Review: Z for Zachariah

Starring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine

Review: No Escape

Starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan

Review: We Are Your Friends

Starring Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, and Wes Bentley

Review: Alex Ross Perry's Queen of Earth

Starring Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston

Review: Grandma

Starring Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner

8/31/2015

Review: 'A Walk In The Woods' Starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte


NOTE: This is a reprint of my review from the Sundance Film Festival. A Walk in the Woods opens September 2nd.

Who's ready for another literal walk to self-discovery? Robert Redford's latest film, A Walk in the Woods, is one he's been developing for years, originally to co-star with Paul Newman. It's based on travel writer Bill Bryson's memoir about his long hike along the Appalachian Trail with a boozing buddy. But unlike Tracks and Wild which feature incredibly challenging physical performances by their lead stars, the combination of Redford and Nick Nolte only manages to make this walk in the woods as exciting as a summer stroll.

Redford plays Bryson, a very successful travel writer who is starting to feel the restless itch. He hasn't written a book in years, and while his marriage (Emma Thompson plays his wife) is comfortable something is missing. He decides to take on a challenge most men half his age wouldn't dare; hiking the 1800-mile Appalachian Trail. Why? Eh, because it's there? It's a familiar retort from danger-seekers when attempting some remarkable challenge, but Bryson is no thrill-seeker and his reasons for embarking on such a journey are never made clear. Since his wife is convinced he'll be mauled by bears or poisoned by bug farts or something, he must find a companion to tag along. The only one who agrees is Steve Katz (Nolte), and he wasn't even invited. There's a bit of a sting there as Katz realizes Bryson asked people he doesn't even like ahead of him, but before we long we see why he did. Katz is overweight and can barely walk, but he's also a former alcoholic who may have relapsed.

Truthfully, there isn't much that happens on their trek, and when it does it's usually some bit of lousy slapstick. Of course jokes about their age are prevalent early on, especially when they encounter an irritating know-it-all (Kristen Schaal) who won't leave their side. The film goes to great pains to establish how difficult the hike will be, but at no point does it ever feel dangerous. Where are the stakes? There's no peril, but even enlightenment seems to elude them. The guys ponder life, love, growing old and past regrets, but it never amounts to a broader revelation. At the end we're still left wondering why either man felt compelled to do what they did.

Nolte and Redford are too good for their not to be some good individual scenes, and the veteran pair fit comfortably into their "odd couple" roles. Bryson is an intellectual with a sharp wit, while Katz is a brute who can't stay out of trouble or out of the beds of married women. A thin screenplay gets a visual boost from director Ken Kwapis, who finds majesty in wide, sweeping natural vistas. Kwapis directed the whale rescue film Big Miracle and seems to be securing a niche as the chosen filmmaker for this kind of frothy material.

Redford wasn't expecting the film to be added to the Sundance slate and has expressed some shock that it was. It's pretty easy to see why. By the festival's standards A Walk in the Woods is pretty weak, lacking anything close to edginess. It's not a terrible movie but it's doubtful anyone under the age of 60 will care to see it.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5


Could Green Lantern Appear In The Fourth Season of 'Arrow'?


Off and on over the last three seasons, Arrow has teased the DC Comics locale of Coast City. It's the Silver Age home of fellow Justice League member, Hal Jordan aka Green Lantern. While the show hasn't ventured to the city yet, that will be changing when Oliver Queen arrives in season four. His flashbacks will take in Coast City, at least in part, and now series creator Marc Guggenheim is teasing a possible crossover between DC's emerald superheroes.

Guggenheim tweeted the above image, which looks like a vacation ad for Coast City. What's interesting is the slogan, a twist on the oath all Green Lanterns must recite. What's interesting is that Hal Jordan has been hinted at in previous Arrow episodes, and so has Ferris Aircraft which is run by Hal's girlfriend. Hal is expected to be part of the eventual Green Lantern Corps movie, but that obviously hasn't stopped characters from appearing on the small screen, too.

For what it's worth, Guggenheim told THR earlier this year that it was unlikely we'd see Hal Jordan on either Arrow or The Flash because of the upcoming film. But again, that doesn't make much sense otherwise there'd be no Flash series at all.  Let's say he's being sincere, though; maybe another GL not expected to be in the film could appear? Maybe someone like Kyle Rayner?

Arrow's  fourth season kicks off on October 7th at 8pm on The CW.



