Friday, February 28, 2014

Godzilla and Muppets Most Wanted (NEW) Trailers

The Godzilla franchise has been in disarray for quite a while now, but Warner Bros. is hoping all of that changes with its reboot set to hit theatres on May 16th. The latest rendition stars Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson, so there's still hope for a successful summer blockbuster. Check out the latest trailer for Godzilla below.

After the overwhelming success of Jason Segel's rebirth of The Muppets, a sequel became inevitable. The whole gang (minus Segel and Amy Adams) returns with some new faces on March 21st. Muppets Most Wanted follows all of our fuzzy friends across Europe where a devious Kermit-look-a-look plans a jewel heist and creates a ton of havoc.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions

We're fast approaching the pinnacle of the past cinematic year. This Sunday March 2nd marks the 86th annual Academy Awards hosted by Ellen DeGeneres (sign up for our FREE Oscar Contest here). With many races up for grabs, including the highly coveted Best Picture race, the Oscars should be an exciting watch filled with Hollywood's biggest celebrities. Here are my predictions for the 2014 Academy Awards.

Best Picture

Any of the trio 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle have a shot at bringing home the evening's biggest prize, but the true gut-wrenching tale of a free man drugged, captured and sold into slavery seems to have all the intangibles. Gravity holds steady as the film's most feared rival, yet the sci-fi drama is more so a technological achievement than a cut from the typical Best Picture mold. 

Winner: 12 Years a Slave

Best Director

Although many prognosticators use the logic that a traditionally rare Best Picture/Best Director split gives Gravity the edge in the Best Picture race, I turn that rationale upside down and wonder if Alfonso Cuaron should be worried. The director's groundbreaking work has been lauded by just about every precursor award known to man, however a big night for 12 Years a Slave could mean that Steve McQueen plays the spoiler role ... but I doubt it.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Best Actor

While attempting to predict the year's most important awards show, there's tons of over-analyzing that comes into play. Anyone who tries to sway you against Matthew McConaughey is clearly thinking too hard. We've all heard the rumblings about it being Leo's time and Chiwetel Ejiofor potentially riding the Best Picture frontrunner's wave of success, but the truth is all indicators point to Matthew McConaughey and, even more to the point, he simply deserves the award.

Winner: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress

One of the safer picks of the evening is Cate Blanchett in the Best Actress category. We all know you can never count out Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock is the star of a serious Best Picture contender, Judi Dench has every ounce of support from the British voters in the Academy, and Amy Adams has been trending upward for a while now. But the fact remains that Cate Blanchett's performance was "that" good, and even director Woody Allen's recent controversies revolving around his step daughter's sexual allegations couldn't stop Blanchett from bringing home the golden statue.

Winner: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Supporting Actor

In the past I've learned that sometimes it's good to go against the populous and stick with your gut instincts. I believed whole-heartedly that Christoph Waltz gave the finest Supporting  performance in last year's Django Unchained. However, I conformed to the general consensus and missed a chance at accurately predicting the major upset. I have a similar feeling about Michael Fassbender this year, although I'm still going to throw my hat into the widely popular Jared Leto ring. I thought Leto gave a strong turn, but nowhere near the effect of Fassbender. So if the underdog from 12 Years a Slave ends up winning, give me the tiniest amount of credit.

Winner: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Supporting Actress

Like many others, I've bounced back and forth between one of the evening's tighter races featuring Lupita Nyong'o and Jennifer Lawrence. Although I personally loved June Squibb in Nebraska and I'm pulling for her to win the award, I give the edge to Nyong'o for multiple reasons. This being her debut performance makes for an excellent story and it's difficult to expect a film like 12 Years a Slave to take the Best Picture prize without winning a single acting category. And for as much as I love Lawrence in general, her fast-burning ascent into stardom could use a little cool-down.

Winner: Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)

Other Winners Include ...

Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle 

Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty

Best Cinematography: Gravity

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Industry News: Harold Ramis Passes Away

After the shocking death of Philips Seymour Hoffman a little over three weeks ago, Hollywood continues to mourn the devastating losses of renowned child-star Shirley Temple and versatile comedian Harold Ramis. While Temple embraced the onscreen glory and grew into a major celebrity, Ramis expanded his horizons and dabbled in acting, directing and screenwriting. Ramis is most remembered for his role as Egon in the Ghostbusters franchise, but the multi-talented comedian is also credited as a writer and/or director for classic films such as Caddyshack, Animal House, National Lampoon's Vacation, Groundhog Day and one of my guilty pleasures, Back to School. Harold Ramis was a legendary voice in American comedy and he'll sorely by missed.

In other news, Hollywood has been heating up with the casting calls. Forrest Gump director, Robert Zemeckis, continues with his return to live action after the success of 2012's Flight starring an Oscar-Nominated Denzel Washington. It's been reported that that Zemeckis' next project, titled To Walk the Clouds, will star the newly cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the famed French high-wire professional Phillipe Petit. Hoping to enhance the experience, To Walk the Clouds is expected to be filmed in 3D.

Fans of the cult classic Point Break may want to stop reading now. The 1991 heist film is getting the often mishandled remake treatment. Not too long ago it was confirmed that Gerard Butler was cast in Patrick Swayze's role of Bohdi and the production team has finally found their Johnny Utah. Aussie actor Luke Bracey will oversee Keanu Reeve's originated role. Bracey has also be in headlines somewhat recently as it was announced he'd be taking over for the late Paul Walker in the upcoming Nicholas Sparks adapted film, The Best of Me.

Furthermore, Bradley Cooper is officially on board as both a producer and star of the crime thriller American Blood. Cooper is believed to be playing a former NYPD officer living in New Mexico in the witness protection program after testifying against the mob. And while there, he stirs up some trouble by investigating the disappearance of a woman. Sounds very intriguing!

And finally, Amanda Seyfriend is set to lead alongside Mark Wahlberg in Seth MacFarlane's Ted 2. Mila Kunis will still be given a tiny role in the film, although it's rumored that MacFarlane wished to take the plot in a different direction.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014 Oscar Pool

You have a little over one week left to sign up and join our FREE OSCAR CONTEST! All you have to do is select winners in EVERY Academy Awards category where different point values are assigned to the different races. Whoever finishes with the most points wins a $50 movie gift card of their choice to either Regal/AMC.

It's completely free to enter, all you need is an e-mail address (no spam, ever!) and to sign up by clicking HERE. After you submit an e-mail address and create a username use the following information to join the contest:

Pool Name: Greg's Academy Awards Pool
Password: flyers

You have until Sunday March 2nd to make your selections, so there's no immediate rush. Once again it's COMPLETELY FREE to join and a whole lot of fun for any fan of movies who plans on watching the Oscars anyway.

Note: You must live in the continental United States to be eligible for the prize.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cheap Thrills

Film: Cheap Thrills

Starring: Pat Healy (Compliance), Ethan Embry (Can't Hardly Wait) and David Koechner (Anchorman)

Director: E.L. Katz

U.S. Release: March 21st, 2014 (Limited Release - Not Yet Rated)

Genre: Thriller

Runtime: 85 minutes

Films have the ability to generate feelings of terror. While many moviegoers avoid the stress and discomfort that goes along with enjoying a solid horror flick or thriller these days, I've always been captivated by stories that examine the darker sides of humanity. Yet, to be a successful film of this kind it requires convincing performances, a compelling story and a unique vision. Serving as a brilliant example to each of the aforementioned components, Cheap Thrills makes its way to Video On-Demand in February and arrives in select theatres on March 21st.

Pat Healy stars as Craig, a family man facing financial difficulties after losing his job and receiving an eviction notice. In a desperate attempt to drown his sorrows at the bar, Craig runs into an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry), who he hasn't seen in five years. After a few drinks the reunited friends find themselves engaged with a ridiculously wealthy married couple who desire to see just how far Craig and Vince will go for a huge pay day.

