Thursday, September 22, 2011

Movie Review- The Help

Entertaining, endearing, and heartbreaking performances

One of the first films of August that had whispers of Oscar buzz is also one of the year's most memorably inspirational films about strong women. This year, women are taking over TV but with the exceptional performances from Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard and Emma Stone, it looks like movies are standing up and taking notice.

The Help is not about how Emma Stone's Skeeter Phelan saving the black maid community in Jackson, Mississippi like some of the promos might accidentally suggest. And thank goodness because there would be no realism or any endearing qualities in a plot like that. No, this film is about Aibileen Clark and her friend Minny Jackson and how the two decide to break the racial boundaries and stereotypes by tlaking about their hardships when very little in their community would.

The film has heart- a lot of it- and it never gets tied down by too many cheesy love stories (there are a couple) or disconnected side plots. Each character is interesting and all of the actors play their roles very convincingly. Every critic has talked about the brilliant performance of the mighty Viola Davis and the intelligence of Emma Stone's portrayal and there is good reason. The two ladies have a great connection and they make up the core of the film. But I was also drawn to Octavia Spencer's unwaveringly strong performance as Minny Jackson, the maid who's tired of being treated less than when it's obvious to her that she's better than the people she works for. Then there's Bryce Dallas Howard who gives the audience an unapologetically villainous to root against. For me, the light of the whole film came from Jessica Chastain's portrayal of the blond, slightly dim yet completely endearing Celia.

I am not a fan of chick flicks. I am not a fan of sappy films. In fact, I cringe while watching films like Steel Magnolias. But this film is not just for women and it's definietly better than it may sound on paper. Sure, there are definitely some cliche moments- Emma Stone's Skeeter has a love story that ends badly- and the film definitely doesn't play up the racial tension of the era as much as it probably should. But it's a smart look into the relationship between two groups of women who don't understand each other at all.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Movie Review- The Change-Up

A brainless Freaky Friday. Wait, rephrase- an even MORE brainless Freaky Friday.

We all knew this film would be dumb. I mean, the two leads said themselves this is a dumb, unoriginal idea. But the cast and crew of The Change-Up must have thought they were sitting on a comedy goldmine of a script to have the courage to make this film. Turns out they didn't. But it's not all bad. 

The Change-Up is about two old friends, Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave (Jason Bateman) who are completely different. Mitch is a frat-tastic, dummy who can't get a real acting job so he settles for some soft-core porn (more on that later). Dave is a family man with a VERY impressive lawyer job. All Mitch wants is to keep his slacker/ladies man life and all Dave wants... is Mitch's slacker/ladies man life. After a drunken turn of events, they switch bodies and, well, the rest is obvious. 

Best thing about the film: watching Jason Bateman FINALLY play completely against type as the obnoxious, almost misogynistic Mitch. Ryan Reynolds is also great at being both aggressively awful and awkwardly charming in his two different personas. 

Not only does this movie suffer from a tired plot, the comedy is trying too hard to be raunchy. And instead of coming up with a new Hangover or Wedding Crashers, the audience gets a script full of dirty jokes that serve no real purpose. On top of that, there are so many body-switching cliches and the female roles are not well-written. But I will say that there were a few parts that were genuinely humorous- Most of those moments came from Jason Bateman's all-or-nothing performance.

With all the wrong that was going on, it was hard to see the right but for the most part, the film flowed and was a quick watch. Even though the story was dull and the twists were obvious, it didn't falter on pace. And when you're watching a fairly bad movie, that's the best thing you can hope for.

Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds deserve a much better vehicle with which to star in together. They're both fine actors who have more comedy genius than most people combined. But their talent is wasted here with the unoriginal script, twists, and jokes.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Movie Review- Crazy, Stupid, Love

Quirky, fun, endearing

Most critics like to describe this movie in sections: the Crazy, the Stupid and the Love. But this is not Eat, Pray, Love people. It's not a film with different sections. I believe the title suggest that love is crazy and stupid. This film is not shy with showing it's crazy or stupid sides, and that makes it the smartest and most realistic romantic comedy of the year. 

Let's start with the basics: Cal (Steve Carell) is a regular guy with a family and nine-to-five job. After years of the same old routine, Cal's wife Emily (Julianne Moore) tells Cal she cheated on him with a guy at work (Kevin Bacon) and now she wants a divorce. Cal is... bummed to say the least and has no direction in life. Enter Ryan Gosling's Jacob- a ladies' man to the core. He never cares about anything under the surface until he meets Hannah (Emma Stone). Finally, there's Cal's son Robbie who's in love with his babysitter Jessica. She, however, is in love with someone more inappropriate.

This film focuses on how these love lives interact and impact each other. Directors Glen Ficcara and  John Requa could have thrown in every cliche in the book- and to be honest there were a few- but the story seemed fresh and exciting, thanks in large part to the great script and the outstanding performances from the four leads.

Steve Carell has proven time and again how great he can be in all types of roles: Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life and this film are prime examples of how he strikes a perfect balance between the serious and the funny. He is utterly heartbreaking, hilarious and endearing all at the same time. Julianne Moore is stunning as always and actually shares a sweet chemistry with Carell. Emma Stone is charming as always- anyone who was a fan of hers from Easy A will continue their love fest here. But this film would not have been the same with anyone besides Ryan Gosling. He is a genuine star in this film, and it's about damn time considering how pitch perfect he is in most everything. His bromance with Steve Carell is the highlight of the whole movie- no wonder it takes up a large chunk of the story.

