Monday, March 31, 2014

A Reel Review: SABOTAGE

Director David Ayer has made splashes in his career by exploring the dark underbelly of law enforcement; from his Oscar-winning TRAINING DAY in 2001, to his well-received END OF WATCH in 2012. Here in 2014, Ayer goes back to the well for another dip, this time bringing along the actor who used to be the biggest star in the world.
John Breacher (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads an elite team of DEA agents (including but not limited to Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, and Mireille Enos) who rage war against the Cartel. When the team unsuccessfully tries to steal money from a drug lord, their members suddenly begin to be assassinated…with the murders investigated by a local detective (Olivia Williams).

SABOTAGE starts off strong. After a thrilling and well-executed raid against a drug lord in which the team fails to make off with $10 million dollars (which vanishes), the stage is set for an excellent whodunit-caper combined with the drama of strong characters pointing the fingers at one another. From there, things go south in a hurry. Director David Ayer and his screenwriter suddenly takes the film on a left-hand turn, and then a right, and then another left, and then turns back around. The film spends enormous amounts of time on what seems like a million subplots; Breacher’s past, an extra-marital affair with the team, the sins of DEA agents, and an attempt at making a family dynamic out of the team. None of these elements work very well together, and it often feels like Ayer and his screenwriter at one time had five different scripts, and simply took the best pages out of each and slapped them all together.
Worse, the film has a horribly amateur-like feel to it. Characters exclaim out loud what they are going to do next as if the audience is too stupid to figure it out, and the film has no sense of style, rhythm, or any sort of heart. The characters within the DEA team, whom we are supposed to feel empathy for, are portrayed as assholes who drink too much and abuse strippers…it’s almost a relief when they start meeting their gory deaths.

Acting is a mixed bag. Arnold Schwarzenegger is given the emotional center of the film but is never allowed to show it. He seems to be there only to fill the frame and swear every two minutes, minus the charming charisma that he’s made a career out of. The talented Olivia Williams is a disaster in her laughable attempt at a southern accent (the film is set in the Atlanta area for no given reason), and Terrence Howard barely shows up at all. Sam Worthington and Mireille Enos do the most and the best work as a violate husband-and-wife team.
After a chase scene towards the finale (in which all of these skilled marksmen suddenly can’t hit anyone or anything with their gigantic guns), SABOTAGE goes into anti-climatic territory by sliding into an Old West-type showdown which sticks out like a sore thumb in a lame attempt to add maturity to the film; lame because it’s so obvious. After all the attempts at clever twists and turns, by the time the curtain is supposedly pulled back on the big mystery, it still isn’t clear who did what to whom and why. In the end, SABOTAGE feels like a film made by idiots for idiots.


Friday, March 28, 2014

A Reel Review: NOAH

The question facing director Darren Aronofsky in his big-budget adaptation of Noah’s Ark was a daunting one; how do you make one of the most simplistic, and most well-known tales into something that doesn’t retread old ground ( boring), or at the very least, something cinematic? Aronofsky’s answer, and approach in his NOAH, was to focus on the human side of the story while re-imagining the core elements; an approach so simple, its genius.
Thousands of years ago, the world has become a barren wasteland…populated by the descendants of Cain and Abel. As the wicked grow in numbers, Noah (Russell Crowe) has visions of a cataclysmic flood sent by The Creator. Seeking answers, he and his wife (Jennifer Connelly), sons, and adopted daughter (Emma Watson) seek the advice of Noah’s grandfather (Anthony Hopkins). Aided by a band of fallen angels called The Watchers, Noah and his family begin constructing a massive ark to save the innocent…the beasts of the world, from the world-ending floods.

NOAH is a film made of two halves; one part fantasy, and one part spiritual journey. The film centers around Noah, who undertakes a near-impossible quest which tests his faith over and over. Surrounding that are fantastical elements which director Darren Aronofsky uses to drive Noah towards his goals. The visions from the The Creator come in dreams and stunning visual montages and the fallen angels, The Watchers appear as stone giants. It all begins to feel like an epic fantasy film, complete with a few battles (led by the self-proclaimed king, played brilliantly by Ray Winstone), but what keeps it from become all spectacle is the grounded nature of the film. The human side is never left behind; from Noah’s struggles with his choices to the hard decisions members of his family have to take…NOAH never leaves anything behind.
Once the floods come and the wicked are wiped out (one of the most subtle, and horrifying mass-genocide sequences ever filmed), Noah and his family are alone on the ark, and here is where Aronofsky goes for the emotion. A few clever twists and turns split the family apart, with Noah being so fiercely dedicated to his heavenly task that he actually starts to become a villain in the film. All this culminates in an unexpected gut-punch of emotion which is sure to bring just as many tears as raindrops. NOAH suddenly becomes a family drama amidst the grand spectacle, and the way Aronofsky gets there makes NOAH a tremendous journey to take.

