"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Friday, May 8, 2015

15 Must-Watch 2015 Summer Movies!

The Hollywood summer season kicked off in style with Avengers: Age of Ultron last Friday, but things are just heating up now. With franchises old and new, book adaptations, comedies and dramas, this Hollywood summer has a lot of up its sleeve with films from Meryl Streep, Chris Pratt, Tom Cruise and more. Here's a quick list of summer movies I'm looking forward to.

15. Ricki and the Flash
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Audra McDonald, Sebastian Stan and Mamie Gummer

Meryl Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, a mother who left her family to pursue her dream of being a rock singer. Years later, Ricki returns to help her daughter (played by real life daughter Mamie Gummer) recover from a breakup and reconnect with her family. While most of us would watch Meryl Streep recite the phonebook, Ricki and the Flash features a screenplay by Oscar winner Diablo Cody (Juno) and is directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia). The film releases August 7, 2015.

14. Southpaw
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent and Naomie Harris

Jake Gyllenhaal is Billy Hope, the headstrong, reckless boxing Junior Middleweight Champion who had it all. When his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) dies in a senseless accident, Billy falls down hard only to climb his way back to the top. Co-starring Forest Whitaker as a former boxer Tink who helps Billy along the way, Southpaw is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and co-written by Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy). Releasing on July 24, 2015, the main talking point of the film is lead actor Gyllenhaal who has absolutely transformed his body to play Hope. His role could be an early contender for Best Actor this summer.

13. Pixels
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan

When a capsule to find extraterrestrial life is sent out as a message of peace and later interpreted the wrong way, real video games characters like Pacman and Donkey Kong descend upon Earth to attack us. Oh, did I mention it was up to Adam Sandler and Kevin James to save us all? Al least they have Tyrion Lannister on their team. Will it be game over for Earth? We'll find out on July 24, 2015 when Pixels releases in theatres.

12. Trainwreck

Director: Jared Hess
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader and LeBron James

If you don't know who Amy Schumer is, then this film is probably a good place to start. The hilarious comedienne plays a commitment-phobic writer who meets a guy who could probably be 'the one'.  Featuring LeBron James (yes, that's right, the Cleveland Cavalier) in a hilarious supporting role, Trainwreck is produced by Judd Apatow and written by the multi-tasking Schumer. It releases on July 17, 2015.

11. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg

Tom Cruise aka Ethan Hunt is back with more death defying stunts in this latest instalment of the Mission: Impossible film series. From hanging off a plane to zooming past baddies on a motorcycle, Hunt's at it again, tracking down the mysterious Syndicate who's out to destroy him and his team. With co-stars Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg, the spy gang is back again to make it count this time. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation releases in theatres on July 31, 2015.

10. Aloha
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski and Bill Murray

Director Cameron Crowe's first feature in four years, Aloha features an all star cast with recent Oscar nominees Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone along with Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray and John Krasinski. Apart from this extremely amiable cast, the film is one of the few rom-coms this summer. Could this bring back a push for the genre? Fingers crossed! Aloha releases in theatres on May 29th.

9. Paper Towns
Director: Jake Schreier
Starring: Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff

Building on the success of last year's The Fault in Our Stars, this adaptation of John Green's novel features Nat Wolff (who played Isaac in The Fault in Our Stars) and model turned actress Cara Delevingne in her first lead role as the mysterious Margo. When she suddenly disappears, will Quentin (Wolff) pick up on the cryptic clues she leaves behind? I can't wait to watch Paper Towns when it releases on July 24, 2015.

8. Magic Mike XXL
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Starring: Channing Tatum, Amber Heard, Elizabeth Banks and Matt Bomer

I could just type the name 'Channing Tatum' over and over here and that's all that is needed for most people to check out this sequel to the 2012's surprise hit Magic Mike. The guys are all back (minus Matthew McConaughey) for one last epic road trip. Brace yourself ladies, the temperature's about to get real hot! Magic Mike XXL hits theatres July 1, 2015.

7. Me and Earl and the Dying Earl
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke and  Ronald Cyler II

Keep your eyes peeled for this year's Sundance darling, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, about three high school students and the year that changed their lives.  This could be the indie breakout hit this summer. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl releases in theatres on June 12, 2015.

6. Minions
Directors:Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Voice Talents: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin

This standalone movie is the first step in the overall minion takeover of the world. A word of advice, don't try to resist these feisty, inarticulate little yellow beings. Their cuteness is irresistible and I don't care about the plot of the film, I'm watching it anyway. Banana! Minions begins their world domination in theatres July 10, 2015.