In his directorial debut, E.L. Katz delivers a knockout. Cheap Thrills is a twisted and sadistic exploration into the human psyche. Different things motivate different people, but playing off the economic struggles facing Americans every day, Katz illustrates the alarming effects that money can hold over the desperate and financially unstable population. Cheap Thrills dives deep into this eye-opening dynamic and creates a playful dark comedy that balances well with its gripping psychological backbone. Outstanding performances from Pat Healy and Ethan Embry as friends turned money-grubbing rivals help give authenticity to the story. Plausibility is essential to the movie's success, thankfully Healy, Embry and Anchorman's David Koechner keep the wheels churning.

Despite strong acting on all accounts, Cheap Thrills struggles in one noticeable area. The relationship between these old friends is a flimsy, but necessary, subplot to the film. The back-and-forth bickering that gradually escalates between characters as the minutes mount feels unnatural and forced. However, since the rest of the screenplay is very well-constructed, it becomes easy to overlook this forgivable blemish. Also, Cheap Thrills contains a finale that is mildly predictable but perfectly executed. Such a memorable ending leaves a well regarded lasting impression with the audience.

Rarely is a thriller executed with such precision and care. Cheap Thrills offers a not-so-unique premise but pulls together a tasteful blend of dark humor and intrigue to create a fine example of psychological storytelling. With squeamish scenes sprinkled periodically throughout, this debut feature from E.L. Katz must be reserved for those who can stomach it. But if you can withstand some gore, violence and fear-factor-esque challenges, you're guaranteed to enjoy Cheap Thrills.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Oscar Update 2/18/14

Although BAFTA outcomes have a minimal influence on Oscar races, Sunday night marked another stepping stone on the long road to the Academy Awards. With less than two weeks until the final showdown on Sunday March 2nd (that also means you should hurry up and join our FREE OSCAR CONTEST), it's time to wrap our heads around each of the major races. Here's how the competitions are currently taking shape:

Best Picture

Outlook: Two and a half weeks ago, when I gave my most recent input on this year's Oscars, I stood firm in my belief that Amerian Hustle still has the support from many voting members. Today, I'm nowhere near as confident in that statement. On the back of a Best Picture win from BAFTA and with a reasonable amount of confidence, I am forced to agree with many other prognosticators that Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave has become the official frontrunner. It will be difficult for either Gravity or American Hustle to knock it from its throne. 

Best Director

Outlook: The Best Director race has caused quite a shake-up in many people's predictions. While the presumed winner will be Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), due to his large amount of success throughout the precursor awards, you can't quit on Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) just yet. Some have used Cuaron's recent build-up of traction, and the fact that the Academy rarely splits the Best Director and Best Picture categories, to justify the likelihood of a Gravity upset on Oscar night. However, I feel that if a split doesn't happen, expect McQueen to be benefactor of Academy voters staying true to their history. 

Best Actor

Outlook: The last time I examined this competition I acknowledged that it was truly Matthew McConaughey's (Dallas Buyers Club) race to lose, but I threw caution to the wind that many voters feel as though Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) is long overdue for an Oscar Wind. What better than a leading performance in a three hour Martin Scorsese epic that he carries almost solely on his shoulders? However, my tune has changed a little since then. While I still believe there's a small faction of voters in complete support of DiCaprio, the definitive swing in momentum for 12 Years a Slave has propelled Chiwetel Ejiofor into the prime role of spoiler. Still, though, this just feels like McConaughey's moment.

Best Actress

Outlook: When in comes to the Best Actress category, one fact remains ... Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) will not lose. After a huge bump from her Golden Globe victory, Amy Adams (American Hustle) and beloved foe, Judi Dench (Philomena), are in a tight battle for that second position. Yet, even with all the negative rumblings regarding director Woody Allen circulating the news outlets and social media, neither of them have a prayer in bringing down the far and above frontrunner, Cate Blanchett.

