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Friday, February 27, 2015

Lazy Horror Film THE LAZARUS EFFECT Will Hopefully Mark the End of the Whole "Playing God" Trope

I hate to say I told you so, but...THE LAZARUS EFFECT is exactly what I feared it would be--from its quasi-serious/bogus dialogue to the played out notion that we mere mortals can bring back loved ones from the dead and they'll be exactly the way they were before they died (seriously, when will we learn that that doesn't work?). But I'm pretty sure right now someone somewhere is feverishly typing up a compelling think piece about playing god and the question of life after death, but all the intelligent discussions in the world won't mask the real problem here: this is just a bad movie.

And you know what's the most frustrating part about that? It never really even tries. From its opening moments featuring a team of scientists (Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, Donald Glover) on the cusp of an experiment that "will help healthcare professionals everywhere," THE LAZARUS EFFECT merely coasts by on a very thin script that is really just a placeholder to get to what is obviously its larger purpose: to frighten the audience so much that we forget that we're watching a bad movie. But, guys, I never forgot (and also, it wasn't that scary).

First of all, that mumble jumble at the beginning of the film, vaguely describing what the scientists are studying and why, will likely whirl right past most audiences because 1) it doesn't make much sense and 2) the actors are so casual about this dialogue that you don't really take anything they're saying seriously. On the one hand you've got scientists and love interests Zoe and Frank (Wilde and Duplass) laughing so hard on camera, barely able to get the words out about their study. (You see, they are being videotaped at the time and apparently are a bit awkward on camera). And on the other hand, you've got fellow scientist Clay (Peters) smoking in the lab, dancing to old records and trying to flee from a rabid dog they brought back to life (which should be their first clue that whatever experiments they're working on are not going as planned). Like, these are real scientists who think they're about to unleash some genius onto the world. Meanwhile, their resident camerawoman (Sarah Bolger) is apparently more video-inclined, yet is able to somehow put together a lethal dosage in a syringe later in the film. *eyeroll*

So anyway, as indicated in the trailer, s**t hits the fan in the lab and Zoe ends up dead. Distraught, Frank brings Zoe back from the dead and--surprise!--she comes back in full Pet Sematary form, the very embodiment of evil (complete with levitation, telepathy and homicidal rage). To make matters even more ridiculous, there's a whole new layer clumsily tacked on to the third act of the film that makes no sense at all, and gets so far away from the story's original point that you don't even know what you're watching anymore. If it isn't for the few jumps and unintentional laughs, the entire last 30 minutes would be a complete and utter waste of time.

What's most surprising is that this film is directed by David Gelb, the same guy who did the critically-acclaimed Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and co-written by Luke Dawson who penned the decent American horror remake, Shutter. So what happened here??

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of THE LAZARUS EFFECT. And the more I think of it, the less remarkable it gets. So I'm just going to stop here.

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

THE LAZARUS EFFECT is now playing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Trailer Watch: Kristen Wiig Wins the Lottery and Becomes the Subject of Her Own Reality Show in WELCOME TO ME

I keep thinking back to last year's article which claimed that SNL alum Kristen Wiig, who's carved out an admirable big screen career culminating to an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids, is simply unimpressive in dramas. Because, while I am a fan of her comedy, her dramatic turns (including The Skeleton Twins and Girl Most Likely) always leave me wanting (and, dare I add, extremely unmoved). So yeah, I hear about the actress starring in a new drama and I go numb.

But I have to admit, there is something very intriguing about the trailer for WELCOME TO ME--Wiigs newest dramedy that draws on our fascination with exhibitionism as a source for self-fulfillment. Wiig appears to show in the clip her natural quirkiness, which is hopefully mixed in with convincing gravitas (something with which she's had trouble in the past).


What happens when a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder wins the lottery? In the case of Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), she quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show. Inspired by the immortal Oprah, she broadcasts her dirty laundry as both a form of exhibitionism and a platform to share her peculiar views on everything from nutrition to relationships to neutering pets. Also starring Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Linda Cardellini.
Check it out the trailer:

First-time feature director Shira Piven helmed the film from a screenplay by newbie screenwriter Eliot Lawrence. Which means I don't really know what to expect from this film outside of Kristen Wiig. But I remain intrigued. 

