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

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.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Movie Review: Captain Phillips

Whenever I see the tagline, 'Based on a true story,' my interest is always peaked.  Captain Phillips is based on the experiences of Captain Richard Phillips in his book A Captain's Duty.  In April 2009, en route to Mombasa on a routine voyage as captain of Maesrk Alabama, Phillips faced a hijacking attempt that lead to him being held hostage by four Somali pirates.

I should point out that playing the role of Phillips is Tom Hanks who played the everyman hero before in films.  His portrayal of a captain trying to protect his ship and crew is the main reason to watch the film. The second is leader of small band of pirates, Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who has real purpose in his actions from the first moment we see him onscreen.  He holds real malevolence his eyes as he has a determination to prove himself and really hijack the American ship. 

The standoff between him and Phillips as they both try to accomplish their goals is fascinating. Captain Phillips tries to get him to see reason while Muse indirectly gives his backstory while they talk.  He's also trying to get by and make something of his life.  These sequences had the most impact in this story for me.

The film opens well with parallel storylines of Phillips and Muse building towards that eventual meeting on the ship when the Somali take over the ship.  The tension builds and builds until the standoff where eventually Phillips is taken hostage in the lifeboat by the pirates.  Here I felt the sequences went on a little too much for me. It could also be that because of director Paul Greengrass' documentary style of jerky shots and closeups in the tight space of the lifeboat became too claustrophobic and I had quite the headache afterwards. 

With much of the action on the choppy seas and the moving camera did not gel well together for me.  In fact, when the action moved to the US Navy and the SEALs getting involved, the movie began to shift focus again. The film is strongest when it features on Abdi and Hanks.  Many will be surprised to find sympathy towards the pirates in certain scenes as well.

There are many such instances of piracy that get featured on news stories in television and newspapers. But seeing it unfold over the screen is a bit of shock as how these pirates in small boats can overpower a ship as big as the Maesrk Alabama. Just as shocking is the way in which the hostage situation eventually ended.  Tom Hanks delivers yet another strong performance in his career, if you see the film, it should be for his and Abdi's performances. 

Directed by Paul Greengrass; Written by Billy Ray; Based on the book by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty; Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd; Editing by Christopher Rouse; Music by Henry Jackman


Movie Review: The Kings of Summer

Coming of age tales usually involve a significant event in a youngster's life that changes them irrevocably.  In Joseph Toy's (Nick Robinson) case, it's his mother's death that furthers the distance between his father Frank (Nick Offerman).  To state that they don't get along is an understatement.  For example, Joe calls the police on his dad on false charges several times. 

However, one summer Joe and his friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) have had enough of their parents and their interferences in their lives.  They decide to run away and build their own house in the woods, where they will live by their own rules.  Joining them is the delightfully weird kid that exists in every town, Biaggio (Moises Arias).

But plans always sound good on paper first.  At first, being away from rules and restrictions put down on them from their parents is bliss and the boys revel in their freedom.  As the days pass, other concerns pop up, food, shelter and nature's elements all play in role in testing them.  However, the biggest test of the boys' friendship comes in another form, the affections of young woman Kelly (Erin Moriarty).

The Kings of Summer has a light take on teenagers, friendship and parental resistance. I still felt that, at the end of the film, Joe and Frank still had a lot to hash out between them. The sequences set early in the film as the boys make their jungle hideout are well-shot with great shots of nature.  Nick Robinson is fine as the likable although aimless lead character but Moises Arias' Biaggio has the best lines of the film.

I still wanted more from the film but if coming of age films interest you then The Kings of Summer has its moments of fun and friendship. 

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts; Written by Chris Galletta; Cinematography by Ross Riege; Editing by Terel Gibson; Music by Ryan Miller


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Movie Review: Stories We Tell

What happens when a family secret is revealed years later? What is the impact on the family members left to pick up the pieces?  Sarah Polley's deeply personal documentary, Stories We Tell, deals with the aftermath of a family secret involving her mother.

