Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jurassic World and The Interview (NEW) Trailers

The wait is finally over! After releasing a teaser advertising the first theatrical trailer, we've been given a full length preview into the new 2015 action blockbuster, Jurassic World. Safety Not Guaranteed director, Colin Trevorrow, appears to have jump-started the rebirth of this beloved franchise with a visually magnificent journey into a fully functioning dinosaur theme park that was originally intended 22 years earlier. Starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, check out the first-look into Jurassic World below.

If you're like me and you can't get enough sneak peeks into the upcoming Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy, The Interview, then you will definitely want to check out the film's latest and supposedly "final" trailer. Franco stars as Dave Skylark, the host of a popular celebrity tabloid show who is granted an exclusive interview with one of his biggest fans, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. As Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) prepare for the interview of a lifetime, the CIA recruits them to assassinate the dictator. This final trailer gives a more in-depth look into the Kim Jong-Un character, and it's pretty priceless. Check it out yourself.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Work of David Fincher

*** Guest write-up by Reel True's Greg Rouleau

Moviegoers have flocked to the theaters over the past month and a half to revel in the thrill of the newly released feature from director David Fincher - Gone Girl.   The Gillian Flynn novel adaptation marks the 10th major feature-length film for the auteur and his highest grossing one yet.  With that, it seemed appropriate to look back and examine his impressive résumé.  Getting a disclaimer out of the way: I have yet to see Alien 3, but all indications point to it being the consensus #10 on his list.  Succumbing to studio demands as a rookie film director on the 3rd installment of the Alien franchise, it appears the experience was influential in creating the director we know today, who began to take major ownership of his work and has a reputation of being a major control freak.

Fincher may have been new to feature films at the time, but he had already begun to make a name for himself in the commercial and music video world. Partnering frequently with director of photography, Jeff Cronenweth, the pair has delivered some of the very best work on digital that’s ever been put to screen.  Gone Girl also marks the third straight collaboration with musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  The duo’s morbid and ambient sounds have been the perfect complement for the tone of Fincher’s work.  Even today he continues to branch out with a short return to the music video world and directing two episodes of the series, House of Cards, for which he won an Emmy.  Fincher is also a two-time Oscar nominee for Best Director. Here’s an ordered look at director David Fincher’s other nine films:

#9. Fight Club

Grade: C+

The 1999 cult-classic starring Edward Norton, in an incredible leading performance, has been dissected to death in the 15 years since its release.  With a disappointing theater run, it found new life on home video and gained a reputation of being the “cool” movie that young film buffs proudly boast about.  It’s a satire with biting commentary on consumerism, self-destruction, and violence, with a wicked twist that’s actually insanely easy to spot when you think about it.  What puts Fight Club at the bottom of the rankings for me is its inability to entertain.  I appreciate, as always, the dark and moody tone that is prevalent throughout much of Fincher’s filmography, but ultimately it’s an overhyped, disappointing example of style over substance.

#8. The Game

Grade: B

The Game is once again an exercise in style over substance, but a large portion of the film is undeniably gripping.  Michael Douglas is admirable in his role as the target of “The Game”, Nicholas Van Orton.  Watching this one man’s world spiral out of control as he struggles to piece together the most twisted jigsaw puzzle ever throughout the 129-minute runtime can be pretty enthralling, but it’s overwrought at times and the quasi-twist ending is somewhat lackluster.  It’s not a classic by any means, but it again demonstrates Fincher’s knack for successfully portraying characters rotting away with angst, as well as his adept control over pacing and tension.

#7. Panic Room

Grade: B

Perhaps the most successful area of Panic Room is Jodie Foster’s role, which marked Fincher’s first film with a female protagonist.  It’s a solid thriller that plays in almost real-time and there are also some strong supporting turns from Jared Leto, the always amiable, Forest Whitaker, and pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart.  Coming off the heels of Fight Club, it’s somewhat forgotten, and it also would be the last film Fincher would director for the next five years.  It’s definitely a strong watch and worthy of a rental, at least, for anyone who may have let this one slip through the cracks.

#6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Grade: B+

Rooney Mara had a small role in The Social Network, prior to shooting Dragon, but it was enough to catch Fincher’s eye as he cast her in the title role of Lisbeth Salander.  She’s absolutely mesmerizing, commanding every scene she’s in and delivering one of the best performances in any Fincher film to date.  Daniel Craig is also right at home as the grizzled journalist, Mikael Blomkvist.  Considering this was adapted from a wildly popular novel with an already acclaimed Swedish version of the entire trilogy, Fincher was in some respects facing an uphill battle from the start.  It’s not entirely successful on every level, but there are some great moments sprinkled throughout including a tantalizing opening credits sequence and a few moments that may be hard to stomach from some viewers, but in essence, that’s Fincher’s specialty.

