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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Look: "The Double"

Two charming actors--Topher Grace and Richard Gere--team up for the nailbiter The Double, about a retired CIA agent and FBI agent who investigate a senator's murder. Okay, this doesn't sound like much of a nailbiter as the synopsis sounds like several other movies coming out this fall. Judging by the clip, it looks like Stephen Moyer may be playing the culprit with blood on his hands. You be the judge.

The Double hits theaters September 23.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Look: "Rum Diary"

Well, if this doesn't look like a classic Johnny Depp movie, I don't now what does. Resembling a mixture of both Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Blow--two great movies--comes this fall's Rum Diary. Depp plays a freelance journalist who lands on in the Caribbean writing for a small newspaper. While there, he meets a series of equally frivolous characters who seem to share his same ambition for wild life and liquor. Amber Heard stars as his love interest on the island. And Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi and Richard Jenkins add spice to a very enticing movie. Check out the new trailer below. Rum Diary hits theaters October 28.

Monday, August 22, 2011

9 Back-To-School Tips From Some of Your Favorite Movies

It's that time again. Time to hit the books and trudge through another year of exams, papers, and awkward social scenes. But before you head back to campus, arm yourself with the following nine lessons from some of your favorite movies:

1) Going through a bad break-up? Drown your sorrows into a soon-to-be billion-dollar company (The Social Network). You might not have any other female prospects once you launch this megaconglomerate, but it sure will be fun throw caution--and all tact--to the wind and head your own franchise. Just don't forget who your friends are. And, for crying out loud, don't rip them out of their share of the fortune. That's never cool.

2) If you're going to ditch class, grab some friends and have a party in the streets (Ferris Bueller's Day Off). This is probably more like what not to do when you ditch school. We're still not sure how Ferris dodged the afternoon news stations, who could have easily put his misdemeanor on full blast for his parents. But we're not recommending you try this as home. If you're playing hooky, we'd suggest keeping all extracurricular activities low-key. Or, better yet, just go to class.

3) Your lies crush reputations, even your own (Easy A). It's tempting to want to make up lies about yourself to make yourself sound cooler in school. But sometimes those lies spiral out of control and turn into even bigger lies. In the end, you're not so cool. Unless you're Emma Stone, who seems to have an endless amount of coolness.

4) The "In" crowd isn't all that cool (Heathers). Don't bother trying to jump through hoops just to get hand-picked for the popular crowd. You might find that underneath they're depressed, suicidal dweebs. And the only way to really overcome their campus takeover is to turn their evil tricks on themselves.

5) Make friends with the rejects (The Breakfast Club). It doesn't matter if you're the popular girl or the jock on campus, when it comes to detention everyone is a reject, even you. So don't ignore the geek or the awkward girl in the hallways. You might have to spend a whole afternoon with them, with nothing to talk about but ...your feelings. A little advice: don't do anything for which you might get detention (especially tip #2).

6) Always get the last word (Carrie): Don't let your haters get away with plotting to turn your prom into a nightmare by pouring pig's blood over your sparkly new gown just as you're getting crowned homecoming queen. If they try to act foul, show them who's boss by trapping them in the gymnasium and setting them on fire. Or, try another more legal way to serve revenge.

7) A heart of gold and an impeccable wardrobe is key (Clueless). It doesn't matter if you've only got about two brain cells in your head, or whether "you're a virgin, who can't drive." As long as you're dressed in the latest fashions, have a spot-on witless sense of humor, and a heart of gold (enough to take in fashion runaways), you'll be totally boss on campus. Haters can hate.

8) Find a teacher who believes in you (Lean On Me and Stand and Deliver). High school's not easy. But you know that hard-as-nails teacher who's always on your back about one thing or another? He's an ally. He may seem annoying but he's your ticket to higher education. Make friends with him.