Best Supporting Actor

Outlook: While I just gave the rundown on why Matthew McConaughey should be a little concerned about the prospects of a BIG night from 12 Years a Slave, Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) doesn't need to be as worried as co-star. I was completely blown away by Michael Fassbender's devilish slave-driving performance, but the Academy tends to shy away from crowning villainous roles. Therefore, even a huge late surge from voters probably won't be enough for Fassbender to take down the highly expected winner, Jared Leto.

Best Supporting Actress

Outlook: In what's become the most exciting battle outside of Best Picture, the Best Supporting Actress competition features two heavyweight contenders who have traded wins back and forth. On one hand there's Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), the fast-rising megastar whose overnight success still continues to grow. On the other, Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) benefits from a remarkable story as a first-time actress who delivered in a powerful and heartbreaking role. Although a win from either candidate wouldn't be a surprise, I'll stick to the narrative that recent momentum for her film gives Lupita Nyong'o the slight edge. Yet, as they say in politics, this one may still be "too close to call". 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Joe and The Purge: Anarchy Trailers

I've never been much of a Nicolas Cage fan, but word on the street is he delivers quite the comeback performance in the new drama Joe. Cage stars as the title character who is an ex-con living in the contemporary south that befriends a teenager (played by Mud's Tye Sheridan) struggling to protect his family against an abusive alcoholic father.

One of 2013's biggest misses was the highly anticipated home-invasion horror film, The Purge. However, it just so happens that, nowadays, a successful box-office calls the shots. After reeling in a strong total, a sequel has been green-lighted and the studio is wasting no time by pushing for a June release in 2014. Here's a brief look into The Purge: Anarchy, which finds a couple in an unfortunate situation as their car breaks down before the start of the annual Purge.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman's Greatest Performances

After losing one of my favorite actors to a terrible struggle with addiction, I first decided to seek the assistance of co-writer, Greg Rouleau, to devote my February Movie List of the Month (click here for January's List) segment to the top ten Philip Seymour Hoffman performances. However, it felt mildly disrespectful to try and nit-pick some sort of order or ranking to all of this talented man's finest achievements. Instead, for this month's list, Greg and I have selected our 10 favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances which will be presented in alphabetical order. The late actor's long list of phenomenal work can hardly be summed up in a list of ten, but may this serve as a tribute and reminder to a fantastic legacy that PSH leaves behind.

Honorable Mention: Paul Zara - The Ides of March, Wilson Joel - Love Liza, Owen Davian - Mission: Impossible III and Jon Savage - The Savages.

Lester Bangs - Almost Famous

In early 2001 I rented a film on VHS called Almost Famous and it was the first time I had seen a movie with Hoffman in it.  PSH plays Lester Bangs, a rock journalist that gives our protagonist his first writing assignment that kicks off the story of the film.  Most of his scenes are early on, and despite the film being great from start to finish (a Top 10 of mine) you can’t help but feel the void left by his departure.  You can imagine a spinoff movie focusing on Lester’s character would be a perfect companion piece.  I was unaware of who PSH was at the time, but I remember him leaving a lasting impression on me, which inspired me to catch up on most of his filmography over the years.  Later in the movie Lester returns with a late night phone call with the young writer, William.  This scene, featuring his monologue about being uncool, really stands out as the emotional climax of the movie and cements Lester as the soul of Almost Famous. (Greg)

Sandy Lyle - Along Came Polly

Although John Hamburg’s romantic comedy, Along Came Polly, has been widely accepted as a virtual “miss”, the movie has always been a guilty pleasure of mine and I have Philip Seymour Hoffman to thank.  PSH goes off the reservation as Sandy Lyle, “that kid from Crocodile Tears” who can’t move on from life as a childhood star and frequently offers terrible advice on dating.  Hoffman’s healthy dose of comedic flair elevates this otherwise bland rom-com into a laugh-filled experience every time he takes the screen.  PSH will always be remembered as a remarkable dramatic actor, yet his role in Along Came Polly serves as a much-needed reminder to just how versatile he truly was. (Dave)

