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Oct 12, 2013

Review: 'Gravity' is An Awe-Inspiring Masterpiece

PLOT: Two astronauts- medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran flight commander Matt Kowalksky (George Clooney)- find themselves adrift in space after debris from a satellite causes a catastrophic incident.

REVIEW: Movie theaters will talk themselves blue these days trying to convince people to still bother to come out and see films in dark theaters with other people. But all they really need is Gravity, one of the most captivating and essential big-screen experiences in recent years, and maybe ever. The gripping thriller about two astronauts lost in space could work on a small screen in theory, sure. But in a dark theater, with expert sound effects and the stunning visuals surrounding you, Gravity is like being launched into orbit yourself; it's transporting and terrifying and, eventually, transcendent.

With its mind-boggling visuals and commitment to the authentic experience of outer space (no sound, no gravity, no oxygen), Gravity is genuinely unlike any film you've ever seen before. But its story, from a script written by director Alfonso Cuaron with his son Jonas, is deliberately, sometimes clangingly familiar. You've got one astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a wisecracking veteran on his final spacewalk. And you've got the rookie Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a brilliant and strong-willed scientist who's understandably nauseous on her first trip into orbit. This odd couple pair has met disaster in countless types of movies for the last century, but this time it happens to be in space, when a Russian satellite is hit by a missile and the debris comes flying at them at thousands of miles an hour. In space, nobody can help you dodge shrapnel.

The lauded 10-minute unbroken shot that opens the film is mesmerizing and thrilling, and leads into the first action sequence, as Stone and Kowalski survive the debris field and manage to regroup themselves while overcoming problems that just don't exist on earth, like the fact that once you start spinning in space, there's no way to stop yourself. As Cuaron's camera slips magically inside Stone's helmet and back out into the distance of space, the visceral experience of the film becomes almost unbearable; the action sequences of Gravity are designed like a thrill ride, wringing maximum physical response from the audience, and it's an insanely well-calibrated ride at that. When Stone and Kowalski finally have a chance to catch their breath, you may only then realize you've been holding yours as well. 

When the film takes the time to develop the characters, allowing Stone to talk about her young daughter's death and Kowalski (Clooney essentially just playing himself in a spacesuit) to talk her through the ordeal, the lighter moments tend to work better than the heavier stuff near the end. Sandra Bullock's resolutely physical, ferocious performance often says more concisely everything the script stumbles in saying out loud, and many of the film's best emotional moments-- like her one-sided communication with amateur radio operator back on Earth-- are nearly wordless. The gambit of having the astronauts communicate with "Houston in the blind" allows the characters to narrate essential technical parts of the action, but at several key moments the script doesn't know to step back-- that Bullock's face and grim determination to survive say it all. 

With its deliberately archetypal characters and occasionally chewy dialogue Gravity feels like a film James Cameron would be lucky to make--an enormous compliment for this technically brilliant, unerringly entertaining thriller. Your mileage may vary on the film's more spiritual elements, but Gravity will make you believe in the higher power of movies, of the transformation that happens in a dark room with a giant screen and a story set in a place you couldn't possibly imagine. See it in IMAX and in realD 3D and any other way that allows you to block out the rest of the world. Gravity is movie heaven.

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Oct 4, 2013

"You're not just an analyst anymore - you're operational now." As promised, and despite the passing away of author Tom Clancy earlier this week, Paramount has debuted the first full-length trailer for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, directed by Kenneth Branagh, with Chris Pine as the new Jack Ryan. This action-packed trailer peels back many layers of the story, including giving us a look at how Keira Knightley as Cathy Ryan gets involved. We also get to see Kevin Costner as William Harper and Branagh as the Russian villain who doesn't play nice. There are a few cheesy moments in this footage, but it doesn't look that bad.

Here's the first full trailer for Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, originally from Yahoo:

The first poster for fo Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has been released and can be viewed below.

Kenneth Branagh directs Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with a script written by Steven Zaillian, Anthony Peckham, Adam Cozad and David Koepp. The film isn't adapted from a particular Tom Clancy novel, and essentially exists as an original story following Jack Ryan before he joined the CIA. Branagh is also playing the villain with Keira Knightley as the love interest, Kevin Costner as Ryan's mentor and Colm Feore in a supporting role, too. Paramount Pictures sends Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit to theaters everywhere December 25th coming up.

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Oct 3, 2013

It's time for a Marvel movie news round-up! First up, with Sony setting dates for two more sequels in The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, and the release of the second film coming in the summer of 2014, it's time to get some writers for The Amazing Spider-Man 3. THR has word that Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci will again work with Jeff Pinkner to script the third film. The trio also wrote the second film, so it's no surprise they're back with a rumored villain arc leading to something big beginning in the second film. Sony also hopes director Marc Webb will return, but no deal is in place yet.

I'm excited for the next Spider-Man movie. It's going to be fun to see where they take the story, and what other characters and villains that they introduce to the film franchise. There's a lot of Sinister Six talk, which would be great!