Aronofsky has imagined and realized a beautiful looking film. The cinematography feels classic and you never want to look away. The Watchers are amazing to look at and are rendered in the old-fashioned, stop-motion-puppet style. The visual montages are stunning and go a long way in the storytelling.
Acting is brilliant. Russell Crowe gives one of his best performances; committed and tortured at the same time. Jennifer Connelly gets a little shortchanged but eventually gets a few great tearful moments. Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone are their usual excellent selves, but the film is stolen by Emma Watson. Watson unexpectedly becomes a strong focus in the film, and she shoulders the burden perfectly. She gives her best performance yet in her young career, and serves as the powerful emotional center of the film. With the film taking place over a decade in time, Noah’s sons are played by several actors, with Logan Lerman turning in a great role as the middle child.

With so many surprises on the oldest tale in the book, Aronofsky manages to make you think about what you are seeing, and to look beyond the spectacle and new imaginings. Those who are hearty enough to make that journey will be rewarded greatly; NOAH is a film anchored in human nature, belief, and great storytelling


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME I is the beginning of the end of Lars von Trier’s “depression trilogy” of films; his trio of movies which boldly and unapologetically exposes and exploits the depressive nature of us humans and the things we do to cope. It is a story about one woman’s method of coping which turns into an obsession with sex, and despite how skin is bared, the film does have more going for it than just people doing the deed.
Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is found laying the street by Seilgman (Stellan Skarsgard). When she refuses medical attention, Seilgman takes her to his home, where she begins to recount her life’s obsession with sex, starting with her youth (her younger self played by Stacy Martin), and including her parents (Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen), and her first lover (Shia LaBeouf).

Set within the framework of Joe telling her life’s story to her new friend, NYMPHOMANIAC guides us through her sexual journey…from discovering her body at a young age, to a loving relationship with her father, to a testy relationship with her mother, to the ups and downs she encounters with her first lover. The film bounces back and forth from the present day to the past, with most of the scenes from her past life involving her sexual discoveries and adventures; each one holding a significant place in her life. What makes it all work is that the exchanges between Joe and Seilgman are mesmerizing. The two couldn’t be more different; Joe is depressed and feeling like love and life has chewed her up and spit her out, while Seilgman is optimistic and still in love with life. The two bounce off of each other’s experiences and stories, and director Lars von Trier lets his characters find allegory and meaning through simplest things; from dining utensils to music to art…everything they talk about has a deeper meaning than face value, and makes NYMPHOMANIAC a fascinating watch.
Lars von Trier has put together a very unique looking-film. It is beautiful and tragic to look at as the scenes change from grim to bright in the blink of an eye. Pacing is a slow burn, but the pulse is a steady one and there are no moments of boredom. The film is very fun in places as von Trier inserts some visual aids via superimposed graphics to help get some of the analogies across. The amount of sex in the film (and there is a lot of it) is sometimes filmed artfully, and sometimes filmed in its rawest and animalistic form…depending on the situation. Nudity and full-frontals are everywhere and enough to make anyone squirm in their seat. But what’s really unsettling about the film is that once again, von Trier gets beyond the “how” of the matter and into the “why”. He manages to get past all of the humping and expose the human nature behind it all…and in the process expose a part of us that we’d rather not deal with.

Acting is tremendous. Charlotte Gainsbourg has never looked more tragic or defeated, and Stellan Skarsgard is his usual stellar-self. Christian Slater turns in a surprising successful turn as the father, and Shia LaBeouf, whose work amounts to an extended cameo, nails his accent nicely. An unrecognizable Uma Thurman shows up in the tragic role of a scorned wife and nearly steals the show in just what may be her best performance yet. The film belongs to newcomer Stacy Martin, who as a young Joe is fearless in her performance.
NYMPHOMANIAC was originally cut as a five-hour film, but for theatrical reasons was split into two parts. This first part, or volume, ends on a note which seems abrupt but opens up some fascinating possibilities for what’s next. The film still manages to stand on its own as a thought-provoking and artful character piece. Don’t let the title scare you away; despite all the sex, this is a film more for the mind than the body.


