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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer!

The new trailer of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows us what happened in the aftermath of the revolution that had just begun in Rise of the Planet of the Apes with Caesar at the helm.  Now, a decade has passed and the humans and apes will be brought to fight against each other yet again with the victor getting to call Earth home.  Motion Capture Wonder Man, Andy Serkis is back as Caesar (How impressive is that stare!) along with new cast members Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman.  The film is directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and releases right in the middle of summer, July 11, 2014.  Make sure you go see this one in IMAX!

New Studio Ghibli Feature: When Marnie Was There

Studio Ghibli is already embarking ahead on its post-Miyazaki era with its next feature, When Marnie Was There, an adaptation of author Joan G. Robinson's book.  The British story is about a lonely girl Annie who befriends Marnie and learns that there's more to her new friend than meets the eye.  Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty), the film will release in theatres summer 2014.

Are you looking forward to Studio Ghibli's new direction without master animator Hayao Miyazaki? 

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The sequel to last year's wildly successful The Hunger Games, Catching Fire builds on its momentum and delivers a solid middle film that sets up the action for the final two-parter, Mockingjay.  Book adaptations are usually so difficult and people have a love or hate relationship with them especially with a book series that's as successful as The Hunger Games have been.

Catching Fire is a near faithful adaptation of the book that keeps in the best parts of the story and elaborates nicely on its central themes. Jennifer Lawrence steps back into the shoes of Katniss Everdeen who has to adjust to life as one of the winners of The Hunger Games along with Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson).  What both of them don't realize the spark of hope the two of them, especially Katniss, have ignited by challenging the system and President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  Snow wants this new found hope squashed by making sure Katniss knows her place.

While Katniss and Snow are watching each other's moves on the mandatory victory, neither are appeased by their actions and President Snow has to move forward with Plan B.  What exactly does Plan B entail? The plan is much grander, invoking an ages old rule that allows all the contestants to compete in the  Quarter Quell,  the 75th anniversary of The Hunger Games and of Panem's victory and dominion over the rest of the districts.

This time around, it's not just Katniss and Peeta but all former winners of previous Hunger Games.  Team Katniss and Peeta (including Haymitch, Effie and Cinna) have to be that much more on edge and alert to survive.  Katniss has allies in the arena like Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer) but others like Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) are harder to read. Are they out to help or will they kill her to survive?

This film puts much more emphasis (and rightly so) on the sense of survivor's guilt and trauma these winners feel and how much they and their families are at risk under President Snow and the Capitol's arbitrary laws.  But the film is also laying down the blocks which will make up the arc of the final films where Katniss must choose what and who is worthing fighting for.  In the final scenes, it is made evidently clear that the lines are now clearly drawn in the sand, the fight is now on.

Overall, the film was hugely enjoyable, with great new additions to the cast.  This is the American Harry Potter series, in that as the British series drew the creme de la creme of actors from the island nation, so does this franchise, adding Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as Head Gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee.  The screenplay too features two Oscar winners in the category with Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine).

I always thought Catching Fire would be the most difficult one to film and get across to the audience because it contains so much information and has so much takes place in difficult island, but it ended up surprising me with how neatly all of it was laid out without losing the core of the book.  It suddenly made me wish that had happened with some of the Harry Potter films.

Director Francis Lawrence has carried over the mantle started by Gary Ross in the first film and hopefully will continue to do so over the next two.  And of course, Jennifer Lawrence IS Katniss completely as she brings out her inner vulnerabilities and strengths.  The movie is all her.  And it's worth nothing that this franchise brings in not only the youngsters (the girls and the boys) but also the adults based on her name alone.  That is quite the achievement for a 23-year-old to have.

If you are a fan of the books or simply curious about the movies, I'd suggest you check out The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  This heroine is worth following.

Directed by Francis Lawrence; Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Bruyn aka Michael Arndt; Based on the book by Suzanne Collins; Cinematography by Jo Willems; Editing by Alan Edward Bell; Music by James Newton Howard

Additional cast: Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Willow Shields,


19th Annual Critics Choice Award Nominations

So I'm a bit late in posting these but I do enjoy these critics awards because they take time to notice the films in popular categories as well. So you might notice Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire getting some awards love.  They don't just have their box-office receipts to console themselves with. 

Anyway, this year is a difficult year for any film to be a clear frontrunner and the awards are given out the same day as the Oscar nominations are announced.  Last year, Ben Affleck won the Best Director award after he had been snubbed in the morning for the best director Oscar nomination.  Needless to say, these awards definitely get interesting.  The winners will be announced on January 16, 2014. 

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford – All Is Lost

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Brie Larson – Short Term 12
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Scarlett Johansson – Her
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Asa Butterfield – Ender’s Game
Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color
Liam James – The Way Way Back
Sophie Nelisse – The Book Thief
Tye Sheridan – Mud

American Hustle
August: Osage County
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Spike Jonze – Her
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Eric Singer and David O. Russell – American Hustle
Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine
Spike Jonze – Her
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis
Bob Nelson – Nebraska

Tracy Letts – August: Osage County
Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight
Billy Ray – Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope – Philomena
John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street

Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
Bruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael – Nebraska
Roger Deakins – Prisoners
Sean Bobbitt – 12 Years a Slave

Andy Nicholson (Production Designer), Rosie Goodwin (Set Decorator) – Gravity
Catherine Martin (Production Designer), Beverley Dunn (Set Decorator) – The Great Gatsby
K.K. Barrett (Production Designer), Gene Serdena (Set Decorator) – Her
Dan Hennah (Production Designer), Simon Bright (Set Decorator), Ra Vincent (Set Decorator) – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Adam Stockhausen (Production Designer), Alice Baker (Set Decorator) – 12 Years a Slave

Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers – American Hustle
Christopher Rouse – Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger – Gravity
Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill – Rush
Joe Walker – 12 Years a Slave
Thelma Schoonmaker – The Wolf of Wall Street

Michael Wilkinson – American Hustle
Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby
Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Daniel Orlandi – Saving Mr. Banks
Patricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave

American Hustle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
12 Years a Slave

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek into Darkness

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Iron Man 3
Lone Survivor
Star Trek into Darkness

Henry Cavill – Man of Steel
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man 3
Brad Pitt – World War Z
Mark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor

Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Evangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man 3

American Hustle
Enough Said
The Heat
This Is the End
The Way Way Back
The World’s End

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Simon Pegg – The World’s End
Sam Rockwell – The Way Way Back

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Sandra Bullock – The Heat
Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said
Melissa McCarthy – The Heat

The Conjuring
Star Trek into Darkness
World War Z

Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past

The Act of Killing
Stories We Tell
Tim’s Vermeer
20 Feet from Stardom

Atlas – Coldplay – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Happy – Pharrell Williams – Despicable Me 2
Let It Go – Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Frozen
Ordinary Love – U2 – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Please Mr. Kennedy – Justin Timberlake/Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis
Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey – The Great Gatsby

Steven Price – Gravity
Arcade Fire – Her
Thomas Newman – Saving Mr. Banks
Hans Zimmer – 12 Years a Slave

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World

After the events of Thor and The Avengers, many worlds have been altered.  Mortals now know about the existence of gods and while a demi-god named Thor (Chris Hemsworth) pines away on Asgard for a mortal named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).  Jane is the catalyst in this sequel for accidentally unearthing a dark matter aka 'the ether' which is being pursued by the leader of the dark elves, Malekith (a scary looking Christopher Eccleston).

This put all the Nine Realms and Earth in danger as once-in-a-lifetime event that lines up all the realms together can change the universe irrevocably.  The story allows for Jane to see Asgard for the first time and meet Thor's parents, Odin (a disapproving Anthony Hopkins) and Frigga (Rene Russo).  We also see Asgard and its people suffer great losses as the kingdom is brutally attacked by the elves who want to possess the ether.

But where's foster brother Loki (a great Tom Hiddleston) in all this? He's unfortunately in a fine dungeon dig snarling at everyone and biding his time. In general, it's Loki being Loki and it's great fun.  And we're all waiting until he'll be unleashed. And the unleashing occurs as the brothers have to work together to save Asgard and the realms from Malekith's grand plans. The good and bad part of Thor is that his counterpart and sometime nemesis Loki is much more interesting than him. Tom Hiddleton as Loki has such an mischievious smirk on him, you're often rooting for him over Thor.

But I must say, there need to more moments of levity when Thor interacts with the mere mortals of this world. His interactions with Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard) were great, but nothing beats the shot of Thor of using the underground to get to his destination. Or quietly hanging up his hammer on the coat rack of Jane's flat.  I came thisclose to missing Thor: The Dark World in cinemas.  I'm glad I didn't because the film was a enjoyable experience. I hope I can say that about the next installment of Thor's saga too.

Directed by Alan Taylor; Screenplay by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeeley; Story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat; Cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau; Editing by Dan Lebenthal and Wyatt Smith; Music by Brian Tyler


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie Review: Frozen

Walt Disney Animation's latest theatrical release Frozen is a wonderful mix of its own esteemed animation history and a positive step forward into its future.  Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee were tasked with bringing to the screen the difficult tale of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, a story even Walt Disney couldn't see to its completion. However, by adapting it and making the heart of caper about two sisters who just really need to learn how to communicate with each other, the makers have successfully made one of the more endearing and enchanting stories to come out of the legendary studio.

As young princesses of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna are like any young little girls who love to play. Except Elsa has a secret that her parents don't want to the public to know, that with a touch of her fingers, everything turns into ice and snow. One night, Elsa accidentally freezes little Anna's head, making a long lock of her hair turn white. With the help of some wise trolls, her parent are in time to reverse any wrongdoing by erasing any memories of Elsa's special powers.

But this leads to a long and deep rift between the two sisters.  Elsa spends her formative years in a self-imposed exile to protect the world from her powers while Anna grows up yearning for her elder sister. When their parents are lost at sea and the sisters become orphans, it soon becomes time to Elsa to be crowned Queen of Arendelle.  But at the coronation and celebration, things go horribly wrong as Elsa and Anna don't see eye to eye, causing Elsa to flee Arendelle forever.

As she does, she leaves a kingdom trapped in an eternal winter wonderland. It's up to Anna to find her sister and undo the magic she has left behind.  Until then, the story was bumping around in predictable Disney animation territory. I thought I knew what was going to happen next. But the story moves forward with wonderful twists and turns.  We are introduced to some wonderful characters like Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (voiced by the perfectly cast Josh Gad).  In fact, Olaf is competing for best animated character of 2013 in my books. Josh Gad's Olaf is absolutely terrific as the hopeless snowman who longs for summer days. Silly snowman!

But the real stars of the film are its leading ladies, Elsa (voiced by luminous Idina Menzel) and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) who are behind the real emotional core of the story and whose performances make the story soar. Their characters are beautiful animated as they show their vulnerabilities and strengths. Here are two Disney princesses who are strong role models for the new generations of little girls growing up as well as older generations who have grown up on Disney animated films. And it's never more evident as in the song "Let It Go", a sequence featuring Elsa that gave me goosebumps and whose lyrics are empowering in so many ways.