Scotty J. - Boogie Nights

It can be argued that the film that really put Philip Seymour Hoffman on the map is PTA’s Boogie Nights.  With a filmography full of more dramatic and intense roles, it’s almost ironic that it essentially began with a performance where he sports a too small tanktop and shorts akin to daisy dukes for most of the film.  PSH lights up the screen as Scotty, and his idolization of Dirk Diggler is so endearing; from trying to mimic Diggler’s chic fashion sense, to impressing Dirk with the new paint job on his car and finally going in for a kiss.  He may not have been successful in stealing a kiss from Dirk, but Scotty stole our hearts with the first of many memorable roles. (Greg)

Truman Capote - Capote 

Hoffman would win his first and only Oscar for his portrayal of effete intellectual author, Truman Capote.  It was a deserved win in a year full of strong contenders.  While I think he had a few roles that were slightly stronger, one can’t deny the powerhouse performance in Bennett Miller’s dark, thrilling biopic.  He embodies Truman, nailing the mannerisms, the distinct voice and the jovial exterior of a truly tortured soul.  Hoffman apparently went the method route and stayed in character in between takes, becoming Truman for the duration of the shoot.  His scenes in the film with Perry are strong displays of his talent.  I also really loved the interaction between Hoffman and Catherine Keener who plays his friend, Harper Lee.  An early scene on a train between the two is one of the lighter moments of an otherwise bleak film. (Greg)

Gust Avrakotos - Charlie Wilson's War

Without a question, my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performance comes from Mike Nichols’ fantastic true-story drama, Charlie Wilson’s War.  PSH seemed like a perfect fit for the role of fiery CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos, so much so that it landed him one of his four total Oscar Nominations (1 win and 3 losses).  In the film we watch Hoffman stand as tall as well-regarded performers such as Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and a young Amy Adams, but PSH managed to be the only one to garner Oscar recognition from this highly underrated film.  This is definitely the performance for which I’ll always remember Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Dave)

Father Brendan Flynn - Doubt

One of the major players at the 2009 Academy Awards was director John Patrick Shanley’s play-turned-motion picture, Doubt.  The undeniably talented Meryl Streep stars as a Catholic school principal who struggles to make sense of the relationship between a priest and troubled youth.  PSH and his regularly lauded counterpart share some unforgettable on-screen moments as Hoffman received another one of his Oscar Nominations for this gripping and sympathetic role as Father Brendan Flynn.  Clearly a benchmark in a sadly shortened career, Hoffman demonstrated his relentlessness and commitment to excellence with this magnificent performance. (Dave)

Rusty - Flawless

It seemed every role that PSH took on, he would disappear into the characters he was portraying.  In 1999, director Joel Schumacher gave him the chance to play a pre-op transgender in Flawless.  A character like this can easily turn even the strongest thespians into scenery-chewing, campy cartoons, but there is a considerate amount of restraint in his portrayal of the drag queen Rusty.  Nevertheless, he still turns up the dial in this performance when needed and it’s thrilling to watch.  Going toe to toe with legendary actor Robert De Niro was a sure sign that Hoffman had the ability to carry his own film. (Greg) 

Phil Parma - Magnolia 

Also in 1999, Hoffman would collaborate on the third of five features from director Paul Thomas Anderson, in Magnolia.  This large ensemble piece meant some sparse screentime for PSH, but as always, he really delivered in all scenes.  Once again placed opposite a legendary actor, this time, Jason Robards, Hoffman played the caretaker of the cancer-stricken man desperately seeking one last moment with his estranged son.  As fate would have it, Hoffman’s Phil Parma gets a lead on tracking down the dying man’s son, and in one of the film’s crucial scenes, he pleads with the company “Seduce and Destroy” over the phone to put the two back together again. (Greg) 

Lancaster Dodd - The Master 

Appearing in a handful of collaborations with director Paul Thomas Anderson, a filmmaker who certainly helped catapult Hoffman’s career, many would claim that the late actor’s finest role occurred in 2012’s The Master.  PSH went on to receive an Oscar Nomination for his portrayal of Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic leader who begins a movement called “The Cause” and takes an animalistic Navy vet under his wings.  Although he was ultimately beaten out by Christoph Waltz (Django unchained) at the Academy Awards, Hoffman gave a tantalizing and captivating performance that will never be forgotten. (Dave)

