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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The New Teaser Trailer For BLACK NATIVITY Tries To Get You In The Holiday Spirit

Right now, you're probably out enjoying a cold one or lounging at some posh outdoor spot during these hot summer nights. But, FOX Searchlight wants you to forget about all that and watch the new teaser trailer for BLACK NATIVITY, the upcoming holiday musical directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Talk to Me).

The movie, which boasts an all-star cast that includes Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Nas, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige (appearing in the clip with a crazy white wig and wings) and Vondie Curtis-Hall (who Lemmons directed in Eve's Bayou), is also co-written by Lemmons who adapted the screenplay from the Langston Hughes-penned Broadway show.

The official synopsis read as follows:

"Fox Searchlight's contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes' celebrated play follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs' rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family."

It definitely sounds like a movie to which you can take your family around the holidays, if they don't mind what may be quite a few Christian references. I love the cast, and I can probably count on a few kickass ballads from Hudson, but, let's be real, I'd only be watching this for her and the rest of the cast. And I am really hoping that this will mark a comeback for Lemmons, who I always thought was criminally underrated as a director.

Here's the trailer:

What do you think? Will you watch BLACK NATIVITY when it opens in theaters on November 27th?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

TRAILER WATCH: Aubrey Plaza Tries to Swipe Her V-Card for a Hot Blonde Fella in THE TO-DO LIST

I often feel like Aubrey Plaza has been in a number of films I've seen before, but she has yet to really stand out to me in any of them. But I have to admit her deadpanned *blank face* is perfection. So much so that I think if Sara Gilbert is too busy doing "The Talk" and all, Plaza would be my second choice to voice Daria in an updated animated movie based on the hi-freakin-larious MTV cartoon from the '90s (which has yet to happen but I have been willing it to for YEARS).

Plaza has a whole new opportunity to wow me-and other audiences--in the upcoming raunchy comedy, THE TO-DO LIST, directed and penned by Maggie Carey (mostly known for writing a few of the "Funny or Die Presents..." episodes on TV). The gist: THE TO-DO LIST is a comedy about close friends and a special summer project, loosely inspired by the real-life adventures of first-time writer/director Maggie Carey. Set in 1993, valedictorian Brandy Klark wants to shed her uptight image before college, so she assembles a to-do list of all the “activities” she missed out on in high school. Quickly realizing that she's way out of her depth, Brandy solicits her best friends, older sister and burnt-out boss for their help and advice. If the group is going to complete the list by September they'll need plenty of imagination and very open minds.

Before you get to the trailer below, you should know that these "activities" are really all about performing various sexual acts so that she no longer comes off as a prude. That said, the clip is pretty bawdy but Plaza's deadpan really sells it as she fixates her intentions on a certain blonde fella with washboard abs from the pool. Plus, Stefon Bill Hader is in it and he always rules. Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Glover, Andy Samberg and Connie Britton also appear in the film.

Take a look at the trailer below and share your thoughts below in the comment box.

It could be the light comedy film you're looking for this summer, that isn't titled This Is The End. THE TO-DO LIST hits theaters July 26th.

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Reasons INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 Will Suck Without Will Smith

Just when we were still trying to cope with the announcement of a pointless sequel to the 1996 blockbuster, Independence Day, news broke today that its leading man, Will Smith, 44, will not be returning for the new film (scheduled to release in theaters July 3rd, 2015) reportedly because he’s too expensive. *cue sad music*

If you were skeptical about the sequel before today’s news, you’re probably trying to start a petition to stop it from happening now. The film is doomed at this point, and here are five reasons why:

1) Will Smith shows you the money: With the exception of his most current film, After Earth, Smith rarely disappoints at the box office, especially when it comes to big budget action/sci-fi films. In fact, it was partly because of him that Independence Day made over $300 million at the box office (and that was back in 1996, consider the inflation). Without Smith, you can bet that the stock for INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 will plummet. Hard.