The music by Christophe Beck and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (from Broadway's Avenue Q) are first class and retain the usual tropes of a musical while maintaining its own originality. Directors Buck and Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) have made a wonderful animated feature, one which stands tall and is one of the best animated films to come out of Walt Disney Animation (alongside last year's Wreck-It Ralph).  If you see one animated film this year, watch Frozen

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee; Story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Shane Morris; Screenplay by Jennifer Lee; Inspired by The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen; Editing by Jeff Draheim; Music by Christophe Beck


First Teaser for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar!

It's here! An early Christmas present has arrived. The highly anticipated trailer for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar was launched yesterday and is being shown in theaters with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Nolan has an all star cast of old favorites from his previous films like Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway and first timers like Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow and David Oyelowo assembled for his follow up to the The Dark Knight Rises.  His last original film was wildly imaginative Inception that blew audiences away.  And after watching the teaser trailer once, twice, thrice, okay numerous times now, I can safely say this film too will be in a similar vein. The film's synopsis has this to say about the secretive film:

Interstellar chronicles the adventures of a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

So, what will you be doing 'One year from now'?  I know where I'll be: in the theater, probably on my second viewing of Interstellar

71st Golden Globe nominations announced!

We're deep in awards season now with critics awards being announced left and right and the major awards nominations lining up one after the other.  After the Screen Actors Guild nominations, it's the turn of the 71st Golden Globe nominations which were announced this past Thursday. And as usual there are some big surprises and snubs in the nominations.  American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips have made a strong showing here and films like Philomena, Gravity and Inside Llewyn Davis have picked up the expected nominations.  The surprises, for me, had to be Martin Scorsese losing out one of the best director nomination, Hayao Miyazaki's final feature The Wind Rises winning a best foreign film slot (that's a great surprise, by the way) and Pixar being shut out of the Best Animated Feature.  It will be DreamWorks, Disney and Universal battling it out for the big prize. 

Once again, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting the awards show for the second time in a row which will be held on January 12th, 2014.

Best motion picture, drama
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips

Best motion picture, musical or comedy 
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress in a motion picture, drama
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Judi Dench - Philomena
Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet - Labor Day

Best Actor in a motion picture, drama
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba - Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford - All Is Lost

Best Actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy
Amy Adams - American Hustle
Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Enough Said
Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

Best Actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy

Christian Bale - American Hustle
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf Of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix - Her

Best supporting Actress in a motion picture

Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County
June Squibb - Nebraska

Best supporting Actor in a motion picture

Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl - Rush
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club

Best Director – motion picture
Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen - 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne - Nebraska
David O. Russell - American Hustle

Best Screenplay – motion picture
Spike Jonze - Her
Bob Nelson - Nebraska
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan - Philomena
John Ridley - 12 Years a Slave
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell - American Hustle

Best Foreign Language Film 
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past
The Wind Rises

Best Animated Feature film
The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
"Atlas" - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
"Let It Go" - Frozen
"Ordinary Love" - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
"Please Mr. Kennedy" - Inside Llewyn Davis
"Sweeter Than Fiction" - One Chance

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Alex Ebert - All is Lost
Alex Heffes - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Steven Price - Gravity
John Williams - The Book Thief
Hans Zimmer - 12 Years a Slave

Thursday, December 12, 2013

20th Screen Actors Guild Awards Nominees announced!

I didn't realise how soon it's time for all the major awards already.  The nominations for the 20th Screen Actors Guild awards were announced today.  The Golden Globe nominations will be announced later this week.  In the meantime, let's look at the feature film nominations and what it might foretell for the Oscars.  The actors' guild is one of the largest voting guilds in the Academy and what it mean leading up to the Oscars. Certain favorites have been shut out (Sorry Leo! Sorry Amy Adams!) and while I was hoping for some out-there upsets by nominating some of the younger (Sorry  Michael B. Jordan! Sorry Brie Larson!), it does look smooth sailing for this guild.  12 Years a Slave scored the most nominations, four, with Lee Daniels' The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club and August: Osage County each getting three nominations.  The strongest and most difficult categories are the lead acting nominations with all strong and established actors getting nominations. No room for any newcomers.  The supporting categories featuring some new names including Oprah Winfrey who received her first SAG nomination.  The most anticipated category will be Best Ensemble as it might contain some clues towards Best Picture.  All will be revealed when the awards are handed out on January 18th.

Here's a full list:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

BRUCE DERN / Woody Grant – “NEBRASKA” (Paramount Pictures)

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / Solomon Northup – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

TOM HANKS / Capt. Richard Phillips – “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS” (Columbia Pictures)

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY / Ron Woodroof – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)

FOREST WHITAKER / Cecil Gaines – “LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

CATE BLANCHETT / Jasmine – “BLUE JASMINE” (Sony Pictures Classics)

SANDRA BULLOCK / Ryan Stone – “GRAVITY” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

JUDI DENCH / Philomena Lee – “PHILOMENA” (The Weinstein Company)

MERYL STREEP / Violet Weston – “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (The Weinstein Company)

EMMA THOMPSON / P.L. Travers – “SAVING MR. BANKS” (Walt Disney Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

BARKHAD ABDI / Muse – “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS” (Columbia Pictures)

DANIEL BRÜHL / Niki Lauda – “RUSH” (Universal Pictures)

MICHAEL FASSBENDER / Edwin Epps – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

JAMES GANDOLFINI / Albert – “ENOUGH SAID” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

JARED LETO / Rayon – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld – “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (Columbia Pictures)

LUPITA NYONG’O / Patsey – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

JULIA ROBERTS / Barbara Weston – “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (The Weinstein Company)

JUNE SQUIBB / Kate Grant – “NEBRASKA” (Paramount Pictures)

OPRAH WINFREY / Gloria Gaines – “LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight Pictures)


