Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iron Man 3

When Jon Favreau kicked off Marvel's amazing string of interconnected superhero films with the first Iron Man back in 2008, I doubt if he knew exactly what he was getting himself into. The second film (which Favreau also directed) was saddled with the unenviable task of fitting in tons of references to S.H.I.E.L.D., resulting in a disaster that felt more like a calculated piece of franchise set-up than a real movie. But now Favreau has wisely handed off directing duties to Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black, and he has reinