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Friday, January 31, 2014

Spidey and Electro Face Off in the Explosive New Super Bowl Teaser for 'THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2'

Okay. I'm finally getting excited about this. Judging by this new Super Bowl teaser for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, Andrew Garfield as the titular web-slinger and Jamie Foxx as bad guy Electro (seen here in blueface) are about to face off in an epic battle in (where else?) Times Square.

Honestly, I think I'm mostly excited to see what Foxx will bring to this role. The rest is just gravy. Check it out:

Here's a recap of the synopsis:

We’ve always known that Spider-Man’s most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead. It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 is in theaters May 2nd. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Restricted Trailer for Seth MacFarlane's Western Comedy 'A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST' Is Mildly Funny But Mostly Meh

This is one of those times that I have to keep reminding myself that comedy is subjective, and what may be funny to some people may not be funny to others. Enter the new restricted trailer for A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, directed and co-written by Seth MacFarlane. Goodness knows I love a good western (especially a comedy western), but I still have the scars from watching the very unfunny Ted, MacFarlane's last big screen smash. What was that about again? Never mind, it doesn't matter.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST looks to be a modern spaghetti western with a raunchy twist on par with much of MacFarlane's shtick. Other than the comedy mogul (he's still balancing TV hits American Dad! and Family Guy on the small screen along with his burgeoning film career), the upcoming movie also stars Giovanni Ribisi, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Sarah Silverman. Here's an official synopsis:

Seth MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert in A Million Ways to Die in the West. After Albert backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend leaves him for another man. When a mysterious and beautiful woman rides into town, she helps him find his courage and they begin to fall in love. But when her husband, a notorious outlaw, arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test. Starring alongside MacFarlane are Oscar® winner Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris. MacFarlane reunites many of the filmmakers behind Universal and MRC’s hit film Ted including Scott Stuber (Bluegrass Films) and Jason Clark who produce, and Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin who co-wrote the script.

Check out the trailer:

I can honestly say that Theron (who's not especially known for her comedic skills) and Ribisi are the funniest things about it (I was expecting more funny from Harris in this first clip). But I can't turn down a western. What do you think?

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST heads to theaters May 30th. 

Kevin Costner Stars in Two New Super Bowl Commercials for 'DRAFT DAY' and '3 DAYS TO KILL'

I feel like I'm in the minority in saying that sports movies have really been dropping the ball lately (pun intended). After the snoozefest that was Moneyball and the pointless Rush (otherwise known as "the movie in which we got to see Chris Hemsworth's best ass(ets))," the idea of watching another sports movie right now isn't very appealing for me. But, I have to admit, Kevin Costner (known to us longtime groupies as The Silver Fox) is in the midst of an enviable career comeback right now and I am so here for it (negative Jack Ryan reviews be damned).

The actor stars in the upcoming Ivan Reitman-directed football drama, DRAFT DAY, alongside Jennifer Garner and Ellen Burstyn (another one whose career can't stop, won't stop). More on the film, which is in theaters April 11th:

On the day of the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver (Costner) has the opportunity to save football in Cleveland when he trades for the number one pick. He must quickly decide what he's willing to sacrifice in pursuit of perfection as the lines between his personal and professional life become blurred on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with dreams of playing in the NFL.

Appropriately, Summit Entertainment (the studio releasing the film) is taking advantage of Super Bowl weekend with a new TV clip you can watch below:

And Costner doesn't stop there. He's clearly planning to take over the Super Bowl with another newly released TV spot, this time for the action film 3 DAYS TO KILL (February 21st). Directed by McG and co-written by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak, the movie is described as "A dying Secret Service Agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment."

Check out the Super Bowl commercial:

And that concludes this Kevin Costner update. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

That Moment When You Log Onto Twitter and Your Entire Timeline is Sobbing (RE: The Trailer for 'THE FAULT IN OUR STARS')

So one of my 2013 New Years resolutions was to read more books, and I can proudly say that a year later I've caught up on a lot of great titles on a consistent basis. That said, I apparently missed the 2012 John Green novel that has everyone up in their feelings, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. After looking into it, I realize now why I may have passed this over--it looks like a sappy romance between two young cancer patients designed to yank at the heart strings. Typically this isn't the kind of literature for which I race to Barnes & Noble (or, more accurately, I mean, I don't want to be caught on the subway hurling my book out onto the tracks in despair or wiping my tears with the pages.

