Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sony working on '21 Jump Street' cinematic universe with planned sequels and crossovers

Cinematic universe is the favorite phrase of every studio executive right now. I'm not even kidding. Ever since Marvel kicked off the new age of Hollywood blockbusters back in 2008 with Iron Man, studios have scrambled to find a new way to bring together different franchises and series while making absurd profits. Since that point, Marvel has expanded to become a massive juggernaut for Disney, DC is working on a series of cross-overs and solo pics, Universal is intent on creating a Classic Monsters Cinematic Universe, Sony is making multiple Ghostbusters films and the list goes on and on. Sony, now in deep trouble after last year's leaks and the loss of Spider-Man, is also working to find a way to continue to expand their hit franchises in addition to Ghostbusters. Instead of original blockbusters, Sony is ready to find a way to make 21 Jump Street the latest film franchise with a cinematic universe.

21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street both defied expectations at the box office and saw surprising critical success. However, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller seemed to end the franchise with the credits sequence for 22 Jump Street, which featured a parody of Hollywood's franchise culture and the desire to market everything for a wide audience. But when a movie makes as much as 22 Jump made, there's little question that a sequel will be heading down the pipeline. Many originally supposed that there would simply be a 23 Jump Street with Lord and Miller not in the director's chair. And that film is in the works, but the franchise doesn't end there. 

The Wrap is now reporting that Sony is planning to expand their Jump Street franchise in a very similar way to what they're doing with Ghostbusters- with a female-led spin-off and a big cross-over flick. The female Jump Street film will be written by Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs, but there's no other word on the film. The other planned film is a crossover movie with the Men in Black franchise, which was hinted at in the leaked Sony emails. Once again, nothing planned officially on that one but Sony is actively developing both of these films. 

As a big fan of the Jump Street franchise, I'm excited to see how this new universe pans out. I'm especially pumped for the Men in Black crossover, which seems like an absolutely perfect idea. However, if the franchise doesn't at least acknowledge the fact that they seemingly promised not to do a bunch of sequels, I'll be very disappointed. That being said, I'm interested to get more information on these massive plans for the Jump Street franchise.

Image Credits: Screen Crush, N/A

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Asa Butterfield rumored to be front-runner for Marvel's 'Spider-Man'

Avengers: Age of Ultron debuts in American theaters this Friday and anticipation is through the roof. Although the reviews suggest that Age of Ultron doesn't quite live up to the hype (72% on Rotten Tomatoes and 69 on Metacritic at the time of this post), fans don't care either way. According to Box, 95% of Fandango's weekend pre-sales have been for Age of Ultron and it's likely that this film will skyrocket past $200 million and come closer to $250 million. I don't know a single person who doesn't want to see this film and people are making group plans to check out this flick. Marvel has truly taken over the world and I'm guessing that Captain America: Civil War will be just as massive of a juggernaut. The highly anticipated showdown between Captain America and Iron Man with Spider-Man and Black Panther caught in the middle will attract a giant audience when it comes out next year and the final piece of the casting puzzle could be coming into place.

Earlier last week, it was reported that Marvel and Sony had a shortlist of five young actors who they were looking to cast as Spider-Man. According to Latino Review, Asa Butterfield is now the front-runner for the role. The star of Hugo and Ender's Game hasn't officially won the role yet, but according to Kellin Chavez at LR, Marvel really likes him and many executives think it's a done deal. And although I don't think Butterfield is a great fit for the role, he is a good actor and I trust Marvel here. I will say this though- no matter who they cast, I'm all in for Civil War. This looks and sounds like a great film and a return to the grittiness of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I'm very, very excited. Civil War will hit theaters on May 6, 2016, is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo and Don Cheadle.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

'The Guest' and 'It Follows' star Maika Monroe joins 'Independence Day 2'

It Follows has been one of the most successful films at the box office this year, grossing $14 million off of a very small budget. Maika Monroe is unquestionably the star of the film, and gives an impressively strong performance. With her success from that horror smash and The Guest, it's likely that Monroe will snag some very big roles in the near future. Yesterday, Monroe got off to a good start by landing a role in Roland Emmerich's highly anticipated Independence Day 2. Emmerich announced the casting on his Twitter last night by saying "I have another addition to announce. The beautiful and talented Maika Monroe is officially signed on 2 the Independence Day Sequel!" There's no word on who Monroe will be playing, but I'm just going to guess that it's going to be a pretty major role.

Emmerich's Independence Day 2 (the film is currently untitled but I'm assuming that this will be the title of the film) is currently set for release on June 24, 2016, with a cast that includes Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox, Bill Pullman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joey King, Judd Hirsch and Brent Sniper. Many fans are excited to see how Emmerich handles the sequel but I'll be the first to admit skepticism. Independence Day is one of the most overrated movies ever and I'm not even sure what there is to do with the sequel. In all likelihood, this is a movie that is simply going to play off of 90's nostalgia. However, the special effects in Emmerich's movies are always great and with the updated technology, Independence Day 2 could be a true visual masterpiece. We'll all find out in about a year when the film hits theaters in June 2016.

Image Credits: Wordpress 

'Furious 7' tops $1.3 billion worldwide, as America prepares for 'Age of Ultron'

Furious 7's box office reign was extended to four weekends over the course of the last three days, as the film pulled in a solid $18.2 million. The seventh installment in the blockbuster series has now made $320.5 million in the US, but its worldwide total is even more staggering. Thanks to spectacular grosses in China and other foreign nations, Furious 7's total box office gross now stands at $1.321 billion. The film has snagged just over $1 billion in international markets alone, and is now the fifth highest grossing film of all time behind Avatar, Titanic, The Avengers and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Both of the latter two are still in reach for Furious 7, but Avengers: Age of Ultron is coming just around the corner and there's a strong possibility that that film will completely cut off Furious 7's gross. Still, an incredible total for this film and the franchise as a whole.

Beyond that, the domestic box office was dead. The only new release was Lionsgate's The Age of Adaline, which grossed $13.3 million. Not a bad total for the decent flick, but definitely not a blockbuster number. Ex Machina also had a spectacular expansion, snagging $5.4 million in just over 1,000 theaters. Little Boy and The Water Diviner both fell short of expectations, and overall, this weekend was the second lowest of the year behind only Super Bowl weekend. However, that will all change next week with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron and the arrival of the summer movie season.

Foreign audiences got to experience the Age of Ultron a little early, as the film debuted in 44 markets. The second installment in the superhero team-up franchise grossed $200.2 million, which is a solid uptick over both The Avengers and Iron Man 3. There's little doubt in my mind that this film will explode in China when it opens there, as well as have solid performances in Spain and Mexico. Age of Ultron could end up topping Furious 7's international number, which would be quite impressive. But the next question is: how will the film perform in America?

There's one thing to get out of the way first- there's no way that Age of Ultron matches The Avengers' domestic total. Reviews aren't as stellar and the legs won't be as good. However, there's a very good chance that the film's opening weekend is even more massive than the $207 million that Joss Whedon's superhero opus pulled in back in 2012. Most estimates are around $215-$220 million, but could the film go even higher?

Since The Avengers debuted in 2012, Marvel has released four new movies. Each of them debuted to stellar numbers. Let's check those out:

                          -Iron Man 3- $174.1 million
                          -Thor: The Dark World- $85.7 million
                          -Captain America: The Winter Soldier- $95 million
                          -Guardians of the Galaxy- $94.3 million

Each of those films opened nearly $30-$40 above its predecessor. Iron Man 3's total was absurd even when it was first released. Marvel continued to surprise and stun and they created a true box office empire. Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the most highly anticipated films in recent memory and there's a good chance that it could push $230 million if it holds up like The Avengers did. If audiences fall for it, and word of mouth carries it through Sunday, it'll do just fine. My final prediction is that the film will hit $225 million. We'll see next weekend for sure, but it is sure to be an exciting ride.

