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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

First Look: "Paranormal Activity 2"

After the rapid success of last year's frightfest Paranormal Activity, it's no surprise that the studios rushed to put out a sequel. Well, folks, here's the new trailer for Paranormal Activity 2, which threatens to scare the pants off us once again as we revisit the house of horrors on October 22 in time for Halloween. Like Blair Witch, was a sequel necessary?

Check out the exclusive haunting new clip below:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Look: "The Social Network"

If you think about it, Facebook is probably one of the biggest celebrities around right now, next to Twitter. So you knew it was only a matter of time until they came up with a movie chronicling its rise to fame. Premium geek boy Jesse Eisenberg (I guess Michael Cera was unavailable) steps into the shoes of Mark Zuckerberg who, along with Chris Hughes (Patrick Mapel), Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Dustin Moskovitz (Joseph Mazzello) and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) created the social phenomenon which ironically spawned the betrayal of many of their own close friends. The Social Network hits theaters October 1.

Friday, June 25, 2010

DVD Review: "Alice in Wonderland"

"There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter."
The story of a young girl falling down a rabbit hole and shrinking to a few inches tall then meeting a bunch of questionable characters, including a very punctual bunny and a mad hatter, could only be someone's LSD trip or Tim Burton's inspiration for his latest film, Alice In Wonderland.

Luckily for us, no one had to take any drugs in the making of this movie (that we know of). Ripped straight from Lewis Carroll's famous 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Tim Burton added his signature Halloween-inspired touch to turn Alice's story into a frightful presentation of vibrantly dark colors. Add his go-to star Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and wife Helena Bonham Carter as the wickedest queen in wonderland, Burton as usual created a visual masterpiece.

When we meet Alice (Mia Wasikowska) in this latest go-round down the rabbit hole and into the abyss of kookiness, she is trying to dodge her impending nuptials to a man she hardly knows. So naturally she runs away and down the rabbit hole where she comes face to face with evil herself (in the form of The Red Queen), townspeople who look like they've escaped from your worst nightmare, a Mad Hatter and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) who are the only two with a soft spot for Alice (and help her navigate her Wonderland trip). Alice must figure out 1) how she got to this place and 2) how on earth she's getting out (which doesn't come without its bumps and bruises).

Though visually stunning, Alice In Wonderland is more funny than anything else (thanks mostly to Depp's Mad Hatter). The performances weren't as dark as they should have been given the pairing of Carroll's dark story and Burton's dark imagination. That was quite disappointing. Though Alice In Wonderland was entertaining, the director of darkness needed to step up the dark factor.

Reel Talk rating: B

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Look: "Little Fockers"

Looks like we've got our first Christmas comedy! Round three of the hysterical Fockers series emerges with the December release of Little Fockers, reuniting the original cast including Ben Stiller reprising his role as Gaylord Focker, the deadpan and brilliant Robert DeNiro as his father-in-law Jack, Teri Polo as his wife, and Blythe Danner as his mother-in-law. And don't forget Gaylord's hilarious parents played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand. This time Jessica Alba, Harvey Keitel and Laura Dern come along for the ride. In this third installment Gaylord is still trying to convince good ole Daddy Jack that he is capable of common sense as a husband and father of twins. But of course extenuating circumstances and pure slapstick comedy always get in the way. Check out the new trailer (which is noticeably missing a few punchlines) below. Little Fockers makes its way to theaters December 22.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Look: "Red"

After the miserable box office debut of Jonah Hex last week. you'd think studios would be a little weary about superhero movies. Nevertheless action star Bruce Willis brings to life the famous (?) comic book character Frank Moses, a semi-retired black-ops agent who must call on his former team members for help when a old archenemy and assassin resurfaces jumpstarting an old feud in Red. Co-starring Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Mary-Louise Parker, Red hits theaters October 15.

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Look: "The Green Hornet"

Seth Rogen has been known to play idiot potheads in most his movies, but in next year's The Green Hornet, the newly trimmed down Rogen is all swag as a newspaper publisher moonlighting as the famous caped crusader. Take a look at the first few photos surfacing on the web of from the movie, co-starring Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz and Edward Furlong (as Kato, his sidekick martial arts guru). And check out the brand new trailer below. The Green Hornet flies into theaters on January 14, 2011.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

First Look: "The American"

After getting burned by his previous assignment in Sweden, an American assassin (played by George Clooney) vows that his next job will be his last. Retreating to Italy, he tries to stay out of the limelight and resume a normal life. But his low-key profile doesn't keep him out of the line of danger for too long and he soon winds up looking death in the face. The American zooms into theaters September 1.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Look: "Conviction"