But it's obviously quite popular, especially among the ubiquitous millennial crowd. Which brings us to the movie of the same title (in theaters June 6th), directed by Josh Boone (Stuck in Love) and starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who coincidentally both star in the upcoming dystopian novel adaptation, Divergent, in March). The dialogue is described as witty and hopeful despite the characters bleak circumstances (typical for what has become a popular genre lately with films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower). More on the film below:

Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them -- and us – on an unforgettable journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.

The film also stars Sam Trammell (True Blood) and the underrated Laura Dern. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the writing team behind The Spectacular Now and (500) Days of Summer, penned the screenplay.

Here are a few images from the film:

Watch the trailer: 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Trailer Watch: Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga Star as Two Parents Who Connect on a College Campus in the Romcom, 'AT MIDDLETON'

With all the awards frenzy and attention given to heavier titles at the top of the year, we often see a lot more lightweight films especially in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. Anchor Bay Films is jumping on the bandwagon with their latest contribution, AT MIDDLETON starring Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia (in select theaters this Friday). The film, which has an Enough Said/Before Sunset vibe, depicts an unexpected romance between two strangers who meet while on a college tour with their kids. More on the film after the jump:

Academy Award nominees Andy Garcia (Ocean's 11, City Island) and Vera Farmiga (A&E's "Bates Motel", Up in the Air) star as straight-laced George and eccentric Edith, two strangers who meet on their children's campus tour at the idyllic Middleton College. Failing comically to connect with their kids, George and Edith play hooky together, ditching the official tour for a carefree adventure reminiscent of their own college years. But what begins as an afternoon of fun soon becomes a revealing and enlightening experience that will change their lives forever. A light-hearted romance for adults on the surface, At Middleton is a deeply moving portrait of roads not taken and the timelessness of youth.

Taissa Farmiga ("American Horror Story"), Spencer Lofranco (Jamesy Boy), Peter Riegert ("Dads"), and Tom Skerritt ("Picket Fences") also star in this story about what can happen on your first day of college - no matter who you are - At Middleton.

First time feature director Adam Rodgers directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with fello newbie writer Glenn German). Watch the newest trailer:

Despite its somewhat predictable trailer, I love both Farmiga and Garcia so I'd watch  it for them. 

Power Moves and Heightened Ambition on Sunday's 'House of Lies'

"I will not hesitate to throw you under the bus if it serves me in the future."--Jeannie (Kristen Bell)

While House of Lies is entertaining to watch and chock full of witty one-liners, many of which are delivered by the great Don Cheadle as business shark Marty Kaan, the show is known less for its plot and more on its focus on characterization. But in the latter half of season 2, and now in season 3, we've seen the series grow to become more of a theme-driven show. In other words, it's filled with interesting takeaways even when it skimps on story development.

Take for instance, last night's episode titled "Boom" which featured Jeannie (Kristen Bell) getting the upper hand on Marty, much to his chagrin and genuine surprise. After last week's episode, which ended with Galweather & Stearn CEO Julianne (Bess Armstrong) coercing Jeannie into confessing to her who's been gabbing about her behind her back, resulting in Gil (John Carroll Lynch) getting fired, the latest episode sees Gil returning to G&S with a satisfied look on his face as Julianne is ushered out of the company carrying loose items from her office and her tail between her legs. To Jeannie's shock, Gil is back with Jeannie's ex-lover Marco (Griffin Dunne) in tow. With both men having risen in power feeling very proud of themselves, Jeannie is forced to make power moves of her own that helps her win the coveted Department of Defense account. Well played, Jeannie.

Meanwhile, Monica (Dawn Olivieri) is completely inebriated on her own power, becoming a total monster in to all her employees. So much so that one of them, Christy (Milana Vayntrub), stabs her in the leg. It's interesting to see the dichotomy in power between Monica and Jeannie. Jeannie is slick and polish and very, very sneaky. On the other hand, Monica is flamboyant, messy, but a vixen in the boardroom. She uses flagrant aggression and emotion to succeed professionally, while Jeannie is cool, calm and collective, silently eyeing her next conquest.