WELCOME TO ME opens May 1. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Watch Paul Dano and John Cusack Star as Brian Wilson in the Teaser Trailer for LOVE & MERCY

I vaguely recall there being a Brian Wilson movie in the works, but I don't remember the announcement that the eternally underrated Paul Dano was going to play him. But here we are. And I'm not mad at it. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions just released a teaser trailer for LOVE & MERCY today, which offers a brief look at the "genius, madness and music" of the lead singer of the Beach Boys.

More in the synopsis:

LOVE & MERCY presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. Set against the era defining catalog of Wilson’s music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost.

John Cusack plays Wilson at an older age in the film, which also stars Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti. The screenplay was written by Oren Moverman (The Messenger). Check out the trailer:

LOVE & MERCY is slated to hit theaters June 5. Will you watch?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BEYOND THE LIGHTS Fans: You're Cordially Invited to a Twitter Watch Party Today with Director Gina Prince-Bythewood

WHAT:    Twitter Watch Party with Gina Prince-Bythewood (director of Beyond the Lights)
WHERE: Twitter (duh)
WHEN:    Today, February 24, at 5pm PST/8pm EST

More details below:

Be there, or be square.

Is Comedy Really Dead?

While watching the the surprisingly well packaged 40th anniversary special of "Saturday Night Live" recently, I couldn't help but think about all the great comedians (many of whom have passed) who were so fearless in their comedy, so unpredictable and uncompromising in their approach. Then I wondered, what ever happened to those kind of comedians who were unafraid of making their audience uncomfortable, confronting cultural and political truths others are too afraid to mention?

Has Internet commentary gotten so hyper reactionary that comedy has become diluted in order to appease it?

I never really considered this thought until recently when I stumbled upon a rather somber HitFix article mourning the loss of Eddie Murphy's "thrilling"  brand of comedy. It got me thinking about the state of the genre, and how it seems like Chris Rock is the lone comedian who bothers to take a chance anymore. Even Kevin Hart seems to skirt controversy, choosing to focus on lighter comedy that is safer and appealing to a more general audience. There's nothing wrong with that, but I do wonder how we got to this point in comedy -- and how someone like old school Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, Margaret Cho, Sherman Hemsley, Whoopi Goldberg, Rodney Dangerfield, and Robin Williams would fit in today without being accused of "crossing the line." Maybe that's why so many of them who are still with us are going the drama or dramedy routes, for which they often earn the street cred they didn't receive when they were "merely comedians."

These days it just seems like great comedies often have heavily dramatic elements, or on the other side of the spectrum are packaged to look like, say, Unfinished Business (which I haven't seen, but the trailer isn't doing it any favors). Is it because many of us (and I'm throwing myself into the mix as well) have gotten too highbrow or "intellectual" to enjoy such fare? Or do we simply yearn for what is no longer?

But in today's Internet age, is it even possible for such bold comedy to even exist, much less thrive?

Share your thoughts below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Get Ready for a New Crime Drama from the Director of PRISONERS and ENEMY

I know what you're thinking. Do we really need another drug drama set in Mexico, especially since Hollywood pumps one out every few months? The answer is no. Not at all. But I am mildly interested to see how Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) approached this well-worn premise in SICARIO, especially since it stars Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and Jon Bernthal. But also Villeneuve has brought us a very intriguing brand of suspense in his previous films. since More in the synopsis:

In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is exposed to the brutal world of international drug trafficking by members of a government task force (Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro) who have enlisted her in their plan to take out a Mexican cartel boss.

First-time screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (mostly known for his acting work on the small screen in shows like Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars) penned the script. But is anyone else getting Traffic vibes? Maybe it's the Del Toro connection...

Thoughts? Lionsgate will release SICARIO in limited theaters on September 18 and nationwide on September 25.

Oscars Post Mortem: Mostly Predictable with a Few Genuinely Moving Moments (and Two Major Upsets)

So guys, the Boyhood best picture Oscar loss is hitting me pretty deeply right now. (And the fact that Eddie Redmayne somehow won over Michael Keaton literally has me in a fit of rage). But can we get another amen for Oscar winners John Legend and Common's stirring performance of "Glory" (with a full choir), followed by their equally moving acceptance speeches? From John Legend:

"When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you and march on."

