Monday, September 30, 2013

Films Pushed to 2014

     I have not had a chance to see the recently released Rush from Ron Howard, as I had previous plans this weekend with friends and next week will be engrossed in the Austin City Limits Music Film Festival, so posts and reviews will be light until after the first weekend of October. However, I did want to pass along some disappointing news in that Bennett Miller's third feature film Foxcatcher, starring an almost unrecognizable Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, has been pushed back until in 2014. The films centers on John DuPont (Carrell), heir to the DuPont chemical company, and his relationship with Olympic wrestlers Mark (Tatum) and Dave (Ruffalo) Schultz, which led to murder. Sony Pictures Classics, the studio distributing the film, released an eerily effective trailer late last week, but pulled it before the release was announced to move the film to next year. This was close to being in my Top Ten for 2013, but after seeing that trailer, I am very excited to see how this film turns out. If Miller is not ready and they are still editing, then let the director get the film where he wants it. Let's just hope he is not too obsessive and over-edits like Terrence Malick does. I can wait if it is going to make the film better, but I am sure Carrell, who appeared to be in the race for some acting awards, will have to wait until next year.
     The only other film that has definitely moved to 2014 is Olivier Dahan's Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly and Tim Roth as Prince Ranier III. The film shines a light on Kelly's marriage to the Prince of Monaco, her retirement from acting and the historical events that occurred during the 1960s.
     The other film that could be moved to 2014, but I really hope is not, is Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey. The story about the rise and fall of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort was number four on my top ten films of the fall list. Supposedly, Scorsese has the film clocking in at around 180 minutes and Paramount wants the film to not be a three-hour sit for movie goers. Bullshit. I can easily watch a three hour Scorsese movie and if he has the film at that length, then he has earned the right to deliver that film. It is Scorsese for God's sake. I know the studio wants the length down so they can have more daily screenings and they understand peoples attention spans are shorter these days, but let Scorsese deliver the film he has in his head. Leave him alone and I really hope this film does not get pushed back to 2014. Dying to see it. After the ACL fest, it is on to see Gravity!!!

Photo credits by

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


     Wednesday's Classic Film Trailers is bringing a little bit of British horror to everyone from England's Hammer Studios. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) is one of the best in the studios run of reinvented classic horror films. Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy were all redone by Hammer and there numerous subsequent sequels are cherished, corny pieces of classic cinema. They also brought to the forefront the great actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. These films were shot in gorgeous color and contained very bright red blood that stands out prominently, especially in the run of Dracula films. They contain that proper, well-educated and mannered British sophistication and a somewhat cheesy tone when in comes to the violence. I really admire these films and the two best are Horror of Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein.
     Directed by Hammer veteran Terrence Fisher, the film, based off Mary W. Shelley's classic novel, revolves around Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his attempts at building and bringing a dead human being back to life. Playing God, if your religious, and being a creator are the ultimate in science. I love how the film shows the steps of bringing a puppy back to life and then the "creature." Cushing plays the doctor and Christopher Lee plays the monster. I love the proper attitude of the British ways and manners, as well as the doctor's fall from passionate scientist to disillusioned creator. Lee is fantastic as the creature too. Check this film out as soon as you can if you enjoy classic horror films. I believe this is the best Frankenstein film ever made, next to Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, and the second best Hammer Studios film behind Horror of Dracula. Enjoy.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Film Trailers: DOM HEMINGWAY

     Another film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival that has peaked my interest is Richard Shepard's Dom Hemingway. A British crime and dark comedy film that evidently has an absolute brazen, vulgar performance from Jude Law. The film starts out with Dom reciting a poem that is nothing more then the glorification of his penis and how good he is at sex. Funny, dark and it is good to see Law playing something completely opposite of what we are used to seeing him in. He has played sleazy and cocky before, but usually in supporting roles. This one seems to be something of a breakout for the already talented actor. The film comes from writer-director Richard Shepard who also made the equally dark and hilarious The Matador with Pierce Brosnan. British, accents, drinking and getting back what is yours. That is Dom Hemingway. Another great thing about this film is that it not only is British, which I am somewhat bias to due to the dry, unstoppable humor, but that Richard E. Grant is in the film. If you have not seen him in the classic drinkers film Withnail and I change that as soon as possible. Dom Hemingway also stars Emilia Clarke and Demian Bichir. The film will be released in 2014. Enjoy.

Photo credits and trailer by

Film Trailers: ENEMY

     Yes, director Denis Villeneuve had two films that were shown at the Toronto International Film Festival and both of them starred Jake Gyllenhaal. The first was the exceptional Prisonersreview here, and the second was the more abstract, experimental and arty Enemy. The film is based off a novel by Jose Saramago titled "The Double" in which a history professor Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal) rents a movie and sees a man, Gyllenhaal again, in the film that appears to look exactly like him. Bell attempts to meet him and unravel the mystery of this man that looks like his exact twin. Some of the reviews suggest the film is much more for cineastes and the arthouse crowd then Prisoners was, but after seeing that aforementioned film I am really intrigued to see anything the Canadian director as up his sleeve. It appears to be a good working relationship with Gyllenhaal as well. The film has been touted as very much like something David Lynch would make and goes to areas highly unexpected with great mysteries and few answers. I like that. The film also stars Sarah Gadon, Melanie Laurent and Isabella Rossellini. The film will be released sometime in 2014. Enjoy.

