29 August 2013

'All Is Lost' Poster Drops


J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost gets checked out by quite a few critics at Telluride Film Festival this week and along with that receives a theatrical one-sheet. There isn't much to the poster, just star Robert Redford, his boat and some very bad weather coming his way.

The minimalist poster fits the film perfectly and should give audiences an idea of what to expect: dialogue is virtually nil and Redford will be putting on a one-man show with no supporting performances to back him up. It's a risky move this late in Redford's career, but it should be a thrill to watch.

All Is Lost hits theatres October 18th.

28 August 2013

Telluride 40th Film Festival Lineup

The Telluride Film Festival starts tomorrow and for the past few months the lineup was a complete mystery. Telluride has a tradition of keeping critics and attendees in the dark until the last moment and today they revealed their slate of this year's contenders.

Top mentions include: Cannes winner Abdellatif Kechiche‘s Blue Is The Warmest Color, Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, Jason Reitman‘s Labor Day, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, Ralph Fiennes‘ The Invisible Woman, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin and documentaries from Errol Morris (The Unknown Known), Werner Herzog (Death Row: Blaine Milam and Robert Fratta). With the aforementioned list of films, I think it's safe to say that this is a solid group, most notable among the pictures being J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost, the Coens' Inside Llewyn Davis and Alexander Payne's Nebraska — all big coups for Telluride considering those three pictures will not be making it to Toronto International Film Fest this year.

Along with the screenings offered, special presentations include tributes to Robert Redford, Iranian director Mohammed Rasoulof and the music/movie collaborations of T Bone Burnett and the Coen brothers.

The 40th Telluride Film Festival is proud to present the following new feature films to play in its main program, the ‘SHOW’:
“All Is Lost,” J.C. Chandor
“Before the Winter Chill,” Philippe Claudel
“Bethlehem,” Uyval Adler
“Blue Is the Warmest Color,” Abdellatif Kechiche
“Burning Bush,” Agnieszka Holland
“Death Row: Blaine Milam and Robert Fratta,” Werner Herzog
“The Invisible Woman,” Ralph Fiennes
“Fifi Howls From Happiness,” Mitra Farahani
“The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden,” Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine
“Gloria,” Sebastian Lelio
“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron (in 3D)
“Ida,” Pawel Pawlikowski
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” Joel and Ethan Coen
“La Maison de la Radio,” Nicolas Philibert
“Labor Day,” Jason Reitman
“The Lunchbox,” Ritesh Batra
“The Missing Picture,” Rithy Panh
“Nebraska,” Alexander Payne
“Palo Alto,” Gia Coppola
“The Past,” Asghar Farhadi
“Slow Food Story,” Stefano Sardo
“Starred Up,” David Mackenzie
   preceded by “Three Two,” Sarah-Violet Bliss
“Tim’s Vermeer,” Teller
“Tracks,” John Curran
“Under the Skin,” Jonathan Glazer
“The Unknown Known,” Errol Morris

Gravity Receives Raves from Venice Film Fest


There are only five weeks left before Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity hits theatres and the early word from critics at the Venice Film Festival is that it's a sure-fire hit. Test screenings that took place last year were also positive, but know that the film is complete the good word has turned into universal praise from all that have seen it.

The critics are in agreement that Gravity is a technical marvel thanks to some stunning camerawork from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Tree of Life) that could warrant a trip to an IMAX theatre near you. It's not just the cinematography and effects that are drawing good word though, Sandra Bullock's performance as Ryan Stone is right up there as a career best.

Varietys Justin Chang said:

"Suspending viewers alongside Bullock for a taut, transporting 91 minutes (with George Clooney in a sly supporting turn), the director’s long-overdue follow-up to Children of Men is at once a nervy experiment in blockbuster minimalism and a film of robust movie-movie thrills, restoring a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the bigscreen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide."

HitFix's Guy Lodge:

"Certainly, the unfeasibly mobile camera of Cuarón’s loyal, invaluable cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki seems drugged – or perhaps purely entranced – by its possibilities, gliding and weaving across seemingly impracticable distances with a deliberate fluidity that no previous screen depiction of weightlessness (whether in outer space or the subconscious hotel suites of Christopher Nolan’s mind) has come close to approximating. "

My favorite reaction to the film comes from Empire's Nick de Semlyen:

"Now that the embargo is up, I can say what Jaws did for water, Gravity does for air."

If that doesn't sell you on the picture, I don't know what will.

Gravity hits theatres in IMAX 3D on October 4th.