Hilary Swank stars as Betty Ann Waters, a high school dropout and single mom who's determined to avenge her brother's (played by Sam Rockwell) wrongful murder conviction which led him to life in prison in the 2011 drama Conviction. After finally attaining her GED and earning a law degree, Waters gears up for the fight of her life to free her brother. The trailer doesn't look all that appealing, but perhaps a better trailer will surface later this year. A firm release date for Conviction has yet to be determined. The film also stars Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo and Minnie Driver. Hopefully a better trailer (that doesn't look like a made for TV movie) surface soon...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First Look: "The Smurfs"

This is by far one of the more ridiculous film adaptations of old cartoons to hit the big screen (and that's saying something). The classic blue creatures from the wildly popular 80s cartoon The Smurfs have maneuvered their way onto the silver screen-- in 3D no less. Voiced by such stars as Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Sofía Vergara, Hank Azaria and George Lopez, The Smurfs promises to bring the same adventures we loved in the show to the movie. We'll see about that. The Smurfs is scheduled to hit theaters July 29, 2011. Check out a very quick teaser below:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

DVD Review: "An Education"

"I feel old...but not so wise."
I never liked the phrase "coming of age film." It just sounds ridiculous, not to mention pretentious. And it always describes someone who "comes" to an age far beyond their years. So, in essence, they're rather coming to an age that's not their own.

Much is the story of Jenny (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan), a sixteen year old English teen who's on the fast track to attend Oxford University, just like her father always wanted in An Education. Trouble is, on the brink of her seventeenth birthday Jenny becomes fascinated by all things opposite of her path to Oxford--all things that begin and end with David (Peter Sarsgaard), a man nearly twice her age who shows her life outside of the small, structured world that had become her life.

Leaving behind her life of schoolbooks and French lessons, Jenny is swept into a life of chain smoking, grown-up parties and Parisian rendezvous, plunging head first into the overwhelming world of prepubescent adulthood and right into a whirlwind love affair. David shows Jenny a world she only dreamed of--a world that just as quickly as she was enchanted by, she was also disposed of. Jenny learns that life as an adult isn't as wonderful as she had imagined, and that sometimes growing up at your own pace makes the path to life even sweeter.

What's good about Mulligan's performance is that it's subtle, and seemingly very natural. What's underwhelming about An Education is that all the drama that naturally occurs in a situation like Jenny's was missing. It moved quite slowly, even though the storyline was about moving very quickly. And just when things start to rev up in the movie, the credits begin to roll. In a way you're left disappointed. But then again, that's just how Jenny felt when she thought her life was just beginning. Peter Sarsgaard was charming as the older man, but his character could have been much stronger than it played onscreen. All in all, An Education was a decent film, just left much to be desired.

Reel Talk rating: B

Monday, June 14, 2010

Father's Day Flicks

Are you ready for Father's Day this weekend (hint: June 20)? If you're still stuck on what to get Dad, here's a list of five of the best Dads in recent cinema. So snuggle up with Pops and check out one of these DVDs celebrating fatherhood:

Frank Sullivan from Frequency (2000): Dennnis Quaid (Frank Sullivan) nailed his portrayal as a firefighter Dad who connects with his son John after thirty years when, wait for it, they're both adults. No, this isn't The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but rather the two reconnected after Frank discovered an old transmitter radio that fastforwarded the years and introduced him to his grown son John. The nostalgic discussions between the father and son, the nevereending laughs, and the loving ways the duo leaned on each other for support in ways neither of them could imagine cemented the ultimate father and son bond.

George Banks from Father of the Bride (2001): Who could forget Steve Martin in this hilarious comedy about a Dad grappling with the reality that his little girl is all grown up and walking down the aisle? With slapstick humor and surprisingly warm moments, Martin takes viewers on a journey of what it really means when they say when you love someone you must let them go. Truly a pleasure to watch on screen.

Guido Orefice from Life is Beautiful (1991): Guido Orefice's (Robert Begnini) imagination took us far beyond the Nazi concentration camp he and his son Giosué were imprisoned in this Italian dramedy. The loving father devised did everything he could he do--from playing make believe to literally putting on a fairy tale show--to keep a smile on his little boys face and in the midst of the horro that had become their daily lives. In the end, Guido left one message clear to his son: cherish every moment you have together.

Chris Gardner from Pursuit of Happyness (2006): Will Smith's (Chris Gardner) beautiful portrayal of a father who lost his home, his wife, but not his heart is a moving tribute to a man who never left his son's side--even during the most difficult time in his life. Even while sleeping in subway stations and homeless shelters and eating in soup kitchens, Chris taught his son to read and write and, most importantly, to never give up on his dreams.