2) There is no other well-known Black actor out there right now with the star quality Will Smith has: You can do an open casting call for unknowns, consider lesser known up-and-coming actors, but you won’t find another Black actor who embodies his brand of charisma and cross-over appeal that attracts a universal audience. And if the powers that be cast a White actor in the role, God be with the filmmakers who will then have to endure a Twitter bloodbath from those who will start the #freeWillSmith trending topic.

3) The film will suffer without its marquee name: With Smith out, who does that leave from the original movie? Director Roland Emmerich recently confirmed that the sequel has “maybe half of the people that you would know from the first film (in the script) and the other half people who are new.” So we may be left with, presumably, Vivica A. Fox, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Bill Pullman and Randy Quaid (if he can take time away from his increasingly bizarre personal life)? None of these actors could make up for the colossal loss of a star like Will Smith.

4) Will Smith was one of the main reasons why people paid to see aliens invade Earth (again): Face it; Independence Day didn’t exactly have an original premise. But Smith’s obvious enthusiasm for the project, coupled with its epic big screen movie-watching experience, made the film surprisingly enjoyable and endlessly rewatchable. That said, you can’t just put any placeholder actor in the role and expect the same audience reception. That’s just unrealistic, and it could turn into a gargantuan bomb at the box office.

5) Because Will Smith is the Fourth of July King: Every filmmaker should know by now that if they’re coming out with a movie around one of the biggest U.S. holidays of the year, Smith should be the first one to receive a call. Aside from the first Independence Day, Smith’s star power also helped bring mass audiences to the following July releases: Men in Black, Men in Black II, Hancock and I, Robot. The evidence is clear; Smith is that dude.

This piece was originally published by The Urban Daily

Saturday, June 22, 2013

(Review) 'I'M SO EXCITED' Is A Disappointingly Trifling And Aimless Romp For Pedro Almodóvar

Filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is no stranger to oddball movies. His approach to alluringly eccentric dramas like All About My MotherVolver and last year's The Skin I Live In put him on the map and continues to set him apart from most other directors on the market. But his newest film, I'M SO EXCITED, is baffling, silly and completely pointless. 

Almodóvar opens the film promisingly enough with two of his muses, Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, who play airport handlers--and not very good ones--that learn they're expecting a child. The scene is totally unfocused and sets up nothing for the movie except its setting. Jessica (Cruz) is driving baggage to the plane, crashes the car and causes most the luggage to fall on a menial employee who is inexplicably instructed by León (Banderas) to tweet about his troubles online. It's been days since I've seen the film and I still don't know why any of this happens. And that is the general reaction to most of the movie.

It doesn't get any better when we get on the plane heading to Mexico City. We meet a whole new set of kooky characters who are equally directionless and exist solely as punch lines. They consist of two pilots and three flamboyant stewards, all of which are at varying stages of gay and flatly written, and an increasingly grating cast of first class passengers (the business class is drugged early on in the movie and therefore completely dismissed). The trio of stewards (played by Javier Cámara, Raúl Arévalo and Carlos Areces headline the movie, basically acting as an interactive brochure for Gay Island. Almodóvar even throws in a scene with them singing The Pointer Sisters' title song because, you know, they're gay.

The several lazy plotlines that are scattered throughout the film are hardly worth mentioning, but they range from that of a hitman, a demanding actress, a death-seeing psychic virgin (Lola Dueñas, another Almodóvar favorite), a philandering actor and a drug mule newlywed--all of whom embody the themes of sex, recreational drugs and utter mayhem among the mile high club. The plane experiences mechanical problems and is forced to hover in the air, unable to land. This eminent danger apparently leads the characters to perform their end of days routines--which consists less of self-reflection, but rather various hypersexualized and wildly inebriated attempts at indifference.

Each plot, as hastily drawn as it is (a disappointing departure for Almodóvar), strictly exists to move the film along without creating any real foundation for it. More time is spent hitting us over the heads with descriptive dialogue of the characters' devil-may-care behavior and not on the progression of their stories (which could have resonated so much more had they been developed).

