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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oh Snap, They're Trying to 'Take' Liam Neeson Now?! Good Luck.

After two Taken films, you'd think by now that villains would realize that Liam Neeson is NOT to be f*cked with. But I guess we need another movie just as a reminder. As many of you already know, I was a HUGE fan of Taken (I still watch it every time it comes on TV), but I felt the sequel was painfully awful. So when I heard about this third installment, simply titled TAKEN 3, I had very low hopes for it. I mean, who else could be abducted from this unfortunate little family?

Well, it looks like there's a whole new batch of baddies trying to frame Bryan Mills (Neeson) for --gasp!-- the murder of his wife  Lenore (who I have to say I am not sad to see go since she was SO annoying). When we reunite with our favorite man with "a particular set of skills," he's on the run from pretty much every major law enforcement official, while at the same time trying to protect his dumb young daughter (Maggie Grace). More in the synopsis below:

Liam Neeson returns as ex-covert operative Bryan Mills, whose reconciliation with his ex-wife is tragically cut short when she is brutally murdered. Consumed with rage, and framed for the crime, he goes on the run to evade the relentless pursuit of the CIA, FBI and the police. For one last time, Mills must use his “particular set of skills,” to track down the real killers, exact his unique brand of justice, and protect the only thing that matters to him now – his daughter.

So now it's been confirmed that this will in fact be the last of the series. Which means this film will likely be very, very congested with high-octane action series (I just hope Bryan doesn't die, because then I'd cry). Director Olivier Megaton (with co-writer Luc Besson) also return for this last hurrah. Forest Whitaker joins the franchise as a law official who may or may not be actually trying to help Bryan (based on the trailer), along with Dougray Scott (who I feel I haven't seen since forever). Watch the first clip:

TAKEN 3 hits theaters everywhere January 9, 2015.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The New Trailer for V/H/S: VIRAL Looks All Kinds of Crazy

Why is it that the trailer for each V/H/S film is so good...and the actual movies are so, so bad? Well actually, I can only judge the first film from 2012 -- which I just barely finished (my brain has since deleted it from memory). I can only guesstimate that last year's sequel isn't much better.  But yet again, the fresh batch of filmmakers behind the newest installment, V/H/S: VIRAL, are trying to hook audiences with a completely batsh*t trailer that will likely appeal to fans who can't stay away from these found footage films. (Honestly, aside from the Rec and Quarantine series, I could do without them. But I remain hopeful).

Coincidentally, this new film aims to play off of people's obsessions with viral videos and becoming their own YouTube sensations by, well, making them the victims of their own videos. More in the synopsis:

A police chase after a deranged ice cream truck has captivated the attention of the greater Los Angeles area. Dozens of fame---obsessed teens flock to the streets with their video cameras and camera phones, hell---bent on capturing the next viral video. But there is something far more sinister occurring in the streets of L.A. than a simple police chase. A resounding effect is created onto all those obsessed with capturing salacious footage for no other purpose than to amuse or titillate. Soon the discovery becomes that they themselves are the stars of the next video, one where they face their own death.

The six-member directorial team includes two alums from the similarly styled horror, The ABCs of Death -- Marcel Sarmiento and Nacho Vigalondo. Which gives me a little pause since I tried but simply could not make it through that film (it was just so ridiculous). But here's hoping for their sakes that this is a little better. Watch the trailer:

Thoughts? V/H/S: VIRAL will be available on iTunes / On Demand October 23rd and in theaters November 21st. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cinema in Noir: Who Are Today's Great Latina Filmmakers?

Patricia Cardoso
Last Sunday the ladies and I hosted a #CinNoir Twitter chat via our @CinemaInNoir Twitter feed which helped honor National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating our favorite and most underrated Latino filmmakers. We came up with a strong list that included Rodrigo Garcia (Mother and Child), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, Biutiful) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), but -- with the exception of a few like Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves) and Patricia Riggen (Girl in Progress) -- we were hard pressed to come up with more female filmmakers. It's been nearly a week since our discussion and I am still thinking about this.