27 August 2013

Dallas Buyer's Club Trailer



Following the success of his roles in Killer JoeMagic MikeMud, it seems like the man who couldn't escape romantic comedies has an upcoming slate that most actors would kill for. After Dallas Buyer's Club, he has The Wolf of Wall Street and Interstellar on his plate. Pretty nice for a guy who was only remembered for being shirtless there for a while.

Dallas Buyer's Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas man diagnosed with HIV in the early days of the disease. Desperate to live and running out of time, he finds alternative treatments from other countries, and eventually smuggles them into the country to share with a “buyers club” of other HIV-positive people.

Dallas Buyers Club lands in theaters November 1, 2013.

23 August 2013

Review: The World's End


As the Cornetto Trilogy draws near an end, let us take a moment to appreciate how we got here. Before Simon Pegg was a key fixture in massive studio properties like Mission Impossible and Star Trek, he caught on as a layabout, who played video games with his buddy Ed (Nick Frost) before the impending zombie apocalypse. Ten years later and the smashing success of 2004's Shaun of the Dead and 2007's Hot Fuzz have brought Pegg, Frost and Edgar Wright to the mainstream.

As we gather to say goodbye to the wild romps that Wright, Pegg and Frost are known for there is only one question. Will their third feature come out on top?

Gary (Simon Pegg, taking his lead in a different direction this time) was an "outlaw" in high-school, his trademark black duster alerting everyone that he was on the scene. Gary wasn't really liked then and he certainly isn't now as a wayward 40 year old still rebelling against the system.

There was a time though when people did like him, twenty or so years ago during a pub crawl when Gary led Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) on a drinking marathon that lasted nearly twelve pubs. They had three stops left before The World's End, but the beer caught up to them and the crawl ended in defeat.

Flash forward two decades and Gary's development is firmly arrested: still rebellious, still dressed like a Criss Angel groupie while the rest of his pals have moved on with their lives—families, careers, responsibility, you know, adulthood. Jonesing for a nostalgia trip, Gary convinces his friends to put life on hold and get together one last time to complete the historic pub crawl and reach the fabled World's End.

Reluctantly, Andy, Oliver, Steven and Peter go back to their hometown to appease Gary and to accomplish what they couldn't do twenty years ago.

Going home is never really the same, yet the rose-tinted shades of time usually don't distort things that much. The folks back at Newton Haven don't seem to remember Gary or the rest of the crawlmembers at all. In fact, much of the town looks different, the pubs that had each possessed their own little personalities and quirks look white-washed and homogenized. Even the menus are identical, down to the blue chalk and exaggerated font.

With each passing pint, Gary and the gang take another stab at reconciling their past with where they are now. Of course, as with any other get together with old friends, nothing goes according to plan, squabbles arise and Gary nearly winds up getting his ass kicked when something very peculiar happens. An event that makes the gang realizes their race to World's End isn't just a pub crawl anymore, it's a struggle for the entire human race.

Six years since their last film together hasn't dulled the comic timing of Wright, Pegg and Frost. Each line of the script is delivered with precision and an ample amount of irreverence. Riffing on genres is what made their careers and it's because they are the best at it. Zombie movies, check. Action movies, check. The box on apocalypse movies has a hole punched through it now.

The problem with most end of the world flicks is most get caught up in the spectacle of the special effects and completely lose sight of the people at the heart of the film. We already knew Pegg and Frost could craft loveable characters, but Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan give tip-top contributions as well.

The entire team is at the top of their game here and firing on all cylinders. They bring the wit hard and fast in between rocking some hardcore fighting choreography that I didn't know they had in 'em (Plus, keep an eye out for another Timothy-Dalton-level-fun cameo!). Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are certified cult classics with infinitely quotable dialogue and memorable characters, consider The World's End safely among them as a classic.

Send summer out with a bang this weekend and send it out with a pint in hand.

22 August 2013

Affleck to Take On Superman in Batman vs Superman


You heard it right, Warner Bros. announced today that Ben Affleck has signed on to be the new Batman in the upcoming Batman vs Superman film. Affleck is the sixth man to don the cape and cowl after Bale, Clooney, Kilmer, Keaton and West on the big-screen. This comes as a bit of a surprise as Affleck's name wasn't mentioned in the rumor mill along with Josh Brolin, Jon Hamm and Armie Hammer.

When asked to speak about the casting, director Zack Snyder said this:

“Ben provides an interesting counter-balance to Henry’s Superman. He has the acting chops to create a layered portrayal of a man who is older and wiser than Clark Kent and bears the scars of a seasoned crime fighter, but retain the charm that the world sees in billionaire Bruce Wayne,” Snyder said in a statement. “I can’t wait to work with him.”

