Friday, April 17, 2015
News surfaced last night that the highly anticipated Dawn of Justice trailer was leaked online. It appears that the trailer comes from another country, hence the subtitles, but the first look into Batman vs. Superman is pretty exciting. Very few plot details have been revealed, but you can get a first-look sneak peek at the leaked trailer below (until it gets removed). The official trailer for the 2016 release, Dawn of Justice, will be unveiled on Monday.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Film: True Story
Starring: Jonah Hill (The Wold of Wall Street), James Franco (127 Hours) and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Director: Rupert Goold
U.S. Release: April 17th, 2015 (Rated R)
Runtime: 100 minutes
Whenever you hear a cast headlined by Jonah Hill and James Franco your natural instinct is to expect a comedy, but nothing could be further from the truth in Rupert Goold's Sundance selected drama, True Story. Despite Hill's and Franco's reputations as comedic powerhouses, both have proven that their more than capable of handling dramatic work. The duo, along with last year's Best Actress nominee Felicity Jones, form a trio of performing talent that undoubtedly elevate True Story to respectable heights.
The film is based on the real life story of a former FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted, Christian Longo (played by Franco), who was apprehended in Mexico and found to be living under the name of Michael Finkel (Hill), a recently dismissed writer for the New York Times. Once Finkle discovers this bizarre reality, he meets with Longo and the two form an unusual relationship as the prisoner awaits trial for the murder of his wife and three children. Longo grants the writing pariah exclusive rights to his story as Finkle dives deeper and deeper to learn the truth of what happened that fateful night.
True Story is an immensely gripping crime drama comprised of worthwhile performances and a stellar screenplay. At its core is the cerebral chess match so perfectly executed by the onscreen duo of Jonah Hill and James Franco. Writer and director Rupert Goold's well-crafted story does a fantastic job of taking the audience on Finkel's blind journey into the mind of an accused killer. The story regularly shifts back and forth between believing in Longo's innocence one moment, and then doubting it the next. True Story has all the appeal of a CSI crime show with top-flight acting and an edge-of-your-seat script.
Despite the film's strong performances and captivating screenplay, True Story finds flaws in various other areas. While The Theory of Everything star, Felicity Jones, is a remarkable talent, her efforts become nearly wasted in a melodramatic role that never provides an appropriate platform to shine. In addition, the film's concluding scene is completely unnecessary and a hokey way to wrap up an otherwise solid feature. However, it wasn't the only poor decision by Rupert Goold. The filmmaker also uses some peculiar camera angles and shots sporadically throughout the film that were head-scratching to say the least.
True Story is loaded with both bright spot and shortcomings, confirming it's far-removed from an awards contending drama. Yet, fantastic performances are on display and a grisly story will keep you engrossed in the film. Before the summer blockbuster season kicks off on May 1st with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, True story is an early-year release worthy of viewing.
Stars: 3 stars out of 4
Monday, April 13, 2015
It sounds strange to say, but Jonah Hill has justifiably earned himself a pair of Oscar Nominations throughout his rather short acting career, a feat that many actors and actresses aspire to accomplish. Hill emerged as a chubby comedy persona in comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Grandma's Boy, only to prove that he's immensely capable of transitioning to a dramatic actor. Although he's never strayed too far away from his laugh-inducing roots, regularly tapping back into his comedy comfort zone, Hill has solidified himself as a rare youthful talent in Hollywood. And with his critically approved Sundance drama, True Story, finding a limited release this weekend, I've devoted April's Movie List of the Month to the best films starring Jonah Hill (click here for March's list).
Honorable Mention: 22 Jump Street, Accepted and Knocked Up
As a huge outspoken fan of America's favorite pastime, I found plenty of home runs as well as swings and misses with Bennett Miller's Best Picture contender, Moneyball. One of its "home runs" came in the form of a fantastic and career defining performance from Hill. The role landed him his first Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Acting category and opened the world's eyes to his dramatic capabilities. As a sabermetrics stat-geek who helps modernize the sport of baseball under Billy Beane's determined guidance, Jonah Hill indisputably helped elevate Moneyball to an Oscar powerhouse.