And speaking of church praise, let's hear for Oscar winner Patricia Arquette's randomly amazing speech? In case you missed it:

"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everyone else's civil rights. It's our time to have wage equality for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America." (Here here!)

One of the few pleasant surprises of the evening was when director and co-writer Mat Kirby won for the fabulous short film, The Phone Call (which I really hope you have seen by now). He brought attention to a genre I still think is considered somehow less important than others:

"Short films are not made with money, but incredible tenacity."

And can we talk about screenwriter Graham Moore's hugely unexpected (yet well deserved) win for The Imitation Game? No one was predicting this film to win anything (in fact, I've recently seen a lot of vitriol thrown at this movie lately), so it was nice to see him not only win but say this:

"I would like this moment to be for that kid out there who feels she's weird or she's different and she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you: You do. Stay weird. Stay different. And when you're on this stage, please pass the same message along."

Lastly, I wasn't even looking forward to this moment during the ceremony but, guys, Lady Gaga singing "The Hills are Alive" from The Sound of Music (as part of a tribute to the film and Julie Andrews) kinda blew me away. Why or why was she trying so hard all those years to look crazy when she is clearly talented? More of this Lady Gaga, please.

For the complete list of Oscar winners, click here.

What was your favorite moment from the Oscars?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Edward Snowden Congratulates Director Laura Poitras on Winning the Oscar for the "Brave and Brilliant" CITIZENFOUR

If you're watching the Oscars like I am right now, then you already know that CITIZENFOUR has won for best documentary (reminder for you HBO subscribers: the film will air on TV this week). And now the subject of the film himself, Edward Snowden, has provided a statement on director Laura Poitras's win via the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents him:

“When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:

“Laura’s remarkable film has helped fuel a global debate on the dangers of mass surveillance and excessive government secrecy. The ACLU could not be more delighted that she has been recognized with an Academy Award.”

Was CITIZENFOUR your favorite documentary from last year?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Independent Spirit Awards Weren't as Unpredictable as I Had Hoped

So, the Independent Spirit Awards happened today and there weren't many surprises (unless you count some of my favorites losing to other nominees, for which I weep). But the person who I've been rooting for since day one, Patricia Arquette, took home yet another gold star for her spectacular performance in Boyhood so I can't be too mad about it. And the Polish film, Ida (pictured above), was named best international film, which was also well deserved.

However, some of my other personal picks, which include Man from Reno and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, went home empty-handed, along with David Oyelowo (Selma) and Justin Lader (The One I Love). Instead, Land Ho!, Nightcrawler, Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Justin Simien (Dear White People) won. Goodness knows I love me some Michael Keaton, but I really hoped that Oyelowo would have this last chance to win an award for a performance that should have consistently garnered attention this entire season.

Anyway, Simien wasn't my choice to win for first screenplay. But his acceptance speech was amazing, and honors the need for diverse voices: "If you don't see yourself in the culture, please put yourself there. Because we need to see you."

Lastly, am I the only one who favors Edward Norton (Birdman) and Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) over over J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)? I don't know, maybe because the two former films are far superior than the latter, but those singular performances left more of an impression on me. Anyone else?

Share your thoughts on the Independent Spirit Awards and read the full list of winners here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Watch Salli Richardson-Whitfield Embody the Great Lena Horne in a New Digital Short

So, this is kind of amazing. You may remember three years ago when I first posted my own black women in Hollywood casting wishlist and suggested that Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Will Follow) should play the late great Lena Horne. Coincidentally, at the time the actress was actually trying to get a passion project off the ground in which she did in fact portray the icon on screen.

Flash forward to 2015 and the the film is one step closer to coming to fruition with the release of a digital short titled LENA HORNE: A LADY MUST LIVE, courtesy of Codeblack Films and Ebony Magazine. In it, you'll see Richardson-Whitfield literally embodying the very essence of Horne, touching on topics like colorism and Hollywood diversity -- issues that still affect us today.

Watch it here.

Apparently there will be a full-length feature film and a stage play of the same title forthcoming (fingers crossed!). I cannot wait.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

THE DIVIDE's Britne Oldford to Appear in the Upcoming Lesbian Romance Drama, AWOL

As you know, I am still mourning the cancellation of WE tv's underrated drama, The Divide. But, I am happy to hear that one of its awesome stars, Britne Oldford (who also appeared on American Horror Story: Asylum and The Flash), has a role in the upcoming film AWOL, which has just completed principal photography in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

First premiering as a short film described as a "lesbian romance drama" at Sundance in 2011, AWOL has now become a feature-length film that also stars Lola Kirke (Gone Girl), Breed Wool (Weeds, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black). More from the synopsis:

Joey, 18, falls hard for Rayna, 27, a sexy, married mother of two. Threatened by Rayna’s husband, fired from her job at the local dairy, and without many economic opportunities, Joey reluctantly joins the Army. Days before deployment to Afghanistan and still wildly in love, Joey returns home to rural Pennsylvania and plans to go AWOL with Rayna and her kids.

I'm not sure what role Oldford plays, but I'm glad to see that she's continuing to find work. I will definitely keep my eye on this one, and keep you updated as I learn more. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DVD Review: Despite a Slight Identity Crisis, THE BOOK OF LIFE is a Delightful Ode to Día de los Muertos

is a paradox. It is by far the most interesting animated film I've seen from last year,'s not great. The animation is glorious, the characters are delightful, and the fact that it's one of the few animated films that celebrates with a traditional Mexican narrative (one that celebrates Día de Muertos) is all worth the price of the DVD alone. But it has a small yet pesky problem that I couldn't get around: its persistent need to infuse cultural ambiguity presumably to widen its audience. 

One the one hand, a broader audience is probably something that is a consideration for a filmmaker. Too often when a film appeals to a large minority audience, it eludes mainstream viewers who regard the film as "not for them." A ridiculous summation, I know, but a realistic one. After watching the movie, I wondered whether director and co-writer Jorge R. Gutiérrez was mindful of this as he included famously American songs like Radiohead's "Creep," Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," and Biz Markie's "Just a Friend," re-sung by Diego Luna, Gabriel Iglesias and Cheech Marin, onto the soundtrack. Why not use traditional  Latin tracks instead? Of course, these aren't the only tunes on the soundtrack, but they just seem strategically placed during big moments in the film that likely garner the most American response. It just lends to a bit of an identity crisis rooted in the story. 

BUT, that aside, THE BOOK OF LIFE really is a fun, heartwarming film that uses universal themes of adventure, romance, and family to bring a traditional Latin tradition to all audiences. Luna and Zoe Saldana voice the two lead characters, Manolo and Maria, young lovebirds separated by family tradition. Manolo wants to go off on his own but his father wants him to follow in his footsteps and become a bullfighter, while Maria is expected to be whisked off into the arms of town hero Joaquin (Channing Tatum). When Joaquin ends up wining the competition, Maria is torn between what she is supposed to do and what it is in her heart. Meanwhile, Manolo travels to the "Land of the Remembered" where his ancestors teach him a valuable lesson. 

With its charming narrative and vibrant animations, THE BOOK OF LIFE may not be a flawless film, but it definitely deserves your attention. 

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: MAN FROM RENO is a Culturally Nuanced and Intriguing Contribution to Neo-Noir

It's just five days until the Independent Spirit Awards, which should be plenty of time for you to watch the best Coen Brothers movie in a while...that wasn't directed or at all related to Joel and Ethan Coen. I'm talking about MAN FROM RENO, the neo-noir nominated for the John Cassavetes Award that is filled with murder, mystery and..turtles stuck in a toilet tank.

Directed and co-written by Dave Boyle, MAN FROM RENO is one of those thrillers that keeps you on its toes as it progresses, though its complexity never seems scrambled. Boyle is clearly a filmmaker with an affinity toward captivating fiction and alluring facades, centering this narrative around a well-known Japanese mystery author named Aki Akahori (Ayako Fujitani) who, on the heels of releasing her own potboiler, gets entangled in a real-life one. While trying to escape the media blitz and pretentious remarks from her fellow scholars, she heads to a San Francisco hotel for some peace and anonymity. But instead she meets a beguiling gentleman from Reno, Nevada, by the name of Akira (Kazuki Kitamura), a lover she takes on and soon learns he's a wanted man. In her hotel room he leaves behind his suitcase, two dangerous men, and the aforementioned turtles all without a trace. His disappearance brings both the villains and law enforcement who come after Aki with questions she's unable to answer. 

Meanwhile, San Francisco Sheriff Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna) is busy trying to unravel his own case involving a man he accidentally hits with his car who also soon vanishes.

So naturally the question becomes: Who is this man from Reno and how are these two stories connected? Throughout the film, Boyle intriguingly drops clues that may be too random to interpret at the moments they are placed, but will undoubtedly leave asterisks in your mind as you watch (so you may want to take notes). What is perhaps most surprising, however, is that Boyle smartly captures cultural nuances in the dialogue between the Japanese and American settings, as well as among the Latino-American Sherriff and his detective daughter (something that often goes lost on other more seasoned American directors). In fact, it reminded me of the underrated and now canceled FX series, The Bridge, in that respect.

I'm always happy to see actors of color in film, but even more so I am happy to see them in good films. The main cast of MAN FROM RENO is almost entirely unfamiliar to me (Kill Bill's Kitamura aside) yet they prove that it doesn't take well-known Hollywood stars to enhance quality storytelling. This is definitely worth the watch.

MAN FROM RENO opens in New York City and Los Angeles on March 27th. Watch the trailer here.

Rating: B+ (***1/2 out of *****)

Friday, February 13, 2015

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE Documentary LIVE FROM NEW YORK! to Open the Tribeca Film Festival

Well you can't say Saturday Night Live hasn't marketed their 40th anniversary wisely. With the show's three and a half hour long special scheduled to air this Sunday and the countless commercials surrounding their anniversary, there is no way you can avoid it. And now Lorne Michaels and the SNL team have one more thing to celebrate: LIVE FROM NEW YORK!, the documentary that explores the show's early years, will open this year's Tribeca Film Festival.

You may remember that last year the festival opened with Nas's Time is Illmatic, a still criminally underrated documentary, so it looks like there's a nonfiction trend building. I can only hope LIVE FROM NEW YORK! is at least half as good as Nas's doc. More on the film from Tribeca's press release issued on Thursday: Archival footage is interwoven with stolen moments and exclusive commentary from “SNL” legends, journalists, hosts, crew and others influenced by the comedy giant. Live From New York! captures what has enabled SNL to continually refresh itself over nearly 800 episodes and keep America laughing for 40 years.

The film is directed by respected documentary filmmaker Bao Nguyen, who clearly has a deep admiration for the iconic show: “'Saturday Night Live' is such a revered institution and we really wanted to make a film that reflected its significance not just to the American comedic tradition but also to American culture and society.”

Thoughts? The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival will announce its feature film slate the first week of March. I'll keep you posted.

To find out more about purchasing tickets for the festival, click here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Coming-of-Age Drama BLACKBIRD, Starring Mo'Nique and Isaiah Washington, To Hit Theaters in April

Remember nearly a year ago when I first wrote about Oscar winner Mo'Nique's return to the big screen in the coming-of-age film BLACKBIRD? Well it is finally making its way to the big screen on April 24, according to a press release from Urban Movie Channel, which has acquired the film.

Based on the novel of the same name by Larry Duplechan, BLACKBIRD is directed by Patrik-Ian Polk and also stars Isaiah Washington and newcomer Julian Walker. Here's new synopsis: 

BLACKBIRD is a personal, controversial, and inspiring story that introduces two up-and coming actors – Julian Walker and Kevin Allesee. It tells the story of seventeen-year-old Randy (Julian Walker), a devout Christian who tries very hard to be a good person. Since his father (Isaiah Washington) left, Randy takes care of his emotionally disturbed mother (Mo’Nique), sings lead in the church choir and is the kind of friend all of his classmates can depend on. As strong as he seems on the outside, Randy is hiding a secret inner struggle - a denial of his true self. It is not until he opens himself up to love that he discovers that becoming a man means accepting who you really are.

