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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Trailer: Pixar's The Good Dinosaur

We waited through having no Pixar films for two years, but this year we're rewarded with two in the same year! Inside Out has already proved to be a bittersweet delight, will The Good Dinosaur finish off the year of the dinosaur with a flair?

This new full trailer shows in detail the mysterious yet awe-inspiring world that was the planet Earth millions of years ago. Of course, The Good Dinosaur would also like you to imagine a world where the dinosaurs weren't wiped out by a massive asteroid. The trailer gives us the first proper introduction to Arlo, the young Apatosaurus whose loses his way only to make a new friend who happens to be human on his way to an adventure.

The Good Dinosaur which had a major upheaval in production also recently revealed that the voice cast underwent a change. Pixar must have obviously had massive character changes as child actor Raymond Ochoa will be voicing Arlo, Jeffrey Wright voices Arlo's father Poppa, while Frances McDormand is the only cast member who remains and will voice Arlo's mother Momma. Marcus Scribner voices Arlo's brother Buck while Steve Zahn voices Thunderclap, a pterodactyl.  AJ Buckley is T-Rex called Nash, Anna Paquin voices another T-Rex Ramsey and Sam Elliott voices the third T-Rex Butch. Finally, Arlo’s new friend, Spot, is voiced by another child actor Jack Bright.

The Good Dinosaur, directed by Peter Sohn, releases this Thanksgiving November 25, 2015. What did you think of the first full trailer of the animated film? Yay or nay?

New Teaser Trailer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani

The newest teaser trailer for Bajirao Mastani released last week shows typical attributes of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. The sweeping score, the grandiose scale and lately, a doomed love story set against a periodic backdrop. The teaser for Bajirao Mastani releasing this December reveals its three stars gearing up for something... epic, we're just not sure what yet.

Ranveer Singh is Bajirao, the legendary Peshwa ruler, Priyanka Chopra is Kashibai, Bajirao's wife and Deepika Padukone plays Mastani, a warrior who ends up being Bajirao's second wife. The film will probably show they fall in love against all odds. Unfortunately, the fighting scenes especially those with the bow and arrow look so incredibly contrived. Deepika Padukone looks like she's about to finish painting rather than shoot an arrow across a distance. Also, Ranveer's sword in the last few seconds of the trailer looks like it's made of paper not metal. It's not just about hair and makeup that needs attention, these details matter too.

Let us wait and see what the full trailer will unveil. Bajirao Mastani goes up against another big film, Dilwale starring the star pairing of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol reunited on December 18, 2015. Who will prevail? Which film will you be rooting for?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blast From The Past: Clueless (1995)

(Photos: Paramount)

It's been 20 years since Amy Heckerling's Clueless (1995) first released but the film still resonates with the audience that initially saw it and anyone who might see it again today (ie. Iggy Azalea's homage to the film in her video for Fancy). Based on Jane Austen's classic novel Emma (1815) about a meddlesome young girl with a heart of gold, Clueless transported the iconic material to a Beverly Hills high school. Featuring Alicia Silverstone in her first leading role, the film also starred Paul Rudd (Hey, there Ant-Man), Donald Faison, Jeremy Sisto, Stacey Dash and the late Brittany Murphy (Girl, Interrupted). Clueless made them all breakout stars that summer of 1995.

The film's teen terminology became instantly quotable, every girl wanted Cher's wardrobe and the soundtrack perfectly reflected was what was popular in the 90s - from Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Coolio, Counting Crows to The Muffs. Based on small budget of $12-13 million, Clueless grossed around $56 million domestically and opened No. 1 at the box office. Not bad for a film that was initially pitched as a television show. The success of the film lead to a spinoff TV series which launched on ABC and finished out the next two seasons on UPN. Most of the cast with the notable exceptions of rising stars Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd reprised their roles in the series.

If you're a diehard fan of this lovable cult classic, then you must check out the new book released just in time for the film's 20th anniversary, As If!: The Oral History of Clueless by Jen Chaney. There you'll find notable nuggets of information on casting (Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie were considered for the role of Cher, Ben Affleck read for the part of Josh which eventually went to Paul Rudd), how Heckerling came up with Cher and Dionne's lingo and how hard the everyone worked behind the scenes to make this little film a reality.

