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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New LISTEN UP PHILIP Trailer Reinforces the Notion that Writers are Crabby Individuals

I...will neither confirm nor deny this notion. But it sure seems to be prevalent in Hollywood films. The solitary, miserable and generally unsatisfying lives of authors and other kinds of scribes have been portrayed by everyone from Nicolas Cage in Adaptation to Meryl Streep in The Hours. Now, writer/director Alex Ross Perry will add his contribution to the genre with LISTEN UP PHILIP.

You may remember that I first had this film on my radar early in the year during Sundance seasonmostly because I've been girl crushing on Elisabeth Moss lately. She plays Ashley, the girlfriend of the titular unhappy novelist on the verge of either a breakthrough or a nervous breakdown played by Jason Schwartzman. More on the film below:

Anger rages in Philip (Jason Schwartzman) as he awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), and his indifference to promoting his own work. When Philip’s idol Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject — himself. A complex, intimate, and highly idiosyncratic comedy, Listen Up Philip is a literary look at the triumph of reality over the human spirit.

I like Moss and I may be somewhat intrigued by Schwartzman in this, though the premise isn't really calling me. Krysten Ritter, who seems to have been on the cusp of superstardom for the past few years, is also in the film. I can only hope it's good. Watch the new trailer:

LISTEN UP PHILIP releases in select theaters starting October 17 and on nationwide VOD and iTunes/digital platforms starting October 21. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Guys, We're Getting a Hip Hop-Punk Coming of Age Story!

Just based off the description alone, I already have to see this movie--like, right this instant. Earlier today when I was browsing on Shadow and Act, I stumbled across this piece of news announcing that Dope, a new movie written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Our Family Wedding, Talk to Me), has begun principal photography. The film is about a trio of young friends who headline their own hip hop-punk band in Inglewood, California, as they struggle to avoid gangs, drugs and crime.

Oh, and their geeks. Geeks of color at that.

Man, I am so glad that we are finally starting to see more representation of geeky women (and men) of color who up until recently have been virtually absent from media images. 2012 brought us the documentary A Band Called Death, which I had hoped would help usher in similar images on the big screen, but it's been slow coming.

At any rate, I can't begin to describe how excited I am to see this. Zoe Kravitz (who in real life fronts her own rock band), Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12) and Kimberly Elise (For Colored Girls) have been added to the cast--which means it should definitely be awesome, I assume they will play supporting characters in the film which will focus primarily on the relationship between the three-member band made of characters played by Shameik Moore (The Watsons Go to Birmingham), Kiersey Clemons (mostly known for a variety of TV shows) and Tony Revolori (the Guatemalan American actor who most recently starred alongside Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel).

Also attached to the film are Forest Whitaker and Pharrell Williams as producers (along with Whitaker's producing partner, Nina Yang Bongiovi). Williams will also provide original music for the movie. OMG if the soundtrack sounds anything like N.E.R.D. (Pharrell's former soul/alternative band), I will fall out because I miss that band so much.

I'll keep you updated about this project as I learn more. For now, I am just crossing my fingers that a) it will be a major release and 2) that it will be good. The foundation is certainly there.

Your thoughts?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The People Have Spoken: Fandango Fans Choose Films With Complex Female Lead Characters As Their Top Two Fall Picks

For once, I agree with the people. Today it was announced via a Fandango press release that more than 1,000 fans surveyed on the popular movie ticketing website have chosen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and Gone Girl as their top two most anticipated movies this fall. And let the church say amen to that.

The desire for strong (read: well written and compelling) lead female characters has become daily rhetoric on social media and beyond. And now, the general audience has joined the dialogue, which means the importance of great female characters is not just something that the critics community has acknowledged but the buying public well.

Mockingjay, which just released a brand new trailer here, features a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who sacrifices her life for that of her younger sister in an apocalyptic death match that has become an ever evolving nightmare. The previous films in the franchise both earned more than $400 million each in domestic gross. Though it has yet to have its day as a box office contender, director David Fincher's thriller Gone Girl already has a built-in book audience and follows a dual point of view story that includes a morally ambiguous female lead played by Rosamund Pike.

The remaining films on the Fandango list are as follows:

3. “Interstellar” (Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway)

4. “The Equalizer” (Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz)

5. “The Penguins of Madagascar” (voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich)

6. “The Judge” (Robert Downey, Jr. , Robert Duvall)

7. “Dumb and Dumber To” (Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels)

8. “Fury” (Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf)

9. “The Good Lie” (Reese Witherspoon)

10. “Foxcatcher” (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum)

With the exception of Dumb and Dumber To, which I honestly can't believe is even happening, the rest of the list is pretty great as well. What films are you most looking forward to this fall?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Secret Ingredient in THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM is Viola Davis

Debut filmmaker Ned Benson's cinematic ballad, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM, has all the ingredients to be a poignant film--except for its rather basic plot that does little to elevate the film's familiar story of an estranged couple whose relationship is suffocated by grief, trauma and a relentless love. The pacing is inspired, the lighting is good, the two main actors--Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy--are fine, but it lacks an imprint that separates it from so many others.

That is, until Viola Davis shows up on the screen.