I'm just glad this film is finally seeing the light of day. I was a little worried that I didn't hear much about it after the post hit a year ago. Without having seen the film yet, I know that it has three things that stand out about it: 1) it's a black film, 2) it's not a biopic or historical nonfiction, 3) it brings to light something too many films shy away from: homosexuality in the black community. Oh, and I'm always happy to see new faces on screen. Mo'Nique on what the film means to her: "After first reading the script, I knew this was a story that we had to tell. It’s a story that will resonate profoundly in the hearts of many, and a story that I knew, if told correctly would create a movement and bring about change to the lives of so many people, especially within the African-American and LGBT communities." 

I really, really hope this is good. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tina Fey's Untitled Dark Comedy, Co-Starring Martin Freeman and Margot Robbie, Has Begun Principal Photography

Don't throw rocks at me, but I really do not like Tina Fey movies. I LOVE Tina Fey on 30 Rock and all, but her movies (and I am thinking specifically of Baby Mama and Date Night) have been super disappointing. So to say that I am cautiously optimistic about her newest project is to it lightly.

Paramount Pictures announced in a press release on Tuesday that the actress's newest project, a big screen adaptation of Kim Barker's autobiography, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has begun principle photography in New Mexico.  The studio didn't reveal much about the film's synopsis in the release, but here's the Amazon description of the book to give you an idea of what to expect:

When Kim Barker first arrived in Kabul as a journalist in 2002, she barely owned a passport, spoke only English and had little idea how to do the “Taliban Shuffle” between Afghanistan and Pakistan. No matter—her stories about Islamic militants and shaky reconstruction were soon overshadowed by the bigger news in Iraq. But as she delved deeper into Pakistan and Afghanistan, her love for the hapless countries grew, along with her fear for their future stability. In this darkly comic and unsparing memoir, Barker uses her wry, incisive voice to expose the absurdities and tragedies of the “forgotten war,” finding humor and humanity amid the rubble and heartbreak.

Ummm...yeah, I don't know about this one. But apparently the New York Times raved about it. So there's that. Have any of you read it? If so, let me know what you think in the comments. Margot Robbie (Focus, The Wolf of Wall Street), Martin Freeman (Fargo, Sherlock), Alfred Molina (Love is Strange, Frida), Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo) and Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) also star in the film, which is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Focus, Crazy, Stupid, Love) from a screenplay by Robert Carlock (30 Rock). 

I'll keep you updated as I learn more. 

Liam Hemsworth, John Malkovich and Billy Bob Thornton Star in the Small Town Thriller CUT BANK

Goodness knows I love (and sincerely miss) FX's Sons of Anarchy, and I'd typically be interested in hearing about writer Roberto Patino's upcoming project, CUT BANK, if wasn't a small town thriller. Lately I've been watching too many so-called "all-American thrillers" like Little Accidents, Cold in July, All Them Bodies Saints and Out of the Furnace that have all ended up boring me to tears. Coen brothers films they are not (though they too have disappointed recently). Despite CUT BANK's starry cast, which includes Liam Hemsworth, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Dern, I'm still very meh about it. Read up on it:

Dwayne McLaren (Liam Hemsworth) dreams about escaping small town life in Cut Bank, Montana, “the coldest spot in the nation,” with his vivacious girlfriend Cassandra (Teresa Palmer). When Dwayne witnesses an awful crime, he tries to leverage a bad situation into a scheme to get rich quickly but he finds that fate and an unruly accomplice are working against him. Thrust into the middle of a police investigation spearheaded by the local sheriff (John Malkovich), everything goes from bad to worse in this all-American thriller.

Matt Shakman, who's exclusively known for his TV credits like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Revenge, directed the film. CUT BANK will debut on DIRECTV February 26th, and open in theaters April April 3rd. Watch the trailer:


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

CITIZENFOUR, the Oscar Nominated Documentary About Edward Snowden, Will Debut Exclusively on HBO This Month

I was kinda hoping to check out this Oscar-nominated documentary about Edward Snowden before the awards on February 22nd,  but I still have not gotten a chance to. And it looks like I won't, since the film will debut exclusively on HBO after the award ceremony on February 23rd at 9pm EST (which makes me wonder how well the ratings will do if it loses the Oscar...).

