Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Reel Review: MUD

After spending a nearly a decade making stupid romantic-comedy films, actor Matthew McConaughey seems intent on reinventing himself. After his chilling and villainous turn in last year’s KILLER JOE, McConaughey teams up with director Jeff Nichols, who last brought us the fantastic and mindblowing character-study in TAKE SHELTER, and now rolls out MUD; another impactful character study nestled in the heartland of America.
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two 14-year old boys who discover an abandoned boat on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River. Living on the boat is a man named Mud (McConaughey), who is wanted by police and bounty hunters for killing a man. The two boys befriend Mud and decide to help him get the boat in the water, where he hopes to run away with his true love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

At its core, MUD is essentially a re-telling of a Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn adventure; two boys cruising the mighty Mississippi in search of something to do in their sleepy and boring town. The movie centers around the relationship they have with Mud, and it is in that relationship that MUD soars. The boys connect with MUD because in him they see a reflection of the lives they are leading; similarities which are revealed slowly throughout the film. A great amount of time is spent on the three characters and it is time well spent. MUD seems to start off as a conventional coming-of-age tale, but eventually morphs into a story about unrequited love…and the two storylines for all three characters run alongside each other perfectly.
Keeping the story afloat is director Jeff Nichols’ commitment to immersing the viewer into the atmosphere of a small Mississippi town; where there is nothing for pre-teens to do but hang out in a parking lot and cruise the river looking for snakes. Nichols literally drops the audience into the middle of things and you can nearly feel the humidity and skeeter-bites. With his beautiful photography and careful attention to his characters, Nichols puts his stamp on the movie without ever letting it become self-promoting.

McConaughey rules the film. His character is a villain who is really a good guy who did bad things for the right reasons. There is an ongoing spiritual conflict in Mud, and McConaughey plays it beautifully. The bulk of the screentime goes to the two young stars, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. They both handle their parts well although their lines are kept very short and terse; so short and quick you often have trouble catching what they are saying. The screentime of Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, and Michael Shannon amounts to extended cameos, but they all handle their time wisely and perfectly. The movie is nearly stolen by Ray McKinnon, who as a father figure is a perfect blend of tough and fair.
The finale comes about after a few shocking moments that come out of nowhere and seriously gets the heart pounding. The ending is very rewarding because of the great amount of time we had spent with the characters, making MUD an extremely fulfilling film.


Friday, April 26, 2013

A Reel Review: PAIN & GAIN

Based on a true story, PAIN & GAIN is director Michael Bay’s look at the American Dream and how its social divide can make stupid people do stupid things. It is heavy on its message, light on the action, and often ventures into new territory for Bay.
Daniel (Mark Wahlberg) is a con-man/bodybuilder who believes strongly in the American Dream. Not convinced he is getting all he deserves, he decides to clean out Victor (Tony Shaloub), the richest man in the gym. To pull off the heist, Daniel recruits fellow bodybuilders Adrian (Anthony Mackie), and Paul (Dwayne Johnson), who is a born-again Christian fresh out of prison.

What separates PAIN & GAIN from Michael Bay’s previous works is that the film does not rely on spectacle to get its point across. The movie starts very strongly in introducing the characters and their predicaments. The story focuses on the three knucklehead bodybuilders, and the movie works in that department because Bay lets the characters drive the story; the dumb decisions that they make and the consequences keep things moving along. Probably the best part about it is that the audience already knows the characters even before the movie begins; it’s the poor envying the rich and wanting more.
The film unfolds as a violent satire, with just enough seriousness to keep the story grounded. However just when things seem promising, Bay just can’t resist his urges and injects a lot of his middle-school humor into the story. Off-color jokes and gags keep popping up dealing with racism, overweight people, women, erectile dysfunction, and homosexuals. It’s hard to tell if Bay is just letting his characters be assholes or if he is just showing his inner thirteen year-old boy. Teens may get a large amount of chuckles out of it, but adults will simply roll their eyes in disbelief at what they just heard and saw. It’s frustrating because just when things are looking promising, a bad ill-timed joke derails it all.