Enter To Win A Copy of 'Five Star' On DVD!


It was only a few weeks ago that I was raving about the incredible street drama, Five Star, which featured one of the year's best performances by Jams "Primo" Grant. Now as the film hits DVD we're offering you a chance to win a copy of it for yourself. SYNOPSIS: In a blend of fiction and reality, FIVE STAR explores the relationship between two men - Primo, an actual gang leader in the East New York Bloods, and John, a young man trying to decide whether gang life is the path for him. As Primo mentors John in the workings of the gang world, a secret threatens both men's futures. The film is a nuanced portrait of two men struggling with gang life, and an intimate contemplation on manhood in the modern urban environment.

To enter, simply complete the steps in the contest form below. Winners will be selected on Friday, September 4th and notified by email.  Good luck!

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It's Trick or Treat for Nicolas Cage in Trailer for Halloween Thriller 'Pay the Ghost'


The Runner, Dying of the Light, Left Behind, that weird historical action flick Outcast...Nicolas Cage movies seem to emerge without any rhyme, reason, or advanced buzz to speak of. So it should come as no surprise that he's got yet another one arriving soon, titled Pay the Ghost, and what makes this one interesting is that it's a horror ready-made for Halloween.

Pay the Ghost stars Cage as a father whose son goes missing on Halloween, only to discover there are other missing kids who have been vanishing on that day for years. Is it some kind of conspiracy? Or is it something...supernatural?  Sarah Wayne Callies co-stars, which could draw in a few fans who miss her on The Walking Dead. While the trailer does appear to be as corny as most of Cage's recent output, there's promise in director Uli Edel, who directed the excellent Der Baader Meinhof Complex a few years ago.  Here's the synopsis:

Oscar® winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) stars in this intense and chilling thriller about one man’s desperate search for his missing child. One year after his young son disappeared during a Halloween carnival, Mike Cole (Cage) is haunted by eerie images and terrifying messages he can’t explain. Together with his estranged wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), he will stop at nothing to unravel the mystery and find their son—and, in doing so, he unearths a legend that refuses to remain buried in the past.

Pay the Ghost opens in theaters and VOD on September 25th.

Nicholas Hoult To Play Author J.D. Salinger in Danny Strong's 'The Rebel In The Rye'


J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has been the impetus for many a coming-of-age film, and that's probably never going to change. But there's also a great deal of interest surrounding Salinger himself; just look at the buzz that surrounded the recent documentary on the author's mysterious life. Last year it was Danny Strong (Lee Daniels' The Butler, Empire) who signed on to bring Salinger's story to the big screen with an adaptation of Kenneth Slawenski's biography, J.D. Salinger: A Life, and now he's found a star to portray the acclaimed novelist.

Nicholas Hoult will star in The Rebel In the Rye, which is a title change from when it was called Salinger's War. The story will chronicle Salinger's childhood, attempt to break into the New York literary circle of the 1940s, his time on the frontlines during WWII, his enduring great love and terrible loss, and the PTSD-fueled writer’s block which led to a spiritual awakening. Strong will also be writing the screenplay for what will be his directorial debut.

Hoult was last seen in Mad Max: Fury Road and will be returning as Beast in next year's X-Men: Apocalypse.

Keanu Reeves' Desires Turn Deadly in the Trailer for Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock'


After taking a break from directing for a few years, Eli Roth is coming back in a big way this fall, and he's bringing two very different kinds of horror with him. The first is the grisly vacation thriller, The Green Inferno, which opens in September. And then a few weeks later he's back the Funny Games-esque film, Knock Knock, led by Keanu Reeves in a change-of-pace role.

A new trailer for Knock Knock places Reeves in an interesting twist on the usual home invasion movie. He plays a family man home alone while the wife and kids are away, who makes the mistake of giving in to his deepest desires with two beautiful but dangerous young women.  Here's the official synopsis:

When a devoted husband and father is left home alone for the weekend, two stranded young women unexpectedly knock on his door for help. What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly game of cat and mouse. A sexy new thriller from director Eli Roth and written by Eli Roth, Nicolás López and Guillermo Amoedo, KNOCK KNOCK stars Keanu Reeves as the family man who falls into temptation and Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas as the seductresses who wreak havoc upon his life, turning a married man’s dark fantasy into his worst nightmare.

