), Tom Hanks (Supporting Actor).

The Monuments Men - One thing to remember when prognosticating awards season contenders is that things could change in the blink of an eye. Without trailers for many of these films,  a lot is being based off the pedigree of the casts and crews. Critical bashings, poor box-office or even controversial content can quickly derail a film’s chances. Being an early frontrunner isn't always a good thing, (see: “Cold Mountain”, “Dreamgirls”, “Les Miserables”), but the clear early favorite for 2013 has to be "The Monuments Men". Another historical thriller, much like last year’s Best Picture winner "Argo", could again find favor with the Academy, and you can be assured that you'll see "From the producers of Argo" in the marketing plan. With Oscar winners Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Matt Damon alongside Bill Murray, and.....JOHN GOODMAN, look out for this one. (Dec. 18)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): George Clooney (Lead Actor), Matt Damon and John Goodman (Supporting Actor).  

American Hustle - It's difficult to bet against David O. Russell today, with two acting Oscars under his belt, along with Best Picture/Director nods for his previous two films, “American Hustle” reads like an O. Russell All-Star extravaganza. Bringing together "The Fighter"s Christian Bale and Amy Adams, and "Silver Linings Playbook"s Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, there's no reason to think we won't be hearing about this one when nominations are announced.  Bale plays a con-man that's forced to work with an FBI Agent (Cooper) in a sting operation. Set-pics showed Bale, always dedicated to his roles, had really put on the pounds for this one. I also really dig the casting of Boardwalk Empire's Jack Huston and comedian, Louis CK.  (Dec 25)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Christian Bale (Lead Actor), Bradley Cooper (Supporting Actor), Amy Adams (Lead Actress).

Labor Day – In his brief career, writer/director Jason Reitman (“Juno” and “Up in the Air”) has found himself in good favor with the Academy. This year he hopes to keep the magic going with his Christmas release, “Labor Day”, starring A-lister Kate Winslet and the always enjoyable Josh Brolin. The film centers around a depressed mother named Adele (played by Winslet) who offer help to a wounded, yet fearsome, stranger. But as local authorities search for the escaped convict, Adele and her son learn his true story. Although its premise strikes an eerily similar chord as the early-year release “Mud”, you can rest assured that Reitman has a unique story on his hands. (Dec 25 – limited)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Kate Winslet (Lead Actress), Josh Brolin (Supporting Actor).

August: Osage County – It’s starting to appear as though Benedict Cumberbatch is due for a HUGE 2013 breakout as here he is again in John Wells' "August: Osage County". With this film, however, such an abundant collection of stars makes it a safe bet that he'll be sharing a lot of screen time. Meryl Streep plays the matriarch in this story of the Weston family who is brought together by a tragedy. The film also stars Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor.  Let's not ignore the powerhouse producing team of Harvey Weinstein and George Clooney as well. Expectations are high for this one. (Dec 25 - limited)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Meryl Streep (Lead Actress), Margo Martindale (Supporting Actress), Dermot Mulroney and Chris Cooper (Supporting Actor).

Foxcatcher – Perhaps my most anticipated Oscar-bound release is Bennett Miller’s real-life story, “Foxcatcher”. Steve Carell stars as John duPont, a wealthy paranoid schizophrenic who murdered Olympic Gold Medalist Dave Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo) in 1996. In recent interviews Carell has eluded to the fact that it’s a dark movie (which can be good or bad when it comes to the Academy), but with Bennett Miller at the helm (“Moneyball” and “Capote”), you have to like its chances. Earlier this week rumors began circulating that perhaps “Foxcatcher” won’t be released in time for the Oscar deadline. Until it’s confirmed, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. (Release TBA)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Steve Carell (Lead Actor), Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum (Supporting Actor).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oscar Preview (Part One)

We've spent the earlier part of this week looking back at the first half of 2013 and the best this year has offered. My friend and co-author, Greg Rouleau, and myself offered our Top 5 movies of 2013 so far, as well as the early-year releases that could end up with an Oscar Nomination. Now, we will take a look at the fall and winter releases that have Oscar-contender written all over them. And here's our first look at the films you NEED to keep in the back of your mind as the second half of 2013 continues on.