Photo credit and trailer by

Tuesday, September 24, 2013



Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Aaron Guzikowski

     It is the beginning of fall. The weather is slowly changing and the holidays are quickly almost here. Why not start out the best part of the year for films with something intensely dark, moody, gripping and that goes places that are difficult to watch. Well, that is my type of movie and Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners is a hardened, gloomy piece of cinema that solidifies him as a director to look out for in the near future. It also contains two powerful performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as a number of supporting turns that complete the film. If you thought the trailers for this film gave away a little too much, think again, as this film expertly builds on the suspense and the turns and twists continue up until the end.
     Prisoners takes place in a cold, gloomy, grey Pennsylvania town. Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) and there teenage son and young daughter are going over to their friends house for Thanksgiving dinner. Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis), along with their two daughters, both around the same age of the Dover children, are going to enjoy a Thanksgiving with close friends. Drink some wine, have some good food and some laughs. The two little girls, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, want to run back to Anna's house, just a few blocks from the Birch's, and look for Anna's missing red whistle. They went outside earlier, with the elder siblings, and saw an old Winnebago parked on the street. They played on it for a second, but left. This second time outside, they went alone and did not come back home. The Winnebago was gone.
     Villeneuve set the film up without wasting little time. Within the first fifteen minutes I was thoroughly engaged, terrified and completely sold on what I was about to see. That is sometimes hard to do. I believe a director needs to grab your attention right away. I know within the first ten to twenty minutes whether a film is going to be something special or something that might be a struggle to sit through. Villeneuve did not mess around and with slow paced shots, I will get into Roger Deakins masterful cinematography in a bit, and honest acting, I was in for the continuation of this film.
    The two little girls have been abducted. The parents are screaming and fearing the worse. We see Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) eating Thanksgiving dinner all alone at a Chinese restaurant. A somewhat rogue loner of a detective, he takes the call. He discovers the Winnebago parked outside a gas station on a cold, rainy night. There are many rainy and snowy days and nights that just continue to add to the unsettling, bleak mood of this film. An intense back-and-forth occurs and the man inside is arrested. Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is threatened by Loki and taken in for questioning, but after a complete search of the RV and Jones, there is no evidence of him having anything to do with the abduction of the two little girls. Jones is declared to have an IQ of ten and the police have no evidence and belief he could have committed this crime. After a 48-hour hold he is let go. Now the story goes in a haunting direction.
     Keller Dover is adamant that he has to find them on his own. A carpenter and religious man going through a period of slow work. He does not trust anyone to find his little girl but himself. The places he goes, within himself physically and emotionally, are devastating, frustrating and alarming. The man spends a week looking for his baby girl. He believes the police have dropped the ball and knows the terrible track record of finding missing children. Keller takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps Alex, believing he is fully responsible for this abduction. When Keller confronts him after he has been released at his home, Alex is signing the same "jingle bells, batman smells..." song that the girls were singing at dinner. He knows this man has them. He and the much more docile and afraid Franklin want to find them so bad like any parent would. Franklin reluctantly, well, he is almost forced into helping Keller, but knows what he is doing morally wrong and sees that Keller is turning in to his own kind of devil during this holding of Alex. Franklin has the support of his wife Nancy, but Keller's wife Grace as gone comatose with prescription pills. It is one part of the film that lessened it a bit. I am not saying this would not happen, but it would have been nice to see Bello, a fantastic actor, not have to play the woman that cannot take it and just lay in bed all day. It did not like that direction at all.
     The film continues to unravel, piece-by-piece over its 153 minute run time, but never once becomes dull or unfulfilled. It is a truly immersive, uncomfortable experience and goes to some very dark places of what human beings, good or bad, are willing to do to survive. The puzzle that Loki must go through to find and solve this case is much in the vein of another Gyllenhaal film, David Fincher's Zodiac, but believe me, this is a very well made film, but it is not anywhere near as good as that film. It is dark, but there is only one Fincher. No one makes thrillers any better than he does. The film has its moments where it is a little confusing, but seems to straighten itself out later. The directing, acting, writing and production value are all in top form.
     The Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has firmly stamped his place in the filmmaking world. He directed the hell out of this film and has a delicate, dark touch to his progression of storytelling. He also had a brilliant, crafty screenplay from new writer Aaron Guzikowski. The real intensity and joy of this film is in the acting, mainly of the two leads Jackman and Gyllenhaal. I would not be disappointed at all if these two actors received accolades during the awards season. Jackman is as raw as I have ever seen him and way darker and more growling than any of his Wolverine performances. He is a visceral monster of his own in this film and does not hold back his fear and emotions. The moral dilemma he puts himself through is seen through ever glare of his tired eyes and clinched, blood-bruised fists. Gyllenhaal, however, slowly molds his character from of a mystery, with his mason ring and tattooed fingers, into someone that has probably fought demons of his own, but will do whatever it takes to find these two girls. He is as intense, if not more, as Jackman is and whenever he is fighting or apprehending someone it was highly believable. It is not soft or fake at all. The man has grown immensely as one of the better actors working today and continues to make insightful and challenging choices.
     Before I conclude this review of Prisoners, I have to mention the stellar camera work of Roger Deakins. The man is the best, along with Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity), at his craft and he can make tree bark look suspenseful and menacing. Graceful with his movements and the decisions he makes on where the camera should start or be at to get the full effect of the shot and scene. All beautifully done. There is a scene near the end of the film that contains one of the main characters driving, speeding, through a heavily rainy and wet road that is just about as perfect as it gets. The lighting and angles are so well thought out that I was completely enthralled and satisfied in what I was seeing. Deakins is truly one of the best cinema has ever had at his craft and this is some of his best work.
     In the end, I was completely gripped and thoroughly enjoyed Prisoners. A dark, moody thriller, that minus a few minor confusing plot points and a disappointing direction for Bello's character, kept me entertained throughout. Villeneuve has exhibited a detailed direction and sophistication in his approach to the material and never once gives in to the audiences expectations. A true talent and he had such a wonderful cast to work. Everyone involved delivers with an outstanding effort and watch out for a great, chilling supporting turn from Melissa Leo. Prisoners is a near-perfect thriller and a great way to start off the fall film season. I honestly cannot wait to see this film again. I do not know if there will be anything darker than this film this year, but we will have to wait and see.