Though the film features some of Spain's finest actors and actresses, including Paz Vega, whose talented goes wasted as she has nary a line in the film, I'M SO EXCITED never gets past its hollow shell. As a result, it winds up loopy and no better than a mildly entertaining sideshow act, at best. A very regressive transition for this Oscar-winning filmmaker.

Rating: D (* out of *****)

I'M SO EXCITED hits theaters June 28th. Watch the trailer below:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: WORLD WAR Z, In Which Brad Pitt Tries To Reclaim The Promised Land And Rescue The World From A Zombie Apocalypse

Just as his significant other, Angelina Jolie, shaped her career to fit her steadily blossoming maternal instincts at home, Brad Pitt is slowly beginning to find himself in the strenuous role of Dad on the big screen, especially after his largely underappreciated performance in 2006's Babel. But in his newest film, WORLD WAR Z, his paternal role goes further than the traditional one--he must rescue Mother Earth and her children from the clutches of an inexplicable and urgent global pandemic.

And apparently he's the only one who can do this.

In WORLD WAR Z, Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations employee in Philadelphia who's abandoned his post for a more low-pressure existence flipping pancakes for his two tweenage girls (played by Sterling Jerins and Abigail Cosgrove). It is a typical day when we meet him, breakfast-time at home with the girls, which includes his wife, Karin (Mireille Enos). With hopeful smiles we see them next in a car waiting in gridlocked traffic. No one on the street knows what's going on until this immense panic erupts. Cars slam into one another and people flee aimlessly away from their vehicles. Then the Lane family witnesses what's driven everyone batty--a dizzying crowd of lifeless souls leaping, no flying, from one area to the next attacking victims in a horrifying mass assault before they can even take in what is happening. With a quick visual summation of what has occurred, Gerry grabs his family and heads away from this scene.

It is a frightening scene to watch, one that starts out wonderfully calm then shifts into an intense state of frenzy and manic action. Director Marc Forster brilliantly captures the dramatic shift in the film's brutal first few moments.

Amid this frightening series of events, the audience is wondering, along with the characters, what is going on. WORLD WAR Z presents the world is in a very nascent stage of infection where panic rules and there are no answers. As a result, no one knows how to react to it, except the Lane family, who emerge from the disaster into an abandoned apartment complex in New Jersey. It is that moment when we realize that we're about to see a very generic man saves the world using his big strong hands kind of film.

This is unfortunate because with a title like this, one would expect an epic political upheaval merely marked by this sci-fi subsistence. But it isn't. Though the blockbuster feel is effective and is overwhelmingly gripping at times, the film shifts yet again with a wrench-like addition to the script--Gerry is left no choice but to go back into the field for this inevitable last mission, leaving his family in a government-managed shelter with other unaffected survivors. Though Gerry is clueless at first in regards to the origin of the nightmare they're facing, when he meets the other men who have been working on the case for some time (they brief him on several similar and equally baffling cases), he is somehow the only one who could manage to stay alive after a relatively mild attack on the way to their aircraft, yards away from where they stood. These casualties also include a physician who doesn't die by being bitten, but by slipping and falling flat on his face inches from the plane. If the suspense of the scene wasn't so stressful to endure, this could almost be considered comic relief.

But, whatever, we've seen a man saves world movie before. What's the problem with this one, you ask? Well, it's not necessarily a problem, per se, but a fascinating note. Gerry gets word that Jerusalem (popularly regarded as the holiest city in Jewish tradition) may have the drop on this lethal nuisance and has been beating it at its own game by obstructing walls of defense to keep these....things....out of the city (note: from what I recall the word "zombie" is never uttered in the film, though, with the exception of them being able to fly and move very quickly, these beings look exactly like those you'd see on an episode of "The Walking Dead"). Notably, Jerusalem has been known for its several walls built for the same purpose more than five hundred years ago.