With only one foot-chase, a dozen gunshots, and only one (!) explosion, the film is very light on action. Bay’s directing style doesn’t suffer from the lack of spectacle. His camera does some wild and fun things and everything on the screen; cars, boats, houses, oceans, horizons…and women, look stunning.
The cast seems to be having a blast with their characters and they clearly buy into their parts. Mark Wahlberg plays a despicable character, as does Tony Shaloub, and they are both fun to watch. The show is stolen by Dwayne Johnson, who plays a dumb, goofy and lovable born-again Christian. It’s hilarious to see Johnson as a born-again struggle with his faith (and his sobriety), and he seems to have no fear when it comes to the outrageous things he is asked to do. Ed Harris eventually shows up as a private detective hot on the heels of the crooks, and he brings a much needed maturity to the film. In fact, Harris is so good he often feels out of place; it feels like Daniel Day-Lewis on the Muppet Show.

Other than a few excess characters and useless scenes which drag on too long, PAIN & GAIN has no real mortal sins as a movie. It is well-shot, well-acted, never boring, and the story itself has meaning. The film is a bit of a head-scratcher because when Bay isn’t making a clever social statement, he’s putting oversized sex toys on the screen. PAIN & GAIN gets a lot right, and it gets just as much wrong.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reel Facts & Opinions: IRON MAN 3 Points of Interest

Next week, the summer movie season officially (and mercifully) begins with the arrival of Marvel’s IRON MAN 3. There are many points of interest in this film, starting with…

The Director: In 1987, Shane Black played the doomed character Hawkins in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger-led PREDATOR. After getting his guts ripped out in that film, Black turned his attention to screenwriting. In that new world, he is credited with writing the screenplays for MONSTER SQUAD (1987), LAST ACTION HERO (1993), and LETHAL WEAPON (1987), and his work in the LETHAL WEAPON series is credited with bringing the buddy-buddy cop flick back to the front. Black also directed KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005), in which he got a fantastic performance out of Iron Man himself, Robert Downey, Jr. As the director and co-writer of IRON MAN 3 , it is the biggest film of Black’s career in both size and importance, and how he reacts to the enormous pressure will either sink or swim this film.

The Storyline: Any true fan of the movies should not give a rat’s ass if a film follows the comic book from which it is adapted from, but it is worth noting which storyline IRON MAN 3 loosely follows. Demon in a Bottle was a nine-issue story arc from the comic series The Invincible Iron Man which was published in 1979. That storyline was concerned with Tony Stark’s (Downey Jr.) alcoholism. The IRON MAN films thus far have danced around Tony’s love for booze, and IRON MAN 3 just may (or may not), pull the curtain back completely. A battle with the bottle could take Tony Stark to many dark places; places that we have not seen yet in a Marvel film.

Phase Two: In 2008, Marvel Films began their unprecedented series of connected movies with the first IRON MAN film, so it is only appropriate that IRON MAN 3 kicks off what they refer to as Phase Two; the films which will follow last year’s monstrous superhero team-up flick THE AVENGERS. IRON MAN 3 and its filmmakers have the pressure of beginning Phase Two strongly, and of making a good follow-up to AVENGERS. However, considering the pieces and parts involved, there is a lot of hope for IRON MAN 3. The best way to follow-up a huge film isn’t to try and go bigger, but to go deeper, and the stage is set for IRON MAN 3 to do just that.

IRON MAN 3 opens May 3rd. It is written and directed by Shane Black, and stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, and Guy Pearce.



Monday, April 22, 2013

A Reel Review: OBLIVION

Joseph Kosinki’s second directorial effort, OBLIVION, is a Frankenstein of a film; made up of many different pieces and parts from many different places, or in this case, movies. Films such as STAR WARS, STAR TREK, WALL*E, THE ISLAND and MOON are all borrowed from here. Such a method of storytelling is nothing new in the business, so OBLIVION should not be judged on that alone. What it should and will be judged upon is if the film can make all those familiar science-fiction elements work for its own self.
Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his lover/work-partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are stationed on a devastated Earth, which has been evacuated after an alien attack 60 years before. Just before their mission of caretaking the machinery to harvest what’s left of Earth’s resources ends, Jack rescues a survivor (Olga Kurylenko) from a recently downed spacecraft, which throws everything he knows about himself and his surroundings into question.

