Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ted 2 and Child 44 Trailers

Seth MacFarlane transitioned flawlessly from television comedy to the big screen with his hilarious directorial debut, Ted. In 2015 he returns with the highly anticipated sequel, except there's no Mila Kunis this time around. With Ted 2 we find the foul-mouthed fury guy as a newlywed attempting to have a child. However, in order to do so, he'll have to convince a court of law that he's entitled to the same rights as a human. Mark Wahlberg reprises his role and Amanda Seyfried steps into the spotlight in the first official trailer for Ted 2.

Both Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman are two of Hollywood's most under-recognized actors. The duo team up yet again - having previously worked together on impressive films such as The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless - only this time, their bringing their thick Russian accents. Based on Tom Rob Smith's British novel of the same name, Child 44 is set in Stalin-era Soviet Union where a devoted soldier investigates a serial killer targeting children. Arriving in theaters on April 17th, 2015, on the surface Child 44 appears to be a solid early-year release.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fantastic Four (Teaser) and The DUFF Trailers

In an attempt to once again reignite the longest running Marvel superhero team, Fantastic Four hit theaters this summer. Chronicle director Josh Trank reintroduces us to the quartet of young scientists who gain superhuman abilities after an experiment goes wrong. Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell star as the Fantastic Four and the film's debut teaser trailer (below) is definitely worth checking out.

This February while the Oscars take center stage, an under the radar comedy may be the next big teen hit. The Perks of Being a Wallflower supporting star, Mae Whitman, headlines Ari Sandel's debut directorial effort, The DUFF. After a high school senior receives the unflattering news that she's the "designated ugly fat friend" (DUFF) in her group of friends, she attempts to reinvent herself and destroy this social stigma that's been placed upon her. I was impressed by the latest trailer for The DUFF and I'm curious to see if it can stand out in the teen genre.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Oscar Talk - Part 3

We're less than four weeks out from the Academy Awards and a clearer picture has finally formed in many of the major races. If you plan on enjoying the annual awards show Sunday night February 22nd, then I suggest signing up for my FREE OSCAR CONTEST with a chance to win $50 in gift cards to a movie theater chain of your choice (Regal/AMC).

Last evening's SAG awards, which is truly a prestigious honor throughout the acting community, reinforced many of the assumed winners in its five feature film categories. For a full list of winners from last night's SAG awards, click here. And now, here's a current look at how the major Oscar races appear to be playing out:

Best Picture

Despite all of the early precursor love for the coming-of-age flick, Boyhood, I'd say the Best Picture competition is far from decided. A few of the eight entrants are essentially just filling out the ballots, but some serious arguments can be made for Birdman or The Imitation Game pulling off the upset.

Predicted Winner: Boyhood

Who Else Could Win: Birdman and The Imitation Game

Other Nominees: American Sniper, The Grand Budapest hotel, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash

Best Director

Boyhood auteur Richard Linklater has been the beneficiary of Golden Globe and Critics' Choice wins in the director race, but he's certainly not a shoe-in for the Oscar statue. Birdman's visionary Alejandro G. Inarritu has a firm core of supporters who will work hard to make a shift in the momentum as the final voting unfolds. 

Predicted Winner: Richard Linklater - Boyhood

Who Else Could Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu - Birdman

Other Nominees: Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel, Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher and Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game

Best Actor

One of the only intriguing results from last night's SAG awards was Eddie Redmayne's conquest over Michael Keaton in the Best Actor race. Prior to the evening's events, I would have given a slight edge to Keaton as both men won Golden Globes for their performances. However, the upset, which even caught Redmayne himself by surprise, definitely shifts the momentum in the young Englishman's favor. This is one category that you'll want to keep an eye on over the next few weeks. 

Predicted Winner: Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

Who Else Could Win: Michael Keaton - Birdman

Other Nominees: Steve Carell - Foxcatcher, Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game and Bradley Cooper - American Sniper

Best Actress

The next trio of races, including this one, seem pretty much solidified. Although I've actually spoken out against rewarding Julianne Moore's assumed title for her turn in the middling drama Still Alice, it appears that only the end of the world itself could stop her from winning the award.