#5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Grade: B+

It’s difficult not to view Button as Fincher taking a swing at some ripe Oscar bait.  Expanded from a F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, adapted for the screen by the Forrest Gump writer, on the surface, this Southern epic doesn’t seem like one that would attract Fincher, especially considering his filmography up to that point, but it was apparently the recent passing of his father – and this film's somber examination of death – that attracted him to the project.  Despite the film’s thematic bleakness, the cinematography is gorgeous and lush, perhaps the best of any film he’s directed.

Button runs a little long in the end and the present day story of Daisy does seem to weigh down the already heavy story and saturate it with even more melancholy.  Pitt and Blanchett are magnificent here and it’s around this time you could really sense Fincher was pulling the very best out of his actors, with even those in brief supporting roles leaving lasting impressions.  It wasn’t the awards juggernaut that it seemed poised to be, and despite being a slight letdown, it’s nonetheless enjoyable to see a master of his craft at work here. 

#4. Gone Girl

Grade: A-

Prior to being released, one of the most intriguing aspects of Fincher’s Gone Girl was the surprise casting announcements.  Ben Affleck, always capable, but never quite a standout, was penciled in for the leading role of Nick Dunne.  Rosamund Pike had barely made a name for herself up that point.  Then you throw in Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris – not exactly the names you’d expect when you think “Fincher movie”.  What resulted was an astonishing display of some of the very best acting you can get.  Everyone previously mentioned turned in perhaps career best, especially Affleck who appeared tailor-made for this role.  The story is a thrilling ride from start to finish, with twists and turns at every corner and a conclusion that should leave everyone stunned, as well as a little frightened.

#3. The Social Network

Grade: A

Coming off the heels of the Oscar-baity Benjamin Button was, ironically, the film for which Fincher rightfully deserved to win Best Director.  Facebook’s popularity seemingly peaked around 2009 with everyone in the world practically signing up and subsequently finding themselves wasting endless hours on the social media site.  Pair Fincher with heralded screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, with a story detailing the trials and tribulations of the site’s launch, and you have the zeitgeist film of the late-2000s.  It’s an intricately directed showcase for the auteur, and once again the performances across the board are extraordinary, most notably Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg.

#2. Se7en

Grade: A

This 1995 thriller was the first of three collaborations between Fincher and leading man, Brad Pitt, and essentially put the director on the map.  From a narrative perspective, it may be his best work.  The story unfolds revealing each of the seven sins, illustrated in murderous fashion, and Fincher deftly navigates us deeper into the twisted mind of John Doe in a way that we’re both horrified and yet intrigued to see where the story takes us.  In a stroke of brilliance, Fincher forced the studio to leave Kevin Spacey’s name out of the opening credits, which makes his reveal in the second half of the film all the more effective.  There’s not a smile to be had in Se7en.  It’s a morose, nihilistic tale, with some of the most disturbing imagery the director has ever put on screen and 20 years later, remains one of the best films ever made.  

#1. Zodiac

Grade: A

Some of my favorite films of all-time are ones that I enjoyed upon first viewing but found an urge to revisit frequently; growing on me with each subsequent viewing.   I found Zodiac intriguing and impressive on first watch, but after going back a few more times, it became apparent that this was easily my favorite Fincher film and a near masterpiece.  The movie tells the story of the Zodiac killer who terrorized the Bay area in the 1960s and 70s.  The story is laid out very simply, but the film is at its core a character study.  We see how this exhausting case affects the lives of some of the main individuals involved, and this is presented throughout the span of 22-years. 

The movie was in theaters for a brief run and had a disappointing gross, due to perhaps mis-marketing, as any of those expecting a common slasher/thriller will be rightfully disappointed.  The main cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr, all putting in some of their finest work and given almost equal time to shine.  The screenplay is impeccable and Fincher’s direction is an exercise is restraint, but a showcase for his ability to convey and master atmosphere.  There are only a handful of murder scenes in the 157-minute running time that are admirable in execution, as well uncomfortable by how realistic they seem to be.  After all, the killer left key witnesses alive who could retell their stories.  It’s not an easy film to enjoy, but it should be viewed by any who may have overlooked this underrated classic.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pitch Perfect 2 and Danny Collins Trailers

The phenomena that was Pitch Perfect returns in 2015 with supporting star Elizabeth Banks in line to make her directorial debut. In Pitch Perfect 2 the Barden Bellas we've all grown to love take their a cappella talents to an international competition that no American team has ever won before. Singing the "Cups Song"that was made popular by Anna Kendrick, here's a first look into the May release.