As stated, OBLIVION borrows many themes and ideas from what seems like a thousand different science fiction stories and films. For the most part, the movie works because all of these borrowed ideas are put into a fresh setting (more on that in a minute), and set into a motion which never feels predictable. There are a few points in the second act which are a tad predictable, but by the third act the film veers into many shocking twists and surprising turns which keeps the territory fresh and new. As familiar as the story elements are, the film never gets dull.
At its core, OBLIVION is a tale about one man’s journey to discover himself, and in that the film stutters a little bit. The characters are a bit shallow and only develop to a certain extent, which makes their eventual resolutions less impactful. The film certainly tries its hardest to do so, but because of who the characters are in the story, they are not allowed to move past their first dimension. Without going into spoiler-territory, the filmmakers wrote themselves into a corner as their story kept their characters from being emotionally engaging.

Joseph Kosinski has put together a visual stunner of a film. The production design is awesome as it brings us some never-seen-before visuals and design. The design of the dwellings, weapons, and vehicles are fun enough to make you want to play with your old action figures, and the landscapes of the devasted Earth (mostly taken over by nature) are lush and breathtaking. Kosinski makes good use out of a plot point of our Moon being destroyed; the lack of a moon means tidal waves go awry, which gives the film a very good reason to have the landscapes they way they are and not just for showing off. There is also great care taken to keep a sense of geography around the characters as you always know where they are and what’s around them. Action scenes are fun enough, but some just drag along a little too long.
Tom Cruise gives a good performance and is tempered enough where he doesn’t go into his stock freak-out mode at any time. Morgan Freeman eventually shows up, but his time is basically an extended cameo and he gives a standard Morgan-Freemany performance. The best work comes from Olga Kurlenko, who shows a surprising amount of depth.

The ending wraps things up nice and tight, with any or all questions answered bluntly or requiring a little bit of thought. The lack of an emotional trigger suppresses the impact of the ending, which makes the film better suited to science-fiction enthusiasts. The film reaches high and succeeds as many times as it misses. OBLIVION is equal to the sum of its parts.

Friday, April 19, 2013


In his short career as a film director, Rob Zombie has carved out a niche for himself. Much like his fellow directors with names like Burton and Tarantino, you know exactly what kind of movie you are going to get when you see that name attached. His newest film, THE LORDS OF SALEM, still embraces his signature style of bizarre imagery and 1970’s pop culture, but also takes a large step away from his comfort zone of slasher flicks.
In modern day Slam, MA., Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a recovering junkie and a DJ. When a mysterious record album arrives which she plays on the air, an ancient evil is stirred up effecting women all over town.

THE LORDS OF SALEM starts off strongly as a nice mish-mash of horror and psychological thriller. As Heidi slowly begins to lose her mind, the film jump-cuts back to the 1600’s several times in an attempt to build a mythology of evil witches out for vengeance. The foundation is solid; however Zombie relies too much on his bizarre imagery a little too much. While the scares are well-timed and shocking to see, there are just too many wacko drop-ins that don’t make sense at first, and even less by movie’s end. The character of Heidi is sadly underdeveloped, which makes her eventual tragic turn ho-hum and ineffective. The film relies on no horror-film clichés (everything here is truly original), which makes it frustrating when things somehow become predictable from a mile away.  On top of it all, the film has sluggish pacing which often threatens to grind things to a literal halt. For a Rob Zombie film, there is a surprising and odd lack of energy.
While the story sloshes around to no effect, Zombie still manages to make a great-looking film. With zero CGI and plenty of practical effects, the scares are effective and well-timed. Zombie also makes excellent work out of dimly-lit scenes, and makes great use out of outdoor-scenes which are always overcast and never see a ray of sunlight. The editing in the sound department makes for a decent horror atmosphere, which sadly never gets put to good use.