Image Credits: Comic, Apple Trailers, Slash Film

Sunday, April 26, 2015

'They Look Like People' review (2015 River Run Film Festival)

Horror films with a heart and soul have taken a resurgence lately, with major critical appraise for movies like It Follows. These flicks have been lauded by film fans everywhere as smart and scary alternatives to the jump-scare and found footage obsessed Hollywood executives who pump the horror dreck into cinemas each year. They Look Like People, a microbudget horror film that has toured the festival circuit for the last few months, stands head and shoulders above most of the chillers that I've seen in my lifetime. A complex, dark and disturbing drama with a terrifying dash of sci-fi horror thrown in, They Look Like People masterfully deals with tough subjects in an extremely compelling way. This is a true independent film in the spirit of the word, but it once again proves that a great film can come from anywhere.

Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews) is going through a lot of trouble in his life. He doesn't have a job, his longtime girlfriend broke up with him, and oh, not to mention that he's convinced that the people around him aren't actually human. When he shacks up with his successful friend Christian (Evan Dumouchel), Wyatt begins to hear voices, see things and begins to prepare to fight these creatures using a variety of dangerous weapons like a nail gun and sulfuric acid. Wyatt's insanity begins to become a problem for Christian and his girlfriend Mara (Margaret Ying Drake), who experience his craziness first hand. Christian and Mara must decide whether to help Wyatt get psychiatric treatment or fight through his end of days scenario. 

When I saw It Follows last month, I thought that it failed to be anything more than a repetitive series of creepy scenes that never really amounted to a successful whole. I still enjoyed the movie, but it's a thematic mess (an STD monster is creative, but what's the point you're trying to make). They Look Like People is the polar opposite. This is a film that is biting, exact and terrifying in its portrayal of schizophrenia and mental illness. While there are certainly several scenes that will get your heart pounding, what lingers after the movie is over is the film's seemingly honest and straight-up scary look at what goes on inside the head of those who suffer from this terrible illness.

In a Q&A after the film, director Perry Blackshear discussed how he watched a simulation where it showed what it was like to have schizophrenia. He said that it absolutely terrified him, and it's clear that that experience had a profound effect on the film. Blackshear's treatment of mental illness is profound, it's scary, it's moving, and most of all, it feels realistic. Wyatt hears voices, sees things, and it all works to create an atmosphere of dread that makes They Look Like People one of the most intense film experiences I've had recently. 

It helps that Blackshear has three talented actors in his corner. MacLeod Andrews is brilliant as the psychotic Wyatt, but he walks the line finely between creepy and unlikable. No matter what Wyatt is doing, we always feel for him as audience members. We understand his pain and want to help but nobody is really sure how to do it. Evan Dumouchel plays Christian well, and he's the audience's link to Wyatt's crazy world. Christian makes some odd choices especially towards the end of the film, but it's clear that he wants to be a good friend and cares about Wyatt. 

Another fundamental joy of They Look Like People is that Blackshear understands that you need to care about the characters in a horror film. This film isn't constantly scary. It's sweet and funny and has some really energetic and enjoyable moments. The relationships between Wyatt, Christian and Mara are fully developed and during the final minutes of the film, it truly pays off. The finale is cathartic and relieving for the audience, leaving us on a high note rather than going for a cheap cliff hanger (looking at you, It Follows). 

Blackshear is also an immensely talented director and a guy who could truly break out. This film was his first full directorial debut and with a festival response as strong as this, I really hope that this film breaks out into theaters and Blackshear gets to tackle some bigger projects. He has a knack for both creating dread and writing interesting characters, which is critical for a horror film director. It was very enlightening and enjoyable to listen to him speak at the Q&A session after the film, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to talk with him further. 

They Look Like People is currently only playing on festival circuits, but I think that it will find a way into theaters eventually. This film is too good to be stuck in limbo, and I believe that we'll be seeing more of Blackshear, Dumouchel and especially MacLeod Andrews in the near future. They Look Like People is the perfect independent film, a terrifying and smart horror film that feels like a warm-up act for three very talented performers. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                                 (9/10)

Image Credits: River Run Film

Friday, April 24, 2015

Release dates announced for 'Furious 8', 'Fifty Shades Darker' and 'Pacific Rim 2' among others

Universal has had a massive, massive year at the box office so far. They started the year with the breakout success of Fifty Shades of Grey, before breaking all sorts of box office records with Furious 7, which is now one of the highest grossing films of all time with over $1.1 billion worldwide. And Universal is set up for even more major success in the near future- Jurassic World and Minions could both do absurd business in the thick of the summer season. If Disney didn't have the one-two punch of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Universal would undoubtedly be the big hero of 2015. With all of that success, Universal will surely feel pressure to keep it up in the near future. They have a fantastic slate for the rest of 2015 that includes sequels like Pitch Perfect 2 and Ted 2, sleeper hits like Straight Outta Compton and Trainwreck and Oscar players like Steve Jobs. But what's in store for the studio once we close the books on 2015? Their upcoming release schedule was made more clear at Cinema Con on Thursday, where many sure-to-be blockbusters were announced.

The biggest news at the convention was the official announcement of Furious 8, which is now set for release on April 14, 2017. An emotional Vin Diesel revealed the release date of the film to the theater owners, but there's still a lot of work to be done for the film. With Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson seemingly removed from the franchise, Diesel and company will have a lot of work to do if they want to match the success of one of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history.

Universal also confirmed that Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed are in production, with the two films set for release on February 10, 2018 and February 9, 2018, respectively. Both of those films will be major hits, I guess. I don't really know the longevity of this franchise, and I think that there's a chance for these sequels to disappoint like Insurgent did. Maybe the audience is still there and I'm completely wrong, but if Fifty Shades of Grey left a bad taste, people might not show up for the sequel.

Tom Cruise's follow-up to Edge of Tomorrow with director Doug Liman was also announced at Cinema Con yesterday. The film, titled Mena, follows a pilot who becomes the leader of a powerful drug cartel. The film is now set for a January 6, 2017 release date, which doesn't necessarily inspire a lot of confidence. Hopefully this gets an Oscar qualifying run because this sounds like a very good film and the talent involved is enormous.

Universal also shifted the dates for a few of their upcoming tentpoles. Warcraft, Duncan Jones fantasy video game adaptation, was originally set to hit theaters in March 2016, but will now debut on June 10, 2016. Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim 2 was previously set to hit theaters in April 2017, but will now smash into cinemas on August 4, 2017. And finally, The Mummy will premiere on March 24, 2017, moving from its previous summer 2016 date. So to wrap things up, Cinema Con brought lots of changes for the major films that Universal will be hoping to make a buck off in the near future. I'm looking forward to their upcoming films and I'm hoping that these highly anticipated flicks are able to deliver.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

'Black Mass' trailer highlights Johnny Depp's chilling performance in Whitey Bulger biopic

Something about gangster movies has always been magical to me. I remember sitting in a hotel lobby watching the TV version of Scarface and being completely engrossed by the story. I was thirteen at the time and probably too young to be watching even the sanitized version of that film, but I didn't care. I later caught bits and pieces of Goodfellas and The Departed on network television, and I recall being in a total state of shock and awe over those films. When I turned fourteen, my parents finally let me watch The Godfather and I viewed the film three times over the course of a week. Gangster films are long, epic masterpieces that weave compelling tales out of despicable people and allow us to really be engaged by the story. That's why I get very excited whenever a new gangster film is set to hit theaters. Black Mass, the true story of Whitey Bulger, is debuting later this year and today, we finally got a trailer for the new film. Check it out below:

Black Mass could be a masterpiece. I'm calling that right now. I've watched the trailer a few times now, and once I got past the creepy blue contacts for Johnny Depp and the weird prosthetic makeup, I was able to get really pumped for this film. Now, the worst case scenario here is American Gangster (a film that I enjoy, but that I'm not overly fond of). This could be a bloated, slow gangster picture with a couple of good performances and a nice sense of atmosphere. It might not be able to carry the energy of a Scorsese pic or the intricate plot weave of The Godfather. However, this trailer did nothing but entice me. The performances look stunning (Depp looks appropriately terrifying), the cast is stacked and the intensity is off the charts. Black Mass could be the sleeper hit of the fall season and a major Oscar player next year. With a cast that includes Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard and Julianne Nicholson, Black Mass is directed by Scott Cooper and will hit theaters on September 18, 2015. I'm all in for this one.

