31 May 2013

Win 'The Purge' Prize Pack

If, on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do?

In an America wracked with crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity--including murder--becomes legal. The police can't be called. Hospitals suspend help. It's twelve hours when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this particular night in 2022, plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking.

When an intruder breaks into James Sandin’s (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear his family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide.

One lucky reader will receive an exclusive The Purge pack which includes a t-shirt and mask to #SurviveTheNight with.
Want to win? Post your results from the Would You Survive the Night? quiz into the Comments section and leave your email address so I can contact the winner. All entries must be made before June 19th and the winner will be notified June 20th.

The Purge hits theatres on June 7th.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #31

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 22 for 30. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from:

"It's so damn hot... milk was a bad choice."

30 May 2013

How Iron Man 3 Should Have Ended

The aside with Superman and Batman alone makes this a worthwhile viewing. Just watch.

28 May 2013

'Pacific Rim' Monsters Get Spotlight in Empire

Courtesy of Empire, there are new images of one of the monsters featured in Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim. Along with images of the beast is a quote from Del Toro explaining how each monster creates a unique battle in the film:

"The first fight is very operatic, theatrical: Wagnerian. It happens in the middle of an iceberg-strewn sea, in the middle of a storm, with huge waves crashing on the Jaeger and Kaiju. We worked really hard at making water a character in this movie, frequently referring to Hokusai or the Fuji wave, and trying to make the water enhanced and add to the drama. This fight tries to quote the majesty of a painting by Goya called the Colossus.”

Not that I was worried about repetition, but I'm glad Del Toro thought to make each battle different visually, it should make for a blast in IMAX.

25 May 2013

Review: Mud

A little over two years ago, Matthew McConaughey came out in The Lincoln Lawyer and started the road to repairing his reputation as an actor. He followed up that good word with other critically appreciated performances in Killer Joe, Bernie and Magic Mike. The man known for being shirtless in romantic comedies has reinvented himself as a leading man with a knack for good material again. When it was announced that he would lead Jeff Nichol's follow-up project to Take Shelter, Mud became a must see picture of 2013.

Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) don't have much to look forward to in DeWitt, Arkansas, life on the river is dying and they are at the age where girls aren't interested in them. A boat in a tree poses new opportunities, though, something they can lay claim to. The only problem is someone is living in it.

He goes by Mud (McConaughey) and, at the moment, he's living on nothing but beanie weenies. His possessions are few: one gun and a shirt he believes to be lucky. Mud tells the boys he is waiting on a woman to meet him there on the island, and he won't be leaving without her. Something in Mud's voice when he says her name inspires Ellis. His own concept of love is on the ropes as of late and Mud's optimism gives Ellis hope for his own life. Neckbone has his doubts about a man living on an island on his own accord, but Ellis is eager to help him piece together a way to leave with Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

The more information comes to light about out Mud, concern grows that Ellis is blind to the danger that the man poses.

On the surface, Mud would seem to be a vehicle for McConaughey, but the focus is placed predominantly on the two boys. Director Jeff Nichols drew excellent performances out of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain with Take Shelter and he continues that trend with Mud. Sheridan and Lofland manage to glide that shaky line of child performances that blends naivete, without going into overly saccharine territory.

McConaughey covers his natural charisma in a thin layer of grime and dirt that obscures his classic movie star good looks, but not his folksy charm. That the audience is constantly guessing just exactly what the man is capable of is a testament to the actor's abilities. The McConassaince has officially come full-circle.

Mud is only Nichol's third film, but he is very quickly becoming a singular voice in a new generation of auteurs. Filming on location in the south gives Nichol a canvas to work from that highlights the, sometimes, obsessive way we live our lives and knowing when to walk away from it.

***1/2 out of ****

24 May 2013

Join PopCircle Now

In beta testing, right now, is a new site where you can share all of your favorite movies, televisions shows, books and music with your friends and discover things you haven't seen yet. That site is PopCircle.

What sets PopCircle apart from other entertainment siteslike Letterbox and Get Glueis that while many sites give you recommendations based on complete strangers, PopCircle allows you to get recommendations from friends, families and experts you choose, people that you listen to when they talk about entertainment. The reason Ebert and Siskel became so popular was that they understood very well that idea of how valuable a recommendation is.