The actress (Doubt, The Help) isn't even the focal point of the film, and is barely mentioned in any of its commercials, but she leaves such an impression on you that makes you wish she had more screen time. Davis plays a college professor who kinda slumps into Eleanor's (Chastain) life right when she's at a crossroads, and ends up shattering the stereotypical perception of the strong collegiate black woman who's as in as much command of her professional career as her personal life. As we learn that Eleanor has run away from her life after the devastating loss of her infant son, we simultaneously realize that Professor Friedman (Davis) is emotionally detached from her own life. She bares a seen-it-all-and-I'm-unimpressed look on her face as Eleanor fights to find a new identity. There isn't a whole lot of detail in the dialogue, but it is what Friedman doesn't mention--or what she begins to mention and quickly pivots away from--when we begin to understand that she's been through hell and back and while she's burdened by that it's also a comfort to her. You want to know more about her, but at the same time there's a relatability to what she chooses not to say.

In fact, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM is at its best during the quiet moments--the dialogue seems to only get in the way of the emotions between the characters. Whether it's Davis and Chastain sharing a mutual silence on opposite sides of a desk, or Chastain and McAvoy sitting on the sidewalk with a million thoughts between them, the film manages to successfully tell an absorbing story in between its sometimes flaccid dialogue. Son Lux's musical score further punctuates the feeling of each scene--from its somber serenades to its large scale melodies.

But still, as I watched the film I continued to think about Professor Friedman and what could have possible been her journey. If there is a song that could define her story, what would it be? If she could disappear, where would she choose to go? Who would she choose to be?

I guess we'd have to wait for a Disappearance of Professor Friedman for those answers. Until then, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM is a lovely enough film even though it may not stick with you much long after the ending credits.

Rating: B (*** out of *****)

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM opens in select theaters Friday, and will be in theaters nationwide September 19th. Watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Time for a Target Run: 13 Cult Classic Horror Films are Re-Released in Major Retail Stores

On the one hand, all this news about classic horror films being re-released this year points out the deficit in great modern American horror films. But, on the other hand, we get to revisit some of the best horror films of all time--now with snazzy new Blu-ray and DVD packaging or back up on the big screen. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Fox Home Entertainment have now jumped on the bandwagon by re-releasing 13 cult classic horror films with all-new, limited-edition artist-rendered faceplates by Skuzzles.

So if you're near a Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Best Buy Canada, Walmart Canada, or other major retailer, pick up a copy of any of these favorites for only $5-7 on DVD or $7-$8 on Blu-ray:

1. Jeepers Creepers

2. Child’s Play

3. Misery

4. Last House on the Left

5. Return of the Living Dead

6. Amityville Horror

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version)

8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

9. Carrie

10. Silence of the Lambs

11. Species

12. Killer Klowns From Outer Space

13. Teen Wolf

So if you see a crazy lady rifling through Target looking for copies of Amityville Horror, Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Carrie, don't be alarmed--it's just me, doing a little shopping. I'm a sucker for re-releases of great films, I can't help it. See you there?

Chris Rock is Still Winning: Paramount Pictures Picks Up His Latest Film

Chris Rock has been working overtime lately to debunk the theory that kickass comedians like himself are not just one trick ponies who are better telling jokes on stage than commanding a film--especially a drama. Which is why is why I have tons of respect for the actor who not only made his Broadway debut in "The Motherf**ker with the Hat" three years ago, but also starred alongside Julie Delpy in the hilarious 2 Days in New York--a movie in which he played completely against type as a Brooklyn hipster. At this point in his career, he can no longer be typecast as the jokester.

That said, I am happy to hear that his latest film, Top Five, which is currently making waves at the Toronto International Film Festival, was just picked up for distribution by Paramount Pictures.  The film, written and directed by Rock himself, teams the actor with a star-studded cast that includes Rosario Dawson, Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, and Jay Pharoah. It was produced by Shawn "Jay Z" Carter and Kanye West, with Questlove as Executive Music Producer--which means the soundtrack is awesome.

The full synopsis reads as follows: “TOP FIVE” tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen (Rock), whose unexpected encounter with a journalist (Rosario Dawson) forces him to confront the comedy career—and the past—that he's left behind.

It sounds like Rock may have tapped into his own personal journey in this film, which may make it that much more interesting to watch. The film has already earned rave reviews at the festival, and the Paramount acquisition also highlights Rock's long relationship with the studio. From the press release, Paramount Chairman and CEO Brad Grey said, "Chris and I go back decades, both personally and professionally, and so I am particularly proud to have watched his career grow to its highest heights over many decades. This film showcases brilliantly how talented Chris is as a filmmaker and storyteller and we are thrilled to be partnering with him, Scott Rudin and my longtime friend, the legendary Barry Diller and IACF for its worldwide launch,"

I'll be impatiently awaiting the release date for this film. What say you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Robert De Niro Will Be a DIRTY GRANDPA in a New Movie (And I Weep)

I'm sitting here really trying to think of the last great Robert De Niro film I saw, and...I'm having a tough time coming up with a recent one (within the last five years). That makes me sad because he's one of my favorite actors, but his recent filmography has got me scratching my head for real.

Which brings us to today's announcement that the actor is set to star in a film called DIRTY GRANDPA, a comedy co-starring Zac Efron. My reaction: (Throws hands up in the air in utter agony). Okay wait, maybe this will actually surprise us and be a good movie...maybe. But right now at least, it sounds like crap. Here's the brief synopsis:

Right before his wedding, an uptight guy is tricked into driving his foul-mouthed grandfather, a former Army general, to Florida for spring break.

My assumption is Efron is the uptight guy, and De Niro is, well, you know. Dan Mazer, who previously directed the romcom I Give it a Year, helmed the film which will be released by Lionsgate on December 25th. 

Is anyone else getting flashbacks to Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip, which was also released around Christmastime just two years ago? Anyone remember what happened with that one?

Aaaaaanyway, I look forward to reading your comments about this one. 

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