Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Summer Movie Preview: June

Yesterday I discussed many of the major titles finding a theatrical release during the month of May. While Avengers: Age of Ultron will be a difficult film to top at any point of the summer, it appears as though June has its fair share of highly anticipated features as well.

Honorable Mention: A smattering of early reviews are in for Bridesmaids director Paul Feig's newest comedy, Spy (June 5th), and they're all overwhelmingly positive. Feig once again looks to his favorite collaborative partner, Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy, as a paperwork-pushing CIA analyst who volunteers to step into some real field work in order to bring down a dangerous arms dealer. Horror fans have clung to the Insidious franchise since James Wan's 2010 original installment. However, this time around the popular director hands the keys over to the franchise's scribe, Leigh Wannell, for Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 5th). This time around we're given a prequel following physic Elise Rainier's first encounter with a dark entity that's terrorizing a teenage girl. As I've stated time and time again, I thoroughly enjoyed Maya Forbes indie comedy, Infinitely Polar Bear (June 19th), at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Mark Ruffalo arguably gives a career-best performance as a bipolar father who reluctantly agrees to take care of his two young daughters while his wife ventures back to graduate school to help provide for the family. Family films are typically money-printers and many expect Disney PIXAR's Inside Out (June 19th) to be no exception. After a girl is uprooted from mid-west living to San Francisco, each of the animated emotions living in her "headquarters" battle for control of her mind.

Entourage (June 5th)

Through eight roller coaster seasons that spanned from 2004 to 2011, the HBO hit series, Entourage, will make its long-awaited big-screen debut. Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his trio of best friends fearlessly take on Hollywood with the backing of their main confidant, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). While little has been revealed about the plot lines surrounding the Entourage film, all of the show's loyal fans have been clamoring for its release. And on June 5th, we're finally going to get ... Victory!

Jurassic World (June 12th)

Steven Spielberg dazzled audiences back in 1993 with the cinema classic, Jurassic Park. Appropriately set 22 years after the original, up-and-coming director Colin Trevorrow's highly anticipated return to the franchise, Jurassic World, is due for a colossal release this June. Guardians of the Galaxy star, Chris Pratt, headlines the film centered on a successfully fading dinosaur theme park at Isla Nubar that rushes a new attraction in order to bring back clientele. Needless to say, things go massively wrong. Trevorrow really impressed me with his 2012 indie sci-fi drama, Safety Not Guaranteed, leaving me extremely interested in this new installment.

Ted 2 (June 26th)

Seth MacFarlane transitioned flawlessly from an animation king (as the creator of Family Guy and American Dad) to a big-screen comedy director with the 2012 box-office smash, Ted. Grossing north of $500 million worldwide in ticket sales, a sequel was all but guaranteed. This summer Mark Wahlberg and the voice of Seth MacFarlane return in Ted 2. The film follows the foul-mouthed teddy bear after his wedding to Tami-Lynn, and the couple decides to have a child. However, the courts prohibit Ted from doing so unless he can prove he's a person. Within reason, Ted 2 could easily be a successful comedy sequel. Yet, the chance of it surpassing the original seems pretty unlikely. Either way, Ted 2 is sure to be one of the summer's biggest entries.

*** Check back in the upcoming days for the rest of my 2015 Summer Preview

Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015 Summer Movie Preview: May

After a bit of a break from the blog (courtesy of a wonderful 85-degree spring break in Florida and some exciting news that I'll be announcing in the near future), I'm back on track with my first installment of the 2015 Summer Movie Preview. Over the next week I'll be highlighting some of the most intriguing films arriving in theaters throughout the summer months, but today I begin with May.

Honorable Mention: The beloved Barden Bellas return to shock the a cappella world by trying to become the first American team to win a prestigious organized worldwide singing competition in Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15th). George Miller debuted his post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise in 1979 on the shoulders of star, Mel Gibson. More than three decades later the auteur returns to its universe with the highly anticipated prequel, Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15th), starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. After taking a trip on the festival circuit, Andrew Niccol's ethical drama, Good Kill (May 15th), stars Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot who begins to question the morality of his profession. Horror fans will have to welcome another 80s remake to the genre with Gil Kenan's Poltergeist (May 22nd), thankfully Sam Rockwell is in the leading role which the idea of a return to the franchise stomach-able. May's closing weekend boasts the highly anticipated action-thriller, San Andreas (May 29th), which features Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a rescue-pilot who seeks to save his estranged daughter after violent earthquakes destroy California.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1st)

After grossing more than an unfathomable $1.5 billion in worldwide box office revenue in 2012, Marvel delivers the massively buzzed-about sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film begins with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) attempting to revive a peacekeeping movement. Yet, when one of his powerful creations, a robot named Ultron with impeccable Artificial Intelligence capabilities, goes rogue and turns on his creator, the Avengers must battle this villainous foe. Initial sneak peaks into the film support a dark-tone and a summer blockbuster for the ages.