Have a favorite critic who shares your taste on film? Add him/her to your movies circle. Find music fans who share your love of Beck? Add them. Better yet, if you don't share their tastes on everything, you can create separate circles for each medium.

PopCircle allows you to walk out of the theatre (let's say you just watched Mud and had to share your thoughts) and with just one click, you can forward your review of it to friends on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter. Sharing has never been this easy.

You can sign-up for PopCircle and start reviewing films, songs, TV, and books, build collections, share those collections with others. You can start following people (LAMBers like Kai, Dylan and me for example) and maybe you’ll discover new music, movies, and books you’ve never heard of before.

I was invited this past winter to join PopCircle as a movie expert and I can tell you firsthand that I've had a blast creating collections like Hitman Movies to Kill For and The Cinephile Essentials, but the fun is in sharing, so join today! The site is still in Beta, so if you’ve signed up just contact me, one of the benefits of being an expert is I can get you through the velvet rope.

'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' Trailer

A love story of two outlaws desperately trying to reunite, Ain't Them Bodies Saints chronicles Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), his wife Ruth (Rooney Mara) and the sheriff that comes between them.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #30

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 21 for 29. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from:

"I love Sno-balls."

23 May 2013

Gender Inequality and 'Star Trek Into Darkness'

J.J Abrams has gotten himself in a bit of hot water as of late, the director received criticism for a scene of Alice Eve in her underwear for, what most argued, absolutely no reason. Appearing on Conan last night to defend himself, Abrams argues that there was such reason for Eve to be stripping during the scene: her stripping during her defusal of a weapon was meant to "provide a break in the middle of all this action and adventure,”* he said, and to "reinforce the idea of Captain Kirk as a ladies’ man"* (if anyone ever needed reminding that Kirk is a ladies' man, than they weren't watching the movie).

Abrams later contended that Chris Pine appears in a state of undress as well, but given that this appearance is post-love scene, that makes sense. If that line of reasoning didn't appeal to critics, then he played a deleted scene of Benedict Cumberbatch showering. While placing that scene in the film may have eased some qualms that Eve was objectified, Cumberbatch's deleted scene was just that, deleted.

Still, the point remains that thematically, Cumberbatch being naked would make sense given he is showering. What is the point of Eve undressing during her conversation?

Gratuitous displays of skin appear frequently in another big franchises like James Bond and comic book films, but the difference is, if Abrams is going to play the gratuitous skin card, he should do so with both sexes. Daniel Craig is on the screen shirtless maybe more than anyone (007's famous scene emerging from the water will attest to that).

More importantly, those films had female characters that were better written. Skyfall had Judi Dench's character defining performance as M and The Avengers managed to avoid demeaning any of the female characters at all during its runtime. Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) managed her own in combat and didn't have to strip to her undies when she interrogated Loki (Tom Hiddleston). That is the difference between what Sam Mendes and Joss Whedon did, and what Abrams did not.

All clothing issues aside, the real problem with this debate is that the prominent female characters of Into Darkness are reduced to their feelings about the male characters, or their anatomy. Uhura's (Zoe Saldana) sole motivation throughout the film is to pine for Spock and that is it. For one of the strongest female characters in pop culture to be defined solely through her affections for a man is misrepresenting Uhura in her entirety.

In a series that has long promoted equality for all races and genders, this point is hardest to stomach. It has been almost fifty years since the Enterprise lifted off, where is the progress in movies now? Will the next mission on the Enterprise feature some female roles with depth?

Having Ms. Eve strip down for essentially no reason is only a symptom of the larger problem that populates films: women are under-written. Benedict Cumberbatch showering can't make up for that.

* Meredith Blake May. "J.J. Abrams to Critics: Here's Benedict Cumberbatch in the Shower!" Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2013. Web. 23 May 2013.

Clip from 'All Is Lost'

It has been a while since Robert Redford has appeared in a work of significance and J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost appears to be that film. The film is without dialogue in large stretches, but Redford's performance has garnered a great deal of good word at Cannes.

All Is Lost arrives in theatres Oct 25th!

22 May 2013

The World's End US Trailer

The Blood and Cornetto Trilogy end this August and Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost seemed to have saved the best for last. We waited five years since Hot Fuzz and it will be a blast to watch the three riff on another genre flick.

