Latest Blog Posts

<p>On &quot;Brooklyn Nine-Nine,&quot;&nbsp;Terry Crews gets back in action.</p>

On "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Terry Crews gets back in action.

Credit: FOX

Review: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - 'The Ebony Falcon'

Jake gets too protective of Terry, and Gina's apartment is robbed

A review of last night's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" coming up just as soon as we play Wife or Dog...

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<p>Hammer Girl, meet the world. World, meet Hammer Girl. Now duck.</p>

Hammer Girl, meet the world. World, meet Hammer Girl. Now duck.

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Review: 'The Raid 2' delivers visceral thrills on an epic scale

After this, Gareth Evans is without peer in action cinema today

PARK CITY - What makes a great action filmmaker truly great?

Is it just the ability to orchestrate and shoot mayhem? If so, then David Ellis would have to be considered one of the greats simply for the highway crash sequence in "Final Destination 2," and pretty much every other scene he ever shot would negate that idea. And if pure mayhem is what makes you great overall, then the destruction of Chicago means that none of Michael Bay's weaknesses as a filmmaker matter, right?

There are a number of directors out there right now who deserve more credit than they get as action filmmakers. Isaac Florentine does fantastic work in conjunction with various great fight choreographers like Larnell Stovall and Tim Man and working with action stars like Scott Adkins, for example, and I love the films that Ernesto Diaz Espinoza made with Marko Zaror, who should be a gigantic star just based on his physical presence and both the fun and the elegance of the way he fights.

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<p>Shailene Woodley and Christopher Meloni in &quot;White Bird in a Blizzard.&quot;</p>

Shailene Woodley and Christopher Meloni in "White Bird in a Blizzard."

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: Shailene Woodley and Eva Green spark in disappointing 'White Bird in a Blizzard'

Kitsch coming-of-age tale is an oddly tame effort from director Gregg Araki

PARK CITY - Sex, death, neon lights, more sex, body-image statements undercut by the number of perfect torsos on display, new-wave pop, more sex... it looks an awful lot like we're in a Gregg Araki movie. And so we are, though for all those trash-ulous trademarks, "White Bird in a Blizzard" feels less like one than most.

A campily erotic coming-of-age murder-mystery tale -- a pretty conventional genre for Araki, the man behind "Mysterious Skin," "Kaboom" and a host of 90s queer curiosities -- this adaptation of Laura Kasischke's allegedly more stable novel promises some exciting variations to the enfant terrible's freaky formula, not least in its young female perspective. What we get is disappointing: a watered-down bad-taste exercise in which neither Araki's lurid affectations nor the source material's youthful angst do much to enhance each other.

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'Frank' director says Sundance fave may yield music concerts and album

Lenny Abrahamson promises exactly zero Bono

PARK CITY, Utah - It's been days since I saw "Frank" at the Sundance Film Festival, and I'm still rolling it around on my tongue. Starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson, the film is indeed very musical, but also explores where creativity comes from, mediocrity versus merit in the medium, the mythologized connection between mental illness and genius, and the clash between laughable pretension and utter likeability.

All while Fassbender wears a giant papier-mâchée head, as its titular character.

"Frank's" director Lenny Abrahamson struck me as an intense music lover, and some of "Frank" and his misanthropic band's influences tended toward what he called the academic. Frank makes nods to Beatles lover Daniel Johnston, and exploratory groups from Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and art collective The Residents.

The mask as a performance apparatus in the film acts as a mirror, to reflect on the audience's willingness to "go there" with its creator. Abrahamson wants those curious to be interested in what Frank is supposedly "hiding."

"It's sort of like 'The Wizard of Oz,'" he told me on the red carpet, the wish for the crowd to guess at what's behind the curtain. Hint: the big reveal isn't a mega-superstar singer for a famous Irish rock band.

"I gotta choose my words really carefully: Bono's wonderful, but he's not under the mask," Abrahamson conceded.

The music in the film can have it's drones and found sounds, it's rising and cresting melodies, jagged uneven rhythms next to a plodding keyboard line. At times, it sounded like Joy Division, then maybe a dash of The Fall or some Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Overall, I wish there were more completed songs presented, though the creation of the "idea of a song" seemed even more important to driving this film forward.