21 Jump Street
Unavoidably so, when we think of Jonah Hill, we think comedy. And right near the top of that list comes Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's 80s television series-turned-big-screen-revival, 21 Jump Street. Alongside his meat-headed sidekick Jenko (Channing Tatum), Hill stars as the cerebral half of the duo whose antics prove immeasurably comical as they attempt to bring down a high school drug dealer selling a deadly synthetic drug. While I admittedly had my reservations as the first trailers for 21 Jump Street premiered, a strong and hysterical script helped the film gross north of $125 million dollars domestically and spawned an entire franchise with no ending in sight.
This Is the End
Jonah Hill's career goes hand in hand with other familiar faces such as Michael Cera, Seth Rogen and James Franco. Therefore, the hysterical 2013 comedy, This Is the End, is a no-brainer for this list. As these Hollywood party animals take center stage in mocking roles of their real identities, we watch as these softies try to survive the apocalypse at James Franco's house. The hilarity is off the charts and Jonah Hill definitely gets the raw end of the deal after a (SPOILER ALERT) big black evil entity penetrates his body and leads to a possession that ultimately requires a sad attempt at an exorcism from his fearful companions. This Is the End is spectacular comedic effort from Hill's close-knit group of friends.
The Wolf of Wall Street
A Martin Scorsese and Leo collaboration is never anything new, but the addition of Jonah Hill not too far removed from his first Oscar nomination definitely caught moviegoers' attention. And not only did Jonah Hill shine in his drug-addled and over-the-top role, he was recognized by the Academy Awards a second time as Leo's money-printing sidekick in The Wolf of Wall Street. As an over-extended and polarizing feature that divided audiences, Hill's irrefutably dynamic work was both hysterical and convincing in every way imaginable. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Scorsese's lavish satirical work and believe that the success surrounding The Wolf of Wall Street partially hinged on the work of Jonah Hill.
After a stint as a B-list comedy actor, Jonah Hill's career was propelled by the outrageous 2007 instant classic, Superbad. Alongside his onscreen best bud, Michael Cera, and their annoying third wheel McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), this trio of high school losers do whatever it takes to cap off their senior year by supplying alcohol for a popular girl's party. At this point we weren't even aware of Hill's capabilities as a dramatic actor, but Superbad confirmed his dominating presence as a comedic force. This iconic feature will always stand as the catalyst for Johan Hill's already impressive career. And at such a young age, we can expect many more years of greatness for an extremely talented individual.
Friday, April 10, 2015
In the mid-80s the rap and hip hop group N.W.A. emerged from the streets of Compton, California completely transforming pop culture in the United States. In 2015 Friday director, F. Gary Gray, reintroduces audiences nationwide to Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC-Ren and DJ Yella with the biopic Straight Outta Compton. Paul Giamatti stars as the group's musical businessman, Jerry Heller, and Short Term 12's Keith Stanfield plays rap sidekick Snoop Dog. Check out the first trailer for the summer release, Straight Outta Compton.
Arriving to theatres this June is the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Critics and audiences alike have raved about the story of a high school senior and his best friend Earl who take their ideas of making terrible movies to a whole different level when they befriend a fellow classmate with cancer. Infused with a perfect blend of drama and comedy, perhaps Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will be this year's Oscar-caliber entry from the 2015 Sundance class. Check out its debut trailer below.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
We were spoiled in both February and March with a massive selection of top flight Oscar films. Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to sift through the lowly month of April's DVD and Blu-Ray offerings to find movies worth suggesting. While I'm hesitant to say that I recommend the following because they all come with their flaws, they are of the best options available this month.