It's also fascinating to see this female depiction of power balanced with the way Marty is handling his new position--nurturing his family life at home with his father and son, a thriving career and an enviable social life. He's seemingly got that "having it all" memo and applied it to his own life. However, Jeannie is putting all her energy into her job, stepping over toes and climbing up the corporate ladder and approaching her narrow social life in the same sense--like it's something to conquer and not covet. But even though the two butt heads professionally, they finally acknowledge that their ambitions are one in the same and agree to collaborate on the Colossal/Free Range accounts. That's a win/win for both of them.

It's interesting to watch each character take on power in his or her unique way, highlighting the one theme of the show that has remained steady since the series opener--power.

House of Lies airs on Sunday nights at 10pm on Showtime.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cinema in Noir: 'Dear White People' and Dream Roles for Lupita Nyong'o

Whether or not she's your favorite to take home the coveted Academy Award in March, there should be no debating that Lupita Nyong'o has become Hollywood's IT girl this season. She's in countless magazine spreads and has been photographed rubbing shoulders with Hollywood heavyweights from Leonardo DiCaprio to Oprah Winfrey. But the ladies and I of Cinema in Noir have noticed that her IMDB filmography is looking kinda...bare. In fact, after next month (when she stars alongside Liam Neeson in the action film, Non-Stop), there's nothing else listed. 

So we decided to help Hollywood out and suggest dream roles that Nyong'o can tackle next. After the very serious 12 Years a Slave, we--as well as our listeners--want to send her right into the sci-fi/fantasy world with roles in Black Panther, X-Men and even as a romantic interest or Jedi in some alt world universe. Things got really exciting when i suggested that she and Jared Leto (you know how much I love him) team up for a live action version of Final Fantasy, after I heard how she's a superfan of the video game. Marvel or DC Comics, your play. 

We also discussed Dear White People, which you might remember I previewed here, The film has become quite a conversation started across racial backgrounds, and from what we've read it really captures some of the nuances of being black in a "post-racial" society. The film has also just nabbed a Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Talent at Sundance, which hopefully leads to it being picked up an getting a good distribution (we want to see it!). 

Co-host Rebecca Theodore-Vachon also shared her review of I, Frankenstein (which debuted at the box office this weekend at #6). Her take may help you understand why a blockbuster like this opened to such miserable numbers. Lastly, we chatted about some of the imagery in American Horror Story: Coven (which I commented on in an earlier post), and our favorite songs from movies (who knew so many of you were Aladdin fans? *fist pump*). 

Listen to the full episode here

Saturday, January 25, 2014

5 Clues that Lead Me to Believe that Carl from 'Shameless' May Grow Up to Be a Serial Killer

For the past three years we've watched the dysfunctional Gallagher family (led by big sis Fiona played by Emmy Rossum) on Showtime's hit series, Shameless, grow up before our very eyes. We've come to appreciate their now familiar antics and even welcome their decayed morality. We've even rooted for them in an earlier season when they dug up the remains of their long dead Aunt Ginger buried in their backyard in order to save themselves from winding up behind bars because their deadbeat dad Frank (William H. Macy) had still been living off Ginger's social security. Because if there's anything we've learned about the Gallaghers is that they don't let things like crimes and misdemeanors keep them back.

While any one of these characters is just a grand theft auto incident away from a being formally declared a convict, 12-year-old Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is definitely the scariest and most deliberate of all of them. His five siblings are usually fighting against society standards out of desperation (well, sometimes out of boredom but you know what I mean--they had good intentions). But not Carl. Don't be fooled by his cute, cherubic face. He's the little serial killer in the making, with a penchant for random acts of violence, bodily fluids and other alarming activities. Here are five signs he's given us that has led me to believe he will end up on an all-star edition of America's Most Wanted:


He's a little too excited about this. 

Just look at the expression on his face, cradling a frightening bucket of Vaseline.
Again, the face. 

Need I say more?

Shameless airs on Sundays at 9pm on Showtime. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dear 'American Horror Story: Coven', It's Time to Reel It In Now

Warning: the following contains spoilers from American Horror Story: Coven

Way back in 2011, you'd couldn't tear me away from the TV screen on Wednesday nights at 10pm. I'd be huddled under a blanket peering through at American Horror Story: Murder House, delightfully squealing in terror as the oblivious house dwellers--led by the fantastic Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott--got themselves into one creepy situation after the next. Even the opening credits were inspired:

I knew right away that creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk were onto something wild, daring, ridiculously fun and legitimately frightening. I love that as each season progresses, they continue to look for ways to up the ante and keep things fresh with a revolving group of characters. Which is why when season 2 (American Horror Story: Asylum) came along, I was over the moon. It took some of the elements from the first  season--fear, containment, abandonment--and added a disturbing layer of truth to its premise. By setting it in the 1960s, at the height of mental experimentation and civil unrest, the plot offered a wide view of racial, sexual and spiritual tensions. In doing so, the show challenged conventional beliefs and became more like a dramatization of actual macabre events. Remember this?

