Friday, July 25, 2014

Fifty Shades of Grey and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Red Band) Trailers

Women everywhere can finally rejoice as the best-selling novel from E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey, has officially released a trailer for director Sam Taylor-Johnson's (Nowhere Boy) 2015 big-screen adaptation. Relatively unknown stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan tackle the roles of naive literature student, Anastasia Steele, and billionaire, Christian Grey, who develop a wild sexual relationship after a friendly interview together. Fans of the novel can check out the first look into Fifty Shades of Grey below.

Christmas brings an extra gift this year for fans of the 2010 wacky time-travel film, Hot Tub Time Machine, as its sequel is scheduled to reach theatres. Although John Cusack has bailed on the franchise, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke all reprise their roles, except this time they've been sent far into the future. While the original had its fair share of hilarious moments, we'll all have to take the wait-and-see approach with this slightly over-reaching follow-up feature. You can catch the official Red Band trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 below.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Film: Boyhood

Starring: Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke (Training Day)

Director: Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused)

U.S. Release: July 11th, 2014 (Limited - Rated R)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 164 minutes

By now most people have heard the rumblings about Richard Linklater's spectacular new film, Boyhood. There's very little I can add to the warranted praises that have flooded radio airwaves and internet websites. Truth be told, Boyhood is a magnificent cinematic feat that required vision and collective patience from its director, cast and crew. And I'm sure almost everyone involved would agree on one simple fact, it was certainly worth the wait.

Boyhood follows its lead character, Mason (played by an evolving Ellar Coltrane), from the ages of 5 to 18 where life experiences uniquely shape his world views. Mason travels around with his mother and older sister from town to town as the matriarch struggles to provide the quintessential family environment for her children. Filmed masterfully in bits and pieces over the course of 12 lingering years, the movie gives a once-in-a-lifetime perspective into a boy's transition through adolescence.

It's difficult to put into words the culminating experience of witnessing a masterpiece such as Boyhood. An unbreakable bond is established immediately as we watch Ellar Coltrane grow before our very eyes. The ride is both a mirror of our own personal ventures into adulthood as well as a reminder that all of us must set an individual path. Be assured that Mason has his own story, filled with complexities and obstacles that continually mold him into the spirited young man we see just before the credits start to roll. Even after a long-winded and nearly three hour endeavor, it's painful to accept a finale. It almost feels as though any ending would be unjust because, like with our own lives, the story presses on.

Despite the brilliance and handling of Linklater's undeniable instant classic, there were a few small hiccups existing throughout. For starters, Boyhood isn't compromised of many lasting moments like other coming-of-age gems such as Stand By Me and The Sandlot. Instead, the feature serves as a premier example of an instance where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, an overlooked facet that echoes the greatness of Linklater's achievement. But still, a couple more iconic scenes would have been preferred. Also, throughout a relatively well-paced 164 minute marathon to the finish line, Boyhood unravels with the occasional lull. However, a truly engaging and transformative journey eases the audience past all of the brief uninspiring moments.

Trust me, until you do, you've never seen anything like Richard Linklater's Boyhood. Perhaps more monumental in scope and execution than in substance and flavor, the result is still the same, an impressive feature that breeds innovation and personal connection. Boyhood is one of the year's finest films and something everyone deserves to witness.

Stars: 3 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: A-

Monday, July 21, 2014

Laggies and The One I Love Trailers

One of my favorite films from this year's Sundance Festival lineup was Lynn Shelton's Laggies. This heartfelt comedy stars Keira Knightley as Megan, a twenty-something woman finding difficulty branching out from adolescence. And when Megan's longtime boyfriend decides to propose to her, she lies about going on a retreat and stays with a teenage girl she just met (Chloe Grace Moretz) in order to figure things out. As someone not too far removed from my late-twenties, Laggies proves to be a relatable film that helps define an ever-growing cultural trend.

Another Sundance selection has recently released its debut trailer, but it's one that I wasn't able to catch at this year's festival and that's Charlie McDowell's The One I Love. Indie stars Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss star as a struggling married couple who attempt to escape for a weekend and save their marriage. Instead, they find themselves confronted with a very unusual dilemma. With solid buzz surrounding the film and a unique style to go along with it, The One I Love presents plenty of intrigue and mystery to the rom-com genre.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Film: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Starring: Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises)

Director: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield)

U.S. Release: July 11th, 2014 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 130 minutes

Following a well-received origin story that turned into a worldwide box office smash grossing just shy of $500 million, it was a no-brainer to expect a sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Yet, rather than immediately churning out a rushed and thoughtless continuation, the studio handled things perfectly by assembling a whole new team and taking the necessary time to get the project done right. Consequently, director Matt Reeves' Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stands tall as one of the summer blockbuster season's finest films.

A decade after a deadly virus first spread and super intelligent apes escaped into the forest, the human population has become scarce and their ability to survive hinges on a broken down dam miles from civilization. A team of explorers venture deep into the barren wilderness and stumble upon hordes of advanced chimps lead by Casear. Malcolm (Jason Clarke) explains their desperation and Caesar gives the humans permission to occupy the land and fix up the dam. However, co-existence between apes and humans becomes more difficult than either species could have ever imagined.