PAUL DANO / Tibeats


CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / Solomon Northup






SARAH PAULSON / Mistress Epps



ALFRE WOODARD / Mistress Shaw

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Columbia Pictures)

AMY ADAMS / Sydney Prosser

CHRISTIAN BALE / Irving Rosenfeld

LOUIS C.K. / Stoddard Thorsen


PAUL HERMAN / Alfonse Simone

JACK HUSTON / Pete Musane

JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld

ALESSANDRO NIVOLA / Federal Prosecutor

MICHAEL PEÑA / Sheik (Agent Hernandez)

JEREMY RENNER / Mayor Carmine Polito



AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (The Weinstein Company)


CHRIS COOPER / Charles Aiken

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / “Little” Charles Aiken



EWAN McGREGOR / Bill Fordham



JULIA ROBERTS / Barbara Weston

SAM SHEPARD / Beverly Weston

MERYL STREEP / Violet Weston






DENIS O’HARE / Dr. Sevard



LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER (The Weinstein Company)

MARIAH CAREY / Hattie Pearl

JOHN CUSACK / Richard Nixon

JANE FONDA / Nancy Reagan

CUBA GOODING, JR. / Carter Wilson


LENNY KRAVITZ / James Holloway

JAMES MARSDEN / John F. Kennedy

DAVID OYELOWO / Louis Gaines

ALEX PETTYFER / Thomas Westfall

VANESSA REDGRAVE / Annabeth Westfall

ALAN RICKMAN / Ronald Reagan

LIEV SCHREIBER / Lyndon B. Johnson


ROBIN WILLIAMS / Dwight D. Eisenhower

OPRAH WINFREY / Gloria Gaines

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Godzilla Trailer!

And the best entrance in a trailer goes to... Godzilla! The highly mysterious production (the cast and crew unveiled the best teaser at this year's Comic Con) delivers one of the best trailers of the year.  And this has to be one of the best introductory trailers of recent memory.  The previous reboot of Godzilla (1998) starring Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and Hank Azaria is much maligned but I always have fond memories of the film. It was one of the first DVDs I ever bought.

This new reimagining of the legendary Godzilla is much more serious and has amped the visuals and tone of the film.  Director Gareth Edwards has previously helmed Monsters (2010), a small film which was widely praised for delivering big thrills.  It will be definitely exciting to see how he handles this big-scale (pun intended) movie.  Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston, the monster movie is set to release May 16, 2014.  Spider-Man, Godzilla, Maleficent and a whole slew of X-Men, it's going to be one crowded May next year.

Friday, December 6, 2013

News Update: Wonder Woman, The Fast and The Furious 7's future and a Veronica Mars release date!

(Photo: Variety)

  • Batman. Superman. And Wonder Woman?  Yup, the sequel to this year's Man of Steel is bringing in the big guns with Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight and now Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  The Israeli actress has previously appeared in The Fast and The Furious 6.  The makers are really laying down the plans for that eventual Justice League movie. Batman vs. Superman releases on July 17, 2015.
  • Speaking of The Fast and The Furious, the seventh movie in the super-hit franchise has halted production after the tragic death of one of its leads, Paul Walker.  The film was due to release on July 11, 2014.  
  • Veronica Mars, the movie, is coming to theatres in America on March 13, 2013 exactly one year after its amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed the movie into existence.  The film starring Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring as Logan, Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars and plenty of fan favourite characters reprising their roles, picks up ten years later as Veronica returns to Neptune to help out Logan as he's accused of killing his girlfriend.  Now, let's work on those international release dates, yes?
  • While director Woody Allen is set to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes on January 12th, he will not be showing up to receive it as his custom with award shows. Instead, actress Diane Keaton (Annie Hall herself) will receive the honor on his behalf.  

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer!

How time flies! Last year, the Spider-Man franchise got a reboot with a new director, new cast and a whole new world to play in.  While the film's success wasn't entirely earth-shattering, it did warrant a sequel which will release in theatres next May.  Today, the first teaser trailer was unveiled showing the next saga in the story of Peter Parker as played by Andrew Garfield.  This time around, he's up against villains Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Rhino (Paul Giamatti) while igniting the friendly rivalry with frenemy Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan).  And yes, Gwen Stacy as played by Garfield's real-life girlfriend is also back as Parker's love and confidante.  As the trailer shows, Peter starts to uncover some of his family's secrets as linked to Oscorp.  What does it all mean?  We'll find out soon enough in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.   

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 41st Annie Awards nominations are announced!

The nominations for the 41st Annie Awards are in! And Walt Disney Animation and Pixar are battling it out with 10 nominations each with Frozen and Monsters University respectively.  DreamWorks' The Croods and the surprise (not really!) hit of the year, Despicable Me 2 each have nine nominations. But don't count out the grand master and the dark horse amongst the race, Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises, which is being distributed by Walt Disney Studios in the US.  The 41st Annie Awards will be announced on February 1st.