The Babadook - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my rapid view here)
All throughout its festival circuit run last year, rumblings ran wild about Jennifer Kent's horror film, The Babadook. Lavish praises were constantly doled out from nearly every critic and outlet. Despite feeling that such fawning was a little overblown, The Babadook truly is a solid spectacle. Aussie actress Essie Davis stars as a single mother who can't control her son's fear after they discover a demonic book about a monster living in their new house. While the scares are minimal, Jennifer Kent delivers a remarkable psychological thriller that crawls under your skin. It's impossible to refute that the film's young boy is overly annoying and that the finale is extremely anti-climactic. Yet, The Babadook's clever writing and deeply emotional story hurdle these shortcoming with ease. (April 14th)
A Most Violent Year - 2 and a half stars out of 4 - (Read my full review here)
As one of my final viewing pleasures of 2014, J.C. Chandor's late-year release, A Most Violent Year, actually fell well short of its lofty Oscar-filled expectations. This slow-burning psuedo-gangster flick follows Oscar Issac as an ambitious oil man during New York City's most violent year on record. This honest man avoids using his wife's mob connections to combat a string of brutal attacks on his company's delivery drivers by the competition, all while trying to fend off a police investigation into his finances. Playing more like a drawn-out character study than an up-tempo mob movie, A Most Violent Year never really amounts to much during its long-winded running time which is north of 2 hours. But if you enjoy diving deep into a character and you're willing to take the journey, it's a somewhat rewarding watch. (April 7th)
The Wedding Ringer - 2 stars out of 4 - (Read my rapid review here)
It was difficult finding a third movie to suggest for the month, so I went to with the default comedy choice. Released early in 2015 was the hilarious buddy comedy, The Wedding Ringer. Josh Gad stars as Doug, an in over his head groom who's promised his fiance a best man and seven groomsmen for their upcoming wedding. Luckily for Doug, Jimmy (Kevin Hart) provides such a service and the duo embark on a fake wedding for the ages. There are plenty of funny moments all throughout The Wedding Ringer. However, a cliched script and a heavy reliance on shock-value humor that's overplayed these days prevent the film from reaching its pinnacle. Yet, if you're looking for some mindless laughs this month, you could do much worse than The Wedding Ringer. (April 28th)
Honorable Mention: A trio of Golden Globe Nominated films arrive to DVD this month. There's Tim Burton's Big Eyes (4/14) featuring fine performances from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, an Oscar-snubbed Jennifer Aniston role for the melodrama Cake (4/21), and Oscar winner Julianne Moore's other recognized film from 2014, Map to the Stars (4/14). A few other big-named titles released this month include the latest from Liam Neeson's money-printing franchise, Taken 3 (4/21), a remake of The Gambler (4/28) starring Mark Wahlberg, Paul Thomas Anderson's punishingly long detective comedy, Inherent Vice (4/28), and the unbearable Jennifer Lopez thriller, The Boy Next Door (4/28). Finally, the documentary surrounding the aftermath of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Happy Valley (4/7), is available in April, as well as the wildly adored foreign film, Mommy (4/28).
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
I had the distinct pleasure of catching David Robert Mitchell's new lavishly praised horror film, It Follows, at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October. But for anyone who knows what the daily film festival grind is like, It Follows was my third film that day and it played around 10pm which can feel late for an aging man like myself. Therefore, I wanted to shake off my initial gut reaction from the viewing and give Mitchell's clever suspense film a clean slate, so I ventured to my local theatre for a second go-around.
Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a young woman who meets a boy she really likes and, after a few dates together, decides she wants to sleep with him. After an intimate evening together, he breaks some terrifying news to Jay. He tells her that by having sex together he's passed on a curse to her that appears in the form of an apparition that constantly heads straight for her in a slow creepy walk. But if the entity, which is invisible to anyone who hasn't been cursed, actually reaches her, she's dead.
David Robert Mitchell's brand new horror entry deserves to be lauded for its originality and uniqueness. However, It Follows suffers from a typical fate of never truly developing into much. The film's 100 minute running time plays more like a marathon as the scares are too infrequently scattered and the plot hits a wall. It Follows boasts an indeniably brilliant premise that fails to take the next step. Genre fans will find a few shining aspects surrounding this STD thriller, but the fact remains that there's very little substance here.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Acclaimed U.S. filmmaker Noah Baumbach and I have never really seen eye-to-eye. Over the course of his two decade-long career, I've never encountered a film of his that I truly enjoyed. However, the first-look trailer for his latest comedy, While We're Young, really caught my attention. With Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts at the center of this intriguing cross-generational tale, I was more than convinced to give Baumbach another shot.
When a 40-something couple (Stiller and Watts) finds themselves lost in an evolving world of friends having children and embarking on the next journey in life, they meet a hip young couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) that re-energizes their relationship. It doesn't sound like much, but Baumbach's story actually evolves quite nicely and takes a few unsuspected turns in this charming and enjoyable comedy.
With the polarizing Ben Stiller at the film's center, While We're Young rests almost entirely on his shoulders. Yet, the veteran actor welcomes the challenge and gives a praiseworthy performance. Co-stars Adam Driver (HBO's Girls) and Namoi Watts are quite impressive in their roles as well, but it's the unexpected musician, the Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz (Ad Rock), who will have you asking, "who was that guy". While We're Young gives and earnest examination of life and relationships all while keeping you laughing with a finely executed screenplay which was also carefully handled by the director.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4