Stories We Tell is devastatingly honest and direct in the emotions it exposes. Polley interviews her older siblings and her father about her mother, actress Diane Polley who passed away of cancer when Sarah was 11.  Through family photos and videos, she reveals her parents' love story and married life, giving us a glimpse of her mother's lively personality.  Friends and co-workers also interviewed as they recollect their memories. 

But this unique documentary offers a different perspective on the events of years past as Polley's father Michael narrates those days with his own journals and letters giving insight into his thoughts and views.  We see Polley guide him through the narration in the studio.  Polley's siblings also introspect on their parents' marriage, what they might have been going through at that time and what their feelings are on it now.

Certain key moments are also recreated using actors.  Polley has this curiosity about these events that have shaped her own life and while it might seem intrusive at times, it works a process for her understanding and dealing with the secret.  What is the secret though? I feel it's unfair to reveal it here and leave it up to you to discover it. It's testament to the fact that Polley is such a good instinctive director that sometimes she allows the scenes to speak for themselves.

Sarah Polley, who is a fine actress in her own right, has over the last couple of years emerged with as a filmmaker with a unique voice.  She has also made Away from Her (2006) and Take This Waltz (2011) with strong female characters in the lead.  Whatever it is acting or directing, I look forward to a film if Polley is in it. I thought about Stories We Tell long after I had seen it. It's one of the best personal documentaries I have seen. 

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley; Cinematography by Iris Ng; Editing by Mike Munn; Music by Jonathan Goldsmith


Movie Review: The Sapphires

This enjoyable Australian film about an enterprising group of Aboriginal singers and sisters who toured Vietnam in the 1960s is one of those feel-good films that are "inspired" from real life events.  Based on the play, The Sapphires, by Tony Briggs, the son of one of the actual Sapphires, the film invents a key character to take the story further. In this day and age, we can call it the 'Argo-effect', heightening the story for effect onscreen.

Gail (Deborah Mailman) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) audition at a local competition where they are overlooked for a white contestant.  However, struggling talent manager Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd) notices their potential, especially when their youngest sister Julie (former Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy) joins them.  He thinks they have a chance to perform for the US troops in Vietnam but they need to become a proper team to go abroad.

Their estranged cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) is the fourth part of the group and they head off to Vietnam, where they realize the stakes are quite real. They have landed in an unstable war zone.  But the Sapphires perform well at their gigs with some delightful covers of hits like 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' and 'Who's Lovin You". There's also a romance sub-plot between Dave and Gail who bond as the caretakers of the group. Their interactions are the most memorable in the film and Chris O'Dowd particularly stands out with his infectious desire to succeed on the tour.

If you're looking for a fun feel-good film to see over the weekend, you can't go wrong with The Sapphires. It bends the truth (but then again, what film doesn't?) but it will give you a glimpse of the challenges faced the Aboriginals who lived in Australia at that time. The film shows how these particular sisters chose to be proactive and grab their future in their hands.  

Directed by Wayne Blair; Based on the play by Tony Briggs, Screenplay by Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs; Cinematography by Warwick Thornton; Edited by Dany Cooper; Music by Cezary Skubizewski


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New American Hustle Character Posters

These new character posters are like a pack of 70s cards highlighting the questionable fashions and hairdos of the cast of American Hustle.  Directed by David O. Russell, the film based on the ABSCAM  scandal releases this December.  

Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld, a con man who aids the FBI against corrupt politicians.  

Bradley Cooper is FBI Agent Richie DiMasio. 

Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosenfeld's wife, Rosalyn.

Meanwhile, Amy Adams is Rosenfeld's British mistress, Sydney Prosser.

And finally, the man with the widest tie I've ever seen is Jeremy Renner as 
corrupt NJ mayor Carmine Politico.

New Character Posters: Frozen

With less than 50 days to go before the release of Frozen this Thanksgiving (yes, I'm counting), Disney has released these four new character posters featuring the lead characters of the frozen fairytale.

First up, we have sisters Anna (with Snowman Olaf) and Elsa who have a few differences to sort out.

Aiding Anna on her journey are Prince Hans and Kristoff (and his reindeer Sven).

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