'Nightcrawler' star Riz Ahmed and Sam Clafin in talks for 'Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One'

The Star Wars universe was rejuvenated back in 2011 with Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, and since then, a surplus of talented individuals have joined this new franchise. Directors like J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Josh Trank and Gareth Edwards are all on board, while stars like Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domnhall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Felicity Jones and Ben Mendelsohn have also joined the universe. Disney has been snagging young, fresh and talented people for these movies and I'm simply ecstatic that Star Wars is headed into great shape. And today, Disney may have just added two more fantastic actors to their lineup for Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One.

Earlier today at Badass Digest, Devin Faraci reported that Riz Ahmed, the star of Dan Gilroy's masterful thriller Nightcrawler, is currently in talks with Disney to join Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One in an unspecified role. Faraci asserts that Rogue One has a "big main cast" with comparisons being drawn to "Dirty Dozen and Magnificent Seven" in Hollywood circles. Therefore, Disney will need to fill many roles before Rogue One begins shooting very soon. Later in the day, The Wrap's Jeff Sneider added to the Ahmed report by saying that Hunger Games star Sam Clafin is in talks to join the film as well. According to the Hollywood trade site, Clafin "does not have the role yet" but is the heavy favorite. The report also includes that his role is a very central one to the film.

I've always enjoyed Clafin's presence and I'm sure that he'll do a solid job in the leading role if he's cast by Disney. He has a likable persona and this will be a big bump for his career. However, I'm definitely more excited about Ahmed joining the cast. He gave a dynamic performance in Nightcrawler, and was successful in creating a sort of lovable loser, but with many layers to the character. Ahmed is very talented, which makes me glad that he's joining this universe. Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One will be directed by Gareth Edwards and currently stars Felicity Jones and Ben Mendelsohn. It will be in theaters on December 16, 2016.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Final trailer for 'Tomorrowland' is absolutely perfect

Tomorrowland is one of my most anticipated movies of the summer, but recently, I've been looking at it with more skepticism. The trailers have been disappointing thus far and I haven't been dazzled by any of them. Yesterday, the final trailer for Tomorrowland debuted, giving the film one last chance to impress me before it hits theaters on May 22. Tomorrowland is hitting theaters during a tough and critical time at the box office, premiering three weeks after Avengers and one week after Mad Max. Tomorrowland is going to have give audiences something truly special to get them into theaters, and judging by the looks of this new trailer, I think that the potential is insanely high for this film to be one of the summer's best thrill rides.

This is what I've been waiting to see since I first heard about Tomorrowland. They've given us a look at the high concept visual effects and the style of the universe, now, let's get to the action and excitement. The major action setpiece in this trailer is brilliantly filmed and edited, giving me great hope that Disney has left their hands off of this film and let Brad Bird do everything that he needs to. The action seems intense, the stakes high and the scale enormous. Despite some initial concerns, this could be the original blockbuster that we've been waiting for and I trust Bird. The PG rating is giving many fans some trepidation, but if the movie is even remotely as good as this trailer, I'm very excited. Tomorrowland stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie and will hit theaters on May 22, 2015. Thanks to this trailer, this has jumped up to the top of my most anticipated list.

My experience at the 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' IMAX fan event

Fan events are all the rage in Hollywood right now, and Warner Bros. thought that it would be a great idea to have one for the new trailer reveal of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Unfortunately, an online leak provided some unforeseen circumstances and resulted in the early release of the trailer. But that didn't stop thousands of DC fans from flocking to theaters to check out what Zack Snyder had to show us. And much to my disappointment, the footage was not all that extraordinary. However, this was a fun experience and I really enjoyed the special things that Warner Bros. put together, confirming that they do care about the fans and want them to support this new series.

The IMAX fan event was announced last Wednesday, and I snagged tickets for me and three other friends right away. All of us were quite excited to see the footage. Before the event, we snagged some dinner and ended up in the theater around 6:30 PM. In other locations, fans had been lining up for hours but at my theater in Charlotte, NC, the auditorium was mostly empty. We got decent enough seats, took some pictures and were ready for the footage to begin. Before the trailer started, DC gave us each one free ticket to come back and see the advanced screening next year, which definitely pleased all of the fans (including me).

Around 7 PM, a studio rep came out and informed us that we could not film any of the footage tonight and that this special screening was meant to be only for the fans in theaters. After that, Zack Snyder popped up on screen and told us that he was going to show us the world premiere of the Batman v Superman trailer. The fan energy was palpable and the trailer that was previously released online played on the giant IMAX screen. Only a few things were noticeable about the trailer shown in theaters- there was a little bit of special IMAX footage, and a brief theatrical exclusive of Batman and Superman running at each other.

The fans were definitely pleased after the trailer initially played and Snyder came up on the screen again. He told us that they were going to play the trailer again and that we should watch out for a few things, confirming that the shot of Batman and Superman was an IMAX fan event exclusive. After the trailer played for the second time, the #BatmanVSuperman came up on screen and the room was silent. Wasn't there something more for them to show us? One guy got up and said "Well, I'm gonna go get my poster!" which caused widespread laughter. I audibly said "Is that it?" but continued to sit there until the same studio rep came in and confirmed that the event was finished.

After we left the theater, we received two posters. They were the two teaser posters officially revealed on Zack Snyder's Twitter and they were both very impressive. We all ended up snagging a few extras and I've already hanged both of them in my room. The fan event footage may have been disappointing, but free posters and free tickets were fine by me. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stars Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Jason Momoa, Jesse Eisenberg, Ray Fisher and Holly Hunter, and will hit theaters on March 25, 2016.

Image Credits: Screen Rant

Monday, April 20, 2015

New trailers for 'Jurassic World' and 'Fantastic Four' give a better look at two of the summer's biggest films

Early last week, the new trailers for Ant-Man and Terminator: Genisys dropped, giving us a fresh new look at two major summer movie question marks. I wasn't overly impressed by the trailer for Ant-Man, but the Genisys spot piqued my interest and it generated a lot of conversation in the fanboy universe. Later in the week, we received teaser trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, both of which became almost national news stories. And now, with new trailers for Fantastic Four and Jurassic World, it's clear that April is the new month for studios to preview all of their upcoming blockbusters. First up is Fantastic Four, the superhero reboot that has been regarded with much skepticism in recent years. Fans were excited by the talent involved, but nervous about certain elements that had been revealed in plot details. The first full trailer debuted yesterday and you can check it out below:

I'm still not sold. That was my immediate reaction to this trailer, which does a good job of giving us an idea of the film's stakes, but is less successful in making the film look like a must-see. The chemistry between the four likable leads (Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell) seems to be very good and I like the idea of re-shaping the origin story around a bunch of young whiz kids. But overall, this trailer just left a very "Meh" taste in my mouth. None of the visual effects seemed astonishing, and many have compared the look and feel to The Amazing Spider-Man, which feels like an apt comparison. Fantastic Four has a lot of potential, but I will certainly be going in with a lot of doubts. The film hits theaters on August 7, 2015. Next up is the second trailer for the highly anticipated Jurassic World. Check it out below:

This isn't a perfect trailer and I would arguably say that it isn't as good as the teaser trailer, but after the clip fiasco last week, this was just what I needed to get me excited for Jurassic World. Chris Pratt and Vincent D'Onofrio seem to fit their roles perfectly and I like where the plot is going. A manhunt for one giant dinosaur set in a major theme park? Count me in. This movie looks like one heck of a ride and I'm really hoping that Colin Trevorrow has delivered something special here. I'm very excited for June 12, which is the day that Jurassic World is set to premiere.