The historical/spiritual references in the movie deepen when it is Gerry, there only a few hours and admits he is not a doctor, who notices a few startling instances that will later contribute to his winning diagnosis of the epidemic. It's interesting that, despite the fact that leaders of the country have been able to protect the land for years, Gerry's arrival set in motion a series of events that destroyed their defense and crippled them.

With a world sinking into destruction at its every corner, Gerry is the one who essentially becomes its new founding father, one who offers it the hope of rebuilding its own ruins and becoming a Promised Land again.

But aside from its obvious spiritual nature, much of which is never explored in depth despite a fascinating angle, the film--much like The Purge--chooses to neglect its rather provocative/controversial themes and focus on being a suspenseful horror flick. In the case of WORLD WAR Z, this may be a result of several reported script changes that may have led to an extravagant tug-of-war plot between its three screenwriters (Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof).

Beyond that, the film doesn't ever seem to reach globally, despite its location stamps. The culture and tension of every scene remains the same. In fact, with the exception of the subtle changes in attire, each location just seems like different areas within the United States (and Jerusalem). It doesn't seem like this apocalypse is affecting everyone on a grand scale. For that, it loses some of its tumult, despite its high impact scenes in the few locations we see.

Though his performance doesn't reach the emotional depth of his portrayal in Babel, Pitt does manage to carry the film and rouse the audience in its most formidable scenes. But I'd remiss if I didn't mention the subtle yet significant gravitas Enos was able to bring to her smaller role. As a woman who spends most of the film on a separate continent from her husband, she communicates via a feeble military phone, desperately clinging to every strand of hope she can find. And Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz, who plays military fighter Segen who teams with Gerry in the film, supplies it with appropriate Sigourney Weaver-like power blended with sensitivity. The performance marks an impressive one for Kertesz, who made her full length feature debut with the role.

The film leaves the story wide open for a sequel, which will inevitably happen if the box office receipts pile up. While the 3D effect helped increase the intensity of the film, I can only hope a sequel will fill in some of the story that is dangling in some areas.

Rating: C+ (*** out of *****)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ron Burgundy Has Salon Quality Hair And Admits He Doesn't Read Jet Magazine In The First Trailer For ANCHORMAN 2

You might be geeked to know that the full trailer for ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES has finally surfaced. Yes, that goofy newsman and his buddies have reassembled for a follow-up that is destined to tickle your funny bone.

While I know many of you are probably excited about the upcoming film, I couldn't get past the first 30 minutes of the first film so my enthusiasm for this is dismal. But since I know many of you are fans, I'm posting this here for you today.

If you're unfamiliar with the hoopla, the concept goes a little something like this: Will Ferrell stars as Ron Burdundy, a "top-rated" newsman in the San Diego area. The first film, which came out in 2004, was set in the 70s, so much of the humor and wardrobe were fitting for the era. Ron's relative empire began to crumble when a hot new anchorwoman, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) threatens his position. Shenanigans ensued.

Flash forward nearly a decade later and we're now in the 80s watching Ron and his crew do much of the same, but seemingly with a bit more cultural references (at least, as referenced in scenes with Meagan Good in the trailer below) told in a jokey-joke manner (kinda sorta).

Catch a full synopsis of the plot after the jump (courtesy of Indiewire's The Playlist):

With the 70's behind him, San Diego's top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), returns to the news desk in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."  Also back for more are Ron’s co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weather man Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) - All of whom won’t make it easy to stay classy…while taking New York's first 24-hour news channel by storm.

As mentioned above Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell return for the sequel, which also added (along with Good) Kristen Wiig, John C. Reilly, James Marsden, Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford (who I hope is playing his Morning Glory character), Nicole Kidman,  Jim Carrey, and Kirsten Dunst, to name a few all-stars. So it sounds like they've really gone for broke on this.

I'm not gonna lie, the trailer did make me laugh--only because Wiig makes me laugh even when she's not saying a word. Full disclosure: I'd only see this film for her (so I hope she has more than a cameo).

Anyway, check out the trailer and leave your thoughts below:

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES comes to theaters December 20th.