Best Animated Feature
  • A Letter to Momo - 
  • Despicable Me 2 - 
Universal Pictures
  • Ernest & Celestine
  • Frozen - 
Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Monsters University - 
Pixar Animation Studios
  • The Croods
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • The Wind Rises
 - The Walt Disney Studios
Best Animated Short Subject
  • Despicable Me 2 - Puppy
 - Universal Pictures
  • Get A Horse!
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Gloria Victoria
 - National Film Board of Canada
  • My Mom is an Airplane
 - Acme Filmworks
  • The Numberlys - 
Moonbot Studios

Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production
  • Alen Lai, David Quirus, Diego Garzon Sanchez, Ilan Gabai - Epic
 - Blue Sky Studios
  • David Jones - Dragons: Defenders of Berk
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Joshua Jenny, Jason Johnston, Matthew Wong, Eric Froemling, Enrique Vila - Monsters University
 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Jeff Budsberg, Andre Le Blanc, Louis Flores, Jason Mayer - The Croods - 
DreamWorks Animation
  • Greg Gladstone, Nikita Pavlov, Allen Ruilova, Matt Titus, Can Yuksel - Turbo
 - DreamWorks Animation
Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production
  • Jonathan Paquin, Brian Goodwin, Gray Horsfield, Mathieu Chardonnet, Adrien Toupet - Man Of Steel - 
Weta Digital
  • Ben O’Brien, Karin Cooper, Lee Uren, Chris Root - Star Trek: Into Darkness - Industrial Light & Magic
  • Dan Pearson, Jay Cooper, Jeff Grebe, Amelia Chenoweth - Star Trek: Into Darkness - 
Industrial Light & Magic
  • Michael Balog, Ryan Hopkins, Patrick Conran, Florian Witzel - Pacific Rim
 - Industrial Light & Magic

Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Feature Production
  • Thom Roberts - Epic
 - Blue Sky Studios
  • Jonathan Del Val – Despicable Me 2
 - Universal Pictures
  • Jakob Jensen - The Croods - 
DreamWorks Animation
  • John Chun Chiu Lee - Monsters University
 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Kitaro Kosaka – The Wind Rises - 
The Walt Disney Studios
  • Tony Smeed - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Patrick Imbert - Ernest & Celestine
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production
  • Jeff Capogreco, Jedrzej Wojtowicz, Kevin Estey, Alessandro Bonora, Gino Acevedo - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Gollum
 - Weta Digital
  • Dave Clayton, Simeon Duncombe, Jung Min Chan, Matthew Cioffi, Guillame Francois - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Goblin King
 - Weta Digital
  • Hal Hickel, Chris Lentz, Derrick Carlin, Steve Rawlins, Kyle Winkelman - Pacific Rim
 - Industrial Light & Magic
Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
  • Carter Goodrich, Takao Noguchi, Shane Prigmore - The Croods
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Sylvain Deboissy, Shannon Tindle - Turbo - DreamWorks Animation
  • Craig Kellman – Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 - 
Sony Pictures Animation
  • Chris Sasaki - Monsters University - 
Pixar Animation Studios
  • Christophe Lourdelet - A Monster in Paris
 - Shout! Factory 

  • Eric Guillon – Despicable Me 2 - 
Universal Pictures
  • Bill Schwab - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production
  • Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco - The Croods
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • David Soren - Turbo - 
DreamWorks Animation
  • Chris Wedge - Epic
 - Blue Sky Studios
  • Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar, Stéphane Aubier - Ernest & Celestine
  • Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production
  • Alan Silvestri - The Croods - 
DreamWorks Animation
  • Henry Jackman - Turbo
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Mark Mothersbaugh – Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2
 - Sony Pictures Animation
  • Heitor Pereira, Pharrell Williams – Despicable Me 2
 - Universal Pictures
  • Danny Elfman - Epic - Blue Sky Studios
  • Randy Newman - Monsters University
 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Christophe Beck - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios 

  • Dominic Lewis - Free Birds - 
Reel FX
Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
  • Christophe Lautrette, Paul Duncan, Dominique R. Louis - The Croods
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Yarrow Cheney, Eric Guillon – Despicable Me 2
 - Universal Pictures
  • Michael Knapp, Greg Couch, William Joyce - Epic
 - Blue Sky Studios
  • Zaza, Zyk - Ernest & Celestine - GKIDS
  • Ricky Nierva, Robert Kondo, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi - Monsters University
 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Michael Giaimo, Lisa Keene, David Womersley - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios 

Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
  • Steven MacLeod - The Croods
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Eric Favela – Despicable Me 2 - 
Universal Pictures
  • Dean Kelly - Monsters University
 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Jason Hand - Planes
- Disneytoon Studios
  • John Ripa - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
  • Paul Giamatti as the voice of Chet - Turbo
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Terry Crews as the voice of Earl – Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2
 - Sony Pictures Animation
  • Kristen Wiig as the voice of Lucy – Despicable Me 2
 - Universal Pictures
  • Steve Carell as the voice of Gru – Despicable Me 2
 - Universal Pictures
  • Pierre Coffin as the voice of Minions - Despicable Me 2
 - Universal Pictures
  • Billy Crystal as the voice of Mike – Monsters University – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Josh Gad as the voice of Olaf - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature Production
  • Daniel Pennac - Ernest & Celestine
  • Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon - Monsters University - 
Pixar Animation Studios
  • Miyazaki Hayao – The Wind Rises
- The Walt Disney Studios
  • Jennifer Lee - Frozen
 - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated Feature Production
  • Darren Holmes - The Croods
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • James Ryan - Turbo
 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Fabienne Alvarez-Giro - Ernest & Celestine - 
  • Greg Snyder, Gregory Amundson, Steve Bloom - Monsters University
 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Jeff Draheim - Frozen - 
Walt Disney Animation Studios


Winsor McCay Award — Katsuhiro Otomo, Steven Spielberg & Phil Tippett
June Foray AwardAlice Davis
Certificate of Merit — “I Know That Voice” (Documentary)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For: Movies Edition

1) Gravity: Every year we read dozens of pieces about the decline of cinema and how originality is lost and then a movie like Gravity comes along and shuts everybody up. Splendidly! A story of a veteran and rookie astronaut in space became the ultimate tale of survival in completely foreign and hostile environment.  Oh, and here's where it gets better, the films stars two of Hollywood's best, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock but the movie really belongs to Bullock and Clooney's just the supporting player. Say what? Did I also mention that the film's a neat 90 minutes and features some of the best CGI and 3D work seen in film so far? Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and written along with his son Jonas, was the definitive film experience for me this year. And even though the wait was long, I'm thankful the end result was completely worth it. 