Acting is so-so. Sheri Moon Zombie does pretty well in scenes where she doesn’t have to do much, but when she has to stretch and show some emotional torment she has all the personality of a hockey puck. The rest of the cast hams it up pretty well; Bruce Davidson, Ken Foree, and Dee Wallace are fairly fun to watch.
The ending makes for a nice Shakespearean tragedy, and almost makes it all worthwhile had we been given a reason to care about the characters, and if the journey to get there wasn’t so bizarre. Zombie seems comfortable in his own world; making movies that only he gets a kick out of and understand. That lack of balance just doesn’t work.


Monday, April 15, 2013

A Reel Review: TO THE WONDER

Much like the elusive director himself, the films of Terrence Malick have never been very accessible. His films have focused more on themes than plot; using beautiful cinematography backed by magnificent scoring with vague narration and little storyline. The ambiguous nature of his films have caused many to wonder if the man is a certified genius or authentic wacko, with his newest film, TO THE WONDER, stirring the pot of debate just a little bit more.
Neil and Marina (Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko) are two lovers who meet in France and move to Oklahoma with Marina’s young daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline). When the two begin to fall out of love, Neil renews an old love affair with Jane (Rachel McAdams), before crossing paths with Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), a priest who is struggling with his vocation.

The storyline of TO THE WONDER is fairly straightforward for a Terrence Malick film. His two main characters fall in and out of love while another falls in and out of his faith. It’s familiar ground with characters struggling with powerful themes of faith and love, but what makes TO THE WONDER stand out is the presentation. Every scene is the aftermath of something that happened off-camera. We never get to see or hear what Neil and Marina fight and argue about, or what made them fall in love with each other, we only get to see how they react. It feels like large chunks of the narrative are missing, and it seems that Malick only wants us to see the emotions they deal with after an incident. It really is a genius approach; the details don’t matter, just the emotions.
Malick’s trademarks of stunningly beautiful photography and orchestration is ever-present. The film is not edited together, it is composed; unfolding like a classical piece of music which soars and dives at will. The fact that this film is the first for Malick to be set in modern-times doesn’t faze the director at all; he is clearly the only one alive who can make places like a strip-mine, a Laundromat, and a goddamn Sonic drive-thru look artistically beautiful on the big screen.

It’s hard to judge the acting in TO THE WONDER because no one really seems to do much acting, as Malick uses them as set-dressings more than characters. Affleck speaks about a dozen words throughout the film, and the lines by Olga and Bardem are all spoken off-camera in their native tongues; sub-titled and in the form of prose. Any semblance of acting is done physically and with the actors showing emotions on their faces instead of their words. With that said, the playful chemistry between Affleck and Olga is tremendous and a joy to watch, although their eventual demise oddly won’t bring any tears. The biggest crime committed is probably the under-utilization of Javier Bardem, whose character doesn’t do much in the grand scheme of things.
The real question is if Malick’s unconventional approach to a conventional story works for TO THE WONDER. For the most part, sort-of. The story of Neil and Marina is clear, but we can only hope the best for them to a certain extent because there is a large emotional disconnect between them and the audience; an unfortunate drawback to the characters not being allowed to be characters. The themes of love and faith are certainly there, but the film doesn’t try to answer any questions about them, or for that matter bother to ask the questions in the first place. This is a beautiful movie with unknown intentions.


Friday, April 12, 2013


In 2010, director Derek Cianfrance made a splash with his little indie-love film, BLUE VALENTINE; a movie which earned an Oscar nomination and made an instant bankable star in Ryan Gosling. Fast-forward to 2013, where Cianfrance unveils THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES; a sprawling yet intimate film, bordering on epic, which throws conventional filmmaking out the window.
Luke (Gosling) is a motorcycle-stunt driver for a circus. When the show pulls into Schenectady, N.Y., he bumps into an old fling (Eva Mendes), and discovers that he has a son. Suddenly committed to his son, Luke quits the circus and takes to robbing banks to support him, a new job which he is successful at until he crosses paths with rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), in a showdown which changes many lives in an instant.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES literally embraces the structure of a three-act play. Act One is all about Luke’s commitment to his son and desire to be part of a family. Act Two shifts over to Avery’s story, as the new hero-cop deals with his sudden fame and eventual mix-up in a (somewhat clichéd) dirty-cop scandal. Act Three hits the fast-forward button 15 years and deals with the sons of Luke and Avery (brilliantly played by Emory Cohen and Dane DeHann), as the two teens deal with the actions of their fathers in their past, present, and future before coming back around.
Many films use a three-act structure, but PINES has such sudden dramatic shifts that it literally feels like three movies all rolled up in one. The film peaks with Act One, and nearly never feels powerful again after that; it often feels like a different director has stepped in. However, by the mid-way point through the second Act, things begin to click and the connections between all the characters become clear. PINES develops into an anthology film with powerful themes between fathers and sons; a theme that sneaks up on you with an emotional wallop by the film’s end.