Monday, June 17, 2013

It's All About the Benjamins, Baby: The First Trailer for THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Emerges

Don't you just love when Leonardo DiCaprio plays an arrogant prick? I know I do.

Even better, he's re-teamed with his cinematic godfather, director Martin Scorsese, in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, a film that emphasizes the age-old mantra of "greed is good." Or so it seems.

More on the film below:

A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, corporate banking world and mob infiltration.

DiCaprio plays the aforementioned stockbroker who in the new trailer is seen chilling on a boat, throwing lobster at his foes (or just for fun?), and imitating monkey sounds at a fancy restaurant with Matthew McConaughey. 

It sounds kind of ridiculous, but it's Scorsese, so I'm sure some heads will be bashed in and there will be blood. 

The movie was inspired by Jordan Belfort's (played by DiCaprio in the movie) book of the same title. Anyone here read it? It's been on my to-read list for a while. Screenwriter Terrence Winter, who's mostly known for his Emmy-winning TV work on "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire," penned the script.

Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Rob Reiner and Jon Bernthal (who you may know from TV's "The Walking Dead") are also in the film. Oh, and Jonah Hill, whose surprising ascent up the Hollywood ladder has him now starring in Scorsese films (how did this happen?). 

Check out the trailer for the film, and share your thoughts in the comments below.

I still can't quite figure out whether the movie is a comedy or a drama, based on this trailer alone. But this should be entertaining, if anything. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET hits theaters November 15th.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

If I Say I Don't Hate 'Oz The Great And Powerful', Would You Revoke My Female Privileges?

James Franco as Oz

I'll explain.

Remember that The Wizard of Oz prequel, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, that was released in theaters a few months ago and was subsequently lambasted by many feminist critics? I recently saw it on DVD and....I kinda liked it.

Note, it's not one of those movies that rocked my world or even made me want to re-watch it. But I did enjoy the time I spent on it. It's gorgeously shot and the story moves fast enough for you to quite literally get swept up in it.

But, from what I gather, folks were hypercritical about the concept of the somewhat doofy male character, Oz (James Franco), being the only one who could rescue a fairyland filled with female witches (of both the good and bad variety). That without him, they were nothing.

That last bit is a slightly hyperbolic sentiment of an already fantastical premise. If you remember from the original film, Oz was always regarded as the savior of man(and creature)kind, the one who can heal them of straw brains and oil-less tin men. If anything, the character could be criticized as being too Christlike. But  calling him a misogynist? That just seems unjustified. He certainly thinks he could seduce any woman with his crooked smile and makeshift hocus pocus, but he soon learns that it takes much more than that to gain even false respect.

(L to R) Evanora and Theodora (Rachel Weisz and MIla Kunis)
While Oz is regarded very highly, the women in the film are no shrinking violets. Rachel Weisz plays lawless vixen, Evanora, whose penchant for intimidation only matches her severe beauty. Her sister, Theodora (played by Mila Kunis), is also stunning in a role that is more compelling than meets the eye (plus, Kunis proves that her impressive Black Swan performance wasn't a fluke with this portrayal).

Even Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams), while at times disgustingly pure and precious, is not lacking in wits. Franco pretty much epitomizes the mystical oaf, and Glinda sees right through it and decides to still find something good within him. It's a family movie, like its inspiration. What more can you expect from it?

What I got from the film is its idea of the gap between magic and our beliefs, what is truly good versus what is truly evil. Themes that are borrowed from the 1939 classic that are diluted but still present in this film.

This isn't to say that OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is on the same level as The Wizard of Oz, of course. But it is fascinating to compare how some of the same morals have been adapted for a new audience.

Glinda (Michelle Williams)
This isn't the movie that I'd think would stir any souls or rile any rebel riots. Not one that has a green-faced witch and a talking monkey in it. But I do wonder if The Wizard of Oz came out today, for the first time ever, would audiences embrace it as much as they did over 70 years ago? I'm not so sure.