The Count - Pirate Radio

One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s most fun and light-hearted roles occurred in the wonderful Richard Curtis comedy, Pirate Radio.  “The Count” steals our hearts as one of many crazed disc jockeys living on a huge vessel floating aimlessly in the North Sea and illegally broadcasting Rock n Roll throughout Great Britain in the 1960s.  The actor’s somewhat prophetic send-off in the film’s final moments has never carried as much weight as it does in this post-Hoffman world we now find ourselves in.  “Nothing Important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world” – The Count. (Dave)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Transcendence and A Long Way Down Trailers

Having collaborated on 7 films together, Wally Pfister is best known as acclaimed director Christopher Nolan's primary Oscar winning cinematographer. However, Pfister makes his debut move to the director's chair in this year's sci-fi action film Transcendence. Johnny Depp stars as a Will, a brilliant scientist on the verge of something huge who becomes the targeted victim of a biological attack. On his deathbed, Will downloads his mind into a computer and gains immense powers beyond human comprehension. Arriving in theatres on April 18th, check out the latest trailer for Wally Pfister's Transcendence below.

Based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name, A Long Way Down examines the friendship of four people who inexplicably find themselves on the same rooftop on New Years Eve with the intention of committing suicide. Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul joins Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette and Imogen Poots as the quartet whose family-like friendship helps each of them handle the struggles in their lives. Check out the trailer for A Long Way Down below.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Monuments Men

Film: The Monuments Men

Starring: George Clooney (The Descendants), Matt Damon (True Grit) and Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Director: George Clooney (The Ides of March)

U.S. Release: February 7th, 2014 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 112 minutes

George Clooney is one of the most prominent figures in Hollywood. As an Academy Award winner for both acting (Syriana) and producing (Best Picture winner Argo), many believed Clooney had a strong chance at pulling off the trifecta with a potential Best Director win for his newest film, The Monuments Men. However, that was before post-production issues delayed the feature's release until 2014. Unfortunately, we now know that The Monuments Men is light-years away from the prototypical Oscar Nominee.

Clooney stars as Frank Starks, an art historian who makes a pitch to the president of the United States during the closing months of World War II about preserving all of the various artwork spread throughout Europe and returning it to its rightful owners. After being given the green light, Starks enlists six other museum directors, curators and art historians to help him see this mission through. Yet, this group (known as "The Monuments Men") must stare the dangers of war in the eyes and overcome countless obstacles along the way.

Clooney's latest effort has been panned by critics for a multitude of reasons. I wouldn't be the first to address the movie's problems with developing distinct tonal differences between comedy and drama, or even the condescending lecture-like dialogue intended to force the audience into accepting the importance of this mission, rather than making us "feel" something. There's a huge disconnect between film and viewer, something that can never work for a project of this type. Consequently, The Monuments Men is nothing more than an elongated and mediocre fluff piece filled with a strong cast, but weak and ineffective narrative.

Although The Monuments Men never escapes its stagnant vibe, it's an interesting premise that remains mildly entertaining at the hands of many fine performances. However, the long list of great actors in the film are required to make the most out of thinly crafted characters. But while the film hopes to elicit suspense and emotion, The Monuments Men instead outstretches minimal plot progression to a near two-hour running time. With the superficial makings of a compelling and moving examination of an inspiring true story, even Clooney's admirable direction fails to aid a brutally developed screenplay.

There are a few shining moments sporadically peppered throughout The Monuments Men, but they become quickly overshadowed by all of the film's shortcomings. As a viewer you never feel transported into the story, rather just a spectator to its events. And ultimately, the truly great films know how to differentiate between the two and execute effectively. Illustrating that The Monuments Men is nothing more than an occasionally entertaining run-of-the-mill effort from mega-star George Clooney.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Industry News: Leo and Jonah Hill Set to Collaborate Again

The bro-mance is in full swing. After co-starring in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and landing Oscar Nominations for their performances, it's been confirmed that Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill will be teaming up in a new biopic. The project sees Hill star as real life security guard Richard Jewell who discovered the bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, only to find himself accused of plotting the attack himself. DiCaprio is set to play Jewell's attorney who is determined to clear the security guard's name.