Rush - Ron Howard's period piece on a Formula 1 rivalry gets things going in September, while Hemsworth's fans will have this to tidy them over before the “Thor” sequel in November.  The Howard/Grazer team has produced three Best Picture nominees since 1995 and if this receives a decent critical reception with a healthy box-office, then they could be well on their way to a fourth. (Sep 20)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Daniel Bruhl (Supporting Actor).

Diana – Naomi Watts has found herself in the midst of a very successful acting career. The Academy has regularly shown her some love, but has never given her the statue that her resume craves. Some prognosticators are claiming this is the year and “Diana” is the film. Watts stars as the beloved Princess Diana during the final two years of her life. Sure to garner the support of all British members of the Academy, perhaps Watts will finally get that elusive win that she so desperately desires. (Sep 20)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Naomi Watts (Leading Actress).


Gravity - October brings the first wave of big potential awards season players, and first up is "Gravity". After being snubbed in the major categories for the exceptional "Children of Men" (save Adapted Screenplay), director Alfonso Cuaron looks like he has a great chance at landing his first Best Director nod with this Sci-Fi thriller. With the ever-popular Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in the lead roles, this could be the sleeper hit of the season. And that (Oct 4)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Sandra Bullock (Lead Actress).

Captain Phillips - 2013 could be a return-to-form year for one of my favorite actors of all-time, Mr. Tom Hanks. While 2012's "Cloud Atlas" failed to thrust him back into awards consideration, he has a strong one-two punch coming out in the key months of 2013. First up is Paul Greengrass's "Captain Phillips". The man who helmed the "Bourne" sequels and the gripping "United 93" has always displayed a deft hand in directing action and suspense, and the film’s first trailer gives us a thrilling taste of what we can expect. With the benefit of another true-story and Hanks in the lead, it could have the makings of another strong October contender. (Oct 11)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Tom Hanks (Lead Actor).

The Fifth Estate - The story about WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange has yet to release a trailer, but early word is the work from Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role is strong. Strong enough, in fact, that he could be recast as the Aussie in a possible Edward Snowden story. While this could be a tricky film to market, it could be Cumberbatch who benefits with the attention turned towards his performance rather than the film. Director Bill Condon may also have to deal with the baggage of being fresh off the "Twilight" movies, or will the Academy make good for the “Dreamgirls” snub? (Oct 11)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Benedict Cumberbatch (Lead Actor), Daniel Bruhl (Supporting Actor).

12 Years A Slave - Speaking of Cumberbatch, the Brit has a supporting role in another potential Oscar contender, "12 Years A Slave".  Will the potential of this one be affected by the still fresh-in-our-minds "Django Unchained"? Well, going for it: Brad Pitt producing and starring, a period piece, up-and-coming Director and a cast that includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, 2012 Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis and Michael Fassbender. (Oct 18 - limited)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Chiwetel Ejiofor (Lead Actor), Michael Fassbender (Supporting Actor).

The Counselor - Pitt and Fassbender are also set to star in Ridley Scott's "The Counselor", which was written by "No Country For Old Men" scribe Cormac McCarthy, but this one’s an original screenplay. Also along for the ride are the Oscar-winning couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. The first teaser-trailer revealed very little, but succeeded in bringing up the anticipation a few notches. (Oct 25)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Fassbender (Lead Actor), Pitt and Bardem (Supporting Actor), Diaz and Cruz (Supporting Actress).


Philomena - With a November UK release date, this one should have a similar release in the US. Little is known about the movie at this point, but at the very least it could see a big push for Judi Dench in the Lead Actress category. Dame Judi made some late awards season noise with her supporting turn in "Skyfall" and director Stephen Frears directed her to a Best Actress nod in 2005 with Mrs' Henderson Presents. Frears also received a nod in 2006 for "The Queen" which brought Helen Mirren her elusive first Oscar. So who knows? (Nov 1 – in UK)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Judi Dench (Lead Actress).