Sometimes the plot lines still felt a bit forced and it wasn't crazy enough for my taste- I think the directors did crazy MUCH better with their first film I Love You Phillip Morris but considering this is a more mainstream venture than that film, there's a great divide between Crazy Stupid Love and other rom-coms. Hopefully the genre can be changed with the addition of this film. No longer should romantic comedies be called chick flicks- as long as they are made like this.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Movie Review- Friends with Benefits

Raunchy, nostalgic and pretty damn fun

After the whip smart and ridiculously funny Easy A, director Will Gluck really needed to come up with another big hit comedy. While not nearly as clever and thorough, Friends with Benefits is definitely worthy of being considered the best romantic comedy of the summer.  It also manages to blow the other "buddies who sleep together" comedy No Strings Attached completely out of the water.

Justin Timberlake plays Dylan, a talented art director who is considering a job at GQ magazine. GQ sends in headhunter Jamie to get Dylan to accept the job, but Dylan is hesitant as he would have to move from Los Angeles to New York. After an amazingly fun night out on the town, Dylan decides to take the job and subsequently continues his friendship with Jamie. Obviously, this normal friendship turns into one with sexual perks but the how, why and what happens are all part of the rest of the story.

Timberlake is really proving himself to be a great comedic actor. He's consistently hilarious on Saturday Night Live, winning Emmys for the famous "D**k in a Box" sketch and even being nominated for hosting this past season finale. In this film, he turns on the heavy charm and manages to dump his rockstar persona to give a good performance based completely on how the character was written. Mila Kunis is adorably funny and loud as Jamie, the self-proclaimed "damaged goods" who is undoubtedly the way she is because of her overly-sexed, crazy mother (played with real panache by the always amazing Patricia Clarkson). Woody Harrelson also plays an amusing supporting role as Dylan best guy friend and co-worker at GQ who happens to be gay.

The movie is not perfect by any means. It gets too sappy at times which normally would be perfect for a romantic comedy but in this case, it changes the tone set at the beginning. Also, there are not one but TWO flash mob sequences and a few too many technology jokes/references to truly enjoy. But just like Easy A, this film is at its absolute best when its being self-deprecating and making fun of the entire idea of romantic comedies. It's not the best comedy of the year, Kristen Wiig's brilliant Bridesmaids still holds that top spot, but it's definitely one worth checking out for the fantastic chemistry between its two incredibly likeable leads.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Movie Review- Captain America: The First Avenger

Bleeds red, white and blue.

There's not much you can really critique about this film. It's exactly what you expect it to be. The First Avenger is a solid, if not fairly unoriginal blockbuster that's perfectly targeted to summer audiences.

Chris Evans plays the iconic Steve Rogers, a down-on-his luck, scrawny fellow living in New York during the Second World War who just wants to follow in his dad's footsteps of becoming an army soldier. He gets rejected over and over until finally, a German scientist (who escaped Hitler's reign) gives him the chance of participating in an experiment to create super soldiers to fight the Nazis. Obviously, he does it and becomes the beefy, uncommonly strong Captain America and eventually gets to go on real missions to save thousands of innocent lives.

It's about as American as you can get. The vintage, sepia-tinted landscape is beautifully time-period appropriate and the costumes would make anyone wish they could transported back to the 1940s when men actually bothered to get dressed up in the morning. The cast is quite good. Chris Evans plays the Captain with the right amount of gusto and patriotism and Hayley Atwell is cute and effectively snarky as his love interest/British spy counterpart. Tommy Lee Jones gets to use his signature growl as Captain America's colonel in charge and the film's main villain offers audiences the best performance of the film by the deliciously evil Hugo Weaving. Other small performances are fun and keeping with the era such as Stanley Tucci's as the German doctor who does the experiment on Steve Rogers and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark who's in charge of weapons for the U.S. Army. And yes, he is supposed to be the obvious connection between Captain America and the rest of the Avengers.

Here's the problem: nothing is new. The action sequences are well thought out and fun to watch sure, but the main fact is that there's nothing different about them. We've seen it all before in every other superhero/comic book film. Director Joe Johnston has played it safe with this film, possibly because his last film (The Wolfman) was such a bomb. But considering this is the same man who directed the child's dream Jumanji and the criminally overlooked October Sky, I was expecting and hoping for more.

It's not a bad way to spend an evening but if you're looking for The Dark Knight's grittiness or Spiderman 2's color and style, you're out of luck. Watch it only if you want popcorn-flick fun with very little thinking. And stay after the credits for a new Avengers sneak peek.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Movie News- Film Festival News


The Toronto Film Festival and New York Film Festival lineups have been introduced and several films with great potential have made the competition cut. Festivals like Toronto, Cannes, Venice and Sundance are great precursors to major award season; in fact Toronto's festival has been the predictor of many Oscar-nominated films including last year's Black Swan and eventual best picture winner The King's Speech. While Cannes and Sundance are already over, Toronto will run from September 8th through the 18th, right in between the dates for the Venice Film Festival (August 31st to September 10th). After Toronto is New York Film Festival which screens films from September 30th through October 16th.