This is a conversation we're constantly having: where are all the great women directors? Where are all the great stories from Latina filmmakers in Hollywood? There are so many great Spanish-language films but they're often ignored by American audiences. I'm sure we're missing plenty more Latina voices from our lists, so I'm going to open this up to you by asking, Who are all the great Latina filmmakers of today?

I look forward to your responses in the comments section.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nas' 'TIME IS ILLMATIC' is a Riveting Doc That Helps Reconnect America with Hip-Hop

I have what you may call a complicated relationship with hip-hop. While I can't claim to be exactly in tuned with the genre these days -- not the superficial and diluted sound which consumes too many popular songs today. But I love it for what it was, what it could be. I love it for its poetry, its philosophies, its storytelling. That moment when it brings you closer to the artist -- his struggles, his fears, his pain, his joy. That moment it transports you.

I experienced that again when I saw NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC. Just when I got tired of sifting through empty commercial hip-hop, this documentary chronicling rapper Nasir Jones' (better known simply as Nas) journey to his iconic 20-year-old album, Illmatic, is exactly what is needed right now -- a reminder of what hip-hop is all about. The film follows the artist's life from an 8th grade dropout (or 9th grade - he doesn't seem sure of the exact year in the film) to a driven young poet with only his dreams and scribbled rhymes to sustain him. While the crux of the film is lifted from Nas' beginnings in Queensbridge, known as the largest housing projects in the country, the rapper - who provides the bulk of the narration -- is quick to say that he and his brother "Jungle" Jabari wanted for nothing. In fact, at one point in the film he mentions that his family home, led by his late mother, was often filled with kids in the neighborhood who didn't want to miss out on his mom's good cooking.

There is a warmness in Nas' voice as he reflects on this time in his life, but there's also a sorrow that seeps through as he thinks back to his best friend "Ill" Will Graham who was shot and killed right in front of the artist's stoop, or how too many of his childhood peers are either in jail, strung out or dead -- those who for various reasons couldn't escape their surroundings.

These feelings of being trapped, ignored and frustrated are exactly what provided the heartbeat of Illmatic, Nas' debut album which catapulted him from a dreamer to a success story. Director and co-producer (with writer Erik Parker) One9 gives audiences a chance to not only learn more about Nas but to know more about where great music -- of any genre -- often comes from: literature (Nas read everything from Asian philosophers to Harlem Renaissance author James Baldwin), relationships (both Jabari and Nas' father musician Olu Dara provide narrations in the film), and most of all the mental and political landscape of a young black man living in an America that always seemed to be just outside of his reach. For many artists, hip-hop was a way to break out of their environment. But for Nas, "Illmatic" was a way to bring America in.

What's also so great about NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC is that it offers fans like myself a trip down memory lane -- back when artists like Roxanne Shante, KRS-One, Biz Markie, Q-Tip and Erykah Badu (who are featured in the film) ruled the charts, back when hip-hop was dominated by hits like the 1987 hit "The Bridge is Over. This was a time when it seemed like every song was about something -- whether it was about the artist, how they viewed the world around them (or the other way around). Hip-hop offered a voice to those who were otherwise unheard.

As reaffirmed in this documentary, every great song -- including each "Illmatic" track -- is really an amalgam of past musical influences like Dara's jazz beats and beatboxing and the artist's singular message that gives birth to a brand new sound. Just as "Illmatic" brought people from all across the globe a little closer to Queensbridge, NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC draws audiences closer to hip-hop.

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

NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC will release in New York City and Los Angeles on October 1st, and On Demand on October 3rd. For more information on Nas' tour dates, which correspond with the release of the film, click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

5 Resonating Moments from Wednesday's Series Premiere of BLACK-ISH

After weeks of impassioned online debate about its title, the new ABC show Black-ish finally premiered last night and immediately took Twitter by storm. From those who felt uncomfortable by the show's all-too-real commentary to others like myself who found a kindred spirit lying underneath the jokes and traditional family sitcom format, ABC did at least one thing right -- started a conversation. But for many of us, the dialogue it's sparked is not particularly new (these are things we discuss regularly among our own in our communities); it's just now it's on national primetime television during an era many have considered "post-racial."