It's no secret that films of yesteryear often depicted the unjust values we still fight to overcome today. So the idea of, say, a woman in an inferior position looking to a man for help or even validation didn't cause as much of an uprising as it would today. But in 2013? It becomes a real bra-burning moment.

While a mediocre film in and of itself, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL at least does a fair job interpreting its female characters. They are all stand alone interesting to watch, even if none are thoroughly developed. Ultimately, they are all wiser than the shady male protagonist, even when he thinks he's one-upped them (once they open their eyes, they all know better than than that). By the latter half of the film, they all come off capable and think for themselves, which is a lot more than some romantic comedies today can claim.

But the title of the movie should suggest that it's really not about them anyway. It was about the rather elusive wizard who we knew little about in the original film. It illuminates his story, for better or worse.

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Friday, June 14, 2013

See 10 New Images from DESPICABLE ME 2

I can hardly retain my excitement over this movie. Like, I anticipate it more than any person over the age of 12 should. But I am so here for DESPICABLE ME 2.

If you don't remember the wickedly charming 2010 film, starring Steve Carrell as a reluctantly lovable ogre who takes in a couple of wily kids, here's a reminder:

That gif never gets old. Ever. Gru (Carrell) returns for another round of shenanigans with youngsters in the sequel. More on the upcoming film after the jump (from Collider):

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s worldwide blockbuster, Despicable Me, delighted audiences around the globe in 2010, grossing more than $540 million and becoming the 10th-biggest animated motion picture in U.S. history. In Summer 2013, get ready for more minion madness in Despicable Me 2. Chris Meledandri and his acclaimed filmmaking team create an all-new comedy animated adventure featuring the return of Gru (Steve Carell), the girls, the unpredictably hilarious minions…and a host of new and outrageously funny characters.

The all-star cast, including Keon Jeong, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, return to round out the rest of the wild characters in the movie. The precocious little kids, played by Miranda Cosgrove, Elside Fisher, and Dana Gaier also reprise their roles. Despicable Me directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud also came back for the project, as did writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.

Two new faces to the franchise are "Saturday Night Live" comedienne Nasim Pedrad and Benjamin Bratt, who provide the voices of Jillian and Eduardo. 

And who could forget the little yellow thingamabobs affectionately known as troublemakers the minions?

Universal Pictures just released a batch of images from the movie to hold you over until it releases in theaters. Check 'em out:

DESPICABLE ME 2 heads to theaters July 3rd. Who's with me?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watch Naomi Watts Put On Her Best Royal Face In The First Trailer For 'DIANA'

Naomi as Princess Diana
So I'm one of those people who has absolutely no interest in the royal family, what they're wearing, who they're dating, and at what time they're having their babies. It just doesn't interest me.

But Naomi Watts (The Impossible, 21 Grams) as the late Princess Diana? Give it to me. Not only do I think Watts has the chops for the role (and also looks a bit like her), but I am hoping Hollywood will spice up the drama (simply titled, DIANA) in the story and make it more interesting to watch than tabloid fodder. From what I hear, the movie will focus on the last two years of Princess Diana's life: her campaign against land mines and her relationship with surgeon surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan played by Naveen Andrews (TV's "Lost," Grindhouse: Planet Terror).

The project was directed by German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel and written by Stephen Jeffreys. Neither of whom have any credits I'm familiar with (this is only Jeffrey's second screenplay, but Hirschbiegel has been helming projects for over 20 years). So we'll have to wait and see.

A teaser trailer for the film has recently debuted. Check it:


DIANA will be released U.K. theaters September 20th. A U.S. release date has yet to be determined (according to IMDB).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

'THE PURGE', Tonight's Tonys, "Game of Thrones", And Are 40+ Actresses Now in Vogue? (Cinema In Noir)

Happy Sunday! Cinema in Noir returned with a jam packed show this evening. We start off with our review of the #1 movie in America, The Purge, which is similar to my review in an earlier post. It seems to be a consensus that, while the movie succeeds as a home invasion thriller, it fails to live up to its potential as a vehicle for socio-political commentary. 