The World's End careens into theatres with a fiery explosion on August 23rd!

21 May 2013

Second 'Wolverine' Trailer

X-Men Origins: Wolverine may have soured many fans on the character, but with FOX's handling of both this and X-Men: First Class, it seems safe to say that they want to do right by Wolverine this time around.

The Wolverine hits theaters on July 26.

18 May 2013

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

As Star Trek Into Darkness opens, we are thrown into a Starfleet operation where James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are actively disregarding the Prime Directive. The mission is ultimately a success, but there are consequences waiting for Kirk when he gets home. Captain Pike is livid, flying by the seat of your pants works when you're just some local farmboy, but Kirk is responsible for the lives of hundreds of officers and he can't be left in the captain's seat in good conscience.

There is plenty of reason to question the fearless leader of the Enterprise. Kirk has the requisite swagger, but there is always a glimmer behind his eyes that suggests he still doesn't know what he should do. Any chance for character growth in a summer blockbuster is appreciated, but it is handled in a devil-may-care fashion by the writers and, frankly, Kirk's perpetual combat with maturity should be resolved by now.

The time for Kirk to reflect on his leadership is not a lengthy one though, an act of terrorism occurs that shocks Starfleet to its very core. With Starfleet brainstrust searching for a suspect, the harbinger of our downfall appears in the form of a renegade former officer, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Considering the last villain had the ability to alter the future, it wouldn't have been a surprise if Star Trek suffered a little letdown, but Cumberbatch goes for gusto. Even when safely contained behind a wall of glass (a blockbuster theme at this point after The Dark Knight, The Avengers and Skyfall), Cumberbatch can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

“I thought we were explorers,” Scotty (Simon Pegg) interjects when Kirk accepts a command from on high to hunt for Harrison in Klingon airspace. All of the sudden, a crew focused on space exploration find themselves faced with a military operation. There are no shortage of moral shadows that the Enterprise crew find themselves in and bigger political and moral ramifications are aired here, but they are largely the personal leanings of a writer who should know better.

Gene Roddenberry's cerebral series was known for equality and a sense of optimism that pervaded throughout the universe. In this rebooted franchise, none of the above is true. The women of the U.S.S. Enterprise have been left with nothing more to do than pine for their male counterparts or (in a very curious scene) strip for no presumable reason. Given that Uhura was set-up to be a strong female character, Uhura's (Zoe Saldana) lack of depth stings more than it does for Carol Marcus (Alice Eve). More disgusting is the use of 9/11 imagery to supposedly set-up moral quandaries for the crew if the Enterprise when it is merely indulging Roberto Orci's truther theories. The character of Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) may as well be named false flag. It's not only out of place, but anger-inducing.

Fortunately, Abrams handles the action side of the story well at least. A human-missile sequence witnessed in 3D is a real treat and the scale of IMAX rewards the impressive world-building of this sequel, but there are a few qualms to be had with Into Darkness though, namely, it's been done before. With the events of the 2009 film altering the timeline, the sequels zigs where other prominent Trek films have zagged and everyone can see the resolution coming.

Hope was in great supply for J.J. Abram's Star Trek series following 2009, but when the third entry of the blockbuster franchise takes off, there will be one less viewer onboard.

17 May 2013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #29

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 20 for 28. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from:

"Are you talking about monkeys?"

15 May 2013

First Still from 'Knight of Cups'

Two years really makes a difference, doesn't it? Prior to The Tree of Life's release, Terrence Malick was notorious for his long delays between pictures. Something must have awoken something inside the auteur because he has released To the Wonder and has two more films waiting in post-production. Quite the change of pace for a man who had only directed three pictures over 30 years.

10 May 2013

Review: The Great Gatsby

Self-made men like Jay Gatsby have been a fascination of American culture for decades, men like Howard Hughes and Don Draper, men that create veiled versions of themselves available for public consumption. These men raise the ideal of the American dream for all to see. Too often that ideal is so golden that few inspect further to see the pyrite underneath.

During parties Gatsby has a story for every occasion, a drink to offer in both hands and an practiced "old sport" for each party goer. Of the two Gatsbys we see (one private and one public), the private moments captured by Luhrmann offer a stoic man, one with green-tinted regret leering at him in the distance. The house across the water.