2) Minions:  If the Dementors from the Harry Potter universe suck all the happiness out of the universe and eventually your soul, think of the Minions as their zany, fun-loving yet inappropriate equivalent.  The scene-stealers from the first Despicable Me are having their moment in the spotlight.  They came back strong in the sequel and will star in their own feature in 2015.  It's a good time to be a Minion, I think.  They bring the smile to your face, at least they do to mine. I would be even more thankful if I had one of them to have around the house.

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: Speaking of Harry Potter, that J.K. Rowling sure knows how sneak one up on her fans. Fast on the heels of the surprising revelation that she wrote the underrated The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, she also broke the news that she's writing the script for the new film based on Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them in collaboration with Warner Bros., who are pursuing more films in the Potter universe of magic and wizardry. It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to the books and films so to have this unexpected, bonus surprise, is indeed thankful.

4) The Heat: No movie has made me laugh as much this year than the surprise (to everyone who isn't female) hit of the summer, the Paul Feig directed The Heat, a female buddy cop comedy starring Sandra Bullock (who's really having a stellar year) and Melissa McCarthy. The $159 million plus blockbuster proved that in summer filled with superheroes and zombie flicks, there is room for a well-enacted and, most importantly funny, comedy featuring women to perform well.  It also helps when your lead actresses are as talented as Bullock and McCarthy.  Not only did I have tears of laughter running down my face, my stomach hurt from laughing too much.  These days when the laughs are far and few in life and in movies, I'm thankful for comedies that can deliver.

5) Gone Girl Film Adaptation: No sooner I did finish Gone Girl, the novel, I thought to myself, "This is needs to be a film." Actress Reese Witherspoon bought the rights and I had my fingers crossed as David Fincher as a dream director for this project. And what do you know? Sometimes the universe does listen to you.  The film adaptation of Gone Girl hits theaters next fall and will be highly anticipated as Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris join Fincher in bringing the book to the big screen.  I'd like to believe to myself that I wished this one into existence.

Those were some of my thankful moments with film this year.  What were yours?   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominees Announced!

We're so close to December already.  You know what that means! It's start of awards season with all the critics, guilds et al. announcing their best of the year. To kick of the indies, the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards announced their nominees today and 12 Years A Slave, Nebraska and All is Lost have already made an impressive showing here. Patton Oswalt will host the awards being held on March 1, 2014, as usual a day before the prestigious Oscars are announced. It's a long wait. Hold on!

(Source: Film Independent)

Here's a list of the major awards being presented: 

Best Feature
12 Years A Slave
All is Lost
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis

Best Director
Shane Carruth - Upstream Color
J.C. Candor - All is Lost
Steve McQueen - 12 Years A Slave
Jeff Nichols - Mud
Alexander Payne - Nebraska

Best Male Lead
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years A Slave
Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford - All is Lost

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Gaby Hoffman - Crystal Fairy
Brie Larson - Short Term 12
Shailene Woodley - The Spectacular Now

Best Supporting Male
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years A Slave
Will Forte - 12 Years A Slave
James Gandolfini - Enough Said
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club
Keith Sanfield - Short Term 12

Best Supporting Female 
Melonie Diaz - Fruitvale Station
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years A Slave
Yolanda Ross - Go For Sisters
June Squibb - Nebraska

Best Screenplay
Woody Allen - Blue Jasmine
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater - Before Midnight
Nicole Holofcener - Enough Said
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber - The Spectacular Now
John Ridley - 12 Years A Slave

Best First Feature (Award given to the director and producer)
Blue Caprice
Fruitvale Station
Una Noche

Best First Screenplay
Lake Bell - In a World
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Don Jon
Bob Nelson - Nebraska
Jill Soloway - Afternoon Delight
Michael Starrbury - The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

John Cassavetes Award - Given to the best feature made under for under $50,000. Award given to the director, writer and producer.
Computer Chess
Crystal Fairy
Museum Hours
Pit Stop
This is Martin Bomer

Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt - 12 Years A Slave
Benoit Debie - Spring Breakers
Bruno Delbonnel - Inside Llewyn Davis
Frank G. DeMarco - All is Lost
Matthias Grunsky - Computer Chess

Best Editing
Shane Carruth & David Loweryn - Upstream Color
Jem Cohen & Marc Vives - Museum Hours
Jennifer Lame - Frances Ha
Cindy Lee - Una Noche
Nat Sanders - Short Term 12

Best Documentary
20 Feet from Stardom
After Tiller
Gideon's Army
The Act of Killing
The Square

Best International Film

A Touch of Sin (China)
Blue is the Warmest Color (France)
Gloria (Chile)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse!

(Photo: Disney UK)

85 years ago, on November 18th, 1928, the world was introduced to a cartoon character named Mickey in the short Steamboat Willie. Since then, the little mouse has taken many forms, as evidenced in the photo above. But what has remained constant is our affection and fondness for Mickey. He is still the unofficial symbol for all things Disney and those mouse ears mean many different things to people around the world. No trip to the several Disneyland parks located worldwide is ever complete without meeting a certain mouse in his house. That was always my agenda as well.

One of the few cartoon characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (and deservedly so), the iconic mouse has appeared in several shorts, features, TV shows, games, comics and even had a variety show named after him called The Mickey Mouse Club that lasted through several generations. Famous Mouseketeers include Annette Funicello, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Ryan Gosling.