The Wolf of Wall Street – Two men who need no introduction (especially with each other) are Leonardo DiCaprio and his buddy-buddy director, Martin Scorsese. The dynamic duo team up, yet again, in this November’s highly anticipated release, “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Following the real-life story of Jordan Belfort, the film examines the stockbroker’s rise and fall at the hands of crime and corruption on Wall Street. This leaves only one question remaining. Will Leo FINALLY get that much-deserved Academy Award victory? (Nov 15)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Leo (Lead Actor), Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey (Supporting Actor).

Nebraska – Just about every time director Alexander Payne releases a film, it turns into Oscar gold (i.e. “Descendants”, “Sideways”, etc …). This time around Payne gives us “Nebraska”, a road-trip movie following an estranged son and his booze-addled father (played by Bruce Dern). The two journey all the way from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim a million dollar sweepstakes. Although initial reviews haven’t been overwhelming, you can never count Alexander Payne out of any Oscar discussion. (Nov 22)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Bruce Dern (Supporting Actor).

Grace of Monaco – The always flattering Nicole Kidman closes out November in her leading portrayal of Hollywood star Grace Kelly in Olivier Dahan’s “Grace of Monaco”. While the film feels like a long-shot in the Best Picture race, Kidman is sure to generate some buzz in the Lead Actress race. Examining the crisis of Grace Kelly’s marriage during the backdrop of a looming French invasion of Monaco, “Grace of Monaco” seems to have all the makings of a stellar character study. (Nov 27th – limited)
Potential Acting Nomination(s): Nicole Kidman (Lead Actress), Tim Roth (Supporting Actor).

*** Be sure to check back tomorrow as we take a look at the big-named Oscar-contenders being released in December, 2013.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2013: Potential 1st Half Oscar Contenders

Continuing with our week long microscopic view of 2013's cinematic offerings, today we will examine the first-half releases that have any chance (even a small one) at garnering an Oscar Nomination. Let's begin by taking a look in the Cinematography department.

Despite To The Wonder being Terrence Malick's worst critically received film to date, the director will still manage to receive a decent amount of support from the always Pro-Malick Academy members. If To The Wonder has any chance at a nomination, it would have to come in the form of Best Cinematography. Although a majority of critics spoke negatively of the film, just about everyone agreed that To The Wonder was beautifully shot by Malick's go-to cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki. As a close friend and co-author of this week's segments, Greg Rouleau has pointed out that Malick's feature also carries the distinction of being the last film ever reviewed by the late-great Roger Ebert.

Director Sam Raimi released the highly anticipated prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful, back in March. As the first major blockbuster of the year, the film played to mixed reviews but a few technological achievements. While I wouldn't bet the bank on it, Oz the Great and Powerful still has an outside chance at receiving some Oscar-attention in any of the following areas: Production Design, Costume Design and Makeup. Furthermore, April's release, Oblivion, stands as a long-shot in the Visual Effects category as well.

This summer kicked off in grand style with Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. Like many early-year releases, the film played to mixed reviews. However, The Great Gatsby still has potential for Oscar recognition in the Costume Design and Production Design races. Other summer blockbusters such as World War ZMan of Steel, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness each have some life the Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories.

The summer also has become the perfect platform for animated features to hit theatres. This summer we've seen the release of potential Oscar-Nominated films in the Best Animated Feature race such as sequels Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University, as well as the long-shot Epic.

One of Greg's favorite films of the year is Richard Linklater's Before Midnight. But before any of us can simply disregard the indie relationship comedy as a biased selection, Before Midnight has been remarkably lauded by nearly every critic. Therefore, the third installment of Linklater's trilogy could find itself as a dark-horse contender in the Best Picture category. Although that high of a recognition seems far less likely, maybe a better fate would be Julie Delpy's inclusion in the Best Actress race.

Finally, closing out the first-half of 2013 Oscar discussion is a film that both Greg and I had in our Top 5 Movies of the year (so far). Jeff Nichols' Mud is without question a stellar film that's both critically acclaimed (98% on Rotten Tomatoes) and a solid Oscar contender in the Best Picture category. Since it's an early-year release, its chances of making the final cut for the Academy's biggest honor hinges on the quality of many late-year releases. It's a film that will stick in voters minds if the rest of the pack fails to separate itself in the latter half of 2013. Mud's Matthew McConaughey also has a fair shot of receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the title character's somewhat-debated leading vs. supporting turn.