Tomorrowland (May 22nd)

Based on a theme park world known throughout the Disney landscape, Brad Bird's Tomorrowland makes for an optimistic early summer treat. With a script from Lost's writer Damon Lindelof, the films follows a science-loving teen (Britt Robertson) and a former boy genius (George Clooney) who hope to unmask all of the secrets surrounding a shocking new world that they discover. Expectations continue to grow with Tomorrowland but, despite my reservations, we're guaranteed a visually-pleasing treat.

Aloha (May 29th)

As a huge fan of the entire cast surrounding Cameron Crowe's latest effort, Aloha, I can say with all sincerity that there are few people as excited as I am for its release. Bradley Cooper stars as Brian Gilcrest, a disliked US Weapons consultant who returns to a military base in Hawaii for a job. While there he finds himself caught up in the difficult task of receiving permission from locals to proceed the mission, as well as a love triangle between a former girlfriend who he let get away (Rachel McAdams) and the spry female soldier (Emma) assigned to assist him with his job. Co-starring Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride, on the surface Aloha possesses all the makings of a spectacular romantic comedy.

*** Check back in the upcoming days for the rest of my 2015 Summer Preview

Friday, March 20, 2015

Paper Towns and Infinitely Polar Bear Trailers

John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was adapted into an exceptional film thanks fantastic performances from Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Now, another Green novel, Paper Towns, will make its big screen debut in 2015. Nat Wolff stars as Quentin a quiet high school teen with a lifelong crush on his free-spirited neighbor, Margo. After she goes missing one day, Quentin and his friends find clues that send them on an adventure to find her. Check out debut trailer for the upcoming teen flick release, Paper Towns.

Debuting at the 2014 Sundance Festival, Maya Forbes' hysterical and heartfelt comedy, Infinitely Polar Bear, was an absolute gem. Finally, the impressive indie film in expected to make a limited release in 2015. Mark Ruffalo gives one of his finest performances as a bipolar father experiencing marital problems, who takes on the daunting task of overseeing his daughters to help save his marriage while their mother relocates to another state to return to school. Although no release date has been formally announced, Infinitely Polar Bear is a fantastic feel-good movie you won't want to miss.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Best Sci-Fi Films of the 2010s so far

With this month's release of Neill Blomkamp's imaginative sci-fi adventure, Chappie, I've decided to use March's Movie List of the Month to highlight the best science fiction films so far this decade (click here for February's list). Although Chappie won't be found on the final list, Blomkamp did manage to produce one of the finest sci-fi features of last decade, District 9. And just as a disclaimer, it was a bold move but I have included one major parameter with the list. I've omitted any superhero movies from contention, so keep that in mind.

Honorable Mention: Chronicle, Cloud Atlas, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Gravity

#5. The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

I don't know about you, but I like my sci-fi with a little bit of a romantic twist. I remember seeing a trailer for George Nolfi's The Adjustment Bureau in 2011 and thinking how peculiar its premise looked. When a fast-rising politician and a ballerina unexpectedly cross paths, their budding romance is put to the test by a secret unknown society tasked with keeping order in the world. It sounds strange, right? However, a wildly creative script and two magnificent lead performances from Matt Damon and Emily Blunt propel The Adjustment Bureau to elite sci-fi status ... and hats have never been so cool!

#4. Source Code (2011)

Another spectacular sci-fi film burst onto the scene in 2011, Duncan Jones' Source Code. Jones, the biological son of famed musician David Bowie, left him own imprint on the world as an artist with the 2009 indie sci-fi hit, Moon. And just a few years later, we were given an equally effective sci-fi tale starring Jake Gyllenhaal. When a soldier wakes up in someone else's body, he discovers that he's part of an experimental government program desperate to foil a mass bombing on a train. After his amazing performance in Nightcrawler last year, we all know how talented Gyllenhaal is as a performer. He proves exceptional in Source Code alongside standout turns from co-stars Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan.

#3. Looper (2012)

Critics and audiences alike adored Rian Johnson's 2012 sci-fi feature, Looper. This time-travel themed story pits a contemporary mob assassin (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) against his future self (Bruce Willis) once it's discovered that the mob wants to "close the loop". Despite being a bit of a lengthy affair that journeys every which way, Looper unravels as an action-packed and creative adventure from the brilliant mind of Rian Johnson (Brick). Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano co-star in this effective sci-fi treat that delivers an absolutely unforgettable finale.