While Derek Cianfrance is weaving a masterpiece of a narrative through years of his characters’ lives, he still finds time to give us a stunning-looking film. It is beautifully shot and scored, and he manages a consistent tempo from the pulse-pounding bank robberies to the intimate showdowns between families. Cianfrance also pulls off some one-take tracking-shots (no edits) during a chase sequence that has to be seen to be believed.
Cianfrance also gets great performances out of the rather large cast. Gosling is great, although his performance is somewhat stock as he never gives much more than his usual blank-stare into the camera. The movie is stolen by Cooper, who gives every bit of emotion and personal torment his character calls for. The rest of the cast is excellent; Ray Liotta, Eva Medes, Bruce Greenwood, Rose Byrne, Harris Yulin, and Ben Mendelsohn bring tremendous performances.

The true genius of THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is that the many different stories, all connected, evolve naturally and never feels forced or brought about by easy coincidences. The film feels like the type of story a grandfather would spend hours telling his children and grandchildren in real life as it has the stuff of legend and an ending which makes you wonder and/or imagine what might come next. PINES is ambitious and artful, soulful and somber, and ultimately unforgettable.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Pennsylvania Film School

This week, Northeastern Pennsylvania took a major step towards the glitz and glam of Hollywood when the curtain was raised on the Pennsylvania Film School in Scranton, PA.
The PA Film School will begin classes/lectures in late April and will last two weeks, offering insight and guidance to students on how to build a movie from the script up. Offering insight from personal experience from people who have worked in the industry, the seminars and workshops will focus on the creative and commercial aspects of filmmaking, along with the nuts-and-bolts of putting a movie together.

The classes will break down as follows:
Day One (April 23rd), Above the Line: Writing, Directing and Producing
Day Two (April 25th) Below the Line: Camera, Lighting and Sound
Day Three (April 30th) The Look and Aftermath: Design and Post-Production
Day Four (May 2nd) Show Business: Financing, Legal, Sales and Distribution

The school looks to provide the technical knowledge and a breakdown of how to bring a movie from an idea to reality.

Speaking from experience, making a movie is difficult work; a herculean task that so few filmmakers are able to pull off on the independent level. Areas such as Scranton PA, which is so far away from Hollywood it may as well be on Mars, can benefit from schools like this because it opens up possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Without the help of big-studios out here on the East Coast, young filmmakers can only develop their films independently, and independent filmmaking can often top the doings of the big-nuts, studio-backed West Coasters. Throughout history, independent films have made their impact; indie films such as RESERVOIR DOGS, DONNIE DARKO, THE TERMINATOR, EVIL DEAD, and MEMENTO (to name a few) have made history and changed the industry forever. It all starts locally, and it all starts with an idea.

For course outlines and other info, visit HERE

Monday, April 8, 2013


Twenty years ago this June (Yes, it’s been twenty years. Face it, you’re old), Steven Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK stomped its way into an unsuspecting and unprepared world; utilizing brand new visual-effects technology (called CGI), which quickly ushered in a new era of filmmaking. Here in 2013, the film once again takes advantage of new movie-tech, this time in the form of 3D.
Successful films converted to 3D only work if the film is shot right in the first place. 3D is not all about the things that fly out at you (although that’s fun too); what really makes it work is depth, and since all filmmakers should be shooting for depth-of-field in the first place, the added third-dimension should enhance that depth and create an immersive experience. With that said, it is fair to say that JURASSIC PARK was masterfully put together way back in 1993. The 3D conversion literally drops you in the middle of the action and the quiet moments. It doesn’t matter of you are looking at a herd of graceful dinosaurs or staring down a hungry T-Rex, you are in the thick of it all and getting caught up in every moment. Even the intimate scenes inside vehicles or an ice-cream table have a surprising depth to them. The 3D picture still has muted colors, however night-time scenes don’t suffer and things are still visible. Clearly the 3D tech still has a ways to go before it can show us a film’s natural vibrant colors, but oddly enough, after a while you do get used to it.