Needless to say, Asylum remains my favorite season so far. Which brings us to the craziness that has become season three, American Horror Story: Coven (or, as I like to call it, American Horror Story: OMG WHAT?). That's because this subtitle has become an every fifteen minute ritual I ask no one in particular throughout each episode. It takes Murphy's natural flair for over-the-top to a whole new level (and if you've seen any episode of AHS or Nip/Tuck, you know this is a really scary statement). It started off "normal" enough, with the ever marvelous Jessica Lange as the witch mother, if you will, of a school of witch misfits (Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe, Emma Roberts and Jamie Brewer) in the present day. Like previous seasons, it goes back and forth in time--for Coven, we're taken back to New Orleans in the 1830s when the rivalry between Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) and racist serial killer Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) is at a fever pitch. The two giant personalities meet once again in the present and realize that their feud remains and the world is not much different now (this all in a most dramatic and Ryan Murphy kind of way). Meanwhile, Lily Rabe is back as Misty Day, an increasingly wandering flower child with a flair for Stevie Nicks-a-tude something fierce.

This would all be fine if these elements were the only things going on. In fact, way more is going on all at once. What I mentioned above is only about half of the cuckooness. I didn't even bother to get into the formidable Jazz/AxeMan (Danny Huston), a character who--as I much as I love him--want ejected from the plot immediately due to his omnipresence, Spalding's (Denis O'Hare) weird penchant for baby dolls and other ghastliness, Kyle, the half Frankenstein/half lost teenage boy (Evan Peters), Coven headmistress Cordelia's (Sarah Paulson) sightless vision, her oddly effective yet inimical pretend godmother Myrtle (Frances Conroy), or the most unexpected alliance of bloody determination for respective justice that has become Queen Marie and Fiona (Lange). While the two definitely approach conflict in similar fashion (sassy, delivering the best one-liners while always wearing impeccable wardrobe), this duo has gone completely off the rails just as the season lost its focus. Some of the storylines don't even intertwine, which is especially disastrous.

It's a shame because the season was going so well in its first half, as it introduced themes of feminism, ageism, race, authority and redemption. Some of the characters--namely, Queen Marie, Delphine and the AxeMan--are even inspired by real people. Yet the story hasn't been able to find its footing these past few weeks as it took a nose dive into endless amounts of blood, sacrifice and...random babies. Each episode steadily tries to top the previous one to the point that it's become a bit of a mess that leaves you with more questions than answers. 

Hopefully next week's season finale will tie things together as satisfyingly as the two previous seasons did (especially Asylum, which rode off into the sunset with Paulson's Lana flipping us off). Here's hoping for less blood and more streamlined plots. We're counting on you, American Horror Story.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Trojan Horse Storytelling, Character Investment and 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Something we spoke about on this week's Cinema in Noir got me thinking: does 12 YEARS A SLAVE capture an individual experience or the era? Neither works to the film's detriment, but I do think there is a distant feel to the film as its panoramic view highlights the atrocities and institution of American slavery--the business, the barbarianism, the overwhelming sense of emotional depletion--without honing in on a personal story. For me, it's the difference between my being thoroughly moved by the film and rather admiring its superb technical and artistic achievements instead.

It's easy to say that Solomon Northup himself (beautifully portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is the main character of the story and therefore becomes its sole focus by default. But I'd argue that Solomon is more of a pawn, the eyes through which we can witness the larger story that envelopes him. To put that in trendier terms, he's essentially the Trojan Horse of this slavery-set saga. And like most stories that use this Trojan Horse effect, Solomon's character introduces the audience to a far more complex environment, with characters like Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) and Mistress Shaw (Alfre Woodard) who easily becoming the two most compelling in the film. Surprisingly, Mistress Shaw is in the film but only a few minutes yet manages to add a whole new layer to the story that, if fully explored, could have taken the film in a new direction. On the other hand, Patsey is in a great deal of the film, but we never truly know her outside of the fact that she is a victim of extremely intricate circumstances--suffering mental, sociological and physical abuse from both Mistress and master Epps (Sarah Paulson and Michael Fassbender).