9) It's probably best not to go to a party after a major breakup (Can't Hardly Wait). If you're the popular girl and you just broke up with the equally popular football jock, you're best bet is to avoid the happening weekend party. He'll be there, with his idiot friends, and you'll be there with your fake friends, and miserable. Your girls will want to faux-comfort you while secretly lusting after your ex, and his friends would be too busy kicking lame game to uninterested females. No one will have fun.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

The summer of sequels, prequels, fivequels and remakes continues with a return to the planet of the apes. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a prequel of sorts that is the first movie from the franchise that tells the apes' story, from their perspective. And it's actually pretty good.

James Franco plays scientist Will Rodman, who thinks he's just found a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. After testing it on apes in his lab, he realizes there are unspecified side effects to the drugs and wants to put an end to the testing. Will takes in one of the apes and grows fond of it. While he's caring for his dad Charles (John Lithgow), who suffers from Alzheimer's, Will keeps an eye on the ape (who he names Caesar). Caesar shows signs of advanced intelligence and becomes as domesticated as an ape can be in Will's home. But one untamed incident proves to be a wake-up call for Will that Caesar should be in a facility with his own kind. It is there that Caesar realizes how cruel humans can be and how abnormal it is to be an ape wearing a pair of pants and a t-shirt and attached to a leash. Among his own kind, Caesar experiences real life as an ape. And not just any ape; an ape whose hyper intelligence is both a puzzlement as well as a threat to humans. So what does he do with all these smarts? Start an uprising, of course. And it gets real ugly.

Where it lacks in action, Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes up for it in a well-developed story with underlying themes of animal treatment and domestication. But is the apes that have the best lines in the movie and are far more developed--not to mention more interesting--characters. Perennial creature actor Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) impressively blends the sensitivity of a human with the brutish force of a caged animal and the intelligence of chess champion. You root for him the whole way through, even when he's rioting in the streets of California. In essence, he is the heart of the movie. The emotions on his face in just one scene--like when he turns Charles's fork upright at the table when Charles starts regressing--are more fascinating to watch than the performances of any other character (human or ape) in the movie. Even the other apes were compelling to watch. How they interacted with one another, how they communicated, and how they reacted to their circumstances is a story in itself. It really makes you think about the whole idea of wildlife being contained in a zoo, and being fawned over by human passerbys.

Franco is decent in a role with not a whole lot of depth. Will isn't a very layered character, and he's very ordinary. The only part where he shows any somewhat compelling emotion is in the scenes between him and Lithgow (who is pretty great here in a very against-type role). Freida Pinto seems to be riding on her stunning looks and not on any substantial amount of talent here. She plays Will's gal pal Carolina and a veterinarian. She doesn't have many lines. You'd think, given the way the story unfolds, that she'd have a lot more of an opinion about what goes on. Her character could have been much better developed. Having said that about the human characters, your main focus is forced to be on the apes, who steal the show by default. They are wonderfully-layered characters, but you wonder how captivating they would have been had the human characters been better sketched. Or, maybe the human characters were supposed to come off lame and ordinary to prove a point.

If you're looking for an action-packed summer blockbuster, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is not the one. However, the entire last half of the movie is about as gripping as any competing action film out right now. The difference is this one has a real story that take the whole first half to tell you. It's a surprisingly provocative film that really stretches the definition of summer blockbuster.

Rating: B+

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Look: "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance"

Since Nicholas Cage is clearly phoning it in these days, we might as well focus our attention on Idris Elba in the new trailer for the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. While you take a minute to wonder why there is even a sequel to the hilariously messy Ghost Rider movie, ask yourself why Elba is in a movie like this, at a time when his career is really starting to take off (his hit BBC series Luther is returning for a new season, he was in the summer blockbuster Thor, and he'll be starring in the upcoming Alien prequel, Prometheus). Then give him props for the fact that he's even able to be extremely decent in a movie that is probably very sub par. That takes talent, seriously. In the movie, Johnny Blaze aka Ghost Rider (Cage) is taking refuge in Europe when he's apparently summoned to stop the devil. Elba plays a warrior monk and sidekick of sorts to the Ghost Rider.