Monday, March 24, 2014

James Rebhorn 1948-2014

Actor James Rebhorn has passed away at the age of 65.
Born in Philadelphia, James Rebhorn started his screen-acting career appearing on the Soaps; with notable turns on SEARCH FOR TOMORROW and AS THE WORLD TURNS…with the latter role earning him an outstanding supporting actor nomination by Soap Opera Digest in 1992. When he turned to the big screen, his strong and disciplined demeanor earned him roles as lawyers, politicians, doctors, and military men; roles which he adapted to with ease and earned himself a reputation as a true character-actor.

He became a familiar face on the big-screen, and his list of credits reads like a playlist of favorites; MY COUSIN VINNY (1992), BASIC INSTINCT (1992), SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992), INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), David Fincher’s THE GAME (1997), THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999), MEET THE PARENTS (2000), and COLD MOUNTAIN (2003). His movie career earned him an invitation to become a member of the Academy in 2007.
Despite a busy big-screen career, he still found time to dabble in TV. He had notable roles on the original LAW AND ORDER, SEINFELD, 30 ROCK, THIRD WATCH, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, and HOMELAND.

James Rebhorn’s characters are often erroneously referred to as bad-guys or villains. His skills leaned towards the disciplined type, but he always managed to make those characters human and believable, which made them more of an adversary than a bad guy. He had a knack for making the antagonist justified, and somewhat likeable. He seemed to appear everywhere; a familiar face that we all enjoyed seeing…and without it, a certain comfort will now be missing.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: Everything You Need to Know About NYMPHOMANIAC (VOL I).

This weekend, controversial director Lars von Trier unleashes his look at human sexuality in the first part of his new film, NYMPHOMANIAC. Here is everything you need to know about this much-talked about film.
Lars who? – NYMPHOMANIAC is directed by Danish director Lars von Trier, whose past efforts include DOGVILLE (2003), ANTICHRIST (2009), and MELANCHOLIA (2011). He received several awards at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for DANCER IN THE DARK.

What is this about? – NYMPHOMANIAC is a sexually explicit drama about a woman’s life-long journey though love and sex as told by the main character; a 50 year old woman named Joe. Joe recounts her story to a man who finds her lying beaten on the street. The story is divided into two “volumes” (movies), composed of eight total chapters.
Who is in this? – A host of familiar faces and newcomers. Young Joe is portrayed by newcomer Stacy Martin, while her older self is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who also starred in von Trier’s MELANCHOLIA. Also along for the ride are Stellan Skarsgard (THOR), Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Connie Nielson, and Willem Dafoe.

What should you really know? – As if the title didn’t tip you off, NYMPHOMANIAC has a lot of sex. How much and how much does it show? Enough to earn an NC-17 rating in the U.S. The film reportedly used a lot of body doubles to film the sex scenes. The actors would pretend to have sex, and then the body doubles would come in and really have sex with the actors faces digitally inserted. Digital compositing was also used to superimpose the genitals of pornographic film actors on the bodies of the film actors.
What to expect – Don’t let all the talk about sex scare you away. NYMPHOMANIAC is considered to be the finale in von Trier’s “depression trilogy”; his trio of films, ANTICHRIST, MELANCHOLIA, and now the two-part NYMPHOMANIAC, deal with depression and our various ways of coping. Lars von Trier, who suffers from depression and several phobias, has always used his films as a way of exploring the human condition. His presentation may be controversial and uncomfortable, but his skill in exposing human faults and weaknesses is probably what really scares people away; after all, no one likes seeing parts of their weaker selves on the big screen. NYMPHOMANIAC may make you squirm in your seat, but it should also make you think, and maybe learn something.

NYMPHOMANIAC VOL I will be released March 21st. VOL II will be released April 18th.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: The NOAH Issue

Later this month, director/writer Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark will be released in theatres in the form of NOAH.  As it is with any Bible-story adaptation, Aronofsky’s film has already been met with a fair amount of controversy. Paramount Pictures, in an effort to quell any sort of uproar, has added an explanatory message to the film at the request of the President and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, Jerry A. Johnson. The message, which also passes as a disclaimer, essentially says that artistic license has been taken with the film, and that it is an adaptation and not line-by-line storytelling. The message will read:
“The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”