When the news of a Superman/Batman team-up was leaked during Comic-Con, I don't think anyone anticipated the former Daredevil stepping in for the job. And while Affleck's casting seems out of left field, it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise given that Warners Bros. asked him to helm the Justice League film a year ago.

Zack Snyder returns to direct, David Goyer will write and Christopher Nolan will produce the sequel to Man of Steel. Cast members Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are also scheduled to reprise their roles.

Batman vs Superman is slated to hit theatres July 17, 2015

20 August 2013

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher


Steve Carell hasn't gotten a chance to really convince audiences that he can separate himself from Michael Scott, but in Bennett Miller's upcoming Foxcatcher. The film depicts the insane, true story about the relationship between millionaire John duPont (Carell) and Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo). duPont is a dark role and one that could make moviegoers see Carell in a brand new light (aided by Carell's undergoing a transformation to embody the part).

Source: EW

19 August 2013

Muses and Maestros: Depp and Burton


Part three of a series about the most talented pairings of filmmakers today. On deck: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.

The players: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton

The works: Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows

While Johnny Depp's status as a leading man hasn't been a question since Pirates of the Caribbean launched him into the A-list stratosphere, Depp wouldn't have gotten that far without Tim Burton. The two started working together in 1990 after Burton's huge success with Batman turned into creative freedom for pictures like Edward Scissorhands. When that quirky tale of a young orphan turned into a big hit, a creative partnership was born.

Read more at GotchaMovies!

17 August 2013

Review: The Wolverine


Wolverine has fallen on some hard times with his last two endeavors in cineplexes. While X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were both financial successes, but left the most famous X-man feeling stagnant. Expectations were raised temporarily when it was announced that Darren Aronofsky would be directing the next feature, based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's acclaimed graphic novel that sets Logan in Japan.

Aronofsky ultimately dropped out, but James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line) stepped in. With that, the tide turned on the sequel and audiences were low on The Wolverine. So when James Mangold put something together that looked and felt like a character study, it was a very pleasant surprise in a season (with exception to a few indies) that has thrown out more sequels and franchise add-ons than it knows what to do with.

The Wolverine picks up some time after the events of The Last Stand, and Logan (Hugh Jackman), racked with guilt after having to kill Jean Grey, is in the midst of a self-imposed seclusion in the Canadian wilderness. Doctoring himself with liquor and classical music to deal with the grief, Logan is content to live out his days in the cold comfort of abyss, vowing to never hurt anyone again

That vow is pushed dangerously close to the edge when a local hunter poisons a grizzly bear, resulting in the death of several campers. The only thing that stops him is a mysterious woman who arrives in town and beckons him to Japan at the request of a Japanese prison guard Logan rescued from the Nagasaki atom bomb explosion years ago.

Since World War II that guard has amassed a fortune large enough to become the most powerful man in Japan, and now Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) is dying. As a gift to Logan for saving him, he would like to offer him something no one else can: mortality. This gift does not come entirely out of gratitude, Yashida has been developing a system that will allow him to take Logan’s healing factor for himself.

Logan is hesitant to pass along that curse to anyone so he refuses Yashida's offer flatly.

Not long after the conversation Yashida's cancer finally takes his life. The Yashida clan is home to a great deal of strife, his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), is next in line to the throne much to the chagrin of her father, Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada). Logan attends the funeral as a last gesture, but finds himself needed when the Yakuza kidnap Mariko. Injured during the attack, Logan finds that he is not healing as quickly as he used to.

Trying to protect Mariko and left vulnerable for the first time in his life, Logan is at his most dangerous.

The Wolverine is bolstered by a newly enthused Hugh Jackman reinvigorated with his character after a couple of subpar X-Men features. Jackman is always a magnetic presence, but Mangold has a knack for drawing superb performances from his leads (as exampled by Witherspoon and Phoenix in Walk the Line and Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted) and he does it again here.

Paired along with Jackman is talented newcomer Rila Fukushima as Yukio and the much less interesting Mariko (she mostly serves as a plot device throughout most of the film, giving Logan cause to place himself in danger and also entangle himself in a romantic subplot that could have been left on the cutting room floor).

Why Marvel waited as long as they did to cover this storyline is beyond me. Placing Logan in Japan works in a sense because Wolverine has always fit into samurai culture. This is a culture that allows Logan to explore his personal definition, something he never found in the X-Men. He is the ronin wandering through life without a driving purpose. The Wolverine is at its best when it finds the divide in Logan, the divide between wild animal and the wounded psyche looking for solace.