Image Credits: Screen Rant

'The Look of Silence' review (2015 River Run Film Festival)

Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. This idea is at the center of Joshua Oppenheimer's harrowing and intense documentary The Look of Silence, his second look at the 1965 genocide in Indonesia and the way that it has shaped and impacted the country in the decades since. In 2012's The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer examined the way that the men who participated in the genocide viewed their crimes by having them reenact them with a cinematic flair. The results were impressive and Oppenheimer picked up an Oscar nomination for the film. The Look of Silence focuses more on the pain of the family and how an entire country has attempted to repress this critical moment in their history. While Oppenheimer risks repetition at times, The Look of Silence emerges as a powerful documentary and an essential film.

In 1965, a mass Indonesian genocide occurred that took the lives of one million people. The violence happened to purge communists from the country, and while many maintain that the murders were the acts of the people, in reality, the army had a large hand in the action. Many of these men still hold positions of power in Indonesia today, and people who had family members killed in the genocide are living next to the murderers. In The Look of Silence, Oppenheimer and an Indonesian man who's brother was killed conduct a series of interviews with both the killers and the families to conduct a comprehensive and intricate look at the way that this genocide has affected the nation.

The most fascinating thing about this whole situation is the way that the killers glorify their murders. They discuss graphic details and then laugh afterwards. In one horrific scene from an old interview that Oppenheimer filmed, two killers discuss the way that they would sever the penis of their victims before dumping them into a river. They then proceed to act it out and have a good laugh afterwards. Is it a form of repressive psychology that causes them to treat such viciously disgusting acts with humor or are these just some really sick individuals? Oppenheimer's film seems to lean towards the former, but I don't know. Some of these guys seem truly messed up in the head and not from doing what they did.

And the funny thing is, it isn't just one or two of the murderers who openly discuss gruesome details of their murders. Every one of them does. One guy talks about how he would sever the breasts of women and he graphically describes their insides. Others mention drinking blood from the sliced necks of their victims to avoid going insane. And each one seems open to reenacting their crimes completely and accurately, bringing knives to interviews to show precisely how they severed heads with machetes.

But when Adi, the man who interviews all of the murderers, really presses these guys, there starts to be a large emotional reaction. The killers are defensive, and they deflect guilt onto other individuals. They act all big and tough, but when Oppenheimer and Adi get under their skin, there starts to be a profound response and I think that the regret did start to come out in some of these guys. They deflect Adi's questions as politics or a blatant attempt to stir things up, but you see something in their eyes and in the stunned silence during their conversations.

The other reaction that pervades throughout the film is one from individuals who don't want this story to resurface again. In their mind, the genocide is over and the truth never needs to come out. For all they care, living next to the killers is okay and nobody should really care about what happened in the past. As one person says (and I'm paraphrasing here) "If you keep digging up history, the past is bound to repeat itself." Another man says "the wound has healed," and Adi only looks along in disgust.

The Look of Silence alternates between three different styles: Adi's interviews, footage of Adi watching the killers on tape, and scenes of Adi with his family. The common thread through all of that is Adi- his pain, his happiness, his dumbfounded sadness. It unites this film and it brings an emotional bond for the audience. When the credits roll, you see that many of the people who helped to make this film are credited as anonymous, which highlights the insane bravery of Adi and everyone involved.

For most of The Look of Silence, Oppenheimer crafts a beautiful and stunning documentary that features some truly extraordinary interviews. This film stirs up a reaction in you and I can't see anyone walking away unaffected. It might not move you to impact the situation in Indonesia, but it raises awareness and that is just as important. That being said, Oppenheimer's film gets a little repetitive towards the end and it runs out of steam.

Ultimately, Oppenheimer's documentary is a powerful film and one that I think will be around for a long time. It doesn't show you the atrocities, but it discusses them and it proves that words can be just as disturbing as images. Adi and Oppenheimer are brave men and hopefully they can continue their work in the country. Even if nothing changes in Indonesia, the awareness level is now much higher than before and that's what matters to me.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                             (8.4/10)

Friday, April 17, 2015

'The Age of Adaline' review

Blake Lively has enjoyed an incredibly successful career in the world of television, starring in the hit TV show Gossip Girl and becoming a teen idol thanks to that show's widespread influence. Unfortunately, she's had less influence in the world of movies, struggling to break through and become a movie superstar. She had a small part in the critically acclaimed film The Town, but she also happened to star in Green Lantern and Savages, two big misfires. While The Age of Adaline might not be a big hit for her career, it might gain a little bit approval for her as a real actress. Preposterous and predictable in every way possible, The Age of Adaline is a goofy film that just can't help but be fun and smartly charming. It makes several missteps along the way, but it never lost my attention and in the end, I really liked this unique tale.

Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) lived a normal life with her husband and daughter until she crashed her car into river during a freak California snow storm. However, an amazing feat of science brought Adaline back to life and she became immortal. For the next eighty years, Adaline remained on the run from the government and other shady figures who want to exploit her new power. The story picks up in the modern day, with Adaline preparing to make another new identity and move to Oregon to be with her aging daughter (Ellen Burstyn). But fate intervenes when Adaline meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), a wealthy philanthropist who she meets at a party.

The two get together and Adaline reluctantly falls in love with Ellis. They start to spend a lot of time together and make a weekend trip to his family's house for the weekend. However, Adaline's life might change for good when she reunites with Ellis's father William (Harrison Ford), a man who she had an affair with back in the 1960s. Through a series of miraculous events, Adaline learns to let go and find a way to accept her new way of life.

Age of Adaline gets off to a really shaky start, with some incredibly forced and straight up ridiculous voiceover narration that almost threatens the audience's intellect at times. For some reason, the filmmakers figured that we couldn't understand any of the first thirty minutes of this film and decided to include an absurd amount of voiceover to compensate for that. The narration disappears for a while, but it comes back in the end when the film travels to space (no, I'm not kidding), bringing a It's a Wonderful Life-esque quality to the movie. It's a minor element of the film, yet it's incredibly noticeable.

There's also a weird scientific element to this film that becomes quite bizarre at times. Adaline has some pretty weird and unexplainable stuff happen to her in this film and the film attempts to explain it all by saying that it was influenced by tides, the moon and some sort of ionization. Even though I very much enjoyed the film, I couldn't help but laugh at the inclusion of many of these story elements.

But besides those crazy additions to the film, The Age of Adaline is a pretty fun and sweet romantic drama. Sure, it's insanely predictable and absurd. You can see the ending of the film coming from a mile away. Yet I couldn't help but be engaged by the story on the screen and the way that it was told by director Lee Toland Kreiger. Lively, Huisman and Ford are effective actors and each bring something special to the film. Huisman is an incredibly charismatic leading man and I can see him having a future in Hollywood. Lively brings a bittersweet sadness to the role that also really works well. And Ford is efficient- he's not spectacular, but at least he picked a nice script this time around.