The disclaimer, which stops just short of calling Noah’s Ark a true story, is essentially saying that the film is good, but if you want to know the definitive story…go read the book. This is one can of worms that the film industry may not want to mess with. The story of Noah’s Ark is just that; a story. It is a story printed in the most popular, and respected pieces of literature in history…The Bible. Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH is an adaptation of that story. Whether or not Noah’s Ark is fiction or non-fiction is irrelevant; for even historical films are based on some sort of written record.
Movies based on a pre-existing written source is nothing new in the film industry; it has been done for over 100 years. Books, comic-books, graphic novels, video games, plays…all have been used as film adaptations for decades upon decades and will continue to be. If NOAH deserves a disclaimer which immediately discredits its own self, then why not all adaptations? Did the film versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND need an explanatory message telling the viewer that they would be better off reading a book? What’s to stop comic-book fans from demanding a disclaimer in front of the next SPIDER-MAN movie? Paramount’s move has opened the door for thousands of special interest groups to barge in and start dictating content.

Paramount seemed to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. They couldn’t just put up a placecard saying “based on a true story”, and they couldn’t just bluntly say “based on the Biblical story” (Martin Scorsese’s THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST had a similar disclaimer, but that didn’t stop protesters from fire-bombing a theatre in 1988). Paramount’s smartest move would have been to do nothing, and to let the movies do what they do best; tell a story. Audiences are smarter than what studios and special-interest groups think; we know exactly what we are seeing and what we want to see. We should not have our intelligence insulted by being told we just paid to see the wrong story.
What say you?


NOAH opens on March 28th. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN, THE WRESTLER), and stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, and Anthony Hopkins.


Friday, March 14, 2014


Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL very much feels like the final chapter in the first act of the stylistic writer/director’s career. Anderson throws in everything but the kitchen sink in making this film; every trademark, technique, prior-work, and nearly every actor he has ever worked with shows up  here. It is Anderson writing a love letter to a passing era, for himself and for the good of the film. That is the charm and hook of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.
Just prior to World War II, Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is a famed concierge at a lavish hotel on the borders of England. With war looming, he and his Bell Boy-in-training Zero (Tony Revolori) get mixed up in a murder-mystery and a family-inheritance feud when Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) mysteriously dies and leaves a famed painting to Gustave.

To reveal more of the plot would be a crime, as THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a film about a great many things. Besides a murder mystery and family-inheritance story, it also about a friendship/mentorship between an adult and teen, an adolescent love story, and a cat-and-mouse game between villains and heroes…all which unfold through the settings of the hotel, a prison (and subsequent outbreak), a monastery, a museum, the Swiss Alps, a bakery, and a train. It sounds like a lot as the film rapidly switches gears from one minute to the next, but the film interweaves all the plotlines nicely. Overall Anderson is preaching the art of storytelling. Set within the framework of an elder Zero (played by F. Murray Abraham) recounting the adventure to an author (played as an old man by Tom Wilkinson, and as a younger man, Jude Law), there is a lesson of the power of storytelling on display here, and it is a strong hook which works from the first frame to the last.
As usual, Wes Anderson has constructed a beautiful looking film. His trademark uses of color and remarkable set-pieces are on full display, and his camera never fails to explore every nook and cranny of every building and every room. The exterior scenes are a throwback to the Golden Age of film; they are put together with hand-painted backdrops and models…often looking like a two-page spread from a pop-up book and sending the message that realism is the last thing on Anderson’s mind. The screen format changes to mark the era the film is taking place in as the narrative jumps around the timeline. The shift in screen is never a distraction, as there are only a half-dozen or so jumps, and Anderson makes great use out of the changing format. When the film is in the old 4:3 box screen, Anderson embraces the style of 1930’s filmmaking, and you often have to pinch yourself to be reminded that you’re watching a 2014 movie. It is a remarkable and charming bit of movie-making.

Throw out everything you ever thought you knew about Ralph Fiennes’ acting abilities, for in this film he explores new territory. He is funny, charming, and a little bit despicable and puts on a very memorable performance. His counterpart, played by the young Tony Revolori, matches him well. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe turn in great roles as the villains in the story, and Ed Norton is once again marvelous as a military captain looking to make sense of it all. The rest of the cast amounts to extended and small cameos but are all handled well; Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Saoirise Ronan, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman are all wonderful to watch.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL moves along at breakneck speed, and after a rousing climax (which includes the most hilarious gun-battle ever filmed); the film suddenly takes a left turn and goes for the best kind of emotional wallop; the kind that you never see coming. The ending goes for an unexpected pull of emotion which really works, and don’t be surprised if your theatre is dead-silent when the credits roll. After all the whimsy, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is ultimately about the sad melancholy we feel over things which much pass in this world…and you don’t realize it until it is on top of you. If this is indeed Wes Anderson checking out of the first act of his career, then there couldn’t be a better sendoff, or more to look forward to.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: Everything You Need To Know About THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