And this November, Mickey Mouse is back in theaters alongside Frozen with his newest and oldest short Get a Horse! beside his friends Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow. Happy 85th, Mickey! Thanks for being our friend all these years.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New trailer: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

After seeing those stills from Mr. Peabody & Sherman a couple of days ago, my interest was definitely peaked on the new DreamWorks' feature coming out next year.  The trailer hit the interwebs yesterday and I must say I'm liking what I see.  And I think I love Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) already, he's a great quirky character.

The mood of the film is fun and informative and I'm looking forward to see how Sherman (voiced by Max Charles) and Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter) mess with history in WABAC machine.  Plus, I really want to see Mel Brooks' Sigmund Freud.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman releases on March 7, 2014 and I think it's shaping out to be a great 2014 for DreamWorks animation along with the sequel of How To Train Your Dragon in the horizon.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New Trailer: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

It's here! The new trailer for the next saga in the Steve Rogers story with Captain America: The Winter Soldier featuring the noblest of the Avengers, Captain America (Chris Evans) himself.  This time around, he's still got Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as he battles a mysterious Big Bad. We didn't get to see much of this villain as he was always covered by a mask.

The new faces in the film with Robert Redford as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D and Anthony Mackie as ally Falcon also made their debuts.  What's missing? How about the story? I know nothing about what or why Captain America is ready to go.  And what did they do to the Helicarrier? More questions asked then answered in here.  I hope the next trailer clarifies things a bit more.  Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier releases April 2014.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

News Update: Gone Girl's Release Date, Woody Allen's Next and a Live Action Kiki's Delivery Service

(Photo: Los Angeles Times)
  • A new still out from the next film from the hardest working man in show business, Woody Allen, starring Emma Stone, Colin Firth and Marcia Gay Harden.  The film titled Magic in the Midnight is set in the South of France possibly the 1930s and should be out in 2014.  Allen's previous film Blue Jasmine has been a critical and box office success and he won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Midnight in Paris. All eyes will definitely be on Magic in the Midnight to see if they follow in those films' footsteps.
  • Their last film together made me cry.  The wonderfully acted and written The Perks of Being a Wallflower was well appreciated last year and now writer-director Stephen Chbosky and actress Emma Watson are coming back together for film adaptation of Adena Halpern's 29.  The project will be named While We're Young and deals with a grandmother wishing she was 29 again to spend the day with her same aged granddaughter.  The screenwriters of (500) Days of Summer Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustader will write the screenplay. 

(Photo: Twitch)
  • I had no idea that a live action version of Kiki's Delivery Service is in the works and will be released next year.  How intriguing! Directed by Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge series) and based on the novels by Eiko Kadono, Kiki's Delivery Service is most well-known for it's animated adaptation by Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.  The story follows a young witch, Kiki who must live a year on her own with her cat Jiji to prove herself.  I will be on the lookout for this next year.
  • And finally mark your calendars for October 3, 2014, that's the release date for the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's book Gone Girl.  David Fincher.  Ben Affleck.  Rosamund Pike.  It will be amazing.  Trust me!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

TV Movie Review: Toy Story of Terror!

Toy Story of Terror!, Pixar's first television special goes forward from the feature films and shorts in the Toy Story universe. This time around, the toys are on the road with their owner Bonnie, watching scary films on the DVD player in the car when a flat tire causes them to stay overnight at the Sleep Well motel.

The gang is spooked already with Pricklepants (voiced by Timothy Dalton) ominously cluing in the toys of the impending doom that faces characters that get stranded overnight in any story.  First, Mr. Potato Head (voiced by Don Rickles) disappears and the toys have go after him. Then one by one, they too are taken by a mysterious being until Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack) is the only toy left standing.

She comes across Combat Carl (voiced by Carl Weathers), who is all too aware of what lays ahead for the toys who have the misfortune to stay at the motel.  I think he's my favorite addition to the Toy Story universe, he's totally focused on his mission and loves referring to himself in the third person. And don't get me started on Combat Carl Jr. Just. Too. Adorable.

But the character who gets shine (and rightly so) is Jessie who has to overcome her greatest fear of being put away forever in a box.  It was a nice touch referring back to Jessie's storyline from Toy Story 2 and give a nice emotional moment amidst the short feature. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen) take a backseat and put faith in Jessie to save the day.

Toy Story of Terror! has some great laugh out loud moments and features some of your favorite characters from the series as they go through the movie cliches of any horror film. All G rated of course!  It seems that these toys have an awfully hard life with the threat of being separated from the owners always hanging over their head.

But I must say I enjoyed this Halloween preview immensely and plan to watch it again and again.  And I'm putting the request out there for a short only on Combat Carl and Combat Carl Jr.  I just want him to see Billy again.  Pixar, please make that happen!

Written and Directed by Angus MacLane; Editing by Axel Geddes; Music by Michael Giacchino


New Stills from Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Some great new stills are out from DreamWorks' upcoming feature Mr. Peabody & Sherman, based on 60s characters that appeared on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  Mr. Peabody is an innovator, pioneer and a master who excels at practically everything. Mr. Peabody also happens to be a dog with an adopted son Sherman.  When they use his invention, the WABAC machine, to go back time and meet some of history's greatest people; they end up breaking the rules of time travel and must make amends, fast!  

(Photos: USA Today)

Mr. Peabody  is voiced by Modern Family's Ty Burrell and Sherman is voiced by Max Charles.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman head out for great adventures in their WABAC machine.

Sherman takes his classmate and daughter of Peabody's nemesis' Mr. Peterson, Penny Peterson (voiced by Modern Family's Ariel Winter) for a flight on Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machine.

When Penny decides to stay back in Egypt and Peabody and Sherman have to find her.

Peabody and Sherman come to her rescue and bring Penny back to the present day.

Looks like they're on their way back home!