Since awards season is approaching soon, it seems fitting to go through the festival lists to see what films have the talent to make their way to the Kodak Theater for the 84th Annual Academy Awards on February 26th, 2012. While I haven't seen most of these films, it is fun to predict which of these movies will actually end up being good, let alone whether they have Oscar bait written all over them. Many of these films overlap since they seem to be good enough to win awards at multiple festivals, so I won't repeat them here. Let's start with the contestants and winners at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance (January 20-30 in Park City, Utah)
1. Like Crazy (directed by Drake Doremus)
         -This film may not win any acting Oscars, but it has great chances of getting nominated for it's script. Said to be the hands-down favorite at the festival, Like Crazy tells the story of a long-distance relationship and how sometimes being together is harder than breaking up. The film is supposed to be an incredibly emotionally honest portrayal of young love and heartbreak. In fact, young British thespian Felicity Jones won Best Actress at the festival and the film won the Grand Jury Prize (or best film) honors.

Berlin (February 10-20)

1. Margin Call (directed by J.C. Chandor)
         -A film about events surrounding an investment bank during the financial crisis doesn't sound exciting or interesting. So why did this film screen at the Berlin International Film Festival? Well, the direction looks sharp and focused from the trailer alone and the terrific cast is a huge plus. Margin Call stars Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany (Priest), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek, Heroes), Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl, Easy A), and Simon Baker (The Mentalist) just to name a few. All of these great elements led to the film being nominated for the highest honor at the Berlin festival, the Golden Bear award. If done correctly, this film could get nominated for several major Academy awards.

2. Coriolanus (directed by Ralph Fiennes)
         -Another Shakespeare film. Another drama/tragedy about betrayal. The difference this time comes down to two reasons: the modern take on the familiar story and the directorial debut of Ralph Fiennes who also stars in it. It's the first time this particular Shakespeare play is being adapted for the screen and the screenplay is written by acclaimed writer John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Sweeney Todd). There's a great chance that Fiennes could have finally have a shot for the Best Actor Oscar that he has deserved since his role in Schindler's List. This film screens of a Best Actor nod for Ralph Fiennes and possibly even a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination.

Cannes (May 11-22)

1.  Midnight in Paris (directed by Woody Allen)
         -After the screening of this film and it's subsequent limited release in the States, many people are saying this is Woody Allen's comeback. Considering how terrible his last two films have been (Whatever Works and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger), I'd say anything is a step up. But this film is definitely worth the classic Woody Allen mark. Owen Wilson is at his most charmingly neurotic as Gil, a screenwriter who is stuck in a stuffy life with a not-so-friendly woman (played by Rachel McAdams. So he goes out walking around the streets of Paris and finds an interesting adventure. And that's about all I can say about the plot without spoiling too many details. Paris is now Allen's most profitable film, no doubt due to his likeable cast led by Wilson and including Marion Cotillard (Inception), Adrien Brody (The Pianist) and Kathy Bates to name a few. If Academy voters think this movie is half as good as Vicky Christina Barcelona, Woody Allen has a shot at a Best Screenplay nomination at least.

2. Drive (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn)
         -Ryan Gosling is having a good year so far. His first release, Crazy Stupid Love, is easily being called the best romantic comedy of 2011 and thousands of women flocked to see his perfectly shaped abs. But even before Love, Gosling was promoting indie film Drive at Cannes with director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) and co-stars Carey Mulligan (An Education), Albert Finney (Big Fish) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). I've already gushed about the trailer for this film: it looks like the perfect blend of action/thriller, poignant drama, a little romance and a touch of film noir. My anticipation for this film is only strengthened by reviews at the Cannes screening and the fact that director Refn took home the coveted Best Director award at the prestigious festival. While it's not clear what kind of nominations this film might get, it's safe to say it has a strong shot for quite a few.

3. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay)
         -I'm not sure how well-suited this film is for Oscar gold but considering the passion many critics have for Ramsay's third full-length feature, the obvious observation is that it will get people in the Academy talking. The short version of the premise for Kevin goes like this: an estranged but still married couple finds out their son went on a Columbine-esque killing spree and they both react in completely different ways to the news. The film seems to focus a lot of attention on the mother and how she takes responsibility for her son's actions and since the whole narrative rests on the mother's shoulders, Ramsay brings in the extremely-talented Tilda Swinton to perform the difficult role. Look for possible Best Actress and Best Screeplay nods but only if the film is univerally adored after its wide release.

4. Melancholia (directed by Lars von Trier)
         -Poor Melancholia. The antics of its director, Trier, pushed much of the film's reception news to the back corner of Cannes tidbits. However, after putting aside Trier's Nazi-sympathizing jokes and the always recurring fear that he makes only misogynistic films, Melancholia did quite well for itself at the film festival. It polarized the audience but support for the film overwhelmed negative reviews. The story is about the end of the world and how two sisters react to it. The two sisters are played by Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist) and old Spiderman's very own Kirsten Dunst. Now Dunst being in a great movie lately seems a bit strange but not only did she clean-up her acting, she was rewarded heavily for it. Dunst ended up taking home the Best Actress award at Cannes, beating out favorites like Tilda Swinton (for We Need to Talk About Kevin) and more. The rest of the cast is stellar as well including True Blood hunk Alenxander Skarsgard, Stellan Skarsgard and Keifer Sutherland. Expect that Academy voters will be watching Dunst's and Gainsbourg's performances quite closely.