*** Be sure to stay tuned all this week for a preview of 2013's second-half releases with serious chances at some Oscar's recognition.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Best Film's of 2013 (so far) ...

It's true, 2013 is more than half way over. Time sure flies by, doesn't it? It feels like only yesterday I was rushing around theatres during the Christmas holiday and New Years to catch late Oscar releases such as Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained and Les Miserables. But we're on a new journey now, one that's been a mostly underwhelming adventure so far. As it shouldn't be a surprise (since I list my Top 5 movies of the year on the left hand side of my blog), I will be throwing out my picks for 2013's brightest cinematic spots. In addition, I wanted to throw another list out there to give you some more ideas of the best releases so far this calendar year. Therefore, I've asked my friend and huge film buff, Greg Rouleau, to offer his favorite selections as well. Here are the selections for the best movies so far this year:

*** View June's Movie List of the Month HERE

Greg's Top 5 (in no particular order)

Romantic comedies can be the perfect compromise for almost any couple. As it turns out, the lowest grossing trilogy of all time actually makes for an amazing collection of independent romantic comedy films. This year, director Richard Linklater gave us the third installment to his unforgettable and extremely well-acted relationship trilogy with Before Midnight. Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as the couple who first crossed paths in 1995's Before Sunrise and continued on with Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight is a critically acclaimed and highly recommended romantic comedy that far surpasses most of 2013's other releases. Also rounding out Greg's first tier of films are Seth Rogen's This Is the End (which I also list as a current in-theatre recommendation) and Jeff Nichols' Mud. Greg begins to doubt that another comedy will top Rogen and company's outrageously hilarious effort. The cameo's are spectacular and the laughs are, without question, non-stop. And as for Mud, Matthew McConaughey joins a fine pair of young actors (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) in one of the year's most compelling dramas. Rounding out his Top 5 list are a pair of movies that are both stellar in their own right, but clearly a step down from the aforementioned (who all have a serious shot at making his end of the year Top 10 list). Sophia Coppola's The Bling Ring and Jordan Vogt-Roberts' The Kings of Summer close out the Top 5 for completely different reasons. The Kings of Summer is a hysterical R-rated coming-of-age story, while The Bling Ring is more of a dramatic look at high class teenage boredom. The pair of second tier features are solid watches but far less impactful than Greg's first three selections. So if you're wondering what movies you should be on the look out for in theatres now or on DVD in the upcoming months, look no further than these 5 works right here.

Dave's Top 5

#2 - Mud

#1 - Trance

For starters, my #4 and #2 selections (The Kings of Summer and Mud) find themselves overlapping with Greg's picks. Hence, I won't elaborate any further on those two fine choices. Coming in at #5 is an overly-long but highly effective piece of dramatic filmmaking by the ambitious director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine). Cianfrance's 2013 effort, The Place Beyond the Pines, is a well-constructed and remarkably acted film starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes. It's theatrical run has come and gone, but I definitely suggest catching this slightly over-extended feature when it comes out on DVD. My #3 pick, World War Z, needs no introduction. One of this summer's most anticipated releases actually ends up as one of 2013's finest films so far. World War Z is a high-adrenaline and gripping film that lacks on the substance but never grows tiresome. Finally, the pick for the #1 movie released so far in 2013 is Danny Boyle's latest work, Trance (trailer above). I know that some detractors could call me biased (as Boyle is my favorite director, i.e. Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting), but I stand by my decision. Surely there's a plot hole (or three) in Trance but, at the end of the day, I haven't seen any other release this year with more style or flair. Trance is a mind-bending and wild ride that concludes with a poetically artistic finale. It isn't Boyle's finest achievement, but it's a strong film that surpasses most of the mediocrity we've encountered so far in 2013.

*** Be sure to tune in the rest of the week as we also examine what already-released 2013 films have a chance at receiving an Oscar Nomination. Also, we'll be previewing what potential Oscar-contending releases you can expect to see in theatres during the fall and winter seasons.