Earlier last week The Hollywood Reporter ran a piece suggesting that actresses, ahem, of a certain age (apparently that certain age is 40+) are taking over Hollywood. So, of course we at CIN had to share our thoughts on it, especially since many of the actresses mentioned aren't of color (with the exception of Halle Berry and Penélope Cruz). 

While we are thrilled to see Hollywood embrace the more mature actress, the industry is still avoiding such greats as Phylicia Rashad and even Cicely Tyson (who have both carved out booming stage careers). What do you think? Is the 40+ actress having the best year(s) ever?

And speaking of the stage, in honor of tonight's Tony Awards at 8pm on CBS, we offer our favorite talent
from the list of nominees. With the plethora of nods given to talent of color, it is fair to suggest that Broadway  a more diverse range of talent than, say, Hollywood? 

Are you a "Game of Thrones" fan? If you are, you won't want to miss our special segment recapping the recent episodes and reacting to its jaw-dropping moments, moderated by our resident watcher, Rebecca Theodore-Vachon. Note: I have never seen an episode of the show, but I know my Twitter feed ERUPTS when it's on. So, this segment is for you. 

Lastly, a recent New York Times piece about the "new renaissance" of black film and filmmakers has garnered a variety of reactions across the web. With Fruitvale Station, The Butler and Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain soon to be theaters this year, is this the year of the black film? You be the judge.

Missed the show? Catch a recap here

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: THE PURGE Isn't The Conversation You Seek, But It Does Manage To Provoke Thought

Ethan Hawke's new film, THE PURGE, may not be the film you think it is. If you've read about its provocative concept, a legalized night of slaughter and mayhem in effort to eliminate the weak and poor, you at least raise an eyebrow in interest. But while that idea of the film is sadly not explored as much as it should be, you won't want to demand a refund for your viewing.

That's because, though the film struggles to flesh out this rather Dystopian concept (something nearly every futuristic film has these days), it succeeds in its gripping suspense and romantic eye for violence. The latter is really the conversation you'll leave the theater having, not its much more politically driven nutshell described above.

The film is set in the year 2022, and stars Hawke as James Sandin, devoted husband to Mary (Lena Headey) and father to Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey (Adelaide Kane). On the surface, they're the stereotypical suburban family living in a gigantic house with two hard-headed teens and a passive housewife. This setup is perfect for what the film essentially becomes--a rather vapid yet gripping horror film.

James is the head of an über lucrative security company that protects rich people like his clan from the hungry perpetrators that blanket the night of the Purge, a 12-hour shift where no crime has any legal consequence. In other words, an otherwise sane set of people are totally free to run amok at their own free will. It is the citizen's job to try to stay alive and intact by dawn. Because, what this film thinly states is that most will use this opportunity to act out any pent up thirst for bloodshed. Presumably any other crime is a waste of time? Or should we believe that only the poor and seemingly uninvolved would engage in petty blue collar crimes, leaving them also to be victims for the angsty affluent crowd? In either case, crime is down to 1% across the country, so whatever the means, it's doing something right.

Normally, the Sandins are unaffected by this night of horrors, since they've got the money and wherewithal to purchase James's heavy duty security system for their own castle. They usually sit out the frightfest in the safety of their own home like it was any other day, negating their "natural rights at citizens" to abandon their morals and participate in the madness. Given that they live in a flourishing neighborhood, their neighbors also go unscathed.

All is status quo until the family winds up involuntarily harboring a homeless stranger (Edwin Hodge) from the streets seeking refuge. Having aggravated a group of overly enthusiastic perpetrators of the upper class variety (led by a maniacal Rhys Wakefield) earlier in the evening, this unnamed man is pursued all the way to his unlikely stop at the Sandins' residence. Such begins the worst night of their lives as the Sandins are forced to determined what they want to do with him.

This man, who essentially becomes a pawn for however either party wants to use him, presents another entry point for the film to delve into socio-economic commentary, especially with Headey and Hawke's characters. But writer/director James DeMonaco scarcely clips the surface to eagerly head back to horror film territory.