Credit by IMDB.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Film Trailers: UNDER THE SKIN

     The new film from the very talentented Jonathan Glazer has arrived and it appears to be a challenging and interesting piece of cinema. Under the Skin follows an alien in human form, played by Scarlett Johansson, as she travels through Scotland seducing and preying on other humans. The film has been playing the fall festival circuit and has been highly divisive, some even stating that it is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Some reviewers seem to think it is an amazing piece of cinema while others admit to it being expertly done, but lacking in certain areas or just plain too experimental. Glazer has not released a film since 2004's underrated Birth and he also directed the slick, nasty gem of a gangster film Sexy Beast with standout performances from Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone. Any which way about it, Under the Skin appears to be something to keep on the radar as a must see when it opens in theatres next year. That music is eerie as hell. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Credits by and YouTube.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Film Trailers: NEBRASKA

     No one films middle America like Alexander Payne. Whether it is the look of the people, the way they interact or do not with one another and just the storytelling that revolves around the issues we all face from day-to-day, Payne has an intelligence and ear for the heartbeat, nostalgia and struggles of Americans. I feel that every time I am watching one of his films I am seeing an examination and suggestion of the lives we live. Also, he is damn brilliant at adding a comedic, dry element to his films that balances everything out perfectly. I think most of his films are not classified by a genre, but contain elements from them all. He has directed Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants. His next film, another one that visualizes an America, usually small town, that has not been taken over by corporations and mass advertising. Nebraska centers on the estranged father-son relationship of Woody (Bruce Dern) and David (Will Forte) Grant, as they take a road trip from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim a million dollar sweepstakes prize. Woody is an angry old drunk and word is that Dern is as great as ever. The man that helped, along with Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, begin the American film boom of the late 60s and 70s, is still giving outstanding performances. A vision of America as only Payne can tell. I cannot wait to see this film and the trailer is perfect. Love the black-and-white and the poster is my favorite of the year so far. The film will be released on November 22. Enjoy.

Credit by IMDB and trailer from

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Classic Trailers: REAR WINDOW

     Wednesday's Classic Film Trailer is a good one. A film that is magnificent in every aspect and one that I have seen five or six times. It was recently on Turner Classic Movies and I was hooked, once again, the moment I saw those singular rows of blinds roll up during the opening credits. I am writing of Alfred Hitchcock's classic murder mystery Rear Window, starring the remarkable James Stewart and the beautiful Grace Kelly. A film that is amazing because the whole film takes place in an apartment complex and its courtyard. A film that is seen from and through the point of view of Stewart's character. It is Hitchcock's "peeping tom" film and is my absolute favorite Hitchcock film. The camera work is phenomenal, the acting is perfect and the story and how it unfolds is legendary. I mean, what Hitchcock does with the limitations he has set with the script is brilliant and contains one of Hitchcock's most suspenseful moments when Stewart's character gets caught spying on a neighbor through his binoculars.
     James Stewart plays L.B. Jeffries, a boundless photographer. He is a risk taker and has suffered a broken leg that has left immobilized in a wheelchair. He is stuck in his apartment during the hot summer. Jeffries has an ongoing relationship with the wealthy, elitist Lisa Fremont (Kelly), but Jeffries does not know if she is the one he wants to spend the rest of his life with. He enjoys travelling and going on adventures, where Fremont prefers expensive dinners, clothes and meeting with the social elite. She loves him and wants his involvement in her affairs, but is happy just sitting around the apartment with L.B. It is great to see her playing rich beauty and adventure seeker all at once. She proves herself later in the film and her intoxicating beauty is hard to turn away from. Jeffries, through spying on his neighbors while being extremely bored, witness' a man and his wife fighting. The man goes out once and as the next few days come along, he sees that the man's wife is no longer there. The rest you can unravel and see for yourself like Jeffries does in the film. I highly recommend seeing this classic Hitchcock film. The cast is rounded out by Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter and Wendell Corey. It was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Color Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Screenplay for John Michael Hayes. Hitchcock never shied away from testing the boundaries of cinema and this is a true testament to his genius. A masterpiece. A true classic. Enjoy!

Credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Criterion Collection Announces Titles for December 2013

Release Date: 12.3.2013
     The Criterion Collection has announced its new releases for the month of December and what a group of films, just in time for Christmas. The big announcement is the first set of Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project. A nine disc set of little known films, from around the world, that have been preserved by Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation. The set will include films that would otherwise not get the proper exposure due to there location, finances or quality of the film stock. The preservation is impressive and here are the films that will be included: Touki Bouki Senegal (1973), Redes Mexico (1936), A River Called Titas Bangladesh (1973), Dry Summer Turkey (1964), Trances Morocco (1981) and The Housemaid South Korea (1960). I am highly interested in seeking these films out. I will probably have to wait until the Criterion Collection/Barnes & Noble 50% off sale next year to buy it since it is priced at $99.96, but what a group of films. I have not seen, much less heard of some of these films and this will be a great film and cultural education on world  cinema.
Release Date: 12.10.2013
     The other big announcement is that of Robert Altman's classic 1975 opus Nashville. This is a quintessential film of the American filmmaking boom of the 70s. The film follows twenty-four different characters and ranges from politics to comedy, musical to drama. The first time I saw this film I was pretty enthralled by it and cannot wait to see how the blu-ray looks. There is something about 70s films that look beautiful on blu-ray. The film stars Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, Shelley Duvall, Michael Murphy and Henry Gibson, amongst many others. The film is a cornucopia of American life and culture. Great addition to the collection.

Releas Date: 12.3.2013
     Another new release and one that caught my eye, being that I really admire and enjoy smart thrillers, is the Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) directed by Elio Petri. The film stars the powerful Gian Maria Volonte as a Roman police inspector who investigates a crime he committed. Sold right there. Another 70s film and I am hooked. The film won Best Foreign Language Film at the 1971 Academy Awards and was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. I have not heard of this film before, but I am going to blind buy it and I am looking forward to seeing it.
Release Date: 12.10.2013

The final release for December, and the only upgrade from within the collection, is the documentary Grey Gardens from directors Albert & David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer. Living on the Hampton's, cousins of Jackie Onassis, big and little Edie Beale, mother-and-daughter and high society recluses. The documentary is considered a classic and examines the lives of the Beales, which also turned them into fashion icons. I have not seen this film, but need to. The Maysles brothers are legendary documentarians and the film is a cult classic.
     That is it for the month of December and I have listed the release dates under the cover art . Check out the criterion website and check out these films once they are released. A great set and I, most likely, will purchase all of these at some point. Enjoy.

Credits by

Monday, September 16, 2013

Toronto Quick Reaction

     The Toronto International Film Festival concluded yesterday, September 15th, and a cavalcade of films had world and North American premieres this year. The big winner and the film that won the People's Choice Award was Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. The film continues its streak of positive reactions since its premiere at Telluride and appears to be on its way too many more. The question is will it get the reaction and appreciation from the everyday audience or will it be too graphic and real to appreciate the craft and in-your-face honest of slavery. I know I will love the film since I have admired his previous two efforts, but how will it be received by the non-cinephiles and non-critical elite. Right now it is the critics darling of 2013 and hopefully will ride it all the way to the Oscars. McQueen, Ejiofor and Fassbender are top quality and deserve a much notoriety. Newcomer Lupita Nyong'o is also suppose to be outstanding in the film and will be someone to watch out for in the future.
     Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity continued its allure and appreciation with more positive notices from Toronto. I think enough has been said and seen by the critics and festival goers that I just want to see the picture. It is my most anticipated film of the year and I have stopped watching trailers and reading any sort of commentary or review of the film. I want to be wowed when I see it and I believe Cuaron will deliver.
     Another film I am really intrigued by is Jonathan Glazer's alien-in-human-form picture Under The Skin starring Scarlett Johansson. The film seems to be highly polarizing but beautifully made. An existential challenge and filmmaking that is bold and different than the usual. I like that and I am hoping a release date is announced soon.
    Prisoners, which also screened at Telluride, received very high marks and I am seeing this film this weekend. I love a good thriller and any film photographed by the great Roger Deakins is a must. Ron Howard's racing drama Rush received good notices as well and if the film is as good as people are boasting, it will be good to see Howard back in the good graces of film goers after his last couple of weaker efforts. Enough DaVinci Code shit. Get back to making interesting films. Going to watch this one at the end of this month.
     Not all the films got good reviews though. They never do. Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot about the West Memphis Three trial got pummelled and even before I had read the film was being made I had a feeling there is no way it could be anywhere near as engrossing and terrifying as the series of HBO documentaries on the subject called Paradise Lost. Another film I was interested in seeing and still will, but my anticipation has died down a bit was Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl (also in Rush). The film appears to be sloppy, with a wonderful performance from Cumberbatch, but just a meandering mess. Sad to hear and I will still go see it, if nothing else for Cumberbatch's performance as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
     The one film with a big, impressive cast that had its premiere at Toronto was John Wells' film of Tracey Letts' Tony award-winning play August: Osage County. A cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper has to be good but reactions were mixed. Maybe a top-notch director would have made the reactions better, but it is also hard to turn a play into a movie. Word is that Streep is phenomenal as always, but Margo Martindale and Juliette Lewis are amazing as well. Dysfunctional family drama will still be a must-see in December.
     There are always films that will not be seen until next year that get good reactions. Films like Jim Jarmusch's Only Lover's Left Alive, cannot wait for that one since I am a huge Jarmusch fan and reactions are very positive, Richard Shephard's Dom Hemingway, starring a foul mouthed, drunken Jude Law and David Gordon Green's Joe, with Tye Sheridan and, apparently, a grizzled, fine performance from Nicolas Cage. We need the old Cage back anyways. Enough with the crappy choices and movies to get yourself out of debt. Do some quality work again and hopefully Joe is a start.
     That is it from this side. There were a lot of films I did not mention, but check out a plethora of movie websites or TIFF site and you can read about all the films. I just mentioned a few that peaked my interest and look forward to seeing all of these films as soon as possible.