As we all know, the way a movie sounds is just as important, if not more important than the way a movie looks. If you’ve seen JURASSIC PARK on the big screen before, that’s great. But it is a fact to say that you have never heard the film like this. The re-mastered digital soundtrack will absolutely have you holding on your butt and the butts sitting next to you. The squeals, yelps, shrieks, and songs of the dinosaurs are unbelievably crisp and clear, and the blood-curdling roar of the T-Rex is enough for anyone to empty their bowels. From impact-tremors to the buzzing of insects, JURASSIC PARK has never sounded better. On top of all that, John Williams’ magnificent music sounds incredible.
What all this adds up to is a wonderful experience at the theatre. The great moments in JURASSIC PARK, and there are many of them, are doubled if not tripled in their power. Adding to the fun is sharing JURASSIC PARK with others. Seeing it in the theatre makes for a unique communal experience; whether the theatre is packed with old(er) lovers of the film or newcomers who have never seen it on the big screen, the experience can and will bring laughs and a few yelps. This is an adventure 65 million-and-twenty-years in the making, and well worth taking.


Friday, April 5, 2013

A Reel Review: EVIL DEAD

In 1981, director Sam Raimi brought us his horror flick THE EVIL DEAD, and its wacky horror/comedy-reboot/remake sequel  THE EVIL DEAD 2 six years later. Here in 2013, Raimi acts as a producer to EVIL DEAD; handing the reigns over to first-time director Fede Alvarez. Alvarez takes this version of the story back to its original horror roots; offering shock and scares by way of a bloodbath and leaving Raimi’s zany slapstick far behind.
Mia (Jane Levy) is taken to her families old isolated (ahem) cabin in the woods by her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), and her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas); hoping that the isolated surroundings will act as a detox for her drug addiction. When the gang finds a cursed book in the cellar of the cabin, an evil spirit is unleashed which possesses Mia.

Because of the source material which this film is based off, EVIL DEAD has little choice but to follow the formula now made famous and so familiar: Young kids go somewhere spooky and isolated, unleash evil, hijinx ensues. With such predictable circumstances, director Fede Alvarez adds some new elements to keep things fresh. Mia’s detox circumstance works very well, as the characters have a reason to be at the cabin and a reason to initially dismiss Mia’s odd behavior (post-possession) as drug withdrawal. For good measure, Alvarez throws in a family dynamic between David and Mia, which adds some much needed heart and weight into the film when things get gory.
And things do get gory; limbs are severed, faces are opened up, heads are split open, tongues are split in half and literally thousands of gallons of blood are rained down. The gore and bloodspill, done by way of some very convincing practical effects, add a lot of entertainment to the film. The deaths and impalements don’t scare as much as they do shock, and fans of good horror will certainly be smiling at the creative death scenes.

However EVIL DEAD still can’t manage to escape the old formula, and the added elements eventually fall by the wayside. There is a lot to enjoy about the film but by the third act many of the new ideas have worn away and there is nothing to do but ride out the inevitable. Even if the film is being viewed by someone who had never seen the formula before, the events can still be seen from a mile away. The predictability is a drag, as just when things seem fresh and new some old territory comes along to strip it away.
Acting ranges from decent to okay across the board. Most of the characters don’t develop very much (it’s difficult to remember some of their names), and the actors don’t put a lot into the parts to make them super-memorable. The best of the lot is Jane Levy, who goes through a fair amount of physical and mental torment to make her character believable.