Two people live at the residence: Tom Buchanan (gleeful villain, Joel Edgerton), but more importantly to Gatsby, Tom's wife, Daisy (Carey Mulligan).

We are kept at a distance from these characters, the audience views them through the eyes of newcomer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). The spectacular parties are taken in with Carraway's wide-eyed wonder, but the more time Nick spends around Daisy, Tom and Gatsby, the more cracks appear in the veneer. As each party brings Daisy and Gatsby together, tragedy comes closer to West Egg.

Very rarely have an actor and a role seemed tailor-made for each other. DiCaprio has similarly crafted his own self-image that is equally as polished as Jay Gatsby's. Both men know the practiced smiles and the rapport that you utilize with others while keeping other feelings locked down. Portions of Gatsby fall flat (Daisy never seems like the woman that would inspire a feud), but DiCaprio's embodiment as the titular character never ceases to amaze.

The reason why The Great Gatsby didn't work in the 1974 film starring Robert Redford is because previous filmmakers felt the need to rigidly adhere to the source material. When source material is treated with such reverence, the product feels overly sacred and keeps the audience at a distance. Bringing the story to life is difficult because what grips reader about the book is not the dialogue or Carraway's voiceover, it's Fitzgerald's prose that makes the story and prose isn't adaptable.

To make up for that, a sense of style has to be melded into the story.

Baz Luhrmann has been flogged as an auteur with an overly sweet tooth, yet Luhrmann's choice to create an over-the-top Jazz Age America is an intentional decision. This effort is sure to bring Moulin Rouge! to mind, but it is a shot of energy into a summer that lacks a distinct touch. The glitzy and confetti covered world Gatsby and Daisy live in is a hollow one, one made more heart-breaking by the optimism surrounding them.


Hit Me With Your Best Shot #28

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 20 for 27. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from:

"You killed him? No, I shot him. Bullets and the fall killed him."

09 May 2013

Fox Releases Logo and Synopsis for 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Badass Digest broke the new logo and synopsis of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes sequel. Production started a few days ago and with any luck the project will capitalize on the intriguing premise set below:

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stars Gary Oldman, Judy Greer, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke and Andy Serkis as Caesar. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves takes over the reins from Rupert Wyatt.

08 May 2013

'Gravity' Poster and Trailer Released

Courtesy of @WBPictures, this is the first look at Gravity before the release of the trailer of Thursday. Updated: the trailer is below.

Astronauts attempt to return to earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting alone in space. 

Gravity opens in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D on October 18.

07 May 2013

New 'Man of Steel' and 'The World's End' Posters

Two more posters for some of the summer's most anticipated films. One for Zack Snyder's Man of Steel and the other for Edgar Wright's The World's End. The banner for Man of Steel doesn't reveal much, it's just stylish, but the new poster for World's End reveals a look at the villains previously unseen in any promotional materials. The glowing eyes don't give away enough to say definitively, but could it be aliens?

(Courtesy: IMPAwards.com)

05 May 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is in the middle of a panic of sorts. He is suffering what most would call a crisis of confidence. The Avengers left Stark with a distinct impression that there are, in fact, things he cannot control. The suit won't always be around and Tony has loved ones who are exposed. With Rhodes (Don Cheadle) piloting around the world as Iron Patriot, and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow, getting her best part yet in the series) running Star Industries, Tony is firmly set in his R&D lab trying to figure out how to keep them all safe.

In the isolation of his fortress, the global reign of terror brought about by The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is off Tony's radar, panic attacks and insomnia are more present worries. The slightest mention of New York City is enough to send him searching madly for his iron cocoon. Tony being Tony, trouble doesn't stay in his rear-view for long. He finds himself in the middle of a press conference where he gives the world his address and begs the Mandarin to man up and come at him. Lo and behold, trouble knocks on his door. Loudly.

The similarities between Shane Black's last team-up with Robert Downey Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) are quite instant. The film begins with a voice over and treads back into a more familiar starting point, just like the 2005 release. And the similarities don't end there, every nudge and wink about genre tropes from that film is present in Iron Man 3 as well. Everything is played up for laughs in this sequel and one wonders if there is a spot where Murtaugh comes in to tell everyone "he's too old for this shit" left on the cutting room floor.