Credits by TIFF.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Now You See Me

Directed by Louis Leterrier
Written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt

     I was not expecting much from Louis Leterrier's Now You See Me and I did not get much either. I never felt lost or that the script was crafty like I was hoping for, but it was fairly easy to pick out the surprises and there was little to no suspense of any kind in the film. There were a few points in the film that I did not mind, a Robin Hood-esque steal from the rich and give to the poor or financially abused, that was pretty good. The real problem lies in too many terrible shots, two main actors that appeared to be very uncomfortable, especially during the big magic events and the overall attempt at trying to be clever when the film was easy to pick apart. At least it had a talented cast, albeit wasted, and was a diversion from much of the superhero and CGI-laden films of the summer, even though there was CGI here too. The overall result was one that left me wanting to stop watching after about fifteen minutes.
     "The Four Horsemen," as these illusionists are called, perform magic tricks on huge, arena filled audiences and at the same time steal money from banks and the wealthy. They are a sensation because they give the money to the audience and let the wealthy wallow in the anger of being had. It is, however, odd that they keep so little for themselves. I guess they get a percentage of the shows growth, so they can afford to give back. The four horsemen include magician J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), illusionist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and con-artist/fighter Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). These four are hand-picked by a hooded ring leader, not shown to the audience, assigning them to put on shows that are covers for the actual robberies they are conducting. A facade to hide the real identity of what they are doing. A double whammy for the magicians and artists. The FBI is involved, knowing that these four are up to no good and agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) keeps getting closer and closer, but loses his hold and some of his sanity in his relentless search for what these performers are really doing. 
     The four performers have three different events, one in Las Vegas, New Orleans and Brooklyn, where they perform magical shows and, at the same time, steal from the rich and give back to those attending these lavish shows. The one in New Orleans is the best one in that they give back to victims who were robbed by insurance big wigs after Hurricane Katrina. Favorite, and only, good part in the film. There are also supporting turns and most likely the best acting in the film, from a DVD pioneer that unveils magicians tricks Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a French INTERPOL agent assisting Rhodes in the search Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) and Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) who financially funds the four horsemen and there events or shows. Three immensely talented actors that were wasted on a meandering, unclever script and lackluster direction from Leterrier, who also directed the boring Hollywood films The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans remake. 
     There are many problems with this film, mainly the attempt at writing a clever script that simply was too easy to pick at and solve the mystery of who was the hooded leader. There were definite hints along the way, especially in the way one of the actors performed and appeared. I am not a screenwriter and give credit to Solomon, Yakin and Ricourt for writing and I know it is a difficult task and there is no way I could probably do it, but it just did not work for me at all. Another issue was that Eisenberg and Fisher felt so out of place throughout most of the film. At the three big shows they seemed literally nervous and uncomfortable. It was a little too stiff and flat of a performance, even though in scenes where they were just talking or going through day-to-day doings, they were more natural and ok. They are performers and should show comfort and confidence as Franco and Harrelson did and I just did not see that in them. By the way, Franco has a fight scene that was also pretty decent and fast paced. The bigger issues were Leterrier's swooping camera and billions of shots from above. So annoying and distracting. It was a little disorienting and felt as if it had little purpose for the story other than showing the larger than life spectacle these performers were doing on a grand scale. I just did not like it.
     Now You See Me has an impressive, all-star cast, I am sure some decent paychecks and fun set pieces for the actors, but the overall result is middling and uneventful. Less widescreen, swooping shots and a more detailed screenplay would have made it more interesting. There are a few surprises along the way, but none that go without obvious tips and hints during the process. Yes, this film felt like a long, two hour process to sit through. You should be able to figure the film out and see through its plot holes rather quickly. I have read they are making a sequel to this film since it made over $117 million and it is more proof that Hollywood is sinking slower and slower. Anything that makes over a $100 million and sequels are automatically in the work. This movie was at least new but do we really need another one of these films. I do not think so. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Classic Trailers: THE GRADUATE

     Wednesday's Classic Film Trailers is The Graduate from Mike Nichols. Released in the year that helped change Hollywood 1967, along with Bonnie and Clyde, and is the film that launched the career of Dustin Hoffman. The film presented the gap between two divided generations. The 50s were out and the 60s were in. The youth movement was not going down the road of corporate jobs and the desire to be doctors and lawyers. They were beginning to become and I am not saying this is a bad thing, but an overintellectualized individual. A young man coming to adulthood amidst the sexual revolution and worried about his growth and future, but doing little about in financial sense and focusing on personal pleasures. What to do? The education of sex, film and writing was blossoming away from conservatism and growing into rebellion. Civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests were rampant and needed. The Graduate, though not a permanent political movement, presented life outside of the mainstream Eisenhower comfort and into showing sex, relationships and life in the observational, comedic way. I know that this film does not blatantly touch on many of fascinating and dynamic issues that were facing the country at the time, but the punch this film delivers and the mesmerizing performance from Hoffman set it apart as a definitive classic. 
     Ben Braddock (Hoffman) has recently graduated from college and upon returning home goes through a stage of denial and confusion on where his life should go. He reluctantly engages into an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) who happens to be the wife of his father's business partner. At the same time, Ben falls in love with Mr. & Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross) and the trouble and humor ensues. The film is a fantastic piece of not only entertainment, but a film that was relatable to young people and the enormous gap between their parents and themselves. The world, and America, changed immensely during the 60s and The Graduate is a film that captures a moment in time that is unforgettable. The music from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel is classic and Calder Willingham and Buck Henry's script is as about as perfect as it gets. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards: Best Picture; Best Actor - Dustin Hoffman; Best Actress - Anne Bancroft; Best Supporting Actress - Katharine Ross; Best Cinematography - Robert Surtees and Best Adapted Screenplay - Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. It won Best Director for Mike Nichols. See this movie if you have not and enjoy the trailer.

Credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Film Trailers: THE RAILWAY MAN

     Another film that recently premiered at this year's Toronto International Film Festival is the dramatic, World War II redemption story The Railway Man. The film revolves around an ex-British soldier Eric Lomax who, during World War II, was captured and forced to work in the Japanese labor camps and build the Thai/Burma railway. The atrocities were horrid and the wounds still have haunting implications to the older Lomax, as he looks back on the tortures of humanity during the war. Once he realizes one of his captors is still alive, he goes on a search, at the urging of his beautiful wife Patricia, to rid his mind of his demons and confront the Japanese soldier that continues to haunt him. The film has received positive notices from Toronto and comparisons to the 1957 classic The Bridge on the River Kwai have been noticed. Eric is played by Colin Firth and his wife Patricia by Nicole Kidman. The cast also includes Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine (playing the younger Lomax during WWII) and Hiroyuki Sanada. The film is directed by Jonathan Teplitsky. No release date has been announced or distributor for the matter. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Credits by and trailer by YouTube.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Film Trailers: THE DOUBLE

     The new film from director Richard Ayoade, more known for his comedic work, is called The Double and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Simon, a shy, socially inept man who gets overlooked at his job and cannot get the attention of the woman he is attracted to. Then arrives James, a carbon copy of Simon, but with the ability to be the life of the party, get the girl and torment Simon framework from this point forward. The concept is loosely based on a Fyodor Dostoyevsky book of the same name and the film is premiering at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival. Ayoade's previous film Submarine was his directorial debut and I have still yet to see it, although I need to fix that. So, with this trailer, it appears we are getting both sides of Jesse Eisenberg, the thinking, shy, introvert like in Roger Dodger and The Squid and the Whale, and the cocky, asshole in The Social Network. And, is this film a straight up drama, or something of a black comedy coming from the English comedian-director. The premise sounds intriguing and the cast includes Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor and Wallace Shawn. Enjoy and I really love the song in this trailer.

Credits by and trailer by YouTube.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Film Trailers: PRISONERS

     I know this trailer has been on the web and TV for a few weeks now, but I had not posted it yet and wanted to get it out there to anyone who has not seen it yet. I have to say, the first time I saw this trailer I did not get that rush to go out and see it right away, except for the fact that master cinematographer Roger Deakins shot it and it looks beautiful. Also, it felt like the trailer gave away too much. I hate that. Sometimes trailers just show too much to sell the film, but apparently, it does not. Reviews came out from Telluride and Toronto, stating that the film is an exceptionally well-made, slow paced thriller and it has changed my perception and is one of the few times where positive reactions peak my interest somewhat. The film is the first English-language directed film from French director Denis Villeneuve, who directed the intriguing Incendies (2010) and stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo. It revolves around the abduction and search for two young girls. One of the fathers, played by Jackman, takes matters into his own hands in the search once the man arrested for the kidnapping, Dano, is released due to lack of evidence. Gyllenhaal plays a rugged cop that is investigating the matter. Howard plays the other father of one of the two girls. I am looking forward to seeing this film and with Deakins lensing it, I know it will be amazing to look at and Jackman and Gyllenhaal will deliver performances that should be captivating. They usually always do. I do love glacially-paced thrillers so this one appears to be good, even if my initial reaction to the trailer was a little muted. The film will be released on September 20th. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Credit by and trailer by YouTube.

Film Trailers: ROBOCOP (2014)

     The new trailer for the remake of RoboCop has dropped and, minus a decent supporting cast, the film looks like another unnecessary remake coming out of an over bloated Hollywood studio. The film stars Joel Kinnaman as the cop who becomes half-machine, half-man, after suffering a near death catastrophe. His delivery, at least in the trailer, seems very flat and dull. I am not expecting much from him or this film, even though the director, Jose Padilha, who directed the well-made Elite Squad and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, has got the talent to hopefully pull it off. The cast includes Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jay Baruchel, Jackie Earle Haley and Michael K. Williams. There is no way this film will live up to the original RoboCop (1987) starring Peter Weller and directed by Peter Verhoeven. We will see what happens to the crime-ridden, futuristic Detroit on February 7, 2014.