Oh, if only things stayed that way, but The Wolverine has the misfortune of having a dog of an ending. For all the wonderful scenery and character exploration that we were treated to earlier, the film's third act retreats into a summer template rock 'em, sock 'em conclusion. Throw in a completely unnecessary villain (The Viper is about as bad as Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin. Yes, that bad.) and a large robot and the humanity of The Wolverine is gone.

That the ending doesn't completely botch all the goodwill the film had going for it is a testament to how well it succeeded as a character-based drama earlier on. I hope that this hot streak continues into Days of Future Past.

--

Stay after the credits for a hell of a teaser sequence!

15 August 2013

Review: Kick-Ass 2


What a difference four years makes. Matthew Vaughn's 2009 adaptation of the Mark Millar graphic novel Kick-Ass was a mid-level success due to its smack-in-the-face riff on the superhero genre. Now that the novelty of the extreme language and excessive violence has worn off, there is little reason for a sequel to Kick-Ass to exist. That there even is a Kick-Ass 2 undermines any criticism that was could be construed about the superhero genre in the predecessor.

With so little going for the project, Vaughn jumped ship and now the reins are in the hands of Jeff Wadlow (known for low-budget fare like Never Back Down and Cry_Wolf). Really the only matter drawing attention to Kick-Ass 2 is that one of its stars, Jim Carrey, has decided to refuse supporting the film.

Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz given the gift of a more developed character) are about to put normal life behind them to become a full-time crime-fighting duo. The feeble Dave has bulked up thanks to Mindy's workout regiment, but his tendency to crumble under pressure sinks those efforts. With that, Mindy's new guardian tells her to hang up the uniform.

As Mindy hangs up her Hit Girl uniform and navigates the shark-infested waters of high-school, instead of bashing in skulls, she deals with sleepovers, dating, makeup and boy bands. Hit Girl's forced hiatus creates a drag for a lengthy portion of the film as the runtime is split between Mindy's high-school exploits and a new fighting group inspired by Dave's viral video shenanigans turned heroic antics. Oddly enough, this storyline is the more successful.

Chloë Grace Moretz is an increasingly popular presence in Hollywood and with Carrie coming up with fame sure to follow, she can put this schlock behind her and move on to better pictures.

Back to Dave (how the titular character can be as vanilla as this, I'll never know), Kick-Ass joins Justice Forever ranks to help clean up the streets. Justice Forever is fronted by a reformed mob enforcer known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). His methods are extremely unorthodox (pet lovers beware), but they keep the streets clean. While the league begins to thinks they've made a difference, they have yet to face a the vengeful wrath of The Motherfucker, formerly known as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Determined to avenge his father's death, who died at the hands of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, Motherfucker declares war on Kick-Ass and his cohorts in Justice Forever. Already a powerful crimelord with a legion of henchmen (including the WTF inducing Mother Russia), MF utilizes his sway to put down a ten million dollar bounty for Kick-Ass's head. Largely overmatched, Kick-Ass needs Hit Girl if they have any hopes of winning, and she must decide if it is worth it to give up the rest of her childhood to continue fighting crime.

When a studio cashes in on a sequel from a property that was only mildly successful to start, it's no surprise that the result is a series of diminishing returns. Jim Carrey is tasked with being the over-the-top presence that Nicolas Cage was as Big Daddy, but while the star power is about the same, Cage and Moretz were a much better pairing than Carrey is with Johnson. Even at his most animated, Carrey isn't enough to save scenes without Hit Girl.

Left with nowhere to go but down, Kick-Ass 2 goes for the depths of decency. There's being irreverent and there's being immature. Dogs maul people in the crotch, cops are brutally murdered with a lawnmower and rape is made light of. And, because the film goes exactly as expected, it all ends, rather unsurprisingly, with a giant horde of masked characters beating the hell out of each other. There is absolutely nothing worthwhile in any of the 107 minutes it runs.

The problem with this film is that it pretends to portray violence like a Quentin Tarantino, but it completely misses all of the moral subtext. Everything is about the destruction and none of the consequences.

Kick this sequel to the curb.

Win A Signed Poster from the Star of In a World


PartnersHub and Roadside Attractions have teamed up to promote Lake Bell's In a World and to also award a lucky reader a signed poster from the star/writer/director herself!

In this hilarious and heart-felt new film, In A World... Lake Bell (No Strings Attached, “Children’s Hospital”) stars as a struggling vocal coach who strikes it big in the cutthroat world of movie-trailer voiceovers, only to find herself in direct competition with the industry’s reigning king—her father!

Want to win? Simply take the movie trailer voiceover quiz in the app above and post your score (and email if possible) in the comments below. Scores will be tallied and the winner will be announced on August 24th.