5. The Tree of Life (directed by Terrence Malick)
         -And now for the pièce de résistance. Malick's last film was over a decade ago and this film has been on the shelves and waiting list for many a festival season. Finally, after years of waiting, the feature was released to eagerly anticipating viewers and apparently it did not disappoint at all. In fact, Tree of Life snagged the Palme d'Or (Best Film) award. Like Melancholia, Tree of Life is about the end of the world but there's so much more to it. I've been told it's best to see this film without knowing too much and it makes for a more visceral experience. But I have to say that even though I did know a little about the synopsis, it's still beautiful to watch. Overall, the film is about the balance and struggle between the way of nature and the way of grace and this relationship is depicted through a father and mother in a 1950s American home. The couple, played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain (remember this name, she's terrific), are both brilliant and Pitt gives the most emotionally powerful performance of his life. It's easy to expect Best Film and Best Actor nods for this film that deeply divided critics but won over the Cannes jury.

Venice (August 31-September 10)

1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Tomas Alfredson)
         -This is the quintessential British spy movie of the year. Based on a book by John Le Carré, the film is about an old British secret agent who finds out there may be a Russian mole in his old agency. He decides to come out of retirement to catch the mole before too many secrets are revealed. The plot is a bit unoriginal but the book is considered a real literary monument so it has high expectations. The cast reads like an Harry Potter cast list with all the amazing British talent: Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), John Hurt (Alien), Tom Hardy (Inception), Mark Strong (Kick-Ass), Ciarán Hinds (There Will Be Blood), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: A Study in Pink), Toby Jones (W.), etc. There's no way this film will go unnoticed come awards season unless it's familiar or just not great. If it likes up to it's expectations, Gary Oldman could potentially get his first Best Actor nomination- It's about damn time.

2. A Dangerous Method (directed by David Cronenberg)
         -David Cronenberg has a habit of making disturbing films. But he also has a great track record with getting his actors to deliver some of their best performances. In this new film that looks into the complicated relationship between psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Cronenberg is teaming up with Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings) for the third time and is adding Keira Knightly (Pride and Prejudice) and new hot commodity Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class) to the list. A look into the two strangest psychologists would have been interesting enough but adding a sexual affair and intrigue involving a female patient pushes the story into Cronenberg land. There is probably no one better to make this disturbing, strange, sexual, and possibly even scary film about the deepest conflicts of the human mind. If the film turns out to be as good as it sounds, we're looking at nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay and maybe another nod for Viggo Mortensen as Freud.

3. The Ides of March (directed by George Clooney)
          -The last time George Clooney directed a drama (Good Night, and Good Luck), it was nominated for Best Picture, his lead was nominated for Best Actor, he was nominated for Best Director and he and his writing partner was nominated for Best Screenplay. This time, he's teaming up with golden boy Ryan Gosling, Marissa Tomei (The Wrestler), Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) for a film about the corruption and manipulation surrounding a presidential campaign. The trailer looks great and with this much talent, it'll be hard for this movie to suck. I suspect Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay nods for Clooney's next venture.

Toronto (September 8-18)

1. Albert Nobbs (directed by Rodrigo García)
          -Glenn Close. That's all you need to know about this film. Glenn Close plays an Englishwoman in the 19th century who dresses up as a man and starts working as a butler so she can survive in male-dominated Ireland. Rodrigo García is a capable director and has great experience making films with strong female leads. Expect a Best Actress nod if Close is as good as always.

2. 360 (directed by Fernando Meirelles)
           -Starring Oscar winners Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Frances McDormand (Fargo), this new film by The Constant Gardener director Fernando Meirelles explores the lives of couples and their sexual encounters. Considering Weisz won an Oscar last time she paired up with Meirelles, it's safe to assume the director cam bring out the best in his actors. Expect acting nods all around and a Best Screenplay possibility as well since the legendary writer Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) is helming the script. Bonus points for the film: Eminem co-stars! Let's see what happens when he's thrown outside of his tough-guy/gangster persona, I think he could be great.

3. The Descendants (directed by Alexander Payne)
           -Alexander Payne's last film was Sideways from 2004 and it won Best Screenplay at the Oscars and was nominated for four more including Best Director, Best Picture and two Supporting awards. Before that, Payne directed another great comedy About Schmidt which resulted in nominations for both of its leads. Judging by that record, The Descendants will have to match that caliber of film, which it probably will considering it combines Payne, George Clooney and a poignant story about a father who tries to reconnect with his two daughters after wife (who, he finds out later, was cheating on him) slips into a coma. Clooney has hit his stride as an actor so it's no surprise if he comes away with a Best Actor nod here. Considering how good Payne's scripts are, a Best Screenplay nod is to be expected and a Best Director would be a pleasant surprise.

New York (September 30-October 16)

1. My Week with Marilyn (directed by Simon Curtis)
          -The main award for this movie will come from Michelle Williams' portrayal of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. Williams is a brilliant actress, giving heartbreaking performances in Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine (she was nominated for both). The rest of the cast is great too: Dame Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), Julia Ormond (Temple Grandin), Kenneth Branagh (Henry V), Eddie Redmayne (Pillars of the Earth), Emma Watson (Harry Potter), Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger), etc. This one is, without a doubt, getting a Best Actress nod for Williams.

2. Carnage (directed by Roman Polanski)
          -Surprise, surprise everyone! Roman Polanski has made a comedy about two sets of parents who decide to sit down to discuss how their kids have been fighting at school. Based on a Tony Award-winning play, the film is set in New York and stars Oscar winners Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs), Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly (Chicago). Looks like we'll be seeing more of them on ballots at this year's Oscars as well.