In this early month of March, one of the most anticipated films of the year unspools in the form of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Here is everything you need to know…
Who is behind this? – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is written and directed by Wes Anderson, who was behind RUSHMORE (1998), THE LIFE AQUATIC (2004), and THE DARJEELING LIMITED (2007). Anderson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his own MOONRISE KINGDOM in 2012, and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS in 2001. He was also for nominated for the Best Animated Film Oscar in 2009 for THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX.

Who is in this? – Wes Anderson has never had a problem getting good actors to come work for him, and this year he assembles an amazing cast of Oscar winners, contenders, and all-around favorites; Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Kietel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, F. Murray Abraham, Jason Schwartzman, and Saorise Ronan.
What’s this about? – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of hotel concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), and his lobby-boy friend at a famous European hotel in-between the World Wars. The story involves the theft of a priceless painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune.

Anything special? – Wes Anderson has shot his movie in three different aspect ratios…or screen format. The film takes place over several years, and the screen format changes to match the era. As the movie jumps through time periods, the screen format tells viewers where they are in the timeline.
What to expect? – Wes Anderson’s unique style of slow-motion, quirky characters, colorful set design, and strong music choices are sure to be on display. Also expect the large, well-respected cast to act their way into some unexpected places, which is another trademark of Anderson’s films. Considering the cast, unique presentation, and time-period (the era between World Wars is rarely explored on film), we have before us the potential for a comfortable and warm light amidst a cold dark winter.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL goes into wide-release March 14th.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Reel Review - 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

In 2007, stylistic director Zack Snyder brought Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 to the big screen with moderate success. Seven years later, the side-story/sequel arrives in the form of RISE OF AN EMPIRE…which is also authored by Miller but this time does without Snyder, and the star of 300, Gerard Butler. For most movies, knowing all this backstory usually isn’t necessary, but RISE OF AN EMPIRE is one of those few exceptions.
Set during the events of 300, Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), attempts to unite Greece by repelling the invasion of the Persian armies, led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and scorned warrior-woman Artemisia (Eva Green).

RISE OF AN EMPIRE is an impossible watch unless you’ve seen the original 300 film. Its storyline runs concurrently with the events of 300, which it references often. This is the main point of fascination with the film, and for the most part it works. It weaves in and out of the original film nicely, and the references never come across as a distraction. Besides that, the film is basically a carbon-copy of its predecessor plot-wise; a small army fending off an invasion of superior forces, with the only difference being the battles take place at sea instead of a battlefield. For the most part it works, but where EMPIRE falls short is in its characters. Every hero-character is one-dimensional, unlikable, and not very exciting. For a film with so much blood, it doesn’t show much heart…and it’s easy to forget exactly what all the fighting is for.
There is still a lot to enjoy in RISE OF AN EMPIRE. New director Noam Murro copies the directing of the original film nicely. Battle scenes are loaded with slo-mo bloodspill, decapitations, and hacking-off of limbs. The battles at sea are stunning to see, fun to watch, and easy to follow. There is no overuse of the goddamn shaky-cam technique, and the constant war-drums in the soundtrack really get the pulse pounding.

Acting is a mixed bag. Sullivan Stapleton is a bore; he shows no charisma whatsoever and has to be the most unlikeable hero ever. On the opposite end, Eva Green is spectacular in her first role as a lead villain. She is sexy and mesmerizing, and she commands the screen everytime she appears. Lena Heady reprises her role as Queen Gorgo of Sparta, and is her usual excellent self. The rest of the cast, made up mostly of unknowns, comes and goes too quickly to care about or to make an impression.
The finale arrives after a million gallons of blood is spilt and leaves the door wide-open for another film. RISE OF AN EMPIRE doesn’t top or draw equal to its predecessor, but it’s still a fun and decent experience with its excellent visuals and well-executed battle scenes. It just needed to spend less time spilling blood and more time on its characters. With all of its reliance on its predecessor, it doesn't work as a stand-alone film, but its clear that it never intended to be.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Year In Film 2014 - Episode II

The Oscars are over, the last remnants of 2013 have been swept away, and with it also goes away Movie Siberia; the first two miserable months of the year with their equally miserable movies. This year’s month of March brings with it a hint of better and warmer things to come for 2014.