Truthfully, I wasn't very interested in the CITIZENFOUR at first because the premise didn't really interest me. But of course once folks started talking about it, it turned into one of those "must-see" films that have to see just to be a part of the conversation. I may not be able to catch it before the Oscars, but it looks like I'll have plenty of other times to watch it as the network has planned several other airings of the film:

HBO: Feb. 23 (5:00 a.m.) and 27 (6:00 p.m.), and March 1 (3:15 a.m., 4:10 p.m.), 3 (11:30 p.m.) and 12 (4:05 a.m., 7:00 p.m.)

HBO2: Feb. 25 (4:25 p.m.) and 28 (7:15 a.m., 10:15 p.m.), and March 6 (11:25 a.m., 8:00 p.m.), 9 (2:00 p.m., 12:45 a.m.), 18 (3:20 a.m.) and 28 (3:15 p.m.)

In case you're unfamiliar with CITIZENFOUR, here's more about it in the synopsis:

Directed by Oscar® nominee Laura Poitras ("My Country, My Country"), CITIZENFOUR is a real-life international thriller that unfolds by the minute. With unprecedented access, this gripping behind-the-scenes chronicle follows Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald's remarkable encounters with Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room as he hands over classified documents that provide evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Poitras had been working on a film about surveillance for two years when Snowden contacted her, using the name "Citizenfour," in Jan. 2013. He reached out to Poitras because he knew she was a longtime target of government surveillance who had refused to be intimidated. When Snowden told Poitras he would not conceal his identity as the source of information on the massive surveillance of Americans by the NSA, Poitras persuaded him to meet in person and let her film their encounter.

CITIZENFOUR places viewers in the hotel room with Poitras, Greenwald and Snowden as they attempt to manage the media storm raging outside, forced to make quick decisions that will affect their lives and all around them. The documentary not only shows the dangers of governmental surveillance, but makes audiences feel them. After seeing the film, viewers will never think the same way about their phone, e-mail, credit cards, web browser or digital footprint again.

If any of you have already seen the documentary, let me know what you think of it in the comments. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Do These New Images From FIFTY SHADES OF GREY Make You Want to See the Movie?

Try as I might, but I am still not interested in FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Like, at all. But I've gotta hand it to Universal Pictures for the excessive marketing that really only manages to do one good thing: inform us that Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" doesn't sound half bad in a slower tempo.

But anyway, I promised you new images from the film, so here you go:

*Wakes up from the best nap ever* Oh, Marcia Gay Harden, how did you get mixed up in this? 

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY opens in theaters February 13. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Color Me Intrigued: Brad Pitt To Star in a New Romantic Thriller Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Sign me up for whatever this is. In an intriguingly vague press release on Friday, Lionsgate announced that actor/producer/veteran hunk Brad Pitt is set to star in an original "romantic thriller" directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forest Gump, Flight). So immediately my mind goes to Gone Girl (a classic in the romantic thriller genre), and my mind starts concocting all kinds of amazing possibilities that all begin and end with I NEED TO WATCH THIS MOVIE THIS INSTANT.

The as yet untitled project will be written by Steve Knight (Peaky Blinders, Locke, Dirty Pretty Things).

Okay, Lionsgate, you have my full attention. Now tell me more.

HUNGER GAMES News: Katniss Will Take On President Snow in IMAX 3D

And my body is ready. Because there is no better way to watch torture, virtual warfare and the slaughter of human beings than in IMAX 3D. I'm kidding, obviously. I'm actually super psyched to see the next and final installment of The Hunger Games franchise, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 2. In a press release issued on Friday, Lionsgate announced that the film is being remastered for 3-D to give fans an even greater experience when it hits theaters November 20th (though I'm sure this is mostly an effort to make even more money than it already has--more than $2.2 billion globally).

As we impatiently wait to finally see the trailer, read this official synopsis of the film:

With the nation of Panem in a full scale war, Katniss confronts President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the final showdown. Teamed with a group of her closest friends – including Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) – Katniss goes off on a mission with the unit from District 13 as they risk their lives to stage an assassination attempt on President Snow who has become increasingly obsessed with destroying her. The mortal traps, enemies, and moral choices that await Katniss will challenge her more than any arena she faced in The Hunger Games.