The question of where or how this movie falls into the original EVIL DEAD timeline is answered by way of a groovy post-credits scene, which suddenly makes the overall experience feel a lot less pointless. EVIL DEAD is one-part thrilling, one-part shocking, and two-parts predictable. That makes for an even break.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert…film critic, journalist, and screenwriter, has passed away at the age of 70.
Ebert was known for his film review column which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times beginning in 1967, and for his television programs Sneak Previews, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and Siskel and Ebert and The Movies, all of which he co-hosted with fellow critic Gene Siskel. After Siskel’s death in 1999, Ebert would continue the show with Richard Roeper in Ebert & Roeper & The Movies.

He wrote more than 20 books, including his year-end annual yearbook. In 1975, he became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As of 2010, his movie reviews were syndicated in more than 200 newspapers across the U.S. and worldwide. He was outspoken against the MPAA film-rating system, skeptical of 3D, and an advocate for filmmaking and projection at 48 frames-per-second. He is a credited screenwriter on the 1970 schlock-melodrama film BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

This Blogger has been arguing about, debating about, and writing about movies his entire life. In every drunken (or sober) late-debate about any film at any time, one way or another the name of Roger Ebert would make its way into the conversation. It was always his opinion on a dispute which provided a foundation for everything; what-did-Ebert-say was nearly always the final word. The movies, you see, are more than just what appears on screen; they are also about the people who love them…those people who are on the other side of that screen; contributing in one form or another. Ebert wasn’t just a part of that other side; he was the foundation for it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2013, Episode III

Let’s face it…the year in movies 2013 thus far has been a cloudy day with a few faint rays of sunshine. With the month of April, the second-half of the prologue to the summer movie season, brighter days are hopefully coming soon…
JURASSIC PARK 3D - Hopefully the conversion of this classic film to 3D is better than the abysmal EPISODE I shit-job we got a year ago. JURASSIC PARK actually lends itself to the format because it was shot with depth in mind, and if done correctly, should be a spectacular experience on the big screen.

EVIL DEAD - Before everyone flies into a rage over remakes, let’s not pretend this is the first time EVIL DEAD has been remade. Sam Raimi, who directed EVIL DEAD (1981) and the second-effort at the material in EVIL DEAD II (1987), serves as a producer this time around in this practical-effects driven bloodbath of a horror film. Point of interest: the film may or may not be a remake as much as an extension of the existing franchise.
42 – The legendary ballplayer Jackie Robinson finally gets his due in this big-screen biopic. The film is directed by Brian Helgeland, whose only claim to fame is being the only screenwriter in history to be honored with both an Oscar and Razzie in the same year (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and THE POSTMAN). Harrison Ford stars.

TO THE WONDER – The question of whether or not Terrence Malick (THE TREE OF LIFE) is an authentic genius or a certified wacko probably won’t be answered in his new film…which he shot without a script. Stars Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem.
SCARY MOVIE V – If you haven’t had enough of this crap, here ya go. Stars Charlie Sheen and Ashley Tisdale.

OBLIVION – One man trying searching for something in a post-apocalyptic Earth is nothing new, but the visuals in this film so far look pretty stunning. Stars Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, and is directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON LEGACY).
jOBS – Ashton Kutcher is a dead-ringer for Apple-founder Steve Jobs in this biopic. Also stars Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, and James Woods.

THE LORDS OF SALEM – Probably not a good sign that a Rob Zombie horror-film is being released in April, but this family-friendly film having something to do with the Salem Witch Trials promises some shocking visuals.
THE BIG WEDDING: Raise your hand if you’re tired of Robert DeNiro making stupid romantic comedy movies. Also stars Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried, Robin Williams, and Katherine Heigl.

PAIN & GAIN – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who seems to be in ten-thousand movies this year), stars with Mark Wahlberg in this inspired-by-true-events film about two idiot bodybuilders who turned to a life of crime. Also stars Ed Harris and is directed by Michael Bay (THE ROCK, TRANSFORMERS).
MUD – Last year, Matthew McConaughey stunned everyone with his villainous, chilling performance in KILLER JOE. This year he continues his seemingly rebooted career by teaming up with director Jeff Nichols, who stunned everyone two years ago with TAKE SHELTER. Also stars Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon, and Sam Shepard.


In a few weeks, Reel Speak will preview the much-welcomed arrival of the first month of the Summer Movie Season.