But what makes Patsey an interesting character to watch is mostly due to the way Nyong'o portrays her--solemn yet driven, her dejection mounting to the point of withered consciousness but keenly alert about about her circumstances. While she's not fully fleshed out--we don't really know her story or pretense--but we care about her just the same as we do Solomon (whose narrative springboards the film). The way she carries herself, how she interacts with the other slaves tells us everything we need to know about her. Where Ridley's screenplay slightly marginalizes her, Nyong'o pushes her off the written page and humanizes her. She makes Patsey known to the audience, becoming the soul of a movie that profoundly highlights America at its most soulless and most dispiriting.

In a year that gave us films with poignant personal stories (Dallas Buyers Club, Cutie and the Boxer, Mother of George, Captain Phillips, Gravity, etc), the high-profiled 12 YEARS A SLAVE stands on its own as it pulls back the layers of a blanketed--yet increasingly effective--view of American society squeezed into a tight 2-hour+ film. While we rarely feel short changed by its wide intent, it does wedge a gap between the audience and the story. Which begs the question: do we have to feel personally connected to a film in order to consider it great? Is personal investment a measure of quality? As you can see from my review of the film last fall, I think it's cinematically excellent. But I can't latch on to any one aspect of the film that makes me want to re-watch it.

What are your thoughts about 12 YEARS A SLAVE and its wide versus singular themes?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Watch Five Action-Packed Clips from the Upcoming 'ROBOCOP' Film

Raise your hand if you're stoked to see the latest reboot of ROBOCOP, starring Joel Kinnaman? Hello? Bueller? *watches as tumbleweed blows by*

Okay so maybe haven't pre-ordered your tickets to the movie yet (you've still got time; it doesn't hit theaters until February 12th), but perhaps you might be so inclined to watch five new action-packed clips Columbia Pictures just released from the movie that might make you a believer. Michael Keaton and Sam Jackson make appearances in two of the clips, so there's that.

Here they are:

What do you think? Excited yet?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Now Can We Finally Stop Calling Scarlett Johansson Overrated?

Over the years, I've found myself having to defend Scarlett Johansson to the masses on many different occasions. While I have generally been impressed by her acting resume--save for such duds as The Spirit, The Black Dahlia and a few others--many dismissed her altogether, reasoning that she's all good looks and no talent. I definitely can't argue about her almost disturbing gorgeousness, but to say that she doesn't have the chops to back up her physical appeal is unwarranted.

But prickly audiences haven't been Johansson's only critics. There was a point in her Hollywood career that she was only cast as the vixen/sexpot. Take for instance, Vicky Cristina Barcelona--a good Woody Allen movie in which she played a sexy young woman who catches the eye of an equally sexy man (Javier Bardem), while his spastic ex (Penélope Cruz) plots her return. A meaty enough lead role, but slightly one-note. Same goes for He's Just Not That Into You, in which she portrayed the other woman to Bradley Cooper's married playboy. Except that last one is more like zero-note and completely forgettable.

These roles were especially puzzling coming from an actress who earlier in her career tackled wonderfully complex characters like Olivia in The Prestige, Rebecca in Ghost World and Charlotte in Lost in Translation--three women who superseded their ages yet inhabited enough wide-eyed wonder to capture audiences. Once she started flailing about in sexier, more vapid roles, audiences stopped believing in her and she became simply a live action Jessica Rabbit.

But then something happened in her career. After earning a Tony award in 2010 for her performance in the stage revival of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Johansson began *gasp* taking on roles that showed she was both beauty and brains. Some may scoff at her as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, a leather suit-clad superhero in The Avengers (and the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier), but she's apparently doing something right if fans are petitioning for a Black Widow spin-off. That's the thing about "ScarJo;" she's exactly how you want her to be when you least expect it.