Co-starring Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns and Colleen Camp, Knock Knock hits theaters and VOD on October 9th.

First Trailer for 'The 5th Wave' has Chloe Moretz Fighting an Alien Invasion


With The Hunger Games winding down there's room for another YA franchise to make its way to the top of the heap. Divergent and The Maze Runner are already vying for that spot, but another best-selling book series is ready to enter the fray. Chloe Moretz stars in an adaptation of Rick Yancey's alien invasion trilogy, The 5th Wave, and now the first trailer for it is here.

Directed by J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) with Maika Monroe (It Follows), Nick Robinson (Jurassic World), Alex Roe, Liev Schreiber, Ron Livingston, and Tony Revolori (Dope) co-starring, it's another story of special young people trying to save the world. Moretz plays 16-year-old Cassie, who tries to survive in a world devastated by waves of attacks by aliens bent on destroying humanity. Here's the official film synopsis:

In The 5th Wave, set in the present day, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, 16-year-old Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie meets a young man who may become her final hope.

The 5th Wave opens January 15th 2016, and of course if it's a hit expect the other two books to be adapted soon after.

R.L. Stine's Monsters are Unleashed in the New 'Goosebumps' Trailer


Like the late great Wes Craven, Goosebumps author R.L. Stine is known as a master of all things horror. His audience skews a lot younger, though, and his numerous novels have proven to be a touchstone for kids and teens the world over, even making the move to television on a long-running Nickelodeon series. Now those scares are making the move to the big screen with the long-awaited Goosebumps movie, and fans of the books are going to see a lot of familiar monster faces.

Starring Jack Black as Stine himself, the new international trailer packs more monsters than the earlier footage revealed. Zombies, werewolves, even the Abominable Snowman appear in what looks like it will be as funny as it will be scary. Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ken Marino, and more star in the film that has Stine's monstrous creations escaping the books and running wild throughout the neighborhood. Here's the official synopsis:

Upset about moving from a big city to a small town, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door.  But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach’s comes when he learns that Hannah has a mysterious dad who is revealed to be R. L. Stine (Jack Black), the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series.  It turns out that there is a reason why Stine is so strange… he is a prisoner of his own imagination – the monsters that his books made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books.  When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it’s suddenly up to Stine, Zach, and Hannah to get all of them back in the books where they belong. 

Directed by Rob Letterman, Goosebumps opens October 16th 2015.

Will Smith Takes On the NFL in First Trailer for 'Concussion'


Severe head trauma is an issue that the NFL has been working over the years to try and reduce, whether it's by changing the rules, changing the length of time before players need to recuperate after an injury, or by altering the helmets themselves. But it wasn't always that way. For a time, the NFL fought any new information on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and the discoveries made by Dr. Bennet Omalu on the subject of brain trauma. So the NFL may not be too pleased now that the first trailer for Concussion has arrived, chronicling Omalu's battle to shed some light on a life-threatening subject.

Will Smith headlines the film which is based on the GQ article, "Game Brain", written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Omalu was the researcher who found the link between repeated blows to the head suffered by NFL players and the neuro-degenerative disease CTE. But not everyone wanted him to bring the issue to the surface, even though it had already claimed the lives of NFL greats Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, who committed suicide. Peter Landesman (Parkland) wrote and directed the film which co-stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, Arliss Howard, Eddie Marsan, Paul Reiser, David Morse, and Luke Wilson as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Ridley Scott is on board as a producer.

Concussion takes the field on Christmas Day.

8/30/2015

Legendary Horror Director Wes Craven Dead at 76


Legendary horror director Wes Craven has passed away from brain cancer at the age of 76. The announcement was made on his official Twitter page earlier today.

One of the most definitive filmmakers of the horror genre, Craven is best known for introducing the world to Freddy Krueger, the scarred, clawed slasher from the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. His career began with 1972's controversial horror, The Last House on the Left, and has continued with other popular films such as The Hills Have Eyes, comic book adaptation Swamp Thing, The People Under the Stairs, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and many more. His movies have withstood the test of time and have been the frequent target of Hollywood remakes.

In the '90s Craven helped reinvent the genre for a new audience with his Scream series, offering fans a funnier, self-aware take on horror. Those movies, which made light of the genre's familiar tropes, concluded with 2011's Scream 4, which would mark Craven's final directorial effort. Recently he was an executive producer on MTV's TV series based on the Scream franchise.