5. Pitch Perfect 2
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld

The Bella Bardens are suspended after an 'incident' in front of the President of the United States. But these girls run the world and they won't rest until they've defeated the rest of the aca-competition. With returning stars Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, mashups will never be the same again. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, Pitch Perfect 2 lands in theatres on May 15, 2015.

4. Spy
Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham and Allison Janney

Bridesmaids co-stars Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne are reunited in this rollicking spy comedy from director Paul Feig. McCarthy plays CIA analyst Susan who goes into the field to find her missing partner (Jude Law). McCarthy's also the undisputed queen of comedy in the summer season when she returns with Spy in theatres on June 5, 2015.

3. Tomorrowland
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Huge Laurie and Raffey Cassidy

I'm longing to find out the secrets of Tomorrowland, a place somewhere in time and space in director Brad Bird's follow up to Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, co-written by Damon Lindelof (Lost). With actors George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, this long-in-the-works mysterious Disney project finally hits theatres on May 22.

2. Inside Out
Director: Pete Docter
Voice Talents: Amy Poehler, Diane Lane, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

It's been far too long that we've seen a Pixar film in theatres. It's actually only two years but feels much, much longer. The inner workings of your mind are now five distinct characters in this incredible, innovative film from director Pete Docter (Monsters University, Up). Featuring the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and more, Inside Out takes us inside our minds on June 19, 2015. Be prepared, guys, I'm carrying extra tissues to the theatres with me.

1. Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson

They're back!!! 22 years after Steven Spielberg's Jurassic World, bigger, meaner and smarter dinosaurs take centerstage in the fourth film of the Jurassic Park series. Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in the newly updated park on Isla Nublar. Jurassic World roars back into theatres on June 12, 2015.

Well, that was my list! What summer movies are you most looking forward to?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

New Photos: Vanity Fair Covers Star Wars: The Force Awakens

In some parts of the world it is still May the Fourth and with a new Star Wars film landing in theaters this Christmas, Vanity Fair displayed the first look of several new characters in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Photographed by the legendary Annie Leibovitz, Star Wars next-gen features Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o in their upcoming June issue.

 Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) leads snowtroopers to their secret base. (Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair)

Lupita Ngong'o plays a CGI character, pirate Maz Katana. (Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair)

 Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his X-wing fighter. (Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair)

Director JJ Abrams with Rey (Daisy Ridley) on the desert planet Jakku.

Also featured on the cover along with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are old friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

Head on over to Vanity Fair to find out more production details and behind the scenes photos from the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Happy Star Wars Day!

First Look: Suicide Squad's Task Force X Revealed!

(Photo: David Ayer)
Looks like the cast and crew of DC Universe's Suicide Squad has been busy this past month. There have been cast announcements, table reads and the first look of Jared Leto's Joker was revealed. This time around, director David Ayer (who's been the main source of most of these photos) unveiled the Task Force X assembling together for their first cast photo in costume.

Featured in the photo are (left to right) Adam Beach, Jai Courtney, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jay Hernandez all transformed as the alter egos. Smith who plays the lead Deadshot aka Floyd Lawton also gave us a closer look at his costume on his Facebook page. He's clearing having a ball shooting this film.

(Photo: Will Smith)
This third installment in DC's shared universe is currently shooting in Toronto and will debut in theaters on August 5, 2016.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Around the World in Posters: Aloha, Southpaw, Batman v. Superman and more!

Bradley Cooper shows off his pearly whites in these new Aloha posters.

These radical Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice posters feature opposing logos torn into Batman and Superman's portraits.

Closing out the Directors' Fortnight at this year's Cannes Film Festival is Dope starring Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons.

The beloved French classic by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is adapted for the first time into an animated feature film and will debut out of competition at Cannes this year.

The poster for this year's Sundance darling, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke and Ronald Cyler II.

Jake Gyllenhaal gets real and gritty in the first poster for Southpaw.

Four new character posters land for Tomorrowland. Raffey Cassidy is Athena who we've glimpsed on other posters as well. Britt Robertson plays the curious lead Casey Newton while the final two character posters feature the older (George Clooney) and younger (Thomas Robinson) versions of Frank Walker.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

First Look: Pixar's Latest Short "Sanjay's Super Team"

(Photo: Disney/Pixar)
Pixar has had a long and grandstanding tradition of continuing to make short films alongside their extremely successful feature films. The latest short due to join Pixar's Hall of Fame is Sanjay's Super Team which will open in front of The Good Dinosaur in November. Directed by Pixar animator and artist Sanjay Patel, the short has been inspired by Patel's own experiences growing up as an Indian-American in California.