Which brings us to what could be considered Johansson's most daring and genuine role to date--Samantha in Her. It took embodying the role of a body-less computer operating system, removing her obvious physical appeal from the equation, to earn wide acclaim from not only her peers but also audiences. Without the reliance of what has been perceived as a crutch, using only her voice Johansson reminds you that she needs no bolster to prove what has always been there--pure, unadulterated talent. With Her, we finally see Johansson the actress. She takes her signature alluring naivete and reckless abandon audiences have come to appreciate in order to convey an unbridled love that despite its obvious quirk is more human than any other role she's played. This visceral, unforgettable performance catapults her from promising starlet to bonafide leading lady.

Let's just hope we see more of this.

Watch Forest Whitaker Lose His Marbles and Sanaa Lathan Fight for Her Life in New Character Videos from the Thriller 'REPENTANCE'

You may remember back in November when I first wrote about the upcoming Misery-esque thriller REPENTANCE starring Forest Whitaker as some of you--definitely I--may have never seen him before. Since the trailer debuted, the studio has released a quarter of character videos and posters from the film that feature Whitaker, Anthony Mackie, Sanaa Lathan and Mike Epps. Check 'em out:





Yup, I am still hyped to see this. And I am dying to see Whitaker in this kind of role. How about you?

REPENTANCE hits theaters February 28th. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

'Cinema in Noir' Discusses Awards Season Winners and Losers, and the South African Drama 'Otelo Burning'

I know you've just been dying to hear what Cinema in Noir has to say about this year's crop of winners and losers (both fashion and talent-wise) this awards season. So on tonight's episode we shared our thoughts on the winners lists for both the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Awards, as well as the recently-announced Oscar nominees.

While American Hustle doesn't get much love from our crew (put it this way, I enjoyed it the most out of all of us and you know how I felt about it), Her was unanimously adored by the three of us as we metaphorically popped champagne and sang its praises. We also liked Nebraska, 12 Years a Slave and some of the glorious fashion dos and epic fashion don'ts we've seen on the red carpet this season.

But of course we couldn't end the episode without lamenting about some of this year's biggest Oscar snubs--including Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station and Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Oh, and my two co-hosts also shared their reviews of Ride Along (currently the #1 movie in America), and the South African drama, Otelo Burning. Check out the trailer for the latter:

Missed the show? Catch a recap here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rita Moreno Proves She's Still Better Than the Rest of Us at Saturday Night's Wild Screen Actors Guild Awards

If there was ever a party I wanted to be invited to it was tonight's Screen Actors Guild Awards. It was the ultimate infinity-drink-minimum/say-what-you-want-we've-got-a-bleep-handy ceremony. Along with the delectable bouquet of pretty people we've all come to accept this season (shout out to Jared Leto, his hair, and his beautiful mother, who also has a gorgeous mane), the great Rita Moreno graced us with her presence as she accepted the lifetime achievement award looking like a rock and roll goddess:

Upon accepting her green naked man statue, she spills a couple of F-bombs and acknowledges both Brad Pitt and Jeremy Renner (feigning an apology, then quickly taken it back like only a boss can). Excuse me as I twirl to the beat of "America" from West Side Story.

Matthew McConaughey talks to us a little about astronomy (or so that's what I gathered from his all-the-way-out-there acceptance speech). But who could pay attention to what he's saying at all when he looks so hot? Meanwhile, on the TV side, Breaking Bad won big time, taking home awards for best actor (Bryan Cranston) and best ensemble in a drama series for their epic final season. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus kept the show lively with a hilarious acceptance speech for her inimitable performance on Veep. Don't watch this clip if you're allergic to joy:

The winners of my best-dressed list (and arguably the more coveted honor) are as follows:

Amy Adams
Jennifer Lawrence

Lupita Nyong'o

And here are the actual Screen Actors Guild Award winners:

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
LUPITA NYONG’O / Patsey – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
JARED LETO / Rayon – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS / Vice President Selina Meyer – “VEEP” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
JULIE BOWEN / Claire Dunphy
TY BURRELL / Phil Dunphy
AUBREY ANDERSON EMMONS / Lily Tucker-Pritchett
JESSE TYLER FERGUSON / Mitchell Pritchett
NOLAN GOULD / Luke Dunphy
SARAH HYLAND / Haley Dunphy
ED O’NEILL / Jay Pritchett
RICO RODRIGUEZ / Manny Delgado
SOFIA VERGARA / Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
ARIEL WINTER / Alex Dunphy