So many times throughout the 30-minute episode I found myself nodding during certain scenes and praising Black-ish for being not only genuinely funny (its lead actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson are hilarious), but also daring, smart and, yes, uncomfortable at times. That's what all great shows of any genre should do -- provoke thought and emotion. And if you can apply it to your own lives, if it offers a personal truth that you feel is absent from other shows, all the better.

For me, these were the moments that resonated the most:

1) Using colorism to define someone's level of blackness: During a heated conversation on the episode, Andre (Anderson) tries to negate an opinion his wife Rainbow (Ross) has on what it means to be black by using her lighter skin tone and biracial identity as a way to discredit her. I believe he even goes as far to infer that she's not really black, and therefore can offer no authority on the subject. This is a scenario that too often goes undiscussed within the black community but still persists.

2) Struggling to navigate your own identity within an unspoken responsibility to your entire race: Andre and Rainbow's eldest son, Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner) is going through a bit of an identity crisis -- or perhaps an identity awakening -- when the family moves to a new (read: mainly white) neighborhood and he develops new friends at school. As a result, young Andre, whether it is due to peer pressure or natural adolescence, begins assimilating with the predominant race -- to his father's chagrin. Experimenting with a name change and (gasp!) religion switch, he gives off an impression that he's trying to be someone who he's not. A defining moment in the episode is when he tells his that he's not trying to be anyone but himself (a paraphrase, but that's the gist of the sentiment).

3) Becoming the go-to expert for all things black: This scenario admittedly made me cringe as well as LOL because it's so sad but so true. Andre is in line for a great promotion at his job, so his confidence is sky high. So much so that not even the obligatory encounter with his white male counterpart, who asks him yet again how to translate something into blackspeak, can break his stride. But when it comes to the big announcement of his new status at the board meeting, he learns that he's actually been promoted to the Senior Vice President of the "Urban Division." (The jury is still out on what this would even entail, but the assumption is that black people are already supposed to know).

4) The grandfather who is wondering when it all got so complicated: While I am still in disbelief that Laurence Fishburne is now playing a grandfather on television (time flies!), I have to admit I kinda loved him on the show. Pops isn't in many scenes, but he sure makes an impact as the patriarch (Andre's father) who comes in just to offer a much needed side eye or brisk one-liner before he picks up his newspaper and checks out again. He's not of the generation when identity has become a matrix of discussion and provocation, he's not from the time when parents had an extravagant black intervention with their kids about race. He understands race and identity as black and white, that's it. The rest of the dialogue is just white noise to him. Clearly Pops was modeled after my own late granddad who had no time for this kind of debate.

5) That awkward moment when the food you eat brings your blackness into question: Rainbow didn't have a whole lot of splashy moments on the pilot episode, but I could already see that she is going to represent the so-called "progressive" black parent, the one who sometimes coddles but also supports her kids no matter their quirks. She's a little bit hippie, a little bit bohemian -- but is quick to check somebody (even if it's her husband) when they try to say her opinion or professional responsibilities aren't important. So when Pops calls her out for serving the family baked fried chicken instead of fried fried chicken, saying the real thing was apparently too black for her, it definitely hit home for me. Everything from the food you eat, to the clothes you wear, to the shows you watch, to the way you speak is grounds for cultural judgment.

It's been a few years since a 30-minute primetime black family sitcom has explored some of nuances and complexities of black culture (Everybody Hates Chris comes to mind). I definitely hope Black-ish sticks around. It's off to a great start.

Black-ish airs Wednesday nights at 9:30pm/8:30pm CST on ABC. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

RAY DONOVAN's Liev Schreiber Will Be Taking Your Questions on Thursday

Raise your hand if you didn't realize that this Sunday will be the season finale of Showtime's Ray Donovan. Seriously, either I dismissed this devastation or I completely forgot. This season went by way too fast, especially considering all the questions I still have (Who will win the the eternal Ray versus Mickey battle now that it's reached a fever pitch?).