Another 2015 release debuted a trailer this week and it was the based on a true story film, Danny Collins. In the title role Al Pacino stars as an aging rock musician who discovers a letter written to him by John Lennon 30 years ago, and the revelation forces him to set his life on a new path. Co-starring Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer, Annette Benning, Jennifer Garner and a personal favorite of mine, Bobby Cannavale, check out the official trailer for Danny Collins below.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Greatest Comedy Sequels

After doing one of my all-time favorite lists in October (Ranking the Halloween Franchise), I decided to take November's Movie List of the Month in a much lighter direction. With big-named comedy sequels arriving to theatres this month, namely Dumb and Dumber To and Horrible Bosses 2, I thought it would be fun to re-examine The Greatest Comedy Sequels ever made. With so many comparable titles to choose from, it became extremely difficult to construct my list. Let's first acknowledge the films that didn't quite make the cut.

Honorable Mention: Hot Shots! Part Deux, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Naked Gun 2 and Half, and Addams Family Values.

#10. Ghostbusters II

While Ghostbusters II could never live up to the greatness of its predecessor, the gang does a valiant job of generating laughter once their given the freedom to investigate supernatural activity again and they discover a river of ectoplasm running underneath New York City. A third installment has been confirmed, yet we'll be given a new all-female group on ghost hunters ,,, and yeah, I think it's a horrible idea too. 

#9. Rush Hour 2

Rush Hour 2 is one of those rare sequels that actually stacks up pretty well against its first installment. This time around, Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) is seeking some down time while vacationing in Hong Kong with Lee (Jackie Chan), yet Lee ends up ruining all the fun by getting tied up in another action-packed ordeal. Tucker's antics ended up getting old real quick and the franchise called it quits after number three. 

#8. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

Perhaps no comedy is greater than the origins film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Therefore, its hilarious follow up usually gets lost in its shadow. Ace (Jim Carrey) comes out of a harmonious retirement to investigate the disappearance of the only type of animal he hates, a rare white bat that's the symbol of an African tribe. And as we all know, whenever Ace gets involves all hell breaks loose.

#7. Beverly Hills Cop II

Although you'd probably least expect it, Beverly Hills Cops II is one of the rare films on this list that was actually nominated for an Oscar. I'll give you a second to try and figure it out ... you give up yet? It was nominated for its catchy theme song of course! And in arguably the trilogy's best effort, Axel (Eddie Murphy) returns to Beverly Hills to help Rosewood and Taggart investigate the shooting of their friend, Chief Bogamil. Latest news reports that Brett Ratner is lined up to direct a fourth installment slated for a 2016 release.

#6. Wayne's World 2

"If you book them, they will come". Move over Field of Dreams cause Wayne's World 2 landed pretty high on my list. Sure, the first one set the bar, but Christopher Walken co-stars as a sleazy record producer set on stealing Cassandra from Wayne (Mike Myers) all while he and Garth (Dana Carvey) plan to organize a huge rock festival. There are plenty of laughs throughout and it just oozes "the 90s", my kind of movie!

#5. Bad Boys II

Buddy cop movies are all over this list of successful comedy sequels, but none do it better than Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II. Having just recently caught parts of the film over my friend's place, Bad Boys II pits its action-inducing and destruction-seeking duo against a dangerous drug kingpin smuggling ecstacy into Miami. On top of full fledged comedy and explosions, who doesn't love hearing Will Smith unleash some R-rated jokes?

#4. Toy Story 3

For all the raunchy jokes I enjoy, I also find comfort in a nice family comedy like Toy Story 3. Its release was a long time coming, but certainly worth the wait. After Andy has grown up and prepares for college, his mom asks him to get rid of some old toys. Then, she mistakenly donates Woody and the gang to a day care center where an evil Purple Bear reigns supreme. Toy Story 3 is an all around funny and endearing film that captured the hearts of many.

#3. American Pie 2

Now that we got the wholesome inclusion to the list out of the way, it's back to the vulgar humor we go with American Pie 2. This riotous sequel delivers hordes of sexual jokes that stand the test of time a over a decade later. The group of friends reunite after their first year of college and decide to hold the biggest summer blowout party ever at their beach house, and clearly nothing goes as planned. American Pie 2 offers the best kind of raunchy situational humor that never gets old.