Daniel Hillard from Mrs Doubtfire (1993): Robin Williams's hysterical transformation as a divorced Dad who would do anything just see his children--even if it means dressing up as their female babysitter--not only had us doubled over in laughter truly touched by a father's unconditional love for his children.

Which movie father reminds you of your Dad?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

DVD Review: "From Paris With Love"

"Next time I tell you to shoot the fu$%er, shoot the fu$%er!"
John Travolta dons a shaved head and a wild attitude in Taken director Pierre Morel's action flick From Paris With Love. The action-packed movie follows Travolta as the trigger-happy FBI agent Charlie Wax whose latest assignment to take down a terrorist plot in France teams him with rookie employee for the U.S. Ambassador James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Needless to say the two opposites bump heads as they work together. By-the-books Reece learns to later adapt to Wax's wild style but only after a few close calls involving guns pointed at him and after the tables turn against him.

Aside from a generic plot twist and a little clever banter between the two fellas, From Paris With Love fails to deliver the excitement to which the trailer alludes. Meyers and Travolta are an interesting match and neither deliver bad performances, but even with Travolta's over-the-top antics you're left underwhelmed. The last thirty minutes were the best part of the movie. Perhaps because it was almost over.

Reel Talk rating: C

Friday, June 11, 2010

The A-Team

"I love it when a plan comes together."
Lets not talk about the sweet eye candy in this summer's best blockbuster so far. Lets not discuss how it really doesn't take much acting chops to portray the misfit foursome that is Hannibal, Face, Baracus and Murdock. Lets just say that The A-Team is in three words: great summer fun.

Bradley Cooper, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, Liam Neeson and District 9's Sharlto Copley comprise the roles made famous in the wildly popular 80s TV show of the same name and don't disappoint. As in the show, the film version shows how the guys meet as elite army officials in Iraq who are framed for a war crime they didn't commit. After 8 years in prison, they break out with one mission in mind: to clear their name at whatever cost. With leader Hannibal (Neeson) at the helm of their latest scheme, the fellas use a lot of gun powder, smarts and explosions to get their point across, and end up outwitting their opponents. Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson (Little Children) also star in the movie as army officials on the other side of the A-Team, and round out the perfect cast.

The A-Team certainly explodes onto the big screen in a major way. Borrowing its premise from the TV show, the movie truly serves as the bigger, bloodier, and cooler version of the smash hit sitcom. I pity the fool who thinks any less.

Reel Talk rating: B+

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Look: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"

Nicolas Cage has a knack for choosing very family-friendly fantasy films lately. From National Treasure to KickAss (which I hear ain't too friendly to families), and next month he'll star in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The Oscar winner plays sorcerer Balthazar Blake who must protect New York City from falling prey to his archnemesis Maxim Horvath. In his latest effort he recruits an apprentice (in the form of Knocked Up's Jay Baruchel) and together they partner to take down Horvath and save NYC from impending doom. The Sorcerer's Apprentice invades theaters July 14.

And check out a the new clip:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just Let The Music Play

I don't mean to get all Sam Jackson on you, but what's with so many of music's finest taking up space on the big screen these days? It's one thing to go to jam at their concerts and listen to endless radio play from Miley Cyrus, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson (that's Ms. Jackson, to you), 50 Cent and most recently Puff Daddy (or whatever he's called these days), but just because they're a force to be reckoned with on the Billboard charts doesn't mean they should be acting. Acting is NOT singing/rapping.

Though Puffy is earning raves for his comedic turn in this weekend's #2 movie Get Him To The Greek, why couldn't that role have gone to someone else--like Chris Rock for instance? Why was Mary J. Blige just cast as jazz great Nina Simone in her biopic? Kimberly Elise or Kerry Washington could have really shined in that role. And though 50 Cent's dramatic weight loss in his upcoming movie about an athlete whose body is overcome with cancer Things Fall Apart is admirable, the role seems more suited for a seasoned actor like Don Cheadle or Derek Luke.

Both Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey have each gotten cast in two different Tyler Perry-related films, but neither of them have been that convincing in their performances. They are both wildly successful artists who have shown that their undeniable musical ability does not cross over to their acting talent. Thankfully, Perry has cast a good team of actors in his upcoming film adaptation of the Tony award-nominated play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf that includes Washington, Elise, Anika Noni Rose, Loretta Divine, Whoopi Goldeberg and Phylicia Rashad. But of course he rounded up the cast with Jackson and Carey (who just dropped out of the production due to "doctor's orders").