This is a large list of films and most of them will probably be ignored, either for not living up to their hype or because there's no room for them with the many promising movies this year that haven't made it to festivals. As we get closer and closer to awards season, expect to see more movies try to knock the films from these festivals off their high horses. For now, it's really anyone's game for a while.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Movie News- New Trailer Reviews (From Comic-Con to August 5th)

Time again for the newest trailers straight out of San Diego Comic-Con and beyond.

It's been almost two weeks since the last trailer review post and TONS has happened in those short 14 days. Arguably, the most important recent entertainment story is Comic-Con. Dozens and dozens of movies and TV shows made their way to San Diego to try and impress fanboys and girls alike (and yes, there are fangirls. I am in fact one of them.) While I was not able to make the long and arduous trek from New York City to Southern California, I watched minute by minute coverage of San Diego Comic-Con (or SDCC), courtesy of Entertainment Weekly online and TV Line. Why did I do this and waste precious social time you might ask? For you. It was all for you.

Here's what I found. Trailers and Posters and Comic-Con Panels Oh my! Movies that showed material at SDCC included: The Amazing Spiderman, the remake of Total Recall (with Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale), Edgar Allen Poe murder mystery flick The Raven, Immortals (starring the new Superman, Henry Cavill), the fourth Underworld flick, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Francis Ford Coppola's second foray into vampiredom- Twixt.

But enough about Comic-Con. The number of trailers this past week have been overwhelming. We have 18 trailers in every film genre from horror to sex comedy. I have rated these movies based on what they've shown us on video (and in some posters) from least interesting (1) to "I can't function until this movie comes out." (20) Enjoy!

1. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (December 16, 2011)

            -Another one? I believe that's what most people are thinking when they hear this title. But believe or not, the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise has grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide. Why wouldn't the studio make another one? But, obviously, I won't be seeing this film anytime soon. Mostly because it features yet another heinous title. "Chipwrecked"? Really? And I thought "The Squeakuel was bad enough...

2. Paranormal Activity 3 (October 21, 2011)

            -To some of you, it might be blasphemous that this film isn't further down on my list. But this series died for me halfway through the second film. Sure it had some scares, but the story was too tidy and fit too perfectly with the first film. This film looks like it'll fit too perfectly to the other two movies as well but maybe the completely new cast will be a breathe of fresh air.

3. New Year's Eve (December 9, 2011)

            -My reason for not wanting to see this movie starts and ends with two words: Valentine's Day. If this movie is anything like that one (and judging by the trailer, it most certainly will be), this is yet another misstep in the rapidly deteriorating repertoire of romantic comedy director Gary Marshall. Just like Valentine's Day, some of the cast here reads like a list of attendees at the Oscars- Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro- but there are also some TV greats like Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Sarah Jessica Parker, Alyssa Milano, Lea Michele, and Josh Duhamel.

Judge for yourselves, will this movie work better than it's holiday predecessor?

4. The Sitter (December 9th, 2011) 

             -Before seeing any clip of this movie, I read the cast list and the director's name and put it at number 12. After watching the trailer, it gets demoted to number 4. (Remember, on this list, a higher number means a better film). The cast, which includes Jonah Hill (Superbad), Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2), and Ari Graynor (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) is hilarious and David Gordon Green is an indie-film master (Snow Angels) as well as a pretty good comedy director (Eastbound & Down). But this trailer makes me think Green is headed for another misstep like Your Highness instead of a hilarious hit like Pineapple Express. We'll see what happens when the film comes out.

5. Battleship (May 18, 2012)

             -Yes. This is a film based on the Hasbro game. I know, it makes no sense to make a movie from a children's activity that's usually saved for a rainy day, but look at this cast: Taylor Kitsch (NBC's Friday Night Lights), Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood), Rihanna, and Brooklyn Decker (Just Go With It). Who needs a reasonable plot when every frame is filled with beautiful people. And with the addition of director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Hancock), the action is sure to be first-rate.

Plus, another Hasbro game made billions of dollars, spawned two sequels and launched the profile of a former Disney channel star. Can anyone guess what that might be?

6. Red Tails (January 20, 2012)

             -Produced by George Lucas, this is a film about a group of African American pilots fighting for their country during World War II while also facing heavy racism. The premise is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen. This film probably should be much higher on my list but I'm worried that producer George Lucas will ruin its chances of being good. Lucas has produced some amazing films like the first three Star Wars films and the first three Indiana Jones films. But lately, he's had a terrible record with the last three awful Star Wars film, the last Indiana Jones film and Beverly Hills Cop III. But hopefully, this story will be triumphant over everything else and more hopefully, the film will be recognized for being respectful and inspirational.

7. Tower Heist- (November 4, 2011)

             -I'm going to be honest. I had no idea what this movie was about nor did I care. But several feelings went through my head during my screening of the trailer. Plus points: 1) Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller together for the first time. 2) The trailer was actually pretty funny. 3) The trailer seems to hint at a possibly hilarious romance between Precious star Gabourey Sidibe and Eddie Murphy. 4) Alan Alda as the bad guy. 5) The movie looks to be a fun take on the old heist movie plot. Minus Points: 1) Brett Ratner as director. You know what? This might actually count as 4 minus points... at least.

Hopefully, that big negative won't cancel out the potential this movie seems to have. See for yourselves.