Predicted Winner: Julianne Moore - Still Alice

Who Else Could Win: Essentially no one feels realistic, but her staunchest competition comes from Reese Witherspoon - Wild

Other Nominees: Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night, Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything and Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl

Best Supporting Actor

Another theoretical "sure-thing" on Oscar night appears to be J.K. Simmons winning in the best Supporting Actor race. Make no mistake about it, Simmons is every bit as advertised in the musical drama Whiplash and he's completely deserving of the honor. You might as well look forward to his acceptance speech.

Predicted Winner: J.K. Simmons - Whiplash

Who Else Could Win: In another universe both Ethan Hawke - Boyhood or Edward Norton - Birdman might walk away with the statue

Other Nominees: Robert Duvall - The Judge and Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher

Best Supporting Actress

Boyhood has been riding a comfortable wave of success and its acting performance that's benefited the most is given by supporting star Patricia Arquette. But even if the iconic drama fails to run away with multiple wins on Oscar night, Arquette's performance shouldn't be effected. This is hers to lose and, frankly, it just won't happen.

Predicted Winner: Patricia Arquette - Boyhood

Who Else Could Win: Emma Stone - Birdman is a distant second

Other Nominees: Laura Dern - Wild, Keira Knightley - The Imitation Game and Meryl Streep - Into the Woods

Best Original Screenplay

In the Best Original Screenplay competition there are a trio of films who could end up victorious. For starters, Birdman has fared the best in the early stages of the game with Golden Globe and Critics' Choice wins and it gives the film a slight advantage at this point. However, much love had been given to Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and similar to last year's critical darling, Her, this is the film's best chance at a win. Finally, if Boyhood runs rampant on Oscar night, this could be a category the indie flick steals.

Predicted Winner: Birdman

Who Else Could Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel or Boyhood

Other Nominees: Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler

Best Adapted Screenplay

It would be devastating if one of the year's most beloved titles, The Imitation Game, went home empty handed on Oscar night. And since this could be the film's best chance at taking home a title, I"m putting my stock behind it for now. However, it won't be an easy task with the formidable indie sensation Whiplash right on its heels. The Theory of Everything boasts an outside chance at claiming the win, but I'm still saying, "there's a chance". 

Predicted Winner: The Imitation Game

Who Else Could Win: Whiplash and to a lesser extent The Theory of Everything

Other Nominees: American Sniper and Inherent Vice

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rapid Reviews: Cake and The Boy Next Door

One of the most talked-about Oscar snubs this year was the omission of Jennifer Aniston in the Best Actress race. As a well known sitcom star who's found comfort in comedic and light-hearted dramatic roles throughout her career, Aniston tackles a more challenging character in Daniel Barnz's Cake. Yet, instead of honoring her gutsy and self-loathing performance just like the Golden Globes and SAG had already done, the Academy chose to look the other way in favor of a more regular entrant, Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night).

Jennifer Aniston takes center stage as Claire, a cynical chronic-pain support group member who becomes fascinated with the recent suicide of another attendee, Nina (played by Anna Kendrick). As Claire continues her habitual abuse of pain killers in an attempt to numb herself of a traumatic past event, she finds herself on the doorstep of Nina's surviving husband, Roy (Sam Worthington). Claire's new friendship with Roy forces her to reflect on her own life as the brittle woman struggles to cope with her past and toes the line of suicide herself.

Jennifer Aniston trades in her skimpy outfits and age-defying makeup for a baggy wardrobe and physical scars in an Oscar-baiting role that unfortunately didn't pan out. Her commitment is full throttle as Aniston's performance undoubtedly carries Cake from depressing scene to depressing scene. However, a dull screenplay that unravels painfully slow counteracts the film's praiseworthy performances. All in all, Cake tells a genuinely sad and periodically uplifting story in a less than impressive manner.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

With the countless teacher-student sex scandals that make headlines every week, filmmaker Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) embraces this taboo subject matter by dishing out his latest cinematic dud, The Boy Next Door. And while it's no secret that January is known for unveiling sub-par and thoughtless titles to compete against the Oscar juggernauts craving a bigger box office, Cohen's film is about as low as it gets.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a recently separated high school Literature teacher stuck in limbo over forgiving her cheating husband or moving on from their tainted relationship. Meanwhile, a new 19 year old senior named Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door to take care of his sick uncle, and the young man develops an interest in Claire. After an awful blind date one evening, the emotionally vulnerable teacher takes to a bottle of wine and succumbs to Noah's tempting seduction. But as she continues to tell him their one night stand was simply a mistake, the high-tempered teen begins to show his true colors.