(Photo: Paramount)
Personally, the film just works on so many levels, it's a clever reflection of the social strata, an accurate look at the lives of teenagers and it also happens to be so darn funny. Plus, Clueless introduced us to the adorable Paul Rudd, who looks about the same now as he did in 1995. Silverstone's Cher is a heroine for the ages, self-deprecating yet endearing with her heart in the right place. Which is why, 20 years later, we still love her.

New Trailer: Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio has had the good fortune of working with the best directors in business. In recent years, he's become a trusted collaborator of the legendary Martin Scorsose churning out some of his career's best performances. Despite all of this, the Academy is clearly not impressed. They've awarded him five nominations for his work over the years, but he's never quite broken through to win the big prize.

Nevertheless, DiCaprio keeps at it. His latest project, directed by recent Best Director winner Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, pairs him with his Inception costar Tom Hardy yet again. Based on American frontiersman Hugh Glass' cross-country trek after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions, The Revenant is adapted from Michael Punke's 2003 novel. The film's first trailer gives a perspective of a unique Western with its hero out for revenge and retribution.

With stunning camerawork from Emmanuel Lubezki (will he win his third consecutive Oscar with this film?), The Revenant shows us the harsh lifestyle and unforgiving conditions of the unexplored American wilderness. Costarring Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, the film releases on Christmas this year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Trailer: Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell Bring Us Joy

She's known around the world as Katniss and/or Mystique yet director David O. Russell keeps seeing Jennifer Lawrence as troubled young suburbanite who's having a personal collapse in her life. For her third collaboration with Russell, Lawrence reteams with Silver Linings Playbook costars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in the biopic Joy.  Based on Joy Mangano's life, the single mother of three invented the Miracle Mop and went on to create her own empire.

Joy also stars Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini and Elisabeth Rohm. Cooper plays an Home Shopping Network executive who helps Joy sells her products while De Niro plays her father. Releasing on Christmas Day, Joy will look to gain awards recognition especially at the Oscars as Russell, Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro have all been well accepted for their work together. 

New Trailer: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are Sisters!

It's only natural that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey play siblings in the first trailer for Universal's Sisters out this Christmas. The former SNL cast mates, bestselling authors and all-round funny women reunite as sisters Maura (Poehler) and Jane (Fey) visiting their childhood home to clear out their stuff before it's sold and have one last party to end all parties as closure. Bonus: Maya Rudolph makes an appearance as a former friend and uninvited guest. Raise your hand if your invite to the party was lost in the mail! Sisters, directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) lands in theatres December 18, 2015.  

New Trailer: Suicide Squad

We've seen the photos, we've been teased with the first character looks and now it's time to see the first trailer of director David Ayer's Suicide Squad. This task force of the 'most dangerous people on the planet' are hoping to become the anti-heroes you will root for. Featuring Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg and more, this squad is run by Agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), giving her best no-nonsense looks in the trailer.  The best is left for last, of course, the full proper reveal of Jared Leto's Joker in full on crazy mode to 'hurt someone really, really bad'. Get ready for an uber villain adventure next summer as Suicide Squad releases August 5, 2016.

New Trailer: Batman v. Superman Comic Con 2015 Edition!!

Probably the biggest film trailer to debut at this past weekend's Comic Con was Warner Bros' Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This second much longer look at the DC Universe film gives us additional info on the conflict brewing brewing between two brooding superheroes, leading to an eventual fight on the yard (or a Batmobile). They'll take whatever is available at the moment.

We see Superman aka Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) feel more and more marginalised as an outsider. We  see an older, bulkier Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, who takes over the role from Christian Bale) who's suppressed his feelings for a long time. Somebody's also goading Bruce with notes about his past and you can literally feel the waves of anger rolling of him against Superman. Cue the return of the vigilante Batman.

The trailer also shows us glimpses of other iconic characters of the universe, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Jesse Eisenberg as a very youngish Lex Luthor with hair and of course Gal Gadot debuting as Wonder Woman. Director Zack Synder sure has his hands full with all-star cast that I hope get the opportunity to do justice to their characters.