The film is predictable at every turn and schmaltzy as can be, but it still kept me hooked throughout the entire runtime. Why? Partially, the film operates as a guilty pleasure because it operates with an uncynical sweetness that is hard to find in modern films. The ridiculousness is part of the appeal, and the chemistry between Lively and Huisman helps the film reach new heights of success. Nobody is saying that Age of Adaline has a great story or stunning dialogue. But the characters are likable and you care about them at every turn.

Chalk that up to a successful screenplay from J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz. As previously noted, the cliches and predictability run rampant in this film, but that doesn't stop these guys from making an appealing and intricately woven tale. Adaline, Ellis and William are all good, optimistic people who believe in something. It's that warmth and the effortlessly smooth nature of the film that keeps it going. While the high concept sci-fi stuff intrudes at times, The Age of Adaline is 100% a romance story and the fact that I cared about the romance says a lot about the effectiveness of Goodloe and Paskowitz's script.

The Age of Adaline is no masterpiece, but it's a deliciously well made and consistently effective romance drama that manages to compel you for nearly two hours. Even when it goes off the deep end in the crazy department, this film manages to keep its charm thanks to strong lead performances, effortless pacing and a script that is based off of fundamentally nice characters. Thanks to the charisma of the stars, Age of Adaline is a resounding and romantic success.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.2/10)

Image Credits: US Magazine, Live for Films, Variety, YouTube, Screen Rant

'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' trailer promises brooding, dark superhero flick

The internet exploded yesterday with the debut of the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but there was a brief leak last night that incited a fresh firestorm. Warner Bros. was originally supposed to reveal the first trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice at a special IMAX fan event on Monday at select theaters across the country, but plans changed when a pirated bootleg version of the trailer hit the web. Most of the major trades published the leaked trailer and the cat was out of the bag. Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder pretty much had no other choice: they had to release the trailer. So earlier today, Snyder posted the first trailer for the film on Twitter, with the caption "#BatmanvSuperman #NotBlurry #Not Pirated." He followed that tweet up with another post that revealed that the fan event on Monday will still move forward. "Cell Phone v IMAX. IMAX Event BvS fans will still be first and only to see special IMAX BvS teaser. #AFewExtraShotsPlusALittleSwag #NotPirated" tweeted Snyder, seeming to indicate that IMAX audiences will get a cool poster and see a bit more from the highly anticipated film. But for those not lucky enough to be heading to an IMAX theater on Monday, whet your appetite for the first step towards Justice League with the teaser for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Maybe I was still just riding high off of the awesome Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer yesterday. But let's be honest- there isn't much in this Batman v Superman tease. The movie is still nearly a year away and there's plenty of time for Warner Bros. to show us more, but as a teaser, this was merely good. It didn't dim my excitement for the film (in fact, I might be a bit more excited after listening more carefully to the voiceover), but it certainly didn't give me the sort of fanboy buzz that Star Wars did.

However, there's certainly a lot to unpack from this trailer in terms of implications. Footage wise, we see a few freaky shots of people glorifying Superman, climaxing with the shot of the statue defaced with "False God" written across the "S" in Superman. We also get our first look at Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and see the new Batwing, Batmobile and costume. And finally, we see a high-def version of the footage that debuted at Comic-Con last year, hinting at the massive face-off between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel.

On the audio side of things, there's definitely more to examine closely. From what I could tell/what I read in reports, in this trailer, the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons are heard. I don't know the others, but that's what I got from the trailer. All of this evidence seems to hint that the main focus of the film will be Superman as a God and villain and that is interesting. As long as the film isn't as dull as the first half of Man of Steel or as preposterous as the second half, I'm okay with any story they go with.

There are things that I didn't like in this trailer and things that I'm now worried about. Ben Affleck's Batman voice seems really weird and I'm not digging it so far. The weird shot of Superman lifting the rocket should have been held off for a later trailer because the visuals didn't look finished. And finally, the trailer just gives off a very dark vibe. We'll see if it works, but if it doesn't, this could be a miserable ride. However, there was quite a bit of exciting stuff in this trailer and I'm very interested in Batman v Superman. I'm not sold yet, but the visuals look great and I'm more intrigued by the film now. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will hit theaters on March 25, 2016.

Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter

'Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles' review (2015 River Run Film Festival)

I've been "working" in the movie blogging business for nearly four full years now, and this year, I'm finally getting the chance to attend my first film festival. The River Run International Film Festival takes place every year in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in April, and with it being in close proximity to my home in Charlotte, NC, I'll be able to attend six films at the festival over the course of two days. I arrived at the festival today, and the first film I saw was Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, a new documentary from director Chuck Workman. Chronicling the life of the acclaiming director from his childhood to his death in 1985, Magician is able to entertain and engage for 94 minutes, despite its length and somewhat disheartening lack of insight into why certain things happened in Welles's career.

Magician takes a look at the entire life of Welles, starting with his status as a childhood prodigy and his prickliness that put some people off. He was a theatre, musical, poetic and directorial genius and that began very early in his life. After years of working with The Mercury Theatre and on the radio with broadcasts like War of the Worlds, Welles transitioned to Hollywood, making his debut with the masterful Citizen Kane which was undoubtedly the highlight of his career. Magician focuses mostly on Welles's life after Kane and his odd charms as a director and performer. What never changes is Welles's immense genius and his passion for the art forms that defined his life.

In all honesty, unless you make the most dry and flat documentary possible, it's kinda hard to mess up a film about such a larger-than-life figure. Orson Welles was an inconsistent and maddening artist, but he was undeniably a creative mind. He had a passion for everything that he did and gave fresh life to a movie industry that thrived off of formula and consistency. It's just too bad that he was never able to finish half of the projects that he started. As acclaimed director Richard Linklater notes in the film, Welles was a true independent filmmaker and by operating out of the studio system completely, he was able to pick and choose projects, using mostly personal funds to finance his movies. And when he did work with studios, his movies were shredded, their artistry discredited in favor of marketability and profits.

Magician does take a chunk of time to take a look at some of Welles's biggest successes- Citizen Kane, The Third Man, and Touch of Evil. When I first saw Kane a few years ago, I remember reading Roger Ebert's essay after, which noted that modern audiences could never understand how revolutionary the film was when it was initially made. Every single technical revolution changed cinema forever and Welles may have not even known it (in the doc, he seems to be modest about all of the different things that he did, but in reality, I think that he knew what he was really doing).

His other two greatest achievements, The Third Man and Touch of Evil were both done when Welles was severely in need of money. He took a straight payment for The Third Man, when in reality, he could have made an absurd amount of cash off of the film's profits. In Touch of Evil, Welles was originally only supposed to play the villain, but when Charlton Heston suggested that he direct as well, Welles took of the project. Of course, Universal butchered the film and didn't include half of what Welles wanted, but that seems to be the common theme of his entire career.

Director Chuck Workman does a great job of compiling a ridiculous amount of footage with major Hollywood filmmakers and even some old interviews with Welles himself. His film is well-researched and constantly entertaining, but it starts to run out of steam in the late goings. The film comes in at a meager 94 minutes, yet somehow, it still manages to be too long. Late in Welles's life, he didn't really do much and that makes for a soft ending to the film.

What Workman seems to getting the most heat for is a lack of insight into Welles's mind. Why did he clash with the studio so often? How come he almost never finished his films? Did his childhood have a long-lasting impact on his life? These are questions that Workman might not know the answer to, but I have to agree with the criticisms- he doesn't really seem to make an attempt to uncover those answers.