U.S. residents only please.

14 August 2013

Review: Elysium


The summer movie season, in this day and age, is almost strictly reserved for rock 'em, sock 'em superheroes, super spies and giant robots and monsters. Escapism is in full swing during these months and audiences generally reward those pictures that put a smile on their face as they exit the theatre.

Neill Blomkamp is no stranger to this season (his debut film District 9 was also a summer release) but where he differs from the action crowd is a tendency to lean toward the subversive. District 9 was an example of dropping some real-world truths into the cineplex and introducing viewpoints typically not seen in a blockbuster.

Earth in the year 2154 is a world made up of favelas and a lack of resources, the wealthiest citizens have left and inhabit a station above the Earth where overpopulation, hunger and sickness is no longer an issue. With the technological innovation of medpods present on Elysium, broken bones are mended immediately and cancer can be waved away in seconds. Citizens there are virtually immortal.

Such luxuries are vied after by people like Max DeMarco (Matt Damon) who we meet as an impoverished child reaching toward a paradise he could never afford to live in. Flash forward a twenty or so years, and the boy is now a weary ex-con, who no longer rages against the machine. His only opportunity to vent lies in trying to shoot the breeze with robotic police and parole officers, who have a failing in humor or sarcasm. For put upon Earth dwellers like Max the only recourse available to leave Earth is a hacker (Wagner Moura) named Spider with few qualms about stealing and kidnapping to get others to Elysium.

Opposing those seeking a reprieve are Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her private mercenary Kruger (a maniacally unhinged Sharlto Copley). Delacourt is the head of Homeland security on Elysium, tasked with protecting the space station in all the ways that would be deemed unacceptable to others, especially Elysium leadership. Kruger renders these services personally for Secretary Delacourt and takes great delight in doing so.

Max refuses Julio (Diego Luna) and Spider's initial offer to earn some cash moonlighting as a car thief, but after he is doomed to death by a mishap in the workplace, Spider is his last chance to get to Elysium and to one of the medpods that could be his salvation. That chance? It comes by kidnapping the CEO of Armadyne, the company that services Elysium.

What follows afterward will be familiar to those who watched District 9: careful world building that loses itself in the high-speed chase between Max and Kruger.

Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley ground the proceedings with physicality while both operating from the opposite spectrum of humanity. Damon distances himself from his Bourne character here by falling prey to the fears and selfishness that don't inhibit other template action characters. Copley, known mostly for his roles as Wikus and Murdock (The A-Team), creates a vicious chracter in Kruger, one whose psychotic nature gives Max a very frightening obstacle.

The degree of world building that takes place in Elysium is staggering, District 9 was very impressive for its budget, but Elysium shows off what a talented filmmaker can do with a bigger budget. The panicked nature of living in a slowly dying, overpopulated planet blends seemlessly with the surveillance state that is Earth in the twenty-second century. It's a lived in Los Angeles that doesn't resort to that over-saturated cityscape of most sci-fi films.

However, a movie is only as good as its flaws allow it to be and there are some incongruities as the third act rolls out. The security on the habitat consists of gigantic holes that should not be there in order for Max to proceed through his journey. Robots are on the spot immediately to throw poor people out of med pods, but when firefights break out later, they are nowhere to be found. Other characters find themselves making spontaneous changes of heart that don't correlate with any prior scenes.

Given those issues, the overall product and positive impressions regarding all other aspects of Elysium are more than enough to recommend Blomkamp's sophomore effort. Original material like this should be rewarded.

04 August 2013

The Disappearance of the Action Star


Every once in a while there will be a murmur through theatre lobbies, "what happened to action stars?" It is a legitimate question and one that has been offered more and more. Over the years there has always been a marquee star of the action genre, but there is a noticeable absence at the moment. Jason Statham is the closest we have to an action star now, but his star burns nowhere near as brightly as the action icons of the 80s, men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean Claude Van Damme, who dominated the cinematic landscape for years without anyone questioning their status.

So what changed?

Read more at GotchaMovies!

02 August 2013

Not Your Average Rom-Com


Romantic comedies are a studio-designed template in this day and age. The formula works, so it isn't tinkered with often. Boy and girl meet cute, go on some dates, fall in love, make love, and an argument is manufactured in before the last twenty minutes so that they can declare their love for each other once again. Then along comes a picture like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it took the template, bent the frame, pulled it back through itself and added some science fiction along the way. 

Eternal Sunshine isn't alone though, here are eight other romantic comedies that don't follow the formula. Check out my list on GotchaMovies!