Well, I may get my wish anyway. Abrahamson said that "Frank" could yield a concert evening with the film's stars combining again, a la "Inside Llewyn Davis," so long as they can "make the schedule work." He also is planning to put together a soundtrack album release for "Frank," as apparently more material than could ever be crammed into the film still was conceived specifically for the project.

Watch the full interview above for more details on a potential release.

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<p>&quot;The Voices&quot;</p>

"The Voices"

Credit: Sundance

Review: Surprising 'The Voices' offers Ryan Reynolds and a Scottish talking cat

Marjane Satrapi's Sundance premiere is a disturbingly funny treat
Some movies stumble into cult status by accident, aiming for mainstream approval, but landing wide of that mark. 
Other movies just shrug and steer self-consciously into a cult-friendly niche with every fiber of their being.
It isn't easy to do the former, but it's probably easier than the latter. Weirdness-for-the-sake-of-weirdness often just ends up trying too hard. It's almost like you need a certain earnestness to make a cult film seem genuine, rather than over-calculated.
"The Voices," which is premiering out-of-competition at the Sundance Film Festival, is designed pretty purely as a cult movie. It probably should never play in 3000 theaters and it's certainly not going to make $100 million. From the first frame to the last, it's begging audiences to raise a collective eyebrow and go along for the ride, knowing that if you're in from the beginning, you'll probably be in for the duration, but that if you don't crack an immediate smile within 30 seconds, it probably won't get better. 
"The Voices" is trying to be a cult film with a capital "C" and you can feel its effort in that direction... But it mostly works.
Carried to no small degree by wildly and successfully against-expectations direction from "Persepolis" veteran Marjane Satrapi, "The Voices" is "Psycho" by way of "Wonderfalls" by way of Francois Ozon. 
Perhaps a little more successful when winking at genre expectations than when playing things straight, "The Voices" is funny, disturbing and whimsical, anchored by an "Oh right, he can act" performance by Ryan Reynolds, an "Oh duh, she's effortlessly appealing" performance by Anna Kendrick and an "Oh wow, that's what it takes to make her interesting" performance by Gemma Arterton. 
More after the break…
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<p>We know Quentin loves Westerns, but 'Django' felt like he was just warming up.</p>

We know Quentin loves Westerns, but 'Django' felt like he was just warming up.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Quentin Tarantino has pulled the plug on 'The Hateful Eight' after a script leak

What makes this particular leak different?

At this point, there are several familiar stages in the life-cycle of a new film by Quentin Tarantino. There's the part the general public is part of, involving the trailers, the press screenings, and the eventual release. But well before that, another cycle has become somewhat set in stone, starting with the moment that each screenplay leaks.

It happened on "Kill Bill." It happened on "Inglorious Basterds." And it happened on "Django Unchained" at a speed that seemed to shock even Tarantino.

Now word has broken that the cycle was accelerated to a point that has infuriated the filmmaker, and as a result, it appears that "The Hateful Eight" will no longer be his next film. Right now, fingers are being pointed, and I can't wait to see how this story unfolds because someone is going to end up being blamed for this film going down in flames before it even set a cast in stone.

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'Dear White People' cast consider: Could Tyler Perry present our movie?

'Dear White People' cast consider: Could Tyler Perry present our movie?

Oh, and about this talented new director Justin Simien...

PARK CITY - I'm not entirely sure when I first met Justin Simien. Actually, correct that.  It was four and a half years ago ( found the E-mail introducing him as the new online publicist for Paramount Pictures from 2009). Having worked for the venerable studio one time myself, we immediately had a number of similar acquaintances both socially and professionally.  And in my position I ended up talking to him about work related items usually once  week.  But, as we chatted about more interesting topics than say the latest publicity opportunities for "The Last Airbender" (you poor child) I quickly realized something about this young twentysomething: He was way too smart for the room and he wouldn't be there long. And within two years, he'd moved on to bigger and better things. 