But before we find out what's in store for what is sure to be an exciting season finale, titular star Liev Schrieber will answer your burning questions tomorrow, September 25th, at 9pm EST during a live Facebook Q&A on the Ray Donovan page. So get your questions ready and don't miss this rare opportunity to chat with the Golden Globe-nominated actor (and perhaps get some insider details on the coming finale)!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tribeca Film Will Release SCANDAL Star Scott Foley's Directorial Debut

Let me tell you a little something about Scott Foley. First of all, if you were/still are a Felicity fan, then you'll understand what I mean when I say that I've always been Team Ben (Scott Speedman). Which means that I was never really on the Scott Foley bandwagon. I thought he was, well, forgettable. But anyways, flash forward more than ten years later when I saw this picture conspicuously float across my Twitter feed that gave me pause:

Let's just say I never forgot him after that day. Though I hear lately Foley is making waves on another small screen hit, ABC's Scandal, I much prefer to stare at this picture to get my fix. In fact, I'd like to think this is how he looked when he was writing his soon to be released directorial debut, LET'S KILL WARD'S WIFE

The intriguingly titled dark comedy teams Foley (who also stars in the film) with Donald Faison, Nicollette Sheridan and Patrick Wilson among others, and was just picked up by Tribeca Film and Well Go USA Entertainment for a January 2015 theatrical release. Here's a little more about it:

Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is a hilariously dark comedy about helping a friend out of a bad relationship by any means necessary. Everyone hates Ward’s wife and wants her dead, Ward most of all. But when his friends’ murderous fantasies turn into an (accidental) reality, they have to deal with a whole new set of problems -- like how to dispose of the body and still make their 3 p.m. tee time.

For some reason this is giving me a very Weekend at Bernie's vibe. But I am interested to see how Foley will fare as a filmmaker, and if this project will lead to others. Tribeca Film is on a roll these days with Nas: Time is Illmatic and the recently announced Listen Up, Phillip

What do you think? Will you see Foley's new film? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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

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

Oh, and they're geeks. Geeks of color at that.

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

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

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

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

Your thoughts?

Monday, September 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

The remaining films on the Fandango list are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

8. “Fury” (Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf)

9. “The Good Lie” (Reese Witherspoon)

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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

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

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

1. Jeepers Creepers

2. Child’s Play

3. Misery

4. Last House on the Left

5. Return of the Living Dead

6. Amityville Horror

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version)

8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

9. Carrie

10. Silence of the Lambs

11. Species

12. Killer Klowns From Outer Space

13. Teen Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

Would Some RomComs Work Better as Short Films?

I really do think that for every one great romantic comedy these days, there are, like, 20 awful ones, I try to be positive about some of those films that people like to consider "fresh" or "modern," like the post-coital romp Two Night Stand starring Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton, or They Came Together, the hyper self-aware satirical romcom starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. But after watching the first half hour, my eyes start to glaze over and I begin to lie comatose. It literally becomes a nuisance.

Which makes me wonder whether some of these films wouldn't be better as short films--features no more than 20 minutes long that get right to the point of the film and don't overstay their welcome. Pose an idea, add a few brief jokes, then run the ending credits. BOOM. This isn't to say that there are no good full feature romcoms anymore (The One I Love and Obvious Child are both excellent), but I think Hollywood generally has trouble maintaining the momentum of a romcom--not only are the punch lines and themes recycled from previous films, but they're overly used within the same film. It's like the writers run out of things to say 30 minutes into a film, but have no other choice but to continue to beat it to death until you as an audience member are silently wishing its eternal damnation.