In other casting news, Johnny Depp has confirmed his role in the upcoming Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace and Crazy Heart) picture, Black Mass, with one of my personal favorites, Tom Hardy, rumored to co-star. The biopic tells the real life story of James "Whitey" Bulger (Depp) and childhood friend John Connolly who are pitted against each other many years later after Bulger becomes the godfather of the Irish mob and Connolly a major figure in the FBI. Black Mass has an outside chance at a 2015 release date.

After the box-office and critical success of the 2012 hit, Pitch Perfect, the sequel has been slated for a May 15th, 2015 release date with Elizabeth Banks set to make her directorial debut. It was reported via the film's twitter feed that co-stars Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are set to return in Pitch Perfect 2.

And finally, it's been a week since we lost the great American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to his terrible heroine addiction. Hoffman was officially laid to rest on Friday February 7th in New York City with many friends such as Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett (and many more) in attendance to pay their respects. With only 7 days of filming left, Hoffman's passing left the Lionsgate projects Mockingjay and Mockingjay Part 2 of The Hunger Games franchise is complete disarray. The New York Post became the first to report that rather than re-casting the role, filmmakers will "digitally recreate" Hoffman for the the scenes that remain.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Field in England

Film: A Field in England

Starring: Reece Shearsmith and Julian Barratt

Director: Ben Wheatley (Sightseers)

U.S. Release: February 7th, 2014 (Limited Release - Not Rated)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 90 minutes

Over the course of history many have argued the purpose of film. It's a very personal and almost existential type of quandary. While artists see filmmaking as a platform for expression and storytelling, I've always believed that a majority of the general public simply wants to be entertained, and very little more. Yet, there's always a small faction of people with a desire to push stylistic boundaries and create something unique. After viewing his latest directorial effort, A Field in England, it's clear that Ben Wheatley is one of those people.

Set against the backdrop of the 17th Century Civil War in England, three men flee from battle into an overgrown field. Not long after, this group of men become overtaken by a devilish alchemist and his sidekick who force them to help locate a buried treasure. Drugged and delusional at the hands of these dangerous captors, everyone begins to question the true meaning of this so-called "treasure".

A mind-blowing combination of unequal parts psychedelia, dark humor and lavish surrealism, A Field in England is by far the trippiest film I've ever encountered. While it's odd in the vein of Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch, and filmed over beautiful landscapes with a keen Malick-like respect for imagery, Ben Wheatley's latest addition falls shy of the great works by these legendary directors. From the post-production standpoint, complements are well-deserved for spectacular editing and photography. However, A Field in England breaks down from a fundamental flaw in its storytelling.

Almost nothing alike, outside of its unidentifiable purpose and cryptic symbolism, I had a similar feeling after viewing the Ridley Scott blockbuster, Prometheus. Perhaps Wheatley and co-screenwriter Amy Jump find joy in crafting a malleable experience that can be molded any which way you desire. On the other hand, this ambiguous product is best suited for niche audiences rather than the general public. While I reserve an appreciation for developing an individual style that demands cerebral rationale and thinking outside the box, such an exposure proves to be a daunting task for the viewer.

Maddening and hallucinatory, A Field in England is captivating and vague all at the same time. Although I'd rather spend my day enjoying a concrete story with a definitive message, Ben Wheatley delivers a thought-provoking and puzzling tale of insanity. With religious undertones scattered throughout the film, there's plenty to take away from it as long as your willing to make the effort.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4.