Credit by and trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Telluride Buzz

     The 40th Telluride Film Festival has concluded and it appears it was, as expected, a very successful fest. Many new films made their US premiere's at the festival and the two that seem to have the biggest buzz are Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave and Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. McQueen, a world-class filmmaker and talented as hell, will probably have one of the more challenging films of the fall. A film that, evidently, presents slavery in all its physical and mental horrors. The lead in the film, the extremely talented Chiwetel Ejiofor, appears to have been stellar in the role and Michael Fassbender, who plays an evil slave owner, also got great raves and notices. The other film, Gravity, is one of those mind-bending sci-fi films that will probably be the most important in the genre since Kubrick's masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. A film that is a non-stop thrill ride as astronauts, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, become separated and drift off into space. This is great news, being that both of these films are ones I cannot wait to see this fall. McQueen and Cuaron are two of the most talented filmmakers and always make challenging, entertaining work. These two films seem to be poised for much awards attention and have come storming out of the gates. Emmanuel Lubezki better get every award for Best Cinematography. It is about time.
     Other films that got great notices were the Palme d'Or winning, coming-of-age, French lesbian drama Blue Is the Warmest Color, which is going to be an amazing film, and the upcoming September released thriller Prisoners, from Denis Villeneuve. I already now that Blue Is the Warmest Color is a must-see, but I was not so sure on Prisoners. Now, I am really intrigued to see this slow-paced thriller that stars Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, and revolves around the abduction and search for two missing young girls in Pennsylvania. This is a moment when positive word of mouth gives me the added interest to see a film after the trailer sort of lessens the desire.
     Three films that had their initial premieres at the Cannes Film Festival, Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, starring Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan, Alexander Payne's Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, and J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford, also had their US premieres at the festival. All received glowing reviews, especially the Coen's film, and all appear to be on track to be very successful, engaging films. All three of these films are on my Top Ten list and I am really looking forward to seeing what Redford does in All Is Lost and how Bruce Dern is in Nebraska. Two legendary actors working with really talented filmmakers. Also, glad to see the Coen's working with John Goodman again and I can tell, from the trailers, that Isaac is going to be tremendous. Actor on the rise.
     Another film that was screened at Telluride that received positive notices was Jason Reitman's upcoming drama Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. A single mom and her son pick up a convict and learn about his complicated situation while he is in their care. The film seems to be a shift in tone for Reitman, but also a sentimental one as well. It apparently is less satirical and sarcastic, and more dramatic. Change is good and I am looking forward to seeing this one, if nothing else for the obvious fine acting talents from Winslet and Brolin.
     Another film that caught my eye, or ear, being that I was just reading posts and mini-reviews from columnists like, Jeffery Wells at, Kristopher Tapley at and Sasha Stone at, all great writers, was Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson. A film that is apparently very well-made, but also highly unique and divisive. The film revolves around an alien, in human form, that hunts her prey in Scotland. I do not know when this film will be released, but it is doing the festival circuit and will hopefully get a release date soon. Glazer is a talented filmmaker, but has only made two films in over 13 years, the fantastic Sexy Beast (2000) and the underrated Birth (2004).
     In my opinion, this is all great news and these are just a few of the films that were shown at the festival. This appears to have been a great festival and definitely seems to have stolen some of the sparkle away from the more glamorous Venice Film Festival, which did not get as many exciting releases as Telluride, with the exception of having the world premiere of Gravity and also screened Under the Skin. The festival circuit appears to be a wild ride, but eventually I am going to get to go to one of these huge fests and, hopefully, it is not too far away. There is something exciting about seeing a film for the first time and that first time being the first ever showing. My little journey through this years South by Southwest Film Festival was a great introduction to a film fest and I cannot wait to hear about all the films that will be showing at the currently running Toronto Film Festival. Great time for movies.

Credit by Telluride Film Festival and Dean Tavoularis.

Classic Trailers: BONNIE & CLYDE

     Wednesday, well, Thursday, due to the big anticipated films post, Classic Trailers presents one of the films that helped change Hollywood and the ways films are made -- Bonnie and Clyde. The film was released in 1967 and was the one of the first films in Hollywood, and produced by a Hollywood studio, Warner Bros., that showcased sex and youthful romance in a way that was more honest to the culture in America, that was tired of the showy, musical absurdness of the Doris Day films. That romance was not real. The romance between Bonnie and Clyde was more open, troubled and complicated, instead of a perfect fall-in-love tale from those Hollywood films of the early 60s. The other thing that stood out was the violence and how it was depicted. Blood, being shown heavily when someone is shot, the scene where they rob a bank and shoot the man that is trying to stop them in the face and the camera does not turn away. The shootout at the end of the film that is unrelentless. These two matters are what helped change Hollywood and push on the oncoming revival of American cinema, with the penultimate Easy Rider and the progression of gritty, honest, independent filmmaking in America. Filmmaking where there the auteur really grew and films were made outside of the Hollywood system and out in the streets, with whatever money these filmmakers could come up with. This film, along with Mike Nichols' The Graduate (1967), changed Hollywood until Spielberg and Lucas turned it into blockbuster country.
     The film, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty as Clyde and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie, revolves around the infamous thieves from Texas, that traversed the country stealing, looting and killing in Depression-era America. The film is a romanticized telling of these bandits and their gang, but also an absolute beautifully shot film in Texas. The acting is completely amazing and it is the film that made Dunaway a household name and Beatty a star. The screenplay, written by David Newman and Robert Benton, with assistance from Robert Towne, the was originally intended for one of the great French New Wave directors, like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, to be the director, but both passed. Great cinematography from Burnett Guffrey, that ideal banjo-led music from Charles Strouse and an outstanding cast, including, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parson, Michael J. Pollard, Denver Pyle and the first screen performance from a young Gene Wilder. The film went on to be nominated for ten Oscars, including, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Beatty), Best Actrees (Dunaway), two Best Supporting Actors (Hackman & Pollard), Best Director and Best Costume Design, and won for Best Supporting Actress (Parsons) and Best Cinematography. I love this film and it is one of my favorite films of all time. A movie that is important, but also highly entertaining. The film, as well as the year of 1967, that changed Hollywood for the better. Bonnie and Clyde is a great film, full of humor, suspense and a changing America. Enjoy the trailer.