Why go through all that trouble when you can deliver a more concise story that would be less redundant and do a better job at presenting the conflict and the characters in less than half the time? I'm sure some of the hesitance toward short films is about money, but Hollywood should be open to distributing more short films on the big screen in this attention deficit era we live in. Just look at what YouTube has provided for the countless web series to which many of us flock--including "The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl" or "Hello Cupid." There is clearly a demand for these bite-sized formats, but Hollywood is stuck on the bigger picture (pun intended).

I just can't help but think how much better They Came Together would have been had it ended its shtick at the 20-minute mark. The film poked fun at silly romcoms as it slowly becomes a silly romcom itself. It's just not as smart as it thinks it is, especially since it takes every opportunity to tell you how silly it's being as a ploy to come off self-effacing and entertaining. (It is neither of those things). Ultimately, it ends up being a drawn-out comedy that takes the biting humor of a classic Funny or Die piece and stretches it out beyond recognition, leaving only a hollow shell containing nothing worth discussing.

Sound off: Would you like to see more romantic comedies as short films? If so, which ones would you want to see?

Friday, September 5, 2014

That IMAX 3D Version of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES You Wanted is On Its Way

No, but really--who ordered this? Did I miss the overwhelming love for the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie, which just came out last month? Last I heard critics were trying to set fire to it, yes? But I guess the people have spoken (and when I say the "people," I mean those who actually spent their hard earned money to give the film its $270 million worldwide gross), and Paramount Pictures are rewarding them with an IMAX 3D one-week release beginning Friday, September 12th. Um, yay?

Well, despite all the vitriol constantly hurled at Michael Bay, who produced the film, his films rarely disappoint at the box office. And I have to admit, I am a huge Bad Boys fan and I admire the fact that Bay knows his lane and sticks in it. But yeah, I'm still not checking for a re-release of TMNT (I do still plan to check out the film on DVD along with the other low-priority films on my must-watch list). However, if you were a fan of this recent iteration of TMNT, you may be interested to hear that the limited theatrical engagement will kick off with advance screenings on Thursday, September 11th at 7:00 p.m. local times nationwide. The first 300 ticketholders at each of these advance screenings will receive one of three special Legends of the Yokai Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collector’s Artist Posters, while supplies last.

You can purchase tickets for  TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES in IMAX 3D at and participating theater box offices. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chris Messina's Directorial Debut Set for Release Early Next Year

It's always a good thing when a festival has so many great films that picking which one to see seems as difficult as Sophie's Choice. Such is the case of ALEX OF VENICE, actor Chris Messina's (The Mindy Project, Damages) directorial debut which premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. After opting to see another film playing at the same time, good word of mouth got around that Messina's newest effort--which stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Derek Luke and Don Johnson--was actually quite impressive. (I say actually because I've never been a huge Messina fan, so this especially piqued my interest).

Fast forward a few months later comes today's announcement that ALEX OF VENICE has been acquired by Screen Media Films for a theatrical release early next year. The film follows "workaholic environmental attorney, Alex Vedder (Winstead), who is forced to reinvent herself after her husband (Messina) suddenly leaves the family. Dealing with an aging father (Johnson) who still aspires to succeed as an actor, an eccentric sister (Katie Nehra) and an extremely shy son (Sklar Gaertner), Alex is bombarded with everything from the mundane to hilariously catastrophic events without a shoulder to lean on.  Realizing she will thrive with or without her husband, Alex discovers her hidden vulnerability as well as her inner strength as she fights to keep her family intact in the midst of the most demanding and important case of her career."

I will have to assume that it's more interesting than the synopsis describes, because it sounds like several other movies I've seen before. In any case, Messina seems thrilled about the acquisition. Per the press release, he says: “I am thrilled to work with Screen Media on the release of my directorial debut, ALEX OF VENICE. I'm grateful for their passion and commitment to our film and very excited to move ahead with them as our partners.”

Seth Needle, Director of Acquisitions & Marketing, at Screen Media said: “ALEX OF VENICE features some of the strongest performances we’ve seen in a long time, which speaks highly to Chris’ direction. The talent showcased in this terrific film will last with audiences for some time after the credits roll.”

Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Messina's new film? Will you watch?

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