#2. Christmas Vacation

There aren't many families like the Griswolds, and there isn't a Lampoon's movie as good as Christmas Vacation. Wanting nothing more than to hold a wonderful Christmas holiday for his family, filled with good times and a Christmas lights display for the ages, Clark (Chevy Chase) can't seem to get anything right. And after his boss screws him over on his holiday bonus, the comedy that follows steps it up a notch. This is one that's worth reliving every Christmas season.

#1. Back to the Future Part II

While its Oscar-winning predecessor will always stand tallest, the almost equally impressive sequel, Back to the Future Part II, does a remarkable job of continuing on with Marty McFly's (Michael J. Fox) story. Once Marty returns from his first adventure, he and Doc travel to the future where their actions unfortunately alter the present (it's really not that confusing, I swear). With hoverboards, the Sports Almanac and enough Biff Tannen to put you into a laughing coma, what's not to love about Back to the Future Part II? Making it the greatest comedy sequel of all-time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Escobar: Paradise Lost and The Cobbler Trailers

Arriving in theatres this January is Andrea Di Stefano's directorial debut, Escobar: Paradise Lost. As an official selection of the Philadelphia Film Festival, I was able to catch this mostly fictional and highly dramatized account (read my review here) of the world's most notorious drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar (played by Benicio Del Toro). The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson stars as Nick, a Canadian-born surfer who migrates to Columbia and discovers paradise when he meets and falls in love with Maria. However, Maria is a loyal niece to the rising politician and cocaine manufacturer, Pablo Escobar, which ultimately lures Nick into a world of crime and drug trafficking.

Despite his latest effort, The Cobbler, being panned by critics and moviegoers a like, I'm still willing to check out any film from Win Win writer/director, Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy is a fantastic story teller and his latest adventure straddles the line of fantasy and reality. Adam Sandler stars as Max, a shoe repairman in New York City who's trapped in a world of monotony. But after Max discovers a magical heirloom that gives him the power to literally "step into another man's shoes", he begins to see the world in a different way. Check out the debut trailer for The Cobbler below.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rapid Reviews: Dumb and Dumber To and Nightcrawler

For any sequel 20 years in the making, the general consensus is you should hope for the best but expect the worst. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Farrelly brothers' attempt at reviving the Dumb and Dumber franchise, the worst is what we're given. To be fair, however, Dumb and Dumber To is a tolerable effort that elicits the occasional chuckle here and there. But when it comes to one of the greatest and iconic comedy classics of all-time, why couldn't Bobby and Peter Farrelly just leave well enough alone?

The film opens with a return to our two favorite knuckleheads nearly two decades after Mary Samsonite (or was it Swanson?) walked off with her husband and broke Lloyd's (Jim Carrey) heart. The devastating blow landed a speechless Lloyd in a psychiatric facility where he receives frequent visits from his best bud, Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels). After revealing that it's all been a 20 year "gag", the dimwitted duo embark on another journey, this time, to find Harry's newly revealed daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin).

Dumb and Dumber To carefully delivers a blend of both new and rehashed jokes in an attempt to entertain the loyalists and the newcomers. And while the laugh out loud moments are almost non-existent, thanks to a brand of delivery that feels a little outdated and unoriginal after all these years, the film's biggest hindrance lives in its poorly concocted story. Therefore, if your seeking some genuine laughs these next few weeks, you're much better off revisiting the original.

Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: C-

A couple weeks ago I posted a Guest Review from Greg Rouleau for Dan Gilroy's intriguing new crime-thriller, Nightcrawler, and he was pretty much spot on. As one of the finer films from 2014, Nightcrawler offers a dark and clever examination into the mind of a sociopath. With twisted undertones guaranteed to entertain horror and thriller enthusiasts, along with a tasteful lack of graphic content to help appeal to the masses, Gilroy's directorial debut is an unquestionable success.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lous Bloom, an abnormally goal-oriented individual desperate for work. But when Lou encounters a live car accident on a major highway, he pulls over and discovers the wild world of crime journalism. Completely consumed by the profession, Lou masters the craft of filming car wrecks, fires and crime scenes to the extreme where he finds himself involved in his stories.

Nightcrawler beautifully balances a taut and fascinating screenplay with one of the year's most notable ensembles. Gyllenhaal is mightily impressive in his creepy and skin-crawling leading role, but supporting turns from both Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed help round-out the feature. While I admittedly expected far more menacing violence throughout Nightcrawler, I was certainly pleased with how Gilroy pieced everything together,

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade B+