Credit IMDB.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Most Anticipated Films of the Fall 2013

     It is that great time of the year when films and film watching get really exciting for me. It is not so much the Oscar prognosticating, although I do follow and like doing that, but what it really boils down to is watching great, meaningful films. Films that say something about culture, society and our social being. Films that challenge what has been previously made and take chances on new ways of storytelling and filmmaking. There have been some great films released so far this year, and this spring and summer has been a really good year for smaller, independent films. The films I have seen that are easily, in my opinion, amongst the best of the year are Drinking Buddies, The Place Beyond the Pines, Mud, Fruitvale Station, Upstream Color and Blue Jasmine, as well as larger films I have enjoyed, such as Pacific Rim, The Conjuring and The World's End.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


The World's End

Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg

     Edgar Wright's conclusion to his "Three Colours: Cornetto Trilogy" or "The Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy," The World's End, is as an entertaining and satisfying end to an absolutely must-see series of films. Similar to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in tone, humor and delivery, this final action/sci-fi/comedy, is executed with fine editing touches, nostalgic music and choreographed fight and drinking scenes that is nothing short of excellent from these guys. I absolutely love the Dead and Fuzz, and The World's End is a fitting conclusion to these films of middle aged, I mean from late 20s to early 40s, malaise and the pure excitement of different genre and clever appreciations of cinema.
     The World's End takes a place in a small, English town, Newton Haven, much like Hot Fuzz. It deals with a group of old friends that have gone there separate ways since high school and end up reconnecting to finish a quest they did not complete as teens. The epic Golden Mile. A pub crawl that includes 12 pubs and 12 pints. But this is not your typical get together. The group consists of five high school friends and all of them have gone there separate ways. One of them has not gotten out of those dreaded high school days and still lives outside of the corporate world, while the other four have gone on to successful careers and lives, for the most part. In this small town, there is more than meets the eye, when, much like the zombies in Shaun of the Dead, the group realizes that the towns citizens are not actually human, but blue-blooded robots, that are looking to take over the community and planet.
     The ring leader of this group of old friends is Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40-year-old man that has not grown out of his partying days as a youth. He travels around London and talks and persuades the four members of his lost days into taking on the Golden Mile for old times sakes. When they were 18, they tried it and failed. The rest of the friends have moved on and are reluctant at first, but eventually cave and go on this trip. Gary has not grown up like the rest of them and lives in a world void of restriction's and responsibilities, but also in one of never endeing immaturity and nostalgia. 
     Wright brought together, has with all of these films, a tremendous cast and the four friends could not have been cast better. Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) and Andy Knighley (Nick Frost) all, reluctantly go back to Newton Haven to go on this Golden Mile. There chemistry in this film is spot on and delivers at every moment. They, and not to give out plot points, suffice it to say, realize Gary is still a lying bastard and has not persuaded them on going on this trip with any form of honesty. The real terror is that the town is not safe. Much like in Hot Fuzz, the town has put on a facade and really is a group of blue blooded robots that you either join, or die. There is great action, a plethora of 80s and 90s English pop music, and an exceptionally well used "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)" from The Doors, and ironic laughs throughout. I also love the fact the dry, British humor is very clever and silly, but dished out with a serious tone that makes it all the more funny. Add Rosamund Pike and Bill Nighy, and you have a wonderful, rounded cast.
     I find myself wondering why I like this film and the other two, in this trilogy so much when I completely, for the most part, despise Hollywood comedies. Too stupid, mainstream, over done, from the Hollywood point. But Wright, Pegg and Frost show, yes put Frost in with the other two, who wrote all the films, how clever they are with the jokes and set piece. The action is great, but done in moments where it is good and cleverly choreographed with the script, music and comedy. I enjoy the banter between the friends and how, in all three films, Frost and Pegg go through the ups, downs, and emotional swings of being and becoming friends. I enjoy the British-ness of it all. Oh yeah, there is, much like the other two films, a lot of beer drinking and pub going in this film. Gotta love that.
     Wright is an extremely talented director and writer. He also is one hell of an editor and working with Paul Machliss, they have proven, once again, they know how to put a movie together, before, during and after filming. Wright gets the malaise of being in your 20s, 30s and early 40s and not knowing what you are doing, and putting the most unlikely people in situations where they don't want to be and where they have to grow up to survive. It is nice to see flat-out hilarious comedies done with a little social commentary on becoming an adult and immature growing, somewhat, into the mature. And, the obvious love of films, whether Night of the Living Dead  and Italian zombie films with Shaun of the Dead, Tony Scott stylistic-action films and the Bad Boys II obsession in Hot Fuzz and this one, which contains references to many sci-fi and apocalyptic films, like the The Day the Earth Stood Still, original one, and some Mad Max.
     These guys, Wright, Pegg and Frost, have made a glorious finale to their "Cornetto Trilogy" with The World's End. Clever, funny and perfect in its production value. All of the films this group has made have not been disappointing at all and get better with every viewing. Time and place or excellent and their love of film and film history is fun to be displayed in the writing and acting. I hope this is not the end of these films from these guys. I hope it never was meant to be a trilogy, but keeps on going with ten more films. Each film depicting a new genre and new commentary on life and getting older. If it is the end of this set of films though, it ends with satisfying results. And dammit, this movie will make you want a beer! Cheers!

Credit IMDB.