The voice cast also features Stephen Colbert as Mr. Peterson, Penny's father, the legendary Mel Brooks as Sigmund Freud (which should be hilarious), Stanley Tucci as Leonardo Da Vinci and Lake Bell as Mona Lisa.  The film looks promising and the storyline, intending to be a history lesson for young Sherman, will end up educating its young viewers as well. Directed by Rob Minoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little), the film will be releasing on March 7, 2014.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Movie Review: Escape Plan

Watching Escape Plan, you might start thinking it's the 90s again with lead actors Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in their elements anew.  Two decades later, the action heroes of our childhood are back in a story of wronged men who are held in the world's most secure prison. Or so everyone thinks.

Stallone is Ray Breslin, who makes his living exposing the flaws in security systems in prisons across America. Basically, he's never met a prison he can't break out. One day, the government again mysteriously asks Breslin to be a part of a plan to test out a prison to hold the world's undesirables.  He just shrugs and agrees. This is exactly how it happens in the movie.

Members of Breslin's team, his business partner Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (50 Cent) are skeptical but agree to the plan.  Honestly, I couldn't figure out what work they ever did for him anyway.  But then movie takes a turn for the better once the action shifts for towards the Tomb, the strictest prison in the world run by Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel).  He may be sadistic but he still makes time to mount dead butterflies in frames!

Breslin has one ally in this hellhole, Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) who seems to be in the running for the most helpful inmate ever.  Seriously, no request is ever denied.  Breslin and Rottmayer bide their time, watch the routine and layout of the prison and try to get the hell out of there.

Most people enjoy training montages but I personally love 'how-did-they-do-it?' montages. There are several of those in here as Ray attempts to break out of The Tomb and find out who wants to make sure that he never sees the light of day again. 

It's fun to see Stallone and Schwarzenegger against each other onscreen and working together.  There aren't many funny moments (which is a shame) but there's a great exchange between them as they try to insult each other's intelligence.  Stallone is too stiff in his scenes but Schwarzenegger looked like he was really enjoying his second career back in the movies (and his slo-mo action shot as well!). And Caviezel is very good as the methodical but evil warden.

For fans for both the action stars, I would suggest you definitely check out Escape Plan. It very well might feel like a trip down memory lane.

Directed by Mikael Hafstrom; Written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller; Cinematography by Brendan Galvin; Editing by Elliot Greenberg; Music by Alex Heffes


New Trailer: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Thank God for Wes Anderson films! They stand out for their originality and freshness in a sea of adaptations and franchises.  His latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel (FYI, in a new aspect ratio), is another original tale of a concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and a lobby boy (newcomer Tony Revolori) who find themselves in a bit of grand mess while working at the famous hotel. The new trailer gave us glimpses of F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson and Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.  But who was able to spot Tilda Swinton in the trailer without her name credit? Not me! The film is scheduled to release next year.  I can't wait. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Return as Hosts for the Golden Globes

(Photo: Just Jared)

The 'anything-goes' awards aka the Golden Globes (with dinner and drinks) just got more street cred. How come? This year's super hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have signed on more hosting duties for the next two years! That's Golden Globes 3, everyone else 0. 

Movie Review: Gravity

I've been waiting for Gravity to release since I started my blog in September 2010.  The idea of a story set in space with only two main characters sounded so intriguing. How would director Alfonso Cuarón be able to pull it off? Three years later, I'm happy to report that the long wait was totally worth it.

Cuarón keeps the story simple and where it needs to be.  On a routine spacewalk, the crew of the Explorer is getting some repairs done.  They include rookie medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran mission commander Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) who's on his last mission.  Stone and Kowalsky have a ominous conversation. He states how he's never going to break the record for the longest spacewalk and Stone comments how she likes the silence in space.

Of course, things aren't going to go well after that. A satellite is destroyed in space, sending along the after effects of debris along their way.   The result is swift and brutal.  Just as suddenly, Stone and Kowalsky are alone in space with no shuttle and no support and a slim plan to make to the International Space Station and then back to Earth.

All this is easier said than done. The two astronauts battle valiantly against the elements and it's up to the first timer in space to be put up to the ultimate test.  I think this is Sandra Bullock's strongest role where she just connects on every level with the story, its theme and with the audience.  George Clooney is at his charming best where he becomes not only the wise mentor but the guide who centers the experience for us and for Ryan Stone. 

The purpose of 3D is for the audience to become a part of the film experience and it's never been more evident than in this film.  There are moments which might seem to some as gimmicky to show off the format say when the objects in the shuttle float by your face.  But when we become one (literally) with Dr. Stone as she tries to get her bearings in space, it became like no other experience I've had in the theater.

Avatar broke the mold and started the trend of groundbreaking 3D in films.  Hugo and Life of Pi followed suit and furthered it by showing what master directors like Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee can bring to the medium with their artistic vision. Alfonso Cuarón puts his own stamp on the medium by making Gravity the most engaging and visual 3D film we've seen.  He doesn't clutter the narrative with by showing us any action on Earth, of mission control or any loved ones left behind. It's all about the survival ordeal the astronauts face. 

And there's the gorgeous cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki where the visuals just about permeate into you forever.  My favorite shot in the film is when Ryan makes into the Russian shuttle after hitting rock bottom with her oxygen tank and rids herself of the spacesuit.  The visual invokes one of mankind's most fervent needs, to feel secure and protected, as one would in a womb.  It's the brief calm amidst the storm in space.

You will hear many things about Gravity. Some will like it, some won't.  It seems like an unusual experiment in cinema to some but it takes advantages of all the technological advances cinema has to offer today.  And for those of us who ever wondered what's it like to be in space and view down at Earth, Gravity is the closest we'll ever get to being out there.  

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón; Written by Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón; Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing by Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger; Music by Steven Price.


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