 It all checks in with…

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – Stylistic director Wes Anderson (MOONRISE KINGDOM) assembles the cast of the year in this whodunit caper taking place in the 1930’s. Stars Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, and F. Murray Abraham.

300: THE RISE OF AN EMPIRE – Gerard Butler’s hammy, yet memorable character is gone, as is director Zack Snyder…but that doesn’t stop this sequel. Stars Sullivan Stapleton (GANGSTER SQUAD), Eva Green, and Lena Headey.

NEED FOR SPEED – A rev ‘em up thriller based on a video game. Stars Aaron Paul (BREAKING BAD) and Dominic Cooper.

ENEMY – Jake Gyllenhall reteams with his director from last year’s PRISONERS (Denis Villeneuve) in this psychological thriller. Also stars Melanie Laurent (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS).

THE ART OF THE STEAL – Kurt Russell comes out of his semi-retirement to star as a third-rate motorcycle daredevil and former art-thief who goes for one more heist. Co-stars Matt Dillon, Terence Stamp, and Jay Baruchel.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED – Kermit the Frog is a victim of mistaken identity in this sequel. He is joined by his usual muppety pals and humans Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey.

DIVERGENT – An action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided based on their human virtues. Stars Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet…and is directed by Neil Burger (LIMITLESS, THE ILLUSIONIST).

 NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME I – Controversial director Lars von Trier (MELANCHOLIA, ANTICHRIST) is back with a fun little tale about a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac. Stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Connie Nielsen, Udo kier, and Stellan Skarsgard.

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE – Documentary feature chronicling Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed 1975 attempt to bring DUNE to the big screen.

NOAH – Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN) takes on the Biblical story. Russell Crowe stars as Noah, and he is joined by Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson.

SABOTAGE – Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to branch-out by exploring new roles. This time as a DEA agent whose team gets killed by the Cartel. Co-stars Sam Worthington (AVATAR), and Terrence Howard. Directed by David Ayer (END OF WATCH).


Next month, Episode III takes on the super-month of April.



Monday, March 3, 2014

Reel Facts & Opinions: Oscar Night - The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious

The year that was 2013 was officially laid to rest last night with the 86th Academy Awards. Just like any other year, there were plenty of Good, Bad, and Glorious moments:
The Good

-Ellen DeGeneres did a serviceable job in her second outing as host. Although some of her gags dragged on a little too long, she was pleasant, low-key, and moving her off the stage and into the star-studded audience where she could play was a great move.
-The work of legendary composer John Williams was played several times during the night. They just can’t ever have an Oscar telecast without his signature and classic themes.

-The In Memoriam was perfect, and was closed out nicely by Bette Midler’s rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings. Tears.
The Bad

-Music is a big part of the movies, and the Best Original Song nominees certainly deserve attention…but last night’s seven musical numbers kept on derailing the momentum the show was struggling to build up.
-Despite Ellen’s best efforts, the show took a long while before finding a rhythm.

-The theme of “heroes” was an excellent idea, but was played out like an afterthought. The two montages were nice but felt out of place because the “theme” was never consistent throughout the show.
-Nice tribute to THE WIZARD OF OZ, which turns 75 this year. But how come no tribute to the equally important GONE WITH THE WIND…which also turns 75 this year and won the Oscar?

-The Academy continues to produce broadcasts which ignores the rich history of film. There are so many great moments and stories in Oscar history, and they veer away from it every year as if they’re afraid of it.
The Glorious

-The acceptance speeches by the winners of the acting categories; Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, and Lupita Nyong’o’s speeches were full of heart and were all class.
-Although it comes as no surprise to this Blogger, the highly touted WOLF OF WALL STREET and AMERICAN HUSTLE were completely shut-out. They were good movies with fatal flaws which made it very difficult for them to overcome the superior films they were up against. Why is this Glorious? Because it was the right thing to happen.

-The Oscars are all about the movies in the end, and the two best films of 2013 got their due. GRAVITY earned every one of its seven Oscars; dominating the technical categories and even a Best Director. GRAVITY is a technical landmark, and on the opposite side of its world was 12 YEARS A SLAVE…a film which is a landmark in its own way. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is one of those films that should be required viewing for all, and is the right film to be called a Best Picture.


What say you?