Sanjay's Super Team follows a little boy Sanjay growing closer to his father when he is performing a puja (a Hindu prayer ceremony) by re-imagining the ancient Gods appearing like superheroes in his daydream. Patel told the LA Times that he made the short largely because he wanted other children growing up to see themselves in Sanjay.  "If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short. I want to normalize and bring a young brown boy's story to the pop culture zeitgeist."

Sanjay's Super Team, lasting around seven minutes, will first premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival which is held in France every year. 

First Look: Jared Leto as the Joker

(Photo: David Ayer)

When I first heard the news that Jared Leto had been cast as the Joker in DC's Suicide Squad, my first thought was how are we ever going to forget Heath Ledger's iconic performance and look? I'm sure the actor and filmmakers probably had the same thought in their head which is why in the first look of Leto's Joker was released by directed David Ayer, the character has taken a whole 360 degree turn from Nolan's The Dark Knight. 

With several disturbing tattoos all over his body, the most prominent being the word 'damaged' over his forehead, Leto's Joker look retains little of the purple and green which has dominated the costumes of previous Jokers. Gone is the clownish makeup as well, instead what remains is the extremely fit yet crazed Joker ready to join the rest of super villains. What do you think of the Joker's new look? Will you still remember Ledger or reserve judgement until Suicide Squad releases in theatres on August 5, 2015?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Movie Review: Margarita, with a Straw

In the past few years, the Indian film scene has changed dramatically. Bollywood is still king and rules the box-office, but somehow running parallel are these small films with big heart that are penetrating through and reaching its audience. Margarita, with a Straw is one such film.

The film is the story of a young girl, Laila Kapoor (Kalki Koechlin), living in Delhi with her parents and younger brother. Laila is an aspiring writer who likes to pour her feelings into song lyrics. She likes being with her family and friends. She also happens to have cerebral palsy. In any other movie, this would have been drawn out and melodramatic (yes, Black, we're looking at you!). But here in this film, Laila is given her own voice and that's an extremely refreshing to view.

Only recently have heroine-oriented films begun to take centre stage (see Queen, The Dirty Picture, Kahaani). And for Margarita, with a Straw to have a young female lead who's also differently abled is proof that all kinds of characters can inhabit Indian cinema, and judging by the size of the audience in the theater I was watching, the audience is eager to see and know more.

Laila is able to have a normal upbringing mostly due to her loving parents. She's especially close with her mother Aai (Revathy) who encourages Laila to be herself. When a crush on her friend Nima (Tenzin Dalha) leaves Laila brokenhearted, Aai insists that she pursue her dreams of a creative writing course at New York University. In New York, both mother and daughter see a different side to life.

I read a review of this film which wondered why Laila's enlightenment had to take place in India. The answer was right there on the screen. Unfortunately, India is woefully inadequate when it comes to taking care of and incorporating the differently abled in the public sphere. Aamir Khan's show Satyamev Jayate did a wonderful episode dedicated to that very problem in his first season.

The reason why Laila's enlightenment happened in a city like New York was because she was just another citizen. She could board the bus by herself, do her own shopping or even attend a bar with her friend. Compare that to her humiliation at being carried up the stairs of her own school like a piece of furniture because the school lift perpetually doesn't work. Laila needed the experience of being in a city like New York to further blossom.

Laila also discovers who she really is by exploring her sexuality, first with a Pakistani-Bangleshi activist Khanum (Sayani Gupta) who happens to be blind, and later with her British classmate Jared (William Moseley). The story moves back to Delhi for the latter half where it gets a bit confusing when secrets revealed lead to further conflict but still the film never wavers about who Laila continues to be.

Margarita, with a Straw won the NETPAC award World or International Asian Film Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2014. The film is filled with great honest moments of Laila with her mother, with her friends and just being herself. While uneven at times, the film is forthright, funny and heartfelt, especially in the performances of Revathy and Koechlin. Their bond as mother and daughter rings true onscreen. If you are looking for distinct and unique voices in Indian cinema, do make it point to seek out Margarita, with a Straw.

Directed by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar; Co-written by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar; Hindi Dialogue by Atika Chohan; Cinematography by Anne Misawa; Edited by Monisha R Baldawa and Bob Brooks; Music by Mike McCleary


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