Similar to its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes decides to hook its viewers by establishing an instant connection with Caesar and the rest of the primate colony. Yet, director Matt Reeves and his team of writers deserve an abundance of credit for their exemplary job at building a bond from the film's opening sequence. From there a cleverly constructed story combining subplots of greed, jealousy and revenge take the wheel and steer the film to an action-packed and equally dramatic finale. Supported by sound performances from rising star Jason Clarke and amazing CGI work based on the movements and expressions of the under-appreciated artist Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes swings past the first film and represents a class of its own.

Despite my affection for the latest installment to the storied franchise of films, there were a few concerning aspects. One such area is the long-winded and action obsessed third act that I usually find troubling during the blockbuster season. However, a brilliant foundation and captivating story helps to soften the blows. Furthermore, images of apes wielding machine guns and riding on horseback to a brutal ambush seemed a little overboard to me. But once again, I felt compelled to overlook these minor annoyances thanks to a fundamentally strong creation from Matt Reeves and his team.

Although I felt as though Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins wonderfully and slowly weakens throughout, the end result was still a fine piece of work that transcends the prototypical summer blockbuster. Don't be fooled into believing that the feature is a revolutionary masterpiece, but find solace in accepting the film for what it is ... an entertaining and well-executed final product. I enjoyed the story, found the acting to be believable and embraced the ride. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unbroken and Wild Trailers

As the elusive fall months begin to creep up on us, a barrage of theatrical trailers remind us that Oscar season is right around the corner. Early indicators have placed Angelina Jolie's sophomore directorial effort, Unbroken, as a serious awards contender. The gripping true story tells of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was captured and held in a Japanese prison during World War II. With a screenplay crafted by the Coen brothers, Unbroken appears to have the potential to be a truly epic feature.

One of 2013's most recognized films was Jean-Marc Vallee's Dallas Buyers Club. The filmmaker returns just one year later with his follow-up feature, Wild, which stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman with a dark past who embarks on an 1,100 mile solo hike to recover from a recent trauma. We clearly know that Vallee has the ability to bring great characters to life and perhaps Wild will give us another unforgettable one. Check out its trailer below.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Best Coming-of-Age Movies

In honor of Richard Linklater's groundbreaking cinematic achievement, Boyhood, a coming-of-age tale filmed with the same crop of actors over a course of 12 long years, I've decided to dedicate July's Movie List of the Month to the Best Coming-of-Age movies of all-time (you can check out June's list here).

Now, I'm aware at how personal the genre can be to each and every individual, so I asked 9 of my movie-loving friends to choose from a relatively wide range of titles and order their favorite films. Then, each ranking was given a specific point value to create a collective list from all 10 of us. As the creator of the original list to choose from, I'm sorry for fans of The Breakfast Club and other popular options, but I went with my gut and here's what we came up with:

Chris Bandoian (#3 on his list): "Perks isn't just one of the best coming-of-age stories we've seen, but also one of the best all around movies. What better way is there to ensure a movie stays true to the book than to have to author direct it himself? The script is well-written, the performances are perfect, the score is excellent, and the cinematography is beautiful to the point of being surreal. Chobsky's work is personal and embodies some of the finest aspects of the rest of the movies on the list."

#7. The Outsiders

Gary Dickens (#1 on his list): "The Outsiders went on to show that just because you were from the wrong side of the tracks, it doesn't mean you don't know about family, loyalty and humanity."

#6. Big

Dave Traverso (#3 on his list): "Big is the quintessential example of an unforgettable coming-of-age tale. Through a brilliant performance from one of the greatest actors the world has ever known, Tom Hanks, we're all reminded that there's a beauty nestled inside of each and every stage of life and that there's no need to rush growing up."

 #5. Almost Famous

Greg Rouleau (#1 on his list): "With a fantastic soundtrack and one of the best screenplays ever written, Almost Famous makes you feel like you're floating on a cloud over a rainbow in 'Happy Land' for 120 minutes."

#4. A Bronx Tale

Jason Votta (#2 on his list): "A Bronx Tale is more than just a gangster movie, it's a life lesson on family, friendship, love, and what it means to be a real "tough guy". And the film poses the question, in the end, is it better to be feared or loved?"

#3. The Goonies

Amy Shoffner (#1 on her list): "The Goonies has most of the elements we all wanted (or feared) from our childhood ... a treasure hunt, pirates, befriending a deformed giant, cheerleaders wearing letter jackets, being kidnapped by a family of fugitives, booby traps, kissing your older brother's hot girlfriend, inspirational speeches by a teenager in a wishing well, and a bunch of kids sticking it to the man and saving the Goon Docks."

#2. The Sandlot

Joe "Chunk" Corcoran (#1 on his list): "The Sandlot goes to show you that a film doesn't need violence or death to show character development and growth. Just baseball."

#1. Stand by Me

Mike Sage (#1 on his list): "I picked Stand by Me because we all deal with fears and most of the time we don't face them. This movie inspires us to do just that and to go on our own journey!"

Note: A special thanks to everyone who helped offer their insight and compile this list: Mike Sage, Gary Dickens, Joe "Chunk" Corcoran, Chris Bandoian, Greg Rouleau, Jason Votta, Ryan O'Hara, Amy Shoffner and Ashley Doherty.