Though I'm not saying that there are no singers who can make the leap from the charts to the movies (Will Smith and Barbra Streisand anyone?) and draw big audiences, but there are tons of underrated actors out there who can certainly do better justice to a Tyler Perry movie or hold their own as Sandra Bullock's husband (in lieu of country star Tim McGraw) in The Blind Side, or even play unruly teens as Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus did in Valentine's Day and The Last Song.

In light of this neverending recession, can we at least throw a bone to the real actors out there? For the most part, they don't have CD releases to fall back on.

First Look: "Morning Glory"

Rachel MacAdams plays Becky, a TV producer brought in to take on the daunting task of reviving a struggling daytime morning show hosted by Mike and Colleen (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton) in Morning Glory. Much like screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna's smash hit The Devil Wears Prada (though it doesn't look as good), Becky's boss Mike is a terror forcing Becky to rethink her career choice as she also tries to balance a new relationship with Adam (Patrick Wilson). Keaton plays her usual frenzied desperate housewife-like character in the romantic comedy. Morning Glory, which also stars Jeff Goldblum, hits theaters November 12.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

DVD Review: "The Road"

"Are we gonna die?"
--"We are not gonna quit. We are gonna survive this."
It's the end of the world as Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee know it. And they're not feeling fine. In last year's The Road, one of Hollywood's most underrecognized actors Mortensen starred as a father who, with his son (Smit-Phee) in tow, is struggling just to stay alive amidst the threats that lay before him on a burning post apocalyptic Earth. After his wife (played by Charlize Theron) abandons the pair out of fear and desperation, the father and son's days are left numbered as they ward off gangs, starvation, and hypothermia.

That's about the gist of the movie. Each frame presents another day in the life of their ongoing struggle as they make their trek down to a warmer south. But what is most standout about this otherwise flatlined movie is the performance by Smit-McPhee, who in his short life had to deal with extraordinary circumstances--circumstances of which as a youngster he couldn't understand the full grasp. But his heartwrenching performance and neverending devotion to his burdened father was palpable. Too bad Mortensen's performance, though decent, failed to deliver on the same emotional scale. Even with the brief cameos by Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce, The Road doesn't meet expectations.

Reel Talk rating: C+

Thursday, June 3, 2010

First Look: "Gulliver's Travels"

How Jack Black continues to be in movies, I'll never know. His "fans" will be happy to see that Tenacious D's long lost band member has found his way into Gulliver's Travels, the sure to be wacky film adaptation of the 1726 story by Johnathan Swift, which follows a man as he stumbles onto a land of little people. Black plays Lemuel Gulliver, who's heading to Bermuda on assignment when he's diverted to the land of Lilliput. Co-starring Emily Blunt (why oh why?!), Jason Segal, Amanda Peet and Romany Malco, Gulliver's Travels crashes into theaters December 22.

DVD Review: "Edge of Darkness"

"You had better decide whether you're hanging on the cross or banging in the nails."
Mel Gibson makes a return to the big screen in Edge of Darkness, a crime thriller based on a BBC drama series about Boston detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) whose daughter Emma (played by Bojana Novakovic) is murdered right in front of him on their porch. Only after her death does Craven learn of his daughter's dangerous line of work which placed her directly in the line of fire. Rather than grieving over his daughter's death, he decides to take justice in his owns hands and seek vengeance.

Though he's playing a man whose daughter was brutally murdered right before his very eyes, Gibson doesn't manage to draw any sympathy from the audience. The frequent flashbacks to Emma as a child still don't manage to tug any heart strings. Even though Gibson plays a tough guy cop, his detached performance is still underwhelming. Unfortunately, the rest of the actors in the film follow suit.

In a film of unimpressionable characters, and vacant plots, Edge of Darkness is forgettable, dry and at times boring.

Reel Talk rating: D

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Look: "Dinner For Schmucks"

So what would happen if any character played by underrated funnyman Paul Rudd teamed with the awkwardly silly Steve Carrell? Dinner For Schmucks answers that question. Rudd stars as Tim, an exec whose new assignment calls for bringing the most outlandish guest to his boss's dinner in his monthly "dinner for idiots" shindig. Cue Carrell (Barry), the blundering IRS employee with a knack for the ridiculous. As you can imagine, comedy ensues. Dinner For Schmucks hits theaters July 23.

First Look: "Takers"

"Everyone's after something"
By now you may have seen preliminary trailers for this end of the summer action blockbuster heading to theaters August 20. Takers teams Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, Matt Dillon and Michael Ealy as a group of bank robbers whose latest heist is cut short by a hot head detective. It's uncertain whether R&B singer Chris Brown and rapper T.I. taint an otherwise C movie with presumably underwhelming performances, but check out the full trailer below and decide.

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