I'm sure the comic book freaks will undoubtedly eat this up. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance his theaters February 17, 2012.

First Look: "Carnage"

The infamous director Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer, Rosemary's Baby) returns with the film adaptation of the hit Tony Award-winning Broadway play "God Carnage," Carnage. The film, like the play, follows two upper middle-class married couples (Kate Winslet/Christoph Waltz and Jodie Foster/John C. Reilly) who are forced to convene after their sons are involved in a schoolyard fight. They try to reason with each other and come to a truce, but their problems with each other come to the forefront. The trailer looks pretty good, as the actors are all pretty terrific. But I must warn you that this trailer is riddled with curse words (in other words, it's not for all audiences). If you're of age, you definitely need to check this out. Carnage hits theaters November 18.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First Look: "Trespass"

Espeially after seeing the incredibly clever and well-done Spanish home invasion thriller, Kidnapped, earlier this year every other home invasion thriller...just seems like every other home invasion thriller. In this seemingly predictable version, the omnipresent (not to mention mediocre) Nicholas Cage and Nicole Kidman star as an average married couple whose secrets and lies are put on full blast when they're taken for ransom in their own home in Trespass. Directed by Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill), the film hits theaters October 14.

First Look: "Underworld: Awakening"

It looks like Kate Beckinsale is still kicking butt and taking names in the fourth installment of the mega vampire franchise, Underworld. Beckinsale reprises her role as the vampire warrioress Selene, who escapes imprisonment to find herself in a world where humans have discovered the existence of Vampire and Lycan clans, and are waging a war to remove both immortal species. The trailer just landed earlier oday. Check it out. Underworld: Awakening heads into theaters January 20, 2012.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Look: "Puncture"

It looks like Captain America really opened some doors for the once ordinary pretty boy actor Chris Evans. He's taking a break from the Marvel universe and stepping out in a very risky role as a drug-addicted lawyer who in his latest case takes on a health supply corporation in the upcoming drama, Puncture. An, by the look of this first trailer, the risk may be paying off. Check out Evans, along with Law & Order alum Jesse L. Martin in the trailer for Puncture, which is scheduled to hit theaters September 23.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: "Final Destination 5." Plus, an Interview with P.J. Byrne

To all of you who had fallen off the Final Destination bandwagon after the second installment, you're not alone. The idea of death coming back to haunt a few lucky teens who are the sole survivors of a disaster grew tired after the second time we saw it. But the fifth revisit to the franchise--now in 3D--can boast more twists, an appeal to an older audience and an edgy ending you least expect.

On their way to a company retreat for a weekend, a group of twenty-somethings meet their demise in true catastrophic--not to mention gory--form on a faulty bridge in Final Destination 5. Well, at least in Sam Lawton's (Nicholas D'Agosto) vision they do. He's able to warn the other passengers, including his (ex?) girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell), and prevent their deaths. But, in true Final Destination form, they're not able to sideswipe the force that is Death in the long run. It comes after them one by one in the exact order of their proposed deaths on the bridge, in one freakishly wild accident after the next.

Besides killing off young professionals rather than unsuspecting high-schoolers, the new movie doesn't entirely reinvent the wheel of the franchise. But the 3D effect ups the ante on the gore factor, while also creating an even more tense scene. Your fear is rattled at each impending death because you know it's coming, but you don't know how. In other words, your heart rate is jacked. That's how you know you're watching a pretty stressful scary movie. The funny thing is, there's no psychotic killers or demonic figures (unless you count Tony Todd's always effective performance as Bludworth) in Final Destination. The very thought of a simple trip to the eye doctor, or a visit to your acupuncturist can actually be a fatal visit is a frightening enough thought.

If you liked the first Final Destination film, you'll go gaga over this new movie, which has a nice ode to the original in its amazingly scripted ending. Final Destination 5 won't be known for any stellar performances, but first-time feature director Steven Qualye can rest assured he scared the daylights out his audiences. Even star P.J. Byrne (who played Isaac) admitted he had to decompress between takes. Catch his full interview on today's Cinema in Noir below (it's about midway through the podcast).