My only problem is (and I felt this with The Amazing Spider-Man reboot too and look what's happened there, it's being rebooted yet again) we just said an emotional goodbye to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. To say that Nolan's films changed the way we look at comic book/superhero films is an understatement. It's too soon. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is also setting up the road for the rest of the DC characters to go off and have their own adventures. More surprising news coming out of Comic Con was that Affleck himself would be directing a standalone Batman film after the Justice League film in 2019! Wow, that's a whole lot of Batman down the line.

Gotham's bringing the fight down to Metropolis. I sure hope Superman's ready. Will Earth survive the fighting between two ultimate superheroes? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice releases March 25, 2016 ahead of the crowded summer season.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Miyazaki Will Return to Animation with a 3D CG Short Film

Turns out Hayao Miyazaki is not yet done with retirement as yet and that's great news for animation fans worldwide. For the first time, Miyazaki will be making a 3D computer generated short starring a hairy caterpillar to premiere at the Ghibli Museum in Mikata, Japan. The short which is about 10 minutes will be the first new project the famed storyteller will work on since his last release The Wind Rises in 2013.  Unfortunately, we'll have to wait three long years for the short to be completed and then too, it is due to be shown only at the Ghibli Museum. Guess 2018 is a good a time as any to plan that bucket list trip to Japan.

New Cast Photo: Ghostbusters

Director Paul Feig had been teasing us with photos from the upcoming reboot of the Ghostbusters releasing next summer. First there were the updated suits, their proton packs, their Ecto - 1 ride and finally, here is it, the official cast photo with the hashtag #whoyougonnacall. Uhm, the Ghostbusters, amirite?

(Photo: Paul Feig)
Actresses Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kirsten Wiig and Kate McKinnon look absolutely badass posed in front of the Ecto - 1 with that iconic logo in the middle.

There is one cast member who is missing from this photo and that's the Ghostbusters' receptionist played by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. Annie Potts was the receptionist in the 1984 version. I personally love this bit of casting and Feig's prior track record with ensemble casts could show us another side to Hemsworth's as yet untapped comedic abilities.

The film, which is currently being shot in Boston this month, will release on July 22, 2016. Are you already humming the Ghostbusters song? Who you gonna call? 

Movie Review: Spy (2015)

Paul Feig has found his comedic muse in Melissa McCarthy and the results are simply marvellous. Bridesmaids, The Heat, and now Spy have all made me bust a gut in the theatres. Watching a good comedy is so rare these days, in the end, you like some parts but not the whole film. Meanwhile McCarthy has become the de facto queen of summer movies (barring Tammy last year) proving her name alone guarantees time well spent at the movies.

In Spy, she's Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who has the chops to become an agent, but chooses to stay in the shadows to help Bradley Fine (Jude Law) out on his missions. Obviously, she's also got a hopeless crush on him and he's got no clue. He treats Susan more like his secretary than what she actually is, his right hand woman.

When Fine is tragically killed on assignment and the identity of the rest of the CIA agents has been revealed, it's up to Susan to step up to the plate, expose the villains and save the world from a nuclear bomb. She travels to Paris to set the plan in motion. But first, she must have a new identity as an undercover spy.

Susan wants to be somebody and even her undercover identities are boring and normal. She's easily typecast as a mom of four and owner of ten cats. But as a longtime analyst, Susan has good instincts and backed up by her friend Nancy (the hilarious Miranda Hart), they go about finding Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) and Reyna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who the CIA suspect have the bomb.

Throwing a large kink in Susan's plans is former agent Rick Ford (a surprisingly funny Jason Statham) who reminded me a bit of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's conversation in Hot Fuzz on all the things he's done on the police force. Rather than saving the day, he ends up being more of an impediment to Susan.

Susan, on the other hand, emerges to become a badass bodyguard to Reyna (take that, Midwestern mom!). This was, by far, my favourite part of the movie. All of sudden, Susan's not hesitant or scared anymore. She goes for it 100%. She gives herself a makeover, makes grown men cry and kicks  some serious ass. All this with an extremely potty mouth. It was glorious.

You know a film is good AND funny when not only are you laughing but also repeating the lines to yourself because it's that entertaining. I found myself doing that quite a bit. McCarthy and Feig will reunite once again for the Ghostbusters reboot next summer all but guaranteeing McCarthy's summer reign will continue. I can't wait.