Bring it. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Watch the Sleek Theatrical Trailer for Independent Spirit Award Nominee, MAN FROM RENO

It has been so long since I've seen a great mystery thriller, so I really hoping MAN FROM RENO, which is nominated this year for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award, delivers. If it's half as sleek as its new trailer, I'm not worried. Check out the synopsis:

In a small town south of San Francisco, Sheriff Paul Del Moral is driving home through the fog one night when he accidentally strikes a pedestrian, a lone Japanese man. However, before an investigation can take place the man disappears from the hospital without a trace.

At the same time, Japanese mystery author Aki Akahori takes a trip to San Francisco in order to escape the press tour for her latest book--a potboiler in her world-famous "Inspector Takabe" series. Feeling lonely and vulnerable, she begins a romantic affair with a mysterious Japanese traveller from Reno who is staying in the same hotel. Her new lover, Akira Suzuki, is charismatic and charming but abruptly disappears from the hotel, leaving behind his suitcase and a trail of questions...

MAN FROM RENO is directed by Dave Boyle (WHITE ON RICE & SURROGATE VALENTINE) and stars Ayako Fujitani (TOKYO!), Pepe Serna (SCARFACE), and Kazuki Kitamura (THE RAID 2 & KILL BILL). The film is produced by Ko Mori and written by Dave Boyle, Joel Clark, and Michael Lerman.

Can I just say how elated I am to see more diverse talent across the genres? American audiences may remember Kitamura best as one of the awesome Crazy 88s in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (though he has more than 100 credits listed on IMDB), but here he gets a chance to stand out in a role that may turn heads in mainstream Hollywood. I'm excited.

Watch the new theatrical thriller:

MAN FROM RENO will be out in New York and Los Angeles beginning March 27th, and will expand to additional markets on April 10th.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Literally Can't Even With This POLTERGEIST Trailer

First of all, why is this POLTERGEIST remake happening again? Because Hollywood has run out of other ways to crush my soul? I was really trying to hold out hope for this remake, only because Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are in it and I figured they would at least pick an interesting narrative to be involved with. But nope, this looks like the original 1982 film minus the intensity, maternal badassery and terror. So, what's the point?

Even the clown (which horrified me in the original film) looks like a benign puppet and not a maniacal villain who is fully capable of murdering you in your sleep. I mean, LOOK AT IT:

Is this real life? My God, it looks SO BASIC. Here's more about it:

Legendary filmmaker Sam Raimi (“Spiderman," "Evil Dead", "The Grudge") and director Gil Kenan ("Monster House") contemporize the classic tale about a family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces. When the terrifying apparitions escalate their attacks and hold the youngest daughter captive, the family must come together to rescue her before she disappears forever.


Watch it for yourself:

POLTERGEIST hits theaters July 24th.

Monday, February 2, 2015

That Remake of BEN-HUR is Coming, Whether We Want It To Or Not

I won't rehash my general disinterest in the Biblical remakes trend (you can find my thoughts about that here), but I can't help but question why on earth would Hollywood revisit BEN-HUR, for crying out loud. Now I have to force myself to watch the original in its entirety and pretend to somewhat like it.

But anyway, according to a press release issued by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures on Monday, principal photography has commenced in Italy for the remake, which stars Jack Huston (American Hustle) as Judah Ben-Hur, Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby) as Ilderim, Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as Messala, Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland) as Esther, and Rodrigo Santoro (300: Rise of an Empire) as Jesus Christ. Timur Bekmambetov is helming the feature, which gives me pause because he also directed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Wanted -- neither of which I can even get through. The script is co-written by John Ridley, whose career is on fire now after his Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave. He's also a producer on the film, along with Sean Daniel (The Mummy franchise), Mark Burnett (Son of God), and Roma Downey (The Bible).

For all of you who don't know, BEN-HUR is based Lew Wallace’s novel "Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ." More below:

The film returns to the heart of Lew Wallace’s epic novel focusing on the nature of faith. The story follows a falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his best friend who betrayed him. Both must come to choose between retribution or forgiveness.

BEN-HUR is slated for a February 26, 2016, release.

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