There are flashes of intrigue, like when a woman who was with Welles later in his life recalls a time when he was alone in a room watching The Magnificent Ambersons and just crying. That's interesting and insightful, which was something I wanted more of. In the end, Magician plays out like a much better and well researched version of the film history projects I would do during middle school: it runs through Welles's life but not much else. That has been the main criticism for this film all along and it's a valid one.

Despite its shortcomings, Magician is a well-edited look at Welles and the profound effect he had on Hollywood. I was always entertained during the film and Welles is such a bizarre figure that there's no way this film can't intrigue you just a little bit. Through an effective mix of clips from movies where Welles was a main character, interviews, historical footage and film clips, Workman is able to construct a comprehensive look at Welles and his life. Just don't expect to understand why it all happened.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                              (6.9/10)

Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, YouTube, Indiewire, NY Post

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Summer 2015 Indie Movie Preview

Summer is going to feature the debut of some truly exciting titles like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation. I previewed those titles in my Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of Summer 2015 list, but in a season dominated by superheroes and action stars, it can all get a little overwhelming after a while. That's why the independent film market exists and there are some potentially awesome independent films that will be hitting theaters over the summer frame. These movies won't gain as much momentum as the big blockbusters, but there is still an immense amount of excitement over many of these titles. Here is the list of indies that I'm looking forward to seeing and some smaller studio films that will also be hitting theaters over the summer:

MAGGIE- I know that a lot of people are excited for this one, but I'm still wary. Arnold Schwarzanegger in a zombie movie is a stroke of genius, but there's no action in this movie. It's a father-daughter drama with Abigail Breslin and it's going to give Schwarzaneggger his biggest test yet. It was initially supposed to play at TIFF last year, but was moved to the Tribeca Film Festival. We'll see if this has a chance to break out during the early summer months. MAY 8

I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS- A buzzy Sundance title starring Blythe Danner, I'll See You In My Dreams is a title that I'm very excited to see at the River Run Film Festival in a week. The reaction has been great so far and with the success of Danny Collins, the box office potential for this one is pretty big. It may only connect with the older set, but that's the same audience that drove The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to be a big hit. So you never know. MAY 15

ALOHA- Aloha had the disadvantage of starting out of the gate with some really atrocious buzz. The film was impacted by the leaked Sony emails between Amy Pascal and other executives, with Pascal deeming Aloha a mess that couldn't be saved. Then the first trailer debuted and the movie looked.......good. This is a film with a stunning cast and it appears to be a sweet, fun time at the movies. Plus, it's directed by Cameron Crowe who brought us modern classics like Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. The early buzz might be bad, but don't write this one off yet. MAY 29

LOVE AND MERCY- Love and Mercy has received stellar reviews at all of the festivals and it's the story of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. It doesn't seem like a typical musical biopic too and that seems like a very refreshing idea. Should be a very interesting and engaging film. JUNE 5

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL- Sundance always brings out one major hit each year, and in 2015, it was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The teen cancer dramedy had a good trailer and I'm very much looking forward to seeing the completed project. Although it does appear to be a lot like The Fault in Our Stars, it's already an early Oscar favorite and the buzz has been deafening. JUNE 12

DOPE- The marketing campaign for this one has focused on style and tone over plot and that has worked out well so far. While I'm definitely interested in seeing more from the film, the ads have gotten people talking and that's exactly what Open Road Films wants. Dope looks funny and fresh and I can't wait to see if it lives up to the hype. Another Sundance smash that appears to be a fun, energetic ride, Dope could be this year's Chef- a true summer treat. JUNE 19

BIG GAME- This TIFF title received an interestingly mixed reaction, but with Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States, I don't see how this one can't be entertaining. Nobody who has seen it says that it's a great film, but most seem to certify that it is a fun action film that everyone can enjoy. With strong early buzz and a cool premise, Big Game is one indie action flick that I can't wait to see this summer. JUNE 26

THE GALLOWS- Just like with Aloha, I'm cheating a bit on this one. The Gallows is being distributed by New Line and Warner Bros., but it was independently made and financed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. The story follows a group of teens who attempt to put on a revival of a school play after a tragic incident 20 years prior. That seems like a great idea for a horror film and I'm excited to see how this one came together. It has the potential to be the big horror hit of the late summer. JULY 10

SELF/LESS- Self/Less features an absurdly good cast, with Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley and Matthew Goode starring in the film. But in the end, the concept is what's exciting about this film. I won't say too much for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but this truly looks like a fascinating movie. Tarsem Singh is a visionary director and I can see him making a truly mind boggling cult classic with this flick. JULY 10

MR. HOLMES- This was one of the most buzzed about films at Sundance and it admittedly feels out of place in the summer season. With Ian McKellen in the lead role, this British period piece follows a 93-year old Sherlock Holmes as he grapples with his life and unsolved cases. And with great early reviews, this is looking like a career rebound for Bill Condon and a potential sleeper hit. JULY 17

THE LOOK OF SILENCE- The companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of KillingThe Look of Silence continues his investigation into genocide and the long-lasting impacts on society. I'll be seeing this one at the River Run Film Festival in a week and I'm very interested to see how it turns out. Early word is that it's spectacular. JULY 17

IRRATIONAL MAN- We've only seen one picture from this film, but it automatically shoots to the top of any list because of the director: Woody Allen. It's about an existential crisis that befalls a philosophy teacher (Joaquin Phoenix) and the relationship that he enters with his student (Emma Stone). It could be a milquetoast misfire like Magic in the Moonlight, but never count Allen out. He always has the ability to surprise us. JULY 24

SOUTHPAW- This Jake Gyllenhaal boxing drama had a so-so first trailer, but never count Gyllenhaal out. He appears to bring another virtuoso performance to the table in a gritty, intense flick. After the success of Nightcrawler, everybody has to be excited to see what Gyllenhaal is going to tackle next. JULY 24

Those are the indie flicks that I'm looking forward to over the summer. I'm sure a few more will come out of nowhere (like It Follows), but for now, these are the major titles. Come back later in the month for Part 2 of my Summer Box Office Predictions, which will close out my Summer Movie Preview.

Ryan Gosling in talks to star with Harrison Ford in new 'Blade Runner' film

Harrison Ford is one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood history, and if you don't include Star Wars and Indiana Jones, his most famous role is probably Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner. While the film has been released in multiple versions over the years, there was never any talk of sequels or spin-offs until recently when Scott announced that he would be tackling the project. Unfortunately, Scott is nearing 80 years old and he already had a multitude of projects lined up when the new Blade Runner flick was beginning pre-production. Therefore, he handed over the reigns on the project to talented director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) and now the production is moving forward at Warner Bros. Villeneuve has Sicario out later this year, but afterwards, he should be able to start production on the film. And with all of that set, the first casting piece is falling into place for the film.

According to Variety and a press release from Alcon Entertainment, Ryan Gosling is in talks to star in the upcoming Blade Runner project with Harrison Ford. There is no word on who Gosling will be playing or how close he is to closing a deal, but I think that this is very exciting news. Say what you will about Gosling as an actor, but he's truly perfect for Blade Runner. He has the steely cool confidence and calm demeanor needed and his 2011 crime drama Drive had a lot in common with the original Blade Runner. If this comes to fruition, I'll be very happy. After taking a look at Gosling and Villeneuve's upcoming schedules, I would estimate that this film will hit theaters in 2017 or 2018. While I'm not sure where they'll be able to go with another Blade Runner film, I'm intrigued by what they've put together so far.