At first glance, Black looks like he may scale back the over the top nature antics of Iron Man 2 in favor of a real-world threat like terrorism. Such expectations are lost during the third act as one villain is successfully defanged to the point of laughter and replaced by a much more vanilla nemesis with questionable motives. How much you enjoy this trickery will define the film's reception.

Excess is abound, villains come back from the dead multiple times, seemingly every character in the Iron Man universe has a power or suit of their own. There's just too much of everything. It's a shame considering that Downey is perhaps at his most Tony and left to fend for himself without the crimson and gold for large portions of the film. These moments are where Iron Man 3 shines.

Marvel has effectively made Iron Man into the James Bond franchise of comic book franchises at the film's conclusion. Robert Downey Jr.'s contract is up after this picture and, should he decide to walk away, this film easily serves as a tidy wrapping for this particular interpretation of the character. Though with Avengers 2 looming, it's likely Marvel will back in the dump trucks of cash to bring him back. Hopefully they do, as RDJ says "I am Iron Man" and the franchise would be lost without him.

**1/2 out of ****

03 May 2013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #27

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 19 for 26. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from:

"Alva, there is no one else in this entire office that I could possibly ask to share such a horrible job. You're the lowest on the totem pole here, Alva. The lowest. Do you realize that? Every other secretary here has been here longer than you, Alva. Every one. And even if there was someone here who was here even one day longer than you, I still wouldn't ask that person to partake in such a miserable job as long as you were around.

01 May 2013

2013 Summer Preview

School will be out soon, the heat is coming and what better way to pass the time in a cool movie theatre? We all know about the big franchise releases this summer: Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6Man of SteelThe Hangover Part III, but what about some of the lesser-known pictures coming out during the warmest season? Here is your itinerary for what to watch this summer:

Iron Man 3 (May 3rd)
Following the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) may believe he faced his largest challenge ever, but The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) threatens to tear Tony's world apart. With his back against the wall, Tony may have to protect his loved ones without his iron suited alter-ego.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 16th)
Maybe the most anticipated sequel of the year finds Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and crew facing their most destructive threat yet in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch. J.J. Abram's is playing things close to the chest, but with the film playing in IMAX, we're in for a blast.

Before Midnight (May 24th)
The third feature in Richard Linklater's series of serendipitous encounters between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). Nearly twenty years have passed since they first met in Vienna, is the spark still there nine years following Before Sunset?

Much Ado About Nothing (June 7th)
At first Shakespeare and Joss Whedon may seem like an odd match, that is until the distinct voices of each writer find their way into your head. Whedon regulars like Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof make up the modern retelling of classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different romantic mindsets and a way with words.

Man of Steel (June 14th)
Superman has had his story told over and over again through various mediums, but Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan aim to make the Man of Steel modern again. The biggest complaint against Superman Returns was that it lacked action and a formidable opponent, judging by the trailers, that won't be a problem at all for Man of Steel.

This Is the End (June 14th)
When a party at James Franco's house turns into the apocalypse (what else is new?), who better to have around than Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel? Those hoping for a Freaks and Geeks reunion will get their wish when a cavalcade of celebrities battle their way across Los Angeles just to survive.

Lone Ranger (July 5th)
In this re-imagining of John Reid's Lone Ranger, Tonto tells the tale of how one U.S. Marshal became a legend. The rapport between Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer and all the money spent during production looks like it went to good use. Gore Verbinski proved he had Western sensibilities with Rango and I look forward to seeing what he could with an actual Cowboy film.

Pacific Rim (July 12th)
Monsters rising from the sea, giant robots being built to battle them, it must be a Guillermo Del Toro picture. Advanced screenings at Comic-Con revealed soaring heights and monsters on a scale unseen before in a blockbuster and all the critical gushing has fans putting this 3D release on many summer watch-lists.

The Conjuring (July 19th)
Typically horror releases don't find their way onto screens until Halloween, but this paranormal investigation will be competing against Red 2 and R.I.P.D. in one of July's busiest weekends.

The World's End (August 23rd)
Edgar Wright's Blood and Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) is drawing to a close and how the world will end is this feature is anyone's guess. A group of friends (Pegg, Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan) reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years ago and, in the process, become humanity's only hope for survival.

Also published on Film Annex