8. Dream House (September 30, 2011)

             -There's not much to say about this trailer. It looks like a standard haunted house flick. What this film has going for it however, are the people involved. Dream House stars real-life newlyweds Daniel Craig (Casino Royale) and Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardner), as well as Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts (The Ring) as the neighbor of Craig and Weisz. The film is directed by the legendary Jim Sheridan (Brothers, My Left Foot). Basically, think The Others instead of The Haunting in Connecticut.

9. Happy Feet Two (November 18, 2011)

            -My first thought when I heard about this trailer was "Why?" The last Happy Feet film wasn't an amazing piece of animated art but it wrapped up the storyline in a very neat way and there seems to be no need to make a sequel. But considering how well animated movies do and the fact that Hollywood has barely any original ideas left (i.e. TWO Snow White remakes), it was inevitable that this cute and odd little film would turn into a franchise. At least the cast is still decent, Elijah Wood is back as Mumble, the penguin who dances into hearts rather than sing. Joining him are singer P!ink (who's taken over the late Brittany Murphy's character), Robin Williams, Sofia Vergara and heavyweights Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. And I have to admit, the animated baby penguins are just too cute to resist.

10. A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy (September 2, 2011 limited)

            -In a season full of comedies that rehash old plotlines (The Change-Up anyone?), a film about a large group of friends who want to throw an orgy as their last big party ever may be surprisingly fun. It could also end up being a total disaster, but I put my faith in the hilarious cast: Jason Sudeikis (SNL), Will Forte (SNL), Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Party Down), David Koechner (Anchorman), Rhys Coiro (Entourage), and Lucy Punch (Bad Teacher, Dinner for Schmucks) just to name a few. The trailer's not so bad either.

11. Twixt (TBA)

            -I have placed this movie so far down my list because of the movie's director: the one and only Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola has made three of the best films of all time: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. Some of his recent movies have been forgettable so I'm desperately hoping this new film will bring the director some glory again. Now to be fair, the film is already starting out with some worrisome plot points. For example, vampires are integral to the film. The trailer has no coherent structure to it. There's a lot of talking and a lot of strange transitions from scene to scene. But nonetheless, I'm putting this on my must-see list while I try to patiently wait for new information. It's definitely a very polarizing trailer; you'll either love the weird, artsy quality, or you'll hate it for being a pretentious attempt to provide viewers with something different. Let me know in the comments!

12. Knights of Badassdom (TBA)

            -This film looks hilarious and mind-boggling all at the same. Let me give you all the synopsis and you'll get what I mean: a group of live action role players accidentally conjure up a succubus-style demon from hell during a fake battle and must defeat her as she goes on a rampage at the battle. There's a great cast of comic-book friendly actors that would make any nerd's dream come true. And by nerd, I include myself. Knights of Badassdom (aptly named) stars Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles), Steve Zahn (Joy Ride), and Danny Pudi (Community). Be wary folks, this trailer is slightly NSFW.

13. Haywire (January 20, 2012)

             -Four reasons to see this film.
                        1. The main character is a female who kicks butt onscreen and the actress does it in real life (mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano).
                        2. The director is Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, etc.)
                        3. The rest of the cast is pretty fantastic: Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton (Big Love), Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class),  and Channing Tatum (Step Up).
                        4. The main character is a female who kicks butt onscreen and the actress does it in real life- Yes, it needed to be repeated.

14. The Darkest Hour (December 23, 2011)

            -It's hard to find a fresh way to tell stories about alien attacks. Throughout the years, we've seen films about aliens who can shape shift into anything (The Thing); we've seen weird Mars aliens that like to fuse human heads with dog bodies (Mars Attacks). We've even seen stories about aliens being mistreated by humans (District 9) and worst of all, we've seen aliens who can kill humans the way humans kill bugs with a bug-zapper (Skyline). This new film is about alien life-forms that feed off energy and disintegrate everything in its path. The Darkest Hour peaks my interest because the premise has just the right balance of smart and ridiculous to be something. And it gets points on this list for being produced by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov and for its stellar young cast including Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk), Olivia Thirlby (Juno), and Max Minghella (The Social Network).

15. Like Crazy (October 28, 2011 limited)

            -Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Film and Best Actress at Sundance Film Festival, this movie looks like a poignant, emotional tale about an American boy and a British girl who fall desperately in love in college only to be torn apart when the girl is banned from the U.S. after staying past her visa's expiration date. They try to maintain a long-distance relationship, but obviously, there are problems. Like many of the other films above, this premise has been used several times. The difference seems to be the honesty of the actors and script. We'll see if it lives up to its hype. I truly believe it will.

16. In Time (October 28, 2011)

            -I'm actually pretty intrigued by this movie. A film about how time becomes currency in the future, this seems to be director Andrew Niccol's followup to his 1997 film Gattaca. I loved Gattaca; it was an interesting story, had great actors and the execution was refreshingly new and incredibly intelligent. In Time (which used to be called Now and before that, I'm.mortal), has a talented cast lead by Justin Timberlake who is starting to make some smart movie choices from The Social Network to Friends with Benefits. Timberlake is joined by Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls), Olivia Wilde (House), Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Inception), Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) and Matt Bomer (White Collar).

17. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (November 18, 2011)

            -Well what do you know, another British spy film. There's a good reason we see so many every year: the British do spy films so well. This is no exception I'm sure. Based on the 1974 best-selling book of the same title, this film has an outstanding cast of British actors. It stars Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), Tom Hardy (Inception), Mark Strong (Kick-Ass), Ciarán Hinds (There Will Be Blood), Toby Jones (W.), John Hurt (Alien) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock: A Study in Pink). The trailer doesn't explain too much about the plot, but with a cast like that, I'm already interested.