In addition, Fox has found a writer for their gestating reboot of Fantastic Four, with Chronicle director Josh Trank at the helm. THR reports Simon Kinberg, co-writer and producer Fox's forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, will also write and producer the superhero quartet revamp. Matthew Vaughn is also producing the film, which means he and Kinberg will have a bit of a reunion after working on X-Men: First Class together. Previous versions of the script came from Jeremy Slater, Michael Green, Seth Grahame-Smith and T.S. Nowlin, but supposedly Kinberg is doing quite a rewrite on what already exists. Names like Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller have been rumored for parts, but not confirmed. It's not clear how soon the project might get off the ground, but it sounds like the script needs work first.

Via: THR

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After completing The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy with The World's End this past summer, director Edgar Wright is wasting no time getting back behind the camera. As everyone knows by now, the director of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is taking on Marvel's Phase Three film Ant-Man. The film was teased at Comic-Con a couple years ago with a special effects test, but since then a leading man to play the title character has not been announced, and we've been unsure as to when the film would begin production. Well, today Wright posted a photo showing he's working on the film, but what does this mean?

Edgar Wright wrote, "Now I'm back in LA, it's high time to finish a little something I've been working on..."

As you can see, that photo is from the set of Ant-Man, and the suit is very similar to the one featured in the video show at Comic-Con. However, is the actor playing Ant-Man actually in that suit, or is this just a special effects test? Simon Pegg trolled the Internet with a photo from Marvel not too long ago, and we're doubting he'll end up in the role, so just who will end up being Wright's leading man? If the director is already busy behind the scenes, hopefully an announcement is coming soon. Ant-Man arrives in theaters everywhere on July 31st, 2015.

UPDATE: We've been told this image from Edgar Wright is actually from when he was working on the clip shown at Comic-Con. Wright is not currently filming Ant-Man, but is likely back in Los Angeles for pre-production. Hopefully that means we get some casting announcements soon. Carry on.

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Sep 27, 2013

Exclusive: 'The Avengers: Age of Ultron' Comic-Con Teaser Revealed!

When Joss Whedon revealed that Marvel's sequel to The Avengers was officially titled The Avengers: Age of Ultron, fans freaked out, mostly because the reveal of the title came from a cool little promo trailer. The video featured voiceover of lines from the various superheroes from the 2012 blockbuster superhero ensemble, accompanied by a visual of Tony Stark's Iron Man helmet smashing against some unknown piece of metal. Then it was revealed that it was the helmet of the villain Ultron on the receiving end of the metal mashing. Now that video is online for your viewing pleasure, along with Whedon's Comic-Con appearance.

Here's The Avengers: Age of Ultron title reveal from the JARVIS iPhone app (via MoviePilot):

It's the use of Iron Man's helmet being smashed into Ultron's that has fans thinking that Tony Stark will have a hand in creating Ultron somehow, since Hank Pym (Ant-Man) has been confirmed to not be the villain's creator (since his film won't arrive until after the sequel hits theaters). Theories have thought that Stark's artificial intelligence assistant JARVIS might go rogue, but the casting of James Spader as Ultron kind of put the kibosh on that. But since Paul Bettany's voice isn't exactly menacing, maybe he will evolve into Spader's more intimidating tones. We'll find out sometime down the road, so stay tuned for updates.

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Review: 'Elysium' is Great Entertainment

PLOT: In the year 2154, the wealthy have made a new home on a spectacular space-station called Elysium. There, the very, very rich can live a carefree life, in addition to one free of any health concerns, as each home is equipped with technology that can cure any disease, or heal any wound. Those who are left on Earth aren’t so lucky. When an ex-con, Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, and given only five days to live, he dons a metal exoskeleton, and takes on a dangerous mission to hack his brain into one of the colony’s most prominent citizens, allowing him to access their life-saving technology.

REVIEW: Any film that Blomkamp made as his second feature was going to be born in the shadow of District 9 and impossibly high expectations. Elysium, sadly, doesn’t eclipse its predecessor, but it’s still a strong follow-up and an engaging piece of original science-fiction. 

Elysium, like the best examples of sci-fi, has something to say about the status of our current world, but in trying to fully create the metaphor the movie’s reach exceeds its grasp, and the result is some unfortunate plot holes. Making a statement about global issues like immigration and health care, the film is set in a near future where all of the rich and powerful people on Earth have moved up to an exclusive space station called Elysium, a place where disease has been completely eliminated. Matt Damon’s character, an ex-con turned factory worker named Max, is trying to lead a normal life, but is struck by tragedy when an on-the-job accident leaves him with only five days to live. In order to live he needs to get to Elysium, and to do that he must return to the criminal world he was trying to escape. 

As on-the-nose as the film’s central premise is, Blomkamp actually does a smart job finessing it into the story while also avoiding being preachy or overbearing.Two well-paced acts lead to a chaotic finale, where fight sequences and explosions cloud any explanation of Elysium's mechanics and security practices. It's the kind of messy logic that bugs you while walking back to the car — and not in a good way.