Amazing second trailer debuts for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

When the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted in late November, it featured maybe 30-45 seconds of real footage and only a few brief clips. Ever since, fans have been clamoring for a new trailer and more information about what has to be one of the most highly anticipated films of all time. Disney promised us that we would be seeing a new trailer for The Force Awakens with Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it just so happens that we received the trailer just a little bit earlier. At Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and an assortment of other individuals took the stage for an hour-long presentation that saw the debut of a new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The event was live streamed online and then the trailer hit the web shortly after, inciting one of the most massive fan uproars I've ever seen from the geek community. Star Wars fans, movie fans and just human beings in general are totally digging this trailer and I'm so very, very excited. Here is the second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I don't think I've ever had this kind of reaction to a trailer before. Not even the first teaser for The Force Awakens. While the initial teaser did a great job of giving us a brief glimpse of all the characters and a great shot of the Millenium Falcon, this trailer takes it above and beyond without giving a single lick of plot information away (looking at you, Terminator: Genisys). I want to do a shot-by-shot breakdown of the trailer so badly, but there's almost too much to unpack, so I'll just do a breakdown of why I felt like this trailer was special.

The marketing for The Force Awakens has succeeded in convincing me and almost every other Star Wars supernerd that this is a Star Wars film through and through. This has the look, the sound and the feel of the original trilogy only with a modern shine that makes it glossier and bigger. The Force Awakens will be more similar to the original trilogy than the prequels and I am so incredibly happy about that.

In this trailer, we hear Luke Skywalker and catch a fleeting look at the hand of Leia, but we don't actually see either of their faces. However, that doesn't mean that we didn't receive a huge nostalgia factor. This trailer plays heavy into the nostalgia of seeing the return of our favorite characters from the original Star Wars. We see R2D2. The crushed helmet of Darth Vader. The Millenium Falcon swoops through the air in a stunning action scene. The stormtroopers battle TIE fighters and X-Wings. And finally, we get a shot of Han and Chewbacca that almost brought a tear to my eye. Almost.

What's refreshing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that it seems to be attempting to capture the spirit of the original trilogy and usher in a new one that will be legendary for generations to come. In addition to some new character designs, we receive fresh looks at Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), all of whom will be participating in some seemingly stunning action scenes. There's also a better look at Kylo Ren (possibly Adam Driver or Domnhall Gleeson) in action, and he definitely looks like a stellar villain.

Let's talk about one other interesting thing: the voiceover. It wasn't obvious to me at first, but that's clearly Mark Hamill. The voicover goes: "The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too." This narration implies a lot and I think that there's a lot of questions that it raises. Is Luke's son in the film? Who has the power now? The questions could go on and on but I'll end it there.

Much of the new cast is yet to revealed, but there were brief looks at other new characters. We see a Chrome Stormtrooper which could be quite interesting. There are teases of several different planets including a snow planet (Hoth), a water planet, and a desert planet. All of them seem beautifully designed and I can't wait to explore each of them. It's also clear to me from this trailer that John Boyega is a good guy, even though he's playing a Stormtrooper.

This trailer totally wrecked me and sent my excitement soaring through the roof. There's really nothing left to say. J.J. Abrams, take my money now. The world will finally see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18.

When do we start lining up?

'Wonder Woman' finds new director in Patty Jenkins

While all of the focus in the DC Universe right now is squarely set on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, fans are starting to look ahead to films like Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Last week, it was reported that James Wan is in contention to direct Aquaman, which was met with a solid response from fans. However, fans expressed extreme disappointment when Michelle MacLaren, the prolific TV director responsible for episodes of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, dropped out of Wonder Woman over "creative differences" with Warner Bros. It wasn't necessarily surprising, but it was profoundly disappointing for fans who wanted to see a female director take on Wonder Woman. Well, have no fear, because Warner Bros. has found another director to take on one of their most famous superheroes.

Patty Jenkins, who at one point was set to direct Thor: The Dark World, is now set to direct Wonder Woman for the studio, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Not much more is known about the project, but Warner Bros. found a director very quickly for this project after MacLaren left, and there's no doubt in my mind that Wonder Woman will still be in theaters on June 23, 2017 with Gal Gadot and Scott Eastwood starring. I'm excited for the film and I'm glad that Jenkins is getting the chance to direct Wonder Woman after her creative differences with Marvel on Thor 2. Hopefully everything goes much better this time around for Jenkins, and that all of these "creative differences" between the studio and directors can be solved.

First trailer for 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' set to premiere in select IMAX theaters on April 20

Warner Bros. has been teasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice since Comic-Con in 2013 and fans are ready for their first look at the film. Production on the film wrapped in December and post-production will be pushing through until the film is released on March 25, 2016. The studio has released a first look at each of the principal characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Lex Luthor), with a brief trailer at Comic-Con 2014 also inciting a fan explosion. Even though the film isn't set to be released for another year, DC needs to start inspiring some confidence in this film, especially after the split opinion over Man of Steel. Well, the time is now, and on Monday, DC and Warner Bros. will be revealing their first look at one of the most anticipated films in history.

After a report from Latino-Review's El Mayimbe rumored that we could be seeing five seconds of the Batman v Superman trailer today, with the full premiere on Monday, it was confirmed by Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. that a major fan event will be occurring in IMAX theaters on Monday, April 20th. A select number of lucky fans will get to see the trailer, as well as some additional footage (the event is rumored to be 15 minutes total). I snagged my tickets for the event last night, and while I am still very skeptical about the film's potential, I'm incredibly psyched to get a look at this film. With a cast that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Jason Momoa, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, Ray Fisher, Laurence Fishburne, Scoot McNairy, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane and Ezra Miller, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zack Snyder and will hit theaters on March 25, 2016.

Image Credits: Variety, Hollywood Reporter

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Movie Guru's Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of Summer 2015

Okay, I know what you're going to say. Summer has kind of already started. Furious 7 debuted last weekend and completely wrecked the box office, grabbing $147.1 million in its debut frame and its total will be past $250 million by the end of this weekend. Summer box office season has arrived, but for the rest of the month, I wouldn't be surprised to Furious 7 win every weekend. There's nothing to really get excited about for the rest of April, so that's why I held off on making this list. May, June, July and August will see the release of some pretty sweet titles and there's a lot to be excited about. Here are the ten movies that I'm looking forward to the most in the summer months along with some honorable mentions:

Honorable Mentions

SPY- The early word on the latest from Melissa McCarthy is strong, but I'm still a bit skeptical. The trailers haven't been great and with two other spy movies this year, how will McCarthy and director Paul Feig's take compete? JUNE 5

ENTOURAGE- Although it appears that every single person in Hollywood is in this movie, I'm still hoping that there can be a fun story with Entourage. Plus, I love movies about Hollywood and this is going to be another fun adventure into the studio system. JUNE 5

FANTASTIC FOUR- It looks like a decent origin story, but the production has been plagued with rumors of erratic behavior and crazy add-ons to the script. This could be good, but Josh Trank and his team have a lot to overcome. AUGUST 7

TRAINWRECK- Another very funny looking comedy that received great reviews out of SXSW. Trainwreck looks to be a return to form for Judd Apatow and the debuts of Amy Schumer and Bill Hader as major, major stars. JULY 17

MINIONS- The trailers have been hysterical, but can the Minions carry their own film? That question has yet to be answered. JULY 10

10. PAN- July 24

This one has potential. It looks visually stunning and I like the cast. Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard is a stroke of genius and Garrett Hedlund appears to be having a lot of fun as Hook. The action looks great and I'm really excited that an auteur director like Joe Wright is handling this material. I'm just waiting for one final trailer to fully hook me for good.


The latest film from Brad Bird has been looked at with a lot of intrigue from the start, thanks to a mysterious marketing campaign and some truly vague teaser trailers. And while I'm definitely looking forward to the film, there's something about it that just seems off. Whether it's Hugh Laurie as the villain or the kids movie feel, Tomorrowland just doesn't seem like what I'd hoped for it to be. It could still surprise me, but my anticipation has been deflated in recent months.

8. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.- August 14

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is 2015's third spy flick and it comes from Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie. The first trailer for this film premiered with Kingsman and I immediately thought that it looked like a blast. Henry Cavill seems to be hamming it up and Armie Hammer gets to do a Russian accent. This just looks like a truly fun ride and I can't wait to see how it turns out. The August date would have been concerning a few years ago, but now, I don't believe that really matters at all.


Terminator: Genisys is another film that has suffered from a lot of negative attention, with Paramount seemingly choosing all of the worst marketing materials to release. And the plot does certainly appear to be a bizarre deep dive into the Terminator universe. Yet there's something that just seems really inventive about Genisys. The look is very slick and the actors involved range from bad (Jai Courtney) to Oscar-winners (J.K. Simmons). However, the action looks astonishing and I'm just intrigued by the whole premise of the film. Genisys might end up being the trainwreck that everyone is predicting, but I'm holding out hope.

6. INSIDE OUT- June 19

Inside Out is going to be Pixar's return to form. I just know it. This movie is going to save Pixar from mediocrity. It has so much going. It features an original concept. Pete Docter is directing. The voice cast is great. And early word is that the first two acts are as good as anything that Pixar has done in the past. This is the animated movie to watch out for this summer and I'm really excited to see what Pixar will bring to the table.


You're probably wondering why I'm so high on this film. #5? Really? When there are so many other blockbusters out there? I know it seems like a weird choice, but the trailers for Straight Outta Compton have been astounding. The N.W.A. biopic looks to standout in a sea of music flicks and the trailers have featured a completely fresh and interesting vibe. This is going to be a violent, sexual and profane (I wouldn't be surprised to see it break the F-bomb record- "**** tha Police" has 66 f-bombs alone) film and a very unique ride that I'm incredibly pumped to see.


For the first time in a very long time, Jurassic World is running into a roadblock on its way to theaters. The film debuted its first clip last week and it was thrashed by critics for being both boring and sexist. However, that isn't going to dim my excitement for what looks like one of the most promising movies of the summer, a big, scary and bold action horror flick. The new trailer is set to debut this week and at that point, I'm hoping to be 100% sold on Colin Trevorrow's first big blockbuster.


Mad Max: Fury Road has benefited from one of the best marketing campaigns in the history of modern blockbusters. Seriously, this movie had nothing going for it until Comic-Con last year, and now, it's on everybody's most anticipated list. My only worry now is that the trailers have been so good that the movie won't have anything left to offer. That's a small concern but it still is keeping Mad Max from being higher on my list. But with George Miller, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, I seriously believe that this has the potential to be a fantastic movie.


Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation feels like a gift. It wasn't supposed to hit theaters until late December, but it smartly moved away from the Star Wars juggernaut and has the July market cornered. The first trailer debuted some spectacular stunts and this franchise is running off the buzz of Ghost Protocol, the amazing fourth installment that reinvigorated the series. Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg are back in what I hope will be one of the summer's most exhilarating rides.


I'm actually kind of disappointed that my most anticipated movie of the summer is the first movie of the summer. But nonetheless, Avengers: Age of Ultron is my most anticipated movie, simply because it looks like the perfect mix of The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Plus, The Avengers is my favorite Marvel movie and there's no reason why I wouldn't be pumped for the sequel. Even if the story is less cohesive, Marvel always delivers the spectacle and Age of Ultron will likely be one of the biggest films that the studio has made.

Early buzz has been universally good, but across the board in terms of how good. I was truly sold last night when the film debuted a spectacular new clip at the MTV Movie Awards. Age of Ultron should be able to deliver the action, humor and drama in equal measure and I can't wait to see how it all works out.

Those are the ten movies that I'm looking forward to the most this summer. Come back later this week for a full preview of the independent and smaller films that will be debuting over the summer frame.

Image Credits: YouTube, Huffington Post, YouTube, YouTube, Movie Fone, Rolling Stone, Screen Rant, Screen Rant, LA Times, YouTube

Monday, April 13, 2015

Director Michelle MacLaren departs Warner Bros.' 'Wonder Woman'

DC is behind Marvel in almost every single race, but they're going to win the distinct title of being the first studio to release a solo film with a female superhero in the lead. Wonder Woman, which is set to hit theaters on June 23, 2017, will likely still hit theaters before any of Marvel's solo female superhero films, but they did just run into a pretty major setback. Because of the fact that this was the first superhero flick to star a female, Warner Bros. initially wanted a woman to direct the film. The studio hired Michelle MacLaren, the veteran TV director responsible for many episodes of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Game of Thrones. Hollywood applauded Warner's decision and opinion was almost universally positive. Today, the game has changed for Wonder Woman and it will be interesting to see where the project goes from here.

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to break the news that MacLaren will no longer direct Wonder Woman, which was later confirmed in a statement from the studio. "Given creative differences, Warner Bros. and Michelle MacLaren have decided not to move forward with plans to develop and director Wonder Woman together," said the studio (via THR). This is rather shocking news, but in all honesty, completely unsurprising. These superhero films can't take risks anymore and they must squarely fit within the studio's mindset. If Warner Bros. wanted MacLaren to include certain elements that she wasn't a fan of, this split isn't shocking. Marvel is notoriously difficult for some directors, with Patty Jenkins and Edgar Wright both departing projects in the past due to creative differences. Warner Bros. will find a new director in no time, but with only two years before the film's set release date, they'll need to get moving fast. Wonder Woman is set to star Gal Gadot and Scott Eastwood and will hit theaters on June 23, 2017.

Image Credits: Flickering Myth

New trailers debut for 'Ant-Man' and 'Terminator: Genisys'

There are three summer blockbusters that I'm still not completely on board with: Fantastic Four, Ant-Man and Terminator: Genisys. The former revealed an unconvincing teaser trailer a few weeks back and I'm still waiting to see more from the film. I like the cast, but I'm just not positive that it's going to be a must-see. Ant-Man and Terminator: Genisys have both been victims of terrible buzz, and although Genisys' first trailer was solid, I still remained skeptical (I also thought that the first trailer for Ant-Man was awful, even though many probably feel otherwise). The time is now for both of those films to change my mindset, as both Ant-Man and Genisys revealed brand new trailers today. First up, check out the trailer for Paramount's latest Terminator flick. Can this trailer turn the fan opinion on its side? Find out what I thought after the jump:

I've been a fan of the Terminator: Genisys marketing all along, but I've had many problems with what the film has shown us. And even though the film reveals some big secrets and plot devices in this trailer, I still think that there might just be too much going on in this film. The plot seems very scattered and the film's approach to the Terminator timeline might be way too confusing. I'm excited for this film, but I still have a few doubts. It'll be fun to see how Terminator: Genisys ends up turning out on July 1, 2015. Now, check out the second trailer for Ant-Man, which is set to debut on July 17.

Sadly, I gotta say, I'm still not feeling this one. There are a few things in this trailer that I really did like. I'm intrigued by the way that they're filming the action, and I believe that it could make for an interesting ride. Paul Rudd is very obviously channeling a Chris Pratt style for Scott Lang, which could end up working to his benefit. Corey Stoll could also make for a great villain and one of the more memorable baddies in the MCU. However, the film's tone seems to be all over the board and I don't really think Marvel knows what they want this film to be. I could be wrong, but for now, this was still not enough to get me excited. Ant-Man is directed by Peyton Reed with a cast that includes Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena and Corey Stoll. The film debuts in theaters on July 17.

Image Credits: Screen Rant