There are so many issues with The Boy Next Door I don't even know where to begin. Everything from its hokey opening flashback to set-up the story all the way to the film's surprisingly violent finale, The Boy Next Door just screams made-for-tv-movie. The events are completely unrealistic and the fully grown 27 year old Ryan Guzman is a laughable casting decision for the role of Noah. In all seriousness, the best part of the movie was that I only had to sit through 91 minutes of it.

Stars: 1 star out of 4

Grade: D

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Johnny Depp's Best Performances

The eccentric actor, Johnny Depp, has enjoyed a long and prosperous career as an A-List celebrity. Love him or hate him, Depp has given countless performances that moviegoers will never forget. Despite his increasingly tiresome collaborations with Tim Burton that have come to feel like recycled roles over and over again, Depp's career work is certainly worthy of recognition. As his latest comedy, Mortdecai, arrives in theaters this weekend, I've decided to devote January's Movie List of the Month to Johnny Depp's greatest performances (click here for December's list).

*** Disclaimer - I'm ashamed to admit I've never seen Ed Wood or Benny & Joon

Honorable Mention: Donnie Brasco (1997)Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

#5. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Probably more out of nostalgia than anything else, my first inclusion on the list is a childhood love of mine, Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. This classic earned Depp his first Golden Globe Nomination and spawned a lengthy partnership with him and his famed director.

#4. Finding Neverland (2004)

Marc Forster's Finding Neverland had a strong Oscar showing with 7 nominations in total and 1 win for Best Score. Yet, the occasionally slow-paced drama landed Johnny Depp one of his three Best Actor nods from the Academy in the impressive role of author J.M. Barrie whose friendship with a family helped spawn his classic tale of Peter Pan

#3. Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Admittedly, Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a personal favorite of mine and probably the most controversial inclusion on the list. In the final installment of Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" character, Depp stars as CIA Agent Sheldon Sands who attempts to foil an assassination attempt on the President of Mexico. Although I've never been a huge outspoken fan of Robert Rodriguez's stylish work, Depp's sleek performance transforms Once Upon a Time in Mexico into an unforgettable action-thriller.

#2. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)

Johnny Depp had an enormous career resurgence following the worldwide success of Gore Verbinski's action-comedy franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. As the flamboyant Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp delivered one of his finest performances ever and it nearly earned him his first Oscar statue. However, Depp was nominated but unforgivably lost out to a grossly over-embellished turn from Sean Penn in Mystic River. Yet, Depp had the last laugh as the Pirates franchise has become one of the most profitable franchises in the history of film.

#1. Blow (2001)

Despite being critically panned, Ted Demme's Blow has transformed into film beloved by the masses. Depp stars as real life drug kingpin George Jung, the man responsible for establishing the cocaine market in the U.S. during the 1970s. Blow transcends the typical gangster flick and develops a very sincere story that ultimately humanizes a socially perceived villain. This is by no means an easy task for any director, but Johnny Depp's brilliant onscreen work has a sense of originality and authenticity that only he could provide. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Oscar Pool

Back by popular demand co-writer Greg Rouleau and I will be running another FREE Oscar Pool where you select winners in EVERY Academy Awards category. Different point values are assigned to the different races and the person with the most points wins a $50 gift card of their choice to either Regal/AMC. This year has a little caveat, though. If we get 100 entries into the pool, we'll increase the prize to a $75 gift card.

Remember, it's completely free to enter, all you need is an e-mail address and to sign up by clicking HERE. After you submit an e-mail address and create a username use the following information to join the contest:

Pool Type: Oscars 2015
Pool Name: 87th Academy Awards - By Greg and Dave
Password: oscars2015

You have until Sunday February 22nd to make your selections, so there's no immediate rush. Once again it's COMPLETELY FREE to join and a whole lot of fun for any fan of movies who plans on watching the Oscars anyway.

Note: You must live in the continental United States to be eligible for the prize.