18. Drive (September 16, 2011)

             -This is the first of two Ryan Gosling films on my list and both are highly anticipated. This film won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival and even received a standing ovation at the screening. Ryan Gosling plays a movie stunt driver who is forced to drive the getaway car in a heist that somehow goes terribly awry. Carey Mulligan (An Education), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) co-star. Comedy legend Albert Brooks (Broadcast News, Finding Nemo) takes on a villainous role. Another film that better live up to the recognition it has already received. This red-band trailer is NSFW.

19. The Avengers (May 4, 2012)

            -One of the most anticipated films worldwide, this trailer is not the clip that premiered after the credits of Captain America: The First Avenger. This one is a teaser that was released two days ago. Reprising their Marvel identities, Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) will be joined by Mark Ruffalo as the new Hulk and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johanssen are also returning as Nick Fury and Black Widow. The movie's villain is set to be Loki from Thor (Scott Hiddleston) but there may be more baddies in store for our heroes. The trailer is quick, choppy and gives absolutely nothing away but it doesn't matter because everyone and their mothers (and their mailmen and dogs and dentists) will see this film.

20. The Ides of March (October 7, 2011)

             -We have finally come to the end. The most exciting trailer (and film) for me is the second Ryan Gosling movie on the list. Directed by the smoothest man in Hollywood, George Clooney, and based on a critically-acclaimed play (Farragut North), The Ides of March is a story about the controversies and mysteries surrounding a presidential campaign. Gosling plays the campaign manager for George Clooney's character and rounding out the cast are Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Paul Giamatti (Sideways), Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe) and Marissa Tomei (The Wrestler). Clooney has had ups and downs in his short directing career and it looks as though his directing gems all have to do with something political or government related (Good Night and Good Luck). If that's the case, this should have Oscar gold written all over it. For your viewing pleasure, I present a trailer AND the movie's new poster.

So what do you all think? Did I miss any new trailers? Did I put movies in the wrong order? Tell me in the comments section! I think 2011 and 2012 have so much potential for great film, but you never know what Hollywood will come up with next.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Five Things We've Learned From Bad Movies- 2011 Edition

Since 2011 is already halfway over, it seems fitting to go back and see what Hollywood has taught us for the last several months:

1. If catch your best friends' spouse cheating, you'll probably be the one who gets punished... not just mentally but also physically:

                   -In the awful Ron Howard comedy, The Dilemma, Vince Vaughn finds his best friend Kevin James' wife cheating with a much younger, hotter, and possibly crazier Channing Tatum. I mean, who wouldn't choose Channing Tatum over Kevin James to begin with but that's not the lesson here. As Vince goes to investigate the cheaters who are randomly meeting at a botanical garden (because why not, right?), he falls into a poisonous plant and gets uncomfortable side effects like painful urination. The rest of the movie is how Vince Vaughn tries to tell Kevin James about the affair and how it ruins his life in the process. So basically, the moral of this story is friends don't let friends tell each other about their cheating significant others.

2. Anyone can be a superhero. Even ridiculous people.

                   -Two movies came out this year about idiotic people trying to be a superhero: The Green Hornet where Seth Rogen tries to save his city by doing nothing and letting his sidekick do all the fighting, and Super with Rainn Wilson trying to get his girlfriend back by taking revenge on her new boyfriend as a "masked superhero."

3. Girls are crazy, especially in college (Apparently)

                   -I'm going to use to two words to describe this one: The Roommate.

4. Nicholas Cage will always do awful movies... Even if once in a while he makes a good one.

                   -After last year's awesome movie Kick-Ass, it seemed as though Nicholas Cage was starting to pick roles in good movies again. Wrong. This year, Cage has already made two terrible films: Season of the Witch and Drive Angry. I believe every couple of years, Cage makes a good film but it doesn't sit right with him. So in order to make up for his good reviews, he has to make three bad films. All the good cancels out. 

5. Fairytales are in. As long as you make bad ones. 

                   - We have already seen two classic fairytales turned into live-action movies again this year and neither were good: Beastly and Red Riding Hood. With Beastly, the downfall seemed to be ridiculously bad acting from the leads while Red Riding Hood was trying to make a Twilight love triangle out of a story about a girl who just wants to deliver food to her grandmother. In the next two years, we'll be seeing two Snow White movies, a Hansel and Gretel movie and a new crime show on NBC based on Grimm's fairy-tales. There's even a new Sleeping Beauty inspired drama out in slecet cities. Hopefully at least one of those will be good. What will be next you may ask? I predict a live-action Little Mermaid set in modern-day Antarctica featuring a love hexagon with humans, mermaids and (somehow) vampires and werewolves. Wait, that was a joke... Well if someone from Hollywood sees this, it'll probably happen by 2014.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Movie News- New Trailer Reviews

There's been a gaggle of new movie trailers out this week and it's my job to watch them all for you and give my two cents. We've got 2011 and 2012 releases showing off teasers and snippets and I've had way too much fun sifting through them all to find the most anticipated. So let's take a look shall we?