Grade: C+

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Divergent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 NEW Trailers

Moviegoers and critics alike sang their praises for the 2013 indie drama The Spectacular Now. The film's stars, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, reunite in 2014 with the futuristic sci-fi adventure, Divergent. Woodley stars as Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a unique mind who finds herself against all odds when an authoritarian leader plans to destroy people of her "kind" and take over their divided society. Based on a best-selling book series of the same name, Divergent has all the makings of a massive box-office franchise.

I happened to be one of the few who wasn't enamored by The Amazing Spider-Man reboot in 2012. But the franchise continues this Summer, with one of the year's biggest blockbusters dishing out an impressive new trailer during the Super Bowl. Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker, and the the superhero must find a way to handle a barrage of super-villains courtesy of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and  Oscorp. The thrills and action look bigger than ever in The Amazing Spider-Man 2's newest extended trailer.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DVD Outlook: February 2014

2014 kicked off its DVD release in style with a wide selection of notable titles in January. Now that the Oscar Nominations have been handed out, February and March should continue to offer many of the year's finest on DVD and Video On-Demand. In fact, my top three picks of the month all land in my Top 10 Films of 2013.

About Time - 3 and a half stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)

Somewhat mislabeled as a romantic comedy, About Time is a charming drama set on reinforcing an appreciation for every-day life. Love Actually director, Richard Curtis, has publicly stated that this will be his last feature and he truly goes out on top with a remarkably sincere and effectively sentimental piece of work. Fast-rising star Domhnall Gleeson and the always wonderful Bill Nighy give tender performances as a son and father who share a family secret that they can travel in time. You'll experience every range of emotion in this hilarious and earnest tale of love and family, justifying About Time as one of the finest films of 2013. (February 4th)

Dallas Buyers Club - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)

By now everyone is aware of just how good Matthew McConaughey is in the Best Picture Nominee, Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey was My Personal Pick for Best Actor of the year with a gripping performance as Ron Woodroof, a Texas bull rider whose lifelong history of partying and drugs catch up to him when he discovers he has HIV. The revelation and will to live set him on a mission to smuggle unapproved prescription drugs from Mexico into the U.S. to combat the effects of the illness. Jared Leto also gives an unforgettable supporting turn as Woodroof's unlikely sidekick. (February 4th)

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

Closing out my Top 10 Films of 2013 and #1 on Greg Rouleau's List was Alfonso Cuaron's space adventure, Gravity. Cuaron has found himself at the head of the Best Director class for his examination of a routine space repair mission that ends up going terribly wrong at the hands of fast-flying and destructive debris. Floating around and lost in space, astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) struggles to survive this nightmarish ordeal. Definitely a film intended to be witnessed on the big screen, it's still worth settling on the at-home experience in order to see one of 2013's most talked about films. (February 25th)

Honorable Mention: Two independent selections from the Philadelphia Film Festival include Best Picture Nominee Nebraska (2/25) and the survival tale All Is Lost (2/11), both of which landed in my honorable mention for the cinematic year. Although I haven't seen Thor: The Dark World (2/25) or Ender's Game (2/11), both seem to interest the action-junky in me. Also, it's worth noting the box-office flop from Ridley Scott, The Counselor (2/11), and Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Winner foreign film Blue Is the Warmest Color (2/25) also are available.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Industry News: Philip Seymour Hoffman Passes Away

It saddens me to no end that another American Great has tragically passed. ABC News officially confirmed that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment this morning. At the young age of 46, Hoffman had already found himself among the best performers in Hollywood. Having won an Academy Award for his turn in Bennett Miller's Capote, Hoffman was also received Oscar Nominations for roles in The Master, Doubt and Charlie Wilson's War.

My admiration for Philip Seymour Hoffman can't be overstated. I could spend hours dissecting all of his wonderful performances from Boogie Nights to Almost Famous and even his hilarious work as Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly. I have such respect and admiration for each fine role he so brilliantly brought to life, making this a truly sorrowful day. I fondly remember trekking from Philadelphia all the way up to Boston just to catch his directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating. Philip Seymour Hoffman will certainly be missed, and always remembered.

UPDATE: TMZ reports Hoffman has passed from a drug overdose at the age of 46.