#2. Interstellar (2014)

One of the most important aspects of any science fiction story is a filmmaker's desire to push boundaries, and perhaps no other visionary can compare to the great Christopher Nolan. Love him or hate him, he challenges himself and the audience with iconic pieces of cinema like last year's space adventure, Interstellar. With earth's resources fading quickly, a former pilot is called upon to journey deep into the farthest reaches of the cosmos to find some way to sustain human life. Nolan's lengthy, yet mesmerizing, tale features another excellent role from Matthew McConaughey, as well as third act for the ages. Although Interstellar was mostly snubbed during this past Oscar ceremony, it will most likely live on as 2014's most memorable film.

#1. Inception (2010)

Not only does director Christopher Nolan hold the second spot on my list, by a wide margin, he has a firm handle on the top spot as well. Keeping in context with how much cinema has evolved over the past five years with the extensive use of CGI, Inception truly broke the barrier at the turn of the decade. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a thief banned from his home country and unable to ever see his children again. All until a powerful figure stumbles into his life with a very simple proposal. If Cobb can implant an idea into a CEO's subconscious using a dream-sharing technology, then he'll be granted immunity and able to reunite with his children. 

As a polarizing film that's been mocked and scorned almost just as much as it's been praised by its loyal fans, Inception's beauty transcends far beyond its controversial and ambiguous final shot. Like many others obsessed with the ending, I had a brief moment of fixation on knowing what does (or doesn't) happen to that spinning top. However, the fact that Cobb can turn away from that spinning top so easily and head for his children simply reinforces that the audience should be able to do exactly the same. Inception is a genius effort from a truly amazing and groundbreaking science fiction filmmaker.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tomorrowland (New) and Ride Trailers

Academy Award winner Brad Bird brings the anticipated summer blockbuster, Tomorrowland, to the big screen this May. Britt Robertson stars as a teen consumed by scientific curiosities who teams with a former boy-genius (George Clooney) on an adventure to unravel the secrets of an unknown world in their collective memory. It sounds a bit puzzling, but based on the futuristic theme land at Disney theme parks across the globe, Tomorrowland could very well possess all the makings of the next big Disney hit.

Despite making its festival premiere in November, Oscar winner Helen Hunt's Ride will arrive in select theaters this year. As writer, director and star Hunt takes center stage as Jackie, a mother who ventures to California to convince her recent drop-out son (Brenton Thwaites) to give up his dream of surfing and return to school. With Luke Wilson also on board in a supporting role and clocking in at a brisk 93 minutes, Ride appears to have all the necessary ingredients for a successful indie dramedy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rapid Reviews: Chappie and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Visionary filmmaker Neill Blomkamp captured the imagination of audiences worldwide with his thought-provoking 2009 sci-fi masterpiece, District 9. His follow-up effort, Elysium, was far less impressive, but the feature still managed to push the envelope thanks to Blomkamp's original ideas. Now in theaters is the director's third film, Chappie, which happens to be yet another bold science-centric adventure.

Clearly a modern re-imagining of the 80s classic, Short Circuit, Dev Patel stars as a computer programmer who figures out how to maximize artificial intelligence and give machines the unique ability to think and feel like humans. Completely aware that he's onto something revolutionary, the programmer goes against his superior's wishes and uploads the software to a robot that's destined for the scrap heap. However, unfortunate circumstances place the super-advanced robot, Chappie, in the possession of a group of thugs intending to use him for crime.

For as clever and cerebral as Chappie is, the feature's remarkable themes and hidden potential aren't explored nearly enough. Instead, Blomkamp glosses over these immense possibilities in exchange for a highly action-packed story that gives an overabundance of screen time to Hugh Jackman's unnecessary character. As a result, all of the beauty and mystique surrounding Chappie falls victim to gun fire, explosions and futuristic mayhem that adds no depth to the story whatsoever. Chappie culminates as a mediocre film that squanders some exceptional potential.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

In 2011 director John Madden debuted a very profitable little indie dramedy called, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The charming little story followed a collection of aging goof balls who venture to India in hopes of a luxurious retirement. Instead, their greeted by a rambunctious and young entrepreneur named Sonny (Dev Patel), who slowly turns a not-so dreamy hotel into an iconic residence for the elderly.

Four years later and Madden returns with a slightly unexpected sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Sonny and his main confidant, Muriel (Maggie Smith), desire to expand their blossoming product all while a slick old friend named Kushal puts a damper in Sonny's wedding planning. It's a nice treat to see the old cast reunited, however the second go-around doesn't quite match its predecessor.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel attempts to get by on more of the same charm it demonstrated in the first installment, however weaker storylines and an over-extended cast generate a mounted running time that doesn't flow so smooth this time through. While the original certainly had a bit of hokiness to it, the sequel drowns itself in fairy-tale sentiment that ultimately runs its course. There are definitely a fair amount of laughs to ease the audience from start to finish, but cliche subplots reign supreme in this unnecessary follow-up from John Madded.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C