Rating: B+

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Look: "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas"

I know what you're thinking: why isn't Christmas, like, tomorrow? So your favorite deadbeats, Harold and Kumar (aka John Cho and Kal Penn, respectively), already went to White Castle and escaped from Guantanamo Bay. It only makes sense that they bring in the holiday cheer this season with the rest of us, right? Well, as long as Neil Patrick Thomas can make a splashy cameo. Done.

Here is your first look at A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, coming to a theater near you, in 3D, November 4.

Admit it. You laughed, at least a few times.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"The Change-Up"

You've seen one body-swapping movie you've seen them all, right? Well, basically. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman's new, raunchier, out-of-body comedy The Change-Up doesn't bother reinventing the wheel (except for its very needed R-rating), but, rather, the two megastars of the moment compete to see who can be more unlike their typecast persona for two hours. The winner? Jason Bateman.

We know Bateman from his more typical deadpan retorts and spot-on performances as the straight-laced, average Joe with an insatiable wit as seen in movies like Juno and, most recently, Horrible Bosses. But in The Change-Up, the Arrested Development alum makes you forget about that whole routine. He stars as Dave Lockwood, a power lawyer, husband and dad of three who, after a long night of drinking with his more reckless long-time pal, Mitch (Reynolds), mentions that he wishes he had Mitch's life. This happens just as the same time Mitch wishes the same thing, while they're both peeing in a public fountain.

Okay, so that last part--the part about peeing in a public fountain--isn't exactly a highlight in the movie. But how else are these two schmoes going to end a wild night of drinking if they don't relieve themselves in a fountain? Well, moving on....

After the two realize what they'd done, and learn they have no control over the situation, they decide to live in their new bodies. Mitch's wild, playboy behavior is now stuck in Bateman's body, which you can imagine provides for pretty funny scenes at the corporate law firm and in his and his wife's (played by Leslie Mann) usually controlled home. While Dave's more rigid, by-the-books persona is trapped in Mitch's flighty lifestyle as a porn star living in a college-like apartment that's constantly flowing with strippers at night. Needless to say, the two learn a lot more than what they bargained for about themselves, and each other.

While it was certainly interesting to see Reynolds in the more subdued performance unlike his his typical playboy roles, Bateman's wilder performance will make you do a double take to see if it's really him. His over-the-top scenes helped him shed any signs of typecasting, while also providing some of the best scenes in the movie. Although it should also be noted here that Reynolds playing the more simple guy in Mitch's crazy world had quite a few good scenes, including any scene with Dave's assistant--and undercover freak-- Sabrina (Olivia Wilde).

Leslie Mann plays her usual wife role--the one who wears the pants in the marriage and known to sporadically burst into tears while ranting about how in shambles her relationship is--is still effective in the role that's obviously tailor-made for her.

Overall, The Change-Up has quite a few good laughs (even though most are shown in the trailer), and Reynolds and Bateman's two-for-one comedy show mostly works. Although the lack of originality of the concept really brings down its appeal, audiences will enjoy watching this recycled story unfold with the two newest performances. If you don't want to see The Change-Up in theaters, make sure you rent it if only for a good laugh.

Rating: B-

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

First Look: "In Time"

Justin Timberlake shows no signs of backing away from the acting game. Now he's taking on a sci-fi thriller co-starring Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy titled In Time. According to Trailer Addict, Timberlake plays as a man falsely accused of murder who "must figure out a way to bring down a system where time is money - literally - enabling the wealthy to live forever while the poor, like Will, have to beg, borrow, and steal enough minutes to make it through another day."

This seems like it could be either really good, or really bad.... But, hey, Cillian Murphy is in it so it can't be too bad. And Seyfried really needed to bounce back after that horrific Red Riding Hood movie. Check out the trailer below. In Time races into theaters October 28.

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