Although THE PURGE is genuinely terrifying at times, even with its basic genre tricks like turning off the lights and freaky face masks, it effectively leaves you asking yourself the all-valid question, what would you do in this situation? Would you sacrifice your life for another, or vice versa? This is where the film succeeds. It isn't the conversation that it should be on its own, but it encourages you as the moviegoer to start this kind of conversation on your own.

As you watch the film and cheer as the protagonists (Done well, that role would have blurred. But here it's the Sandins) fight to protect their family and themselves from these deranged culprits, another question arises:  have we as the audience now become the accomplice in The Purge, a silent member of the group? There's no wrong answer here, but that in and of itself makes you think.

The underlying commentary within THE PURGE, the smaller annotations that you least expect, makes the film worth seeing.

Rating: C+ (*** out of *****)

THE PURGE is in theaters Friday.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Patrick Wilson And Rose Byrne Are Haunted Once More In INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (Trailer)

For those of you who didn't watch the 2010 horror film, Insidious, you missed out on something pretty decent. Not great (despite the massive acclaim it received), but still an engaging contribution to the whole independent horror movement (i.e. Paranormal Activity, etc). It was a fresh twist on the basic haunted house theme, starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as the ill-fated homeowners, Josh and Renai Lambert.

After stunning the box office with a fairly amazing gross (over $54 million), it should come as no surprise that it's getting a sequel. INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 reunites the entire cast, including Ty Simkins as Dalton, the couple's possessed son, and Barbara Hershey and Josh's mom.

Here's the official synopsis (from Collider):

The famed horror team of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell reunite with the original cast of Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey and Ty Simpkins in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2, a terrifying sequel to the acclaimed horror film, which follows the haunted Lambert family as they seek to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.
Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell also returned for the second installment, which hopefully means that it will be at least as good as the first film.

You be the judge. Check out the first trailer after the jump:

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 heads to theaters Friday, September 13th.

Michelle Pfeiffer And Robert De Niro Star In The Mafia Comedy 'THE FAMILY' [See Images And Trailer]

No matter how much Robert De Niro tries to move away from his tough guy/mafioso appeal (last year's Silver Linings Playbook was an impressive departure), he keeps finding himself back in the fold.

In THE FAMILY, the Oscar winner stars as Giovanni Manzoni, the patriarch of a U.S. mafia family that is placed in a witness protection program in Normandy, France, after he rats out his cohorts. Billed as a comedy, the film is directed and co-written by Luc Besson (who hasn't really won over critics lately, despite his much under-appreciated drama, The Lady, in  2011).

De Niro is joined by Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays his wife and mother of their two teenage kids (played by Dianna Agron and John D'Leo). Pfeiffer is another one who seems to have lost her way in Hollywood after reminding audiences of her awesomeness in 2011's White Oleander. Last year's Dark Shadows was a rather dark moment in her career (as it was for everyone else involved with that film). And, actually, she kinda looks like she is playing a very similar character here, which is not a good sign.

As the plot of THE FAMILY goes, the clan is having a pretty rough time keeping their cover in their new digs, due to their own inability to leave their past behavior behind them. Tommy Lee Jones is also there to try to keep their in check. You'll see in the trailer that Pfeiffer's character blows up a grocery store in anger, and Agron body slams a kid to the ground. Let's hope those aren't the only funny parts in the movie.

The trailer makes sure to note that the film is executive produced by Martin Scorsese, probably hoping to draw in his respected audience. Check out the clip:

I love Pfeiffer and De Niro (and, of course, Scorsese), but I'm not sure they're enough to bring me to the theater for this one. When I think of enjoyable fish-out-of-water crime lord comedies, my automatic go-tos are Mickey Blue Eyes and The Whole Nine Yards. What say you?

Relativity Media has also released a few new images from the movie:

Giovanni Manzoni (Robert De Niro)

Manzoni's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer)

 THE FAMILY releases in theaters September 20th.

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