Written and Directed by Paul Feig; Cinematography by Robert Yeoman; Editing by Melissa Bretherton and Brent White; Music by Theodore Shapiro

Running Time: 120 minutes


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Movie Review: Inside Out (2015)


After a self-imposed hiatus, Pixar is back with its 15th feature film with a high-concept story that has managed to touch both adults and children. Director Peter Docter, the mastermind behind Monsters Inc. and Up, brings us another emotional tale with Inside Out.

The majority of the film is set inside the mind of an eleven-year-old Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) a regular young girl who life is uprooted when her family moves from Minnesota to the big city San Francisco. A avid ice-hockey player, moving to the warmer California and being away from her friends and all she know is initially worrisome for Riley but she puts on a brave face for her parents. How do we know this? That's because we have insider access to the inner voices in her head - namely Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Fear (voice of Bill Hader).

It turns out Riley's mind is the control room (aka headquarters) where these five differing emotions reside taking decisions that impact her daily life. They are deeply concerned for the well-being of Riley and hilariously help her out of little jams dealing with the fact her new bedroom has no furniture as the moving truck is delayed. Joy is the leader in making sure Riley is always happy and has to constantly manage the rest of the emotions especially Sadness from taking over.

One such day, when Riley is introducing herself at school, Sadness touches a core memory making it turn yellow (joyful) to blue (sadness). It causes Riley to break down in tears and the resulting madness to make the memory happy again causes Joy and Sadness to be sucked down into the long term memory archives. From there on, Riley's core memories as well her personality islands (family, friends, hockey, goofball, etc) are on in danger as Anger, Disgust and Fear are in charge at headquarters and Joy and Sadness have to figure a way back.

Their journey is what makes up the core of Inside Out and they come across Riley's former imaginary friend Bing Bong (voice of Richard Kind) and some hilarious escapades as they try to catch the train of thought back to headquarters. Joy and Sadness both have differing views on how to approach any situation and by spending more time with each other, they both get to understand each other's worth.

Pixar is the king of story in animation and Inside Out is no exception. With the tears (an unexceptionally touching moment with Bing Bong could touch the coldest of hearts) comes loads of laughs and self-awareness as well. The end credits has a particularly fun look inside the minds of several characters we've run into during the film. They've even managed to sneak a Chinatown reference in the film as Sadness and Joy make their way back home.

Kudos to Pixar on the casting of the voice talents. Each actor absolutely shines in their roles. But I've got to admit a little fondness for Sadness. Joy is easily the emotion to like instantly, how could you not? But Sadness slowly grew on me throughout the film as she came into her own personality and became more confident.

The morale of the story Pixar is trying to tell is deeply moving. While we might lose a little joy now and then as we get older, it's quite alright to embrace a little sadness. Is it okay to be sad sometimes? Yes, and that's going to be a profound lesson for youngsters to learn. This will definitely lead to some interesting conversations at the dinner table for parents and children alike. Welcome back, Pixar! We've really missed you.

Directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen; Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley; Editing by Kevin Nolting; Music by Michael Giacchino

Running Time: 94 minutes



Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

22 years after Jurassic Park (1993) stormed its way into theatres, Jurassic World, the fourth in this gigantic franchise, is well on its way to make movie history itself. A new generation is experiencing the dino-mania that gripped the 90s when Stephen Spielberg and the talent team of VFX and animatronic artists showed us the forgotten world of dinosaurs. This time around, the whole experience feels a tad commercialised as we head back to dinosaur land in Jurassic World.

It was the dearly departed John Hammond's (the late Richard Attenborough) wish that the park be up and running at its finest for the public. In Jurassic World, it's all running smoothly until the newest attraction decides she's had enough of waiting in the wings for her big debut. Young brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are our eyes and ears as we travel to Jurassic World for the first time. Their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the head of operations at the park and they've got an all-access pass to the park.