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
HELEN MIRREN / Linda Kenney Baden – “PHIL SPECTOR” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
MAGGIE SMITH / Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham – “DOWNTON ABBEY” (PBS)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

BETSY BRANDT / Marie Schrader
LAURA FRASER / Lydia Rodarte-Quale
ANNA GUNN / Skyler White
RJ MITTE / Walter White Jr.
DEAN NORRIS / Hank Schrader
BOB ODENKIRK / Saul Goodman
AARON PAUL / Jesse Pinkman

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY / Ron Woodroof – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
CATE BLANCHETT / Jasmine – “BLUE JASMINE” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
AMERICAN HUSTLE (Columbia Pictures)

AMY ADAMS / Sydney Prosser
CHRISTIAN BALE / Irving Rosenfeld
LOUIS C.K. / Stoddard Thorsen
PAUL HERMAN / Alfonse Simone
JACK HUSTON / Pete Musane
JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld
ALESSANDRO NIVOLA / Federal Prosecutor
MICHAEL PEÑA / Sheik (Agent Hernandez)
JEREMY RENNER / Mayor Carmine Polito

14 of the Most Intriguing Films on the Sundance Roster

If you're like me, then you're probably wishing you were in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival right now (and if you're already there, I am insanely jealous of you). But luckily, my inbox has been flooded with lots of cool information straight out of the festival to keep me abreast of the goings on.

After perusing through tons of information regarding this year's slate of films, I've whittled the list down to the 14 I'm keeping my eye on as the months progress and the films open in more theaters. Look through the roster and share your thoughts in the comment box below.

SYNOPSIS: This is a story of the youth of one of America’s greatest heroes, Abraham Lincoln. Spanning nearly three years in the wilderness of Indiana, it tells of the hardships that shaped him, the tragedy that marked him forever and the two women who guided him to immortality.
CAST: Diane Kruger, Jason Clarke, Brit Marling, West Bentley

SYNOPSIS: A 21-year-old reformed gangster's devotion to his family and his future is put to the test when he is released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles.
CAST: John Boyega, Keke Palmer, Glenn Plummer, Rotimi
DIRECTOR/WRITERMalik Vitthal/Ismet PrcicMalik Vitthal

SYNOPSIS: Anger rages in Philip as he awaits the publication of his 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, and his own indifference to promoting the novel. When Philip's idol Ike Zimmerman offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself.
CAST: Krysten Ritter, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman

SYNOPSIS: A war photographer (Catherine Keener) retreats to a small town in Sicily after being held captive during the conflict in Libya.
CASTCatherine KeenerHafsia HerziBen Kingsley
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Mark Jackson/Kristin Gore, Mark Jackson

SYNOPSIS: A molecular biologist and his lab partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.
CASTMichael PittBrit MarlingAstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi

SYNOPSIS: In a small American coal town, the disappearance of a 14 year-old boy draws a surviving miner, the lonely wife of mine executive, and a local boy together in a web of secrets.
CASTM. Shane AbellElizabeth BanksGrant Bauman

SYNOPSIS: A gay married couple in New York are forced to live apart.
CASTMarisa TomeiJohn LithgowAlfred Molina
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Ira Sachs/Ira SachsMauricio Zacharias

SYNOPSIS: A grieving father in a downward spiral stumbles across a box of his recently deceased son's demo tapes and lyrics. Shocked by the discovery of this unknown talent, he forms a band in the hope of finding some catharsis.
CAST: Billy Crudup, Selena GomezJamie ChungAnton Yelchin
DIRECTOR/WRITER: William H. Macy/Jeff RobisonCasey Twenter

SYNOPSIS: A young woman's life is thrown into chaos when her mother disappears.
CASTShailene WoodleyEva GreenChristopher Meloni, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe

SYNOPSIS: In 1980s East Texas, two fathers pitted against each other in revenge must band together to uncover a darker truth.
CASTMichael C. HallSam ShepardVinessa Shaw
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Jim Mickle/Nick Damici

SYNOPSIS: At prestigious Winchester University, biracial student Samantha White begins her radio show, "Dear White People, the amount of black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two. Sorry, your weed man, Tyrone, doesn't count." Sam becomes president of the all-black residential hall Parker/Armstrong, whose existence is facing extinction in the name of diversification. TV reality show "Black Face/White Place" smells gold in Sam's story and decides to follow it, rejecting the proposal of fellow black student Coco Conners, who pitched her show "Doing Time at an Ivy League". The clamor over Sam's rise also becomes a career-defining opportunity for black misfit Lionel Higgins when he is asked to join the school's lily-white newspaper staff to cover the controversy, even though he secretly knows little about black culture.
CASTTyler James WilliamsTessa ThompsonTeyonah Parris 