1. Arthur Christmas (November 23, 2011)
        A cute British Christmas movie about the son of Santa Claus, Arthur Christmas, who has to finish an important mission before Christmas morning. The teaser trailer was released several months ago, last December before Christmas in fact, and now Sony Pictures Animation has released another much cuter teaser about Arthur showing the audience what Christmas preparations go on during the summer. It's fun and will appeal to families. James McAvoy seems to be having a LOT of fun voicing Arthur Christmas and he is joined by a brilliant British cast including Hugh Laurie (House), Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge), Bill Nighy (Love, Actually), Imelda Staunton (Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter franchise).

2. Disney's John Carter (March 9, 2012)
                Based on the character from the Barsoom series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this movie tells the story of John Carter, played by Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch, who is transported to Mars and must take over saving the planet from conflicts between its people. It sounds slightly interesting, but after Disney's Prince of Persia was unimpressive with critics and at the box office, it'll be a long journey to the top for this film. John Carter features an all-star cast just like Prince of Persia with Thomas Haden Church (Easy A), Willem Dafoe (Spiderman) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).

3. Hugo (November 23, 2011)
             Here's another November 23rd release: a 3D tale about an orphan boy who lives in a Paris train station who tries to discover mysteries about his recently deceased father with the help of a young girl who unknowingly can provide answers. It's a family adventure adapted from the best-selling novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" and can anyone guess who it's directed by? The master of family adventure himself, Martin Scorcese! Wait a minute... that doesn't sound right... Why is the man who is famous for dark movies like Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Shutter Island and The Departed doing a children's movie? I have no idea but that's what makes this film intriguing for me. This film also boasts a fantastic group of actors (like all Scorcese films): Chloe Grace Morez (Kick-Ass, Let Me In), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), Christopher Lee (the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) all have important roles in the film and Jude Law plays the deceased father. The trailer is beautiful and gives the right amount of child wonderment and excitement to interest me as an audience member.

4. The Thing (October 14, 2011)
          The earliest release on our list, this is NOT a remake of the brilliant 1980 John Carpenter film that blended the lines between science fiction and horror (much like the Aliens franchise). In fact, this film takes place three days before the events of the first film, when a group of Norwegian and American scientists find the alien for the first time. The lead is a girl this time around, Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World plays American scientist Kate Lloyd who has to try and destroy the alien who can mimic any other life form. If we know anything from the 1980 movie, we know that all of the old crew is dead so we may already know the ending to this film. Nonetheless, the trailer is sufficiently creepy and it seems Mary Elizabeth Winstead is capable of carrying this science horror flick on her shoulders.

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (December 16, 2011)
            This is one of the three highly anticipated films and trailers that I'll be showing this week. After a fairly successful critical release and a great success at the box office, it seemed like a no-brainer that the 2009 Sherlock Holmes would garner a sequel. But how were they going to top the first in terms of villainy? Well in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows it seems Holmes will be facing the teased about villain from the first film, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Other plot developments include Watson's wedding and subsequent honeymoon and a lot more homoerotic jokes and shenanigans. There seems to be one significant change from the first film to its sequel: No Rachel McAdams. Instead, the female leads seems to be Noomi Rapace who gained fame after starring in the successful Girl with Dragon Tattoo films in Sweden (the first of which is being remade in English for release this December by The Social Network's David Fincher). As usual, the trailer is more comedy than plot but that's the fun with these Sherlock movies.

6. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)
           So this is the teaser the world has been waiting for. It was released as a part of the trailer package during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and now it's finally up online. After the great poster for The Dark Knight Rises, the trailer is a bit underwhelming. It has some great images of Tom Hardy as the villain Bane and a great final snippet of Batman looking slightly frightened as he fights Bane but overall, all we get is this weezy dialogue from Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon telling what sounds like Bruce Wayne to bring Batman back. This obviously means Batman has been completely out of the public eye this whole time after being accused of murdering Harvey Dent in the last film. The image from the poster of the bat symbol made with the Gotham City skyscrapers is a nice touch. No matter what, I'm still extremely excited for this film if only for the director and the cast alone. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and all of the other favorites return along with some talented new faces added: Tom Hardy (Inception), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer, Inception), Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, Rachel Getting Married), and Marion Cotillard (Inception) are all involved in the final Chris Nolan bat adventure.

For anyone who couldn't understand the dialogue in the trailer, here it is. 
Commissioner Gordon: "We were in this together. And then you were gone. Now this evil rises. The Batman has to come back."
Bruce Wayne: "What if he doesn't exist anymore?"
Commissioner Gordon: "He must. He must."

7. The Amazing Spider Man (July 3, 2012)
             Now this might be the most exciting trailer for me. After all the talk of how bad this new Spiderman reboot might be, we finally get some images from the film and a new teaser trailer that should quiet down many of the naysayers out there. Andrew Garfield, the extremely talented star of The Social Network, is cast perfectly as the nerdy but lovable Peter Parker and Easy A's Emma Stone looks beautiful as Parker's first love Gwen Stacy. We see the origin story again but this time we get snippets of the mystery behind why Peter Parker ends up living with his aunt and uncle. I'm not too familiar with this particular story from this comic books so I'll be interested to see what the film does here. I will admit I had some doubts when it was announced that 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb would be directing this gigantic budget film as his sophomore project but after seeing the darker atmosphere of this teaser, I'm definitely less skeptical. Here's yet another film with a brilliant cast: Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters), Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill), Denis Leary (Rescue Me), Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire).

Judge for yourselves- I've added some pictures (courtesy of Entertainment Weekly's Spiderman Gallery) and the teaser:

Now the teaser:

That's all the major trailers I have for this week. Hopefully we'll get to see clips from more anticipated releases soon!