The introduction to the park via the brothers is breathtaking and very real. Gray's infectiousness at wanting to visit everything at the park is heady. It's Disney World meets Universal Studios with vicious prehistoric creatures. But everything here is treated as a commercial enterprise so there's a petting zoo with baby dinosaurs, a Sea World-esque splash zone where the mosasaurus eats a large shark like it's an appetizer (a not-so subtle ode to Spielberg's Jaws) and a gyrosphere which allows you to roam amongst the apatosaurus and the stegosaurus. I sorely missed Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), from the first two films, who would have never allowed this to happen, he would have been the first to point out there's a looming disaster in the wings.

As a substitute, we have Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the former Navy man turned Velociraptor wrangler, who believes that the dinosaurs aren't just park attractions but animals with a mind of their own. He leads the raptor pack (featuring Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo) who've established a bond with him. When Jurassic World's latest dinosaur, Indominus Rex, outsmarts her handlers and escapes her paddock, a exhaustive search and rescue is set upon the island.

Of course, everyone underestimates how smart the dinosaur is. The Indominus Rex is hellbent on a mission to be the last dinosaur standing and the humans are helpless to stop it. Throughout the film, there are flashes of nostalgia with nods to the original Jurassic Park, a destroyed banner on the ground, the old jeep, the scene with the gyrosphere echoing the first encounter with the T-rex and then there are the original dinosaurs who let the Indominus Rex know who's boss. Seeing T-Rex stomp through the park in the climax gave me a big thrill; she's the real lead of the film.

Before the film released, it received a lot of flak for not having a strong feminist character. Howard's Claire started out the film dressed in all white, ran around in heels and according to Grady "has control issues". I'd like to point out that not only does she save Grady's life when he's been attacked by a dimorphodon, she also bravely leads the T-rex to the fight with the Indominus Rex. I guess that's not strong enough for everyone!

The rest of the Jurassic World features some known faces. Jake Johnson from New Girl plays the long-suffering control room support guy Lowery, Vincent D'Onofrio as the InGen representative Hoskins who only sees the dinosaurs as weapons and finally Irrfan Khann as the park's down-to-earth charismatic owner, Simon Masrani; they all stand out in their scenes. Director Trevorrow, in only his second film, was given a mammoth task of reviving a franchise. I really enjoyed his debut film Safety Not Guaranteed and I thought he was a odd choice to helm this film. However, Jurassic World hit all the right points for me as it deeply echoed the first film in the franchise.

The special effects really bring home the whole idea of dinosaur adventure park. You end up wishing for a place where you could canoe down a river or ride a safari amongst the dinosaurs. The final dino-on-dino fight is something else altogether and it's all enhanced by Michael Giacchino's soaring score. Building on John Williams' instantly recognizable Jurassic Park theme, Giacchino gives the thrills and chills of exploring the long-long world. Williams' music still gives me goosebumps to this day.

Jurassic World became the first film to gross $1 billion worldwide in 13 days and edged out the debut record previously held by The Avengers back in 2012 and it's easy to see why. Many of us have a some of kind of fascination with dinosaurs over the years and to see them come to life onscreen is astounding. Jurassic World has replicated the Jurassic Park in spades and it's wonderful to see them on the big screen. Easily the film of the summer!

Directed by Colin Trevorrow; Screenplay by Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly; Edited by Kevin Stitt; Cinematography by John Schwartzman; Music by Michael Giacchino

Running Time: 124 minutes


Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Stills from Pixar Short Sanjay's Super Team

Back in April, the first concept of the short film, Sanjay's Super Team, debuting before Pixar's Thanksgiving feature, The Good Dinosaur, was released. Today, two stills from the film, both showing different animation styles reveal a little bit more about the film.

(Photo: Disney/Pixar)
Young Sanjay is front and center in both of them as he first watches presumably a show about superheroes, clutching a figurine in his hand. His father can be seen praying in the background.

(Photo: Disney/Pixar)

In the next, the Hindu gods Hanuman and Vishnu and the goddess Durga stand behind him protectively. What is Sanjay up against that has him so worried?

I've got to say this short directed by debutant Sanjay Patel looks absolutely amazing. Indian animation has covered religion and mythology quite a bit but this will be the first time the mainstream audience will be getting to see this part of Indian culture onscreen. I can't wait. Sanjay's Super Team releases before The Good Dinosaur on November 25, 2015. Don't miss it!
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