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'Murder, She Wrote' reboot is dead at NBC

"Murder, She Wrote" reboot is dead at NBC
The remake starring Octavia Spencer is currently dead, though therer's a chance it could revived again.

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<p>Joelle Carter and Walton Goggins in &quot;Justified.&quot;</p>

Joelle Carter and Walton Goggins in "Justified."

Credit: FX

Review: 'Justified' - 'Good Intentions'

Raylan's new home gets unwanted visitors, while Boyd shows off his tattoos

A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I have curb appeal...

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<p>&quot;Happy Valley&quot;</p>

"Happy Valley"

Credit: A&E Films

Review: 'Happy Valley' is a confounding look at Penn State post-scandal

Amir Bar-Lev's Sundance doc should spark post-screening debate
Amir Bar-Lev's "Happy Valley," a documentary premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is not a film about the sex scandal that rocked Penn State University in late 2011, 
Make no mistake, you won't come away with any ambiguity regarding the allegations against Jerry Sandusky or the crimes for which he was convicted and sentenced to what amounts to a life sentence.
But this is not a documentary about interviewing witnesses, investigating timelines or attempting to get to the root of Sandusky's criminal behavior.  The accepted supposition is that Sandusky did what he was accused of doing and, with one major exception, the victims probably aren't ready for extended feature-length interviews (plus, it's all on the record anyway).
As its title might indicate if you happen to have any awareness of Penn State and Penn State football, Happy Valley is about a place and about a state of mind, both of which were crushed and vilified by the Sandusky case and its repulsive and saddening revelations.
And that's going to prove an immediate barrier-to-entry for many potential viewers who really won't be incorrect if they say, "Yes, it's unfortunate that many innocent people associated with Penn State saw their university's good name spoiled by this and it's probably disappointing to some fans of a powerhouse sports program that innocent athletes are being punished for the actions of a reprehensible assistant coach and it's arguably unfair to blame an entire community for this ugly mess, but... Sexual abuse. Children. Let's concentrate on the actual victims here and maybe down the road we can get around to restoring the joy of the tailgating experience for bushy-tailed coeds."
It's not that "Happy Valley" cheapens what happened to the victims in any way, but there are definitely people within the documentary whose sense of perspective is a wee bit askew and they're given ample platform. And there will certainly be viewers who think that any focus that looks away from Sandusky's actions is invariably a focus in the wrong place.
That's why "Happy Valley" is probably going to leave many viewers, possibly most viewers, angry. The question is just at the direction of the anger. Many people will just have a generalized anger because if the Jerry Sandusky scandal doesn't piss you off, you're not paying attention. But I know some people with Penn State sympathies or affiliations who are going to feel like "Happy Valley" is too hard on the show and I'm certain that many people outside of the bubble are going to feel it's too lenient.
Probably that's what director Amir Bar-Lev wants, though he continues to be a director who sells himself short by rushing to cover big stories.
[More after the break...]
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<p>Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in &quot;Sound One.&quot;</p>

Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in "Sound One."

Review: 'Song One' with Anne Hathaway won't strike a chord with everyone

So, you like white guys with guitars?

PARK CITY - No matter what the original intent, some movies inherently are made for a specific audience. And it's not the genre we're talking about, either. A horror movie can have broad appeal just as a comedy may only make a select few laugh. Instead, some films will just touch a nerve with a very small, specific audience. Kate Barker-Froyland's directorial debut, "Song One," is one of those films. And it's probably an audience of white-guy-with-a-guitar fans.

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Matt Damon predicts big things for 'Interstellar' and praises co-star McConaughey's hot streak

Matt Damon predicts big things for 'Interstellar' and praises co-star McConaughey's hot streak

The 'Monuments Men' star had a blast collaborating with Christopher Nolan

I sat down with the "Monuments Men" crew last week (more on that film in due time) and, like most bozos, figured a softball "Interstellar" question lobbed Matt Damon's way might produce something interesting. Christopher Nolan always keeps his cast and crew on lockdown when it comes to his projects so it's almost like you have to preface it with "I know you're sworn to secrecy," but you can get interesting nuggets early in the process sometimes. Matthew McConaughey, for instance, had some engrossing things to say about his trepidations going into the project.

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