A well-written character lacking in typical hero tropes, Max is a strong character as brought to life by Damon, whose natural charisma shines through this hardened new look of tattoos and a shaved head. Blomkamp mixes in plenty of negative, selfish behavior for the character to keep him interesting, and Damon once again shows why he is one of the best lead actors we’ve got. It helps that he's surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast, with actors like Wagner Moura, Diego Luna, and Alice Braga all putting in strong turns, but the movie’s real scene stealer is District 9 star Sharlto Copley

Completely changing gears from the meek Wikus Van De Merwe in Blomkamp’s last film, Copley’s new character, Kruger, is a hardcore, evil son-of-a-bitch mercenary who is hired by the security team on Elysium to track down Max, and the South African star truly gives one hell of a performance. The only problem with this is that Copley manages to completely outshine every other villain in the story, particularly Jodie Foster’s Delacort, the Secretary of Security on Elysium and Kruger’s handler. While she does play a crucial part in the movie’s plot, the fact that she’s stuck up in space keeps her away from most of the action and undercuts her significance. The role is so minimized that the character ends up being more of a high-powered plot device. All of it is backed by flawless CGI that never takes you out of the film. 

It's easy and true to say that Elysium isn't as good as District 9, but it’s also slightly unfair and reductive. Blomkamp’s sophomore effort stands on its own and is a solid, well-made, original film that also has its fair share of problems. The writer/director remains one of the most exciting filmmakers to watch, and if he can keep producing at this level he will only elevate the science-fiction genre.

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Sep 26, 2013

"I saw you with The Avengers." In the teaser trailer and theatrical trailer for Thor: The Dark World, we've seen that Thor is reunited with his human love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) after the god of thunder was seemingly unable to return to Earth until he came to claim his brother Loki in The Avengers. But now that he's back on Earth, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has some questions to answer because Ms. Foster saw him fighting alongside The Avengers in a new TV spot. It's an amusing moment, but I hope there's not overwhelming silly humor like this and Alan Taylor keeps the focus on the epic side of things.

Here's the new TV spot for Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World from YouTube:

In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fights to restore order across the cosmos, but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. Alan Taylor ("Game of Thrones") directs Thor: The Dark World which arrives in theaters on November 8th. What say you now?

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"I will find strength, find guidance, and I will triumph." Well, we weren't expecting this. The first trailer for DreamWorks' adaptation of the racing video game series Need for Speed has arrived, and it's hauntingly beautiful and action-packed all at the same time. Using a slow, sweeping orchestral score and a gorgeous opera voice, the soundtrack is juxtaposed with the fast-paced action in the film starring "Breaking Bad" regular Aaron Paul. This looks intense, and just might give the Fast & Furious franchise a run for its money, bringing some emotional weight to the adrenaline-fueled action. Or this could just be a trick. Watch!

Here's the first trailer for Scott Waugh's Need for Speed, originally from Apple:

Need for Speed is directed by stuntman turned director Scott Waugh and written by George Nolfi, John Gatins and producer George Gatins. Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, muscle car mechanic and street racer Tobey (Aaron Paul) gets out of prison determined to settle the score with the man responsible for his false conviction. Tobey tears up the road in a gritty cross-country journey— one that begins as a mission for revenge, but proves to be one of redemption. Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton also star in the film arriving next year March 14th, 2014.

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First Look at Jim Carrey & Jeff Daniels in 'Dumb & Dumber To'

Just recently, we featured a photo straight from Jim Carrey, giving us a close-up look at his infamous chipped tooth belonging to his dimwitted character Lloyd Christmas from the 1994 comedy Dumb & Dumber. Fans have been waiting awhile to see if the comedy sequel, Dumb & Dumber To, would get off the ground, and now we have evidence that Lloyd is back with Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels). By way of Twitter, Carrey just posted a picture from the set of the film featuring himself and Daniels in full wardrobe as Harry and Lloyd, and they're wearing pretty much the same thing they did at the end of the first film.

Here's the first photo from the set of the Farrelly Brothers' Dumb & Dumber To via Jim Carrey:

Jeff Daniels also posted this picture with Jim Carrey on Twitter:

Dumb & Dumber To is directed by Peter & Bobby Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary) and written by Sean Anders & John Morris, Mike Cerrone and Bennett Yellin. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, 20 years after their last road trip, and this time they have to hit the road again to find Harry's illegitimate daughter for a kidney transplant. Laurie Holden and Kathleen Turner also star in the film which Universal Pictures will send to theaters sometime in 2014. Stay tuned for any updates.

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Sep 25, 2013

'Thor: The Dark World' Unveils An Extended TV Spot

"Your bravery will not ease your pain." The last extended TV spot showed the chief villain Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) threatening Thor, and now a new TV spot shows more of the destruction coming for Earth and Asgard. This one jumps around a lot showing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in action, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) doing what he does best, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in trouble, and plenty of dark elves giving them trouble. The sequel is just over a month away with a debut on IMAX screens at the end of October before hitting all theaters in November. We can't wait to see more of Marvel's Phase Two!
Here's the new TV spot for Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World from Marvel:

In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fights to restore order across the cosmos, but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. Alan Taylor ("Game of Thrones") directs Thor: The Dark World which arrives in theaters on November 8th. What say you now?

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