SYNOPSIS: When motocross and heavy metal obsessed, thirteen-year-old, Jacob's increasing delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother, Wes, with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent father, Hollis, must finally take responsibility for their actions and for each other in order to bring Wes home.
CASTAaron PaulJuliette LewisTanner Beard

SYNOPSIS: A look at the life of pianist Joe Albany from the perspective of his young daughter, as she watches him contend with his drug addiction during the 1960s and '70s jazz scene.
CASTLena HeadeyTaryn ManningPeter Dinklage, Elle Fanning
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Jeff Preiss/Topper Lilien, Amy Albany

SYNOPSIS: A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried and lost in a fictional film, is in fact, real. With a crudely drawn treasure map and limited preparation, she escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune.
CASTRinko KikuchiNobuyuki KatsubeShirley Venard
DIRECTOR/WRITER: David Zellner/David Zellner, Nathan Zellner

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Oscar-Nominated Animated Film, THE WIND RISES, Is a Beautiful and Touching Swan Song from Hayao Miyazaki

Every so often comes an animated film that is so much more than family entertainment, more than just colorful, prettily drawn graphics over which children can gush. Those films are too often identified as "the new Lion King" or "the best animated movie since The Little Mermaid." But THE WIND RISES, from the critically acclaimed director of Spirited Away, is a statement piece--a film that needs no qualifier or precedence. It is simply magnificent.

Inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's manga of the same titles and loosely adapted from the short story The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori, THE WIND RISES dramatizes the true story of Jiro Horikoshi, the chief engineer of many Japanese fighter planes during World War II. Presented as a historical fiction tale told often in spectacular dream sequences, the film trails his life beginning as a nearsighted young boy in Japan with aspirations of becoming a pilot but ultimately inspired those around him by pushing the boundaries and becoming someone much greater.

What would you do if you could do anything? That's one of the questions the film asks as audiences become entranced by this glorious story bursting with hope, determination and success against the odds. When we meet our young hero, Jiro, he has almost come to terms with the realization that he won't ever become a pilot because of his nearsightedness. But with one fantastical meeting with early 20th century Italian aeronautical engineer Giovanni Battista Caproni, who appears literally out of the blue after Jiro falls asleep one day, the young boy's outlook completely changes. Caproni, as Jiro comes to call him, becomes a dream tour guide--showing Jiro that his life is not determined by his challenges. In fact, in this dream world Jiro has the freedom to go far beyond the limits of reality where his options are limitless. There he is not bound by his age, shortcomings, or even racial barriers.

The latter is one of the film's most galvanizing concepts, as it allows for the viewer to move even further into the fantasy and sink deeper into the story's objective. Caproni takes Jiro under his wing and, as Jiro grows older and excels in the field of engineering, he earns the respect of not only his Japanese peers back home (including his scrutinizing boss Mr. Kurokawa) but he piques the interests of German competitors during a time when the political and cultural turmoil are at an all-time high.

Balancing accelerating career accomplishments with a soft romantic angle, THE WIND RISES surges forward with the blossoming romance between Jiro and a young woman he meets on a particularly blustery day in Japan named Nahoko. With the backdrop of war and increasing civil strife (illuminated by the exquisite art design and musical score), their love for one another shines that much brightly and transcends distance, realms and even disease (Nahoko is later diagnosed with a lung hemorrhage).

Jiro's expansive journey into the depths of his imagination opens the hearts and minds of audiences, encouraging us all to dream a little bigger and fly a little farther. The voice actors who breathe life into these marvelous characters--including Kayo, Jiro's loyal sister-- offer a sense of humanity in light of the film's wondrous and sometimes solemn nature. A beautiful--and now Oscar-nominated--swan song from Miyazaki, THE WIND RISES is a breathtaking ode to what is and what could be. It's the ultimate underdog story that teaches us that even when "the wind is rising we must try to live."

THE WIND RISES releases in U.S. theaters February 21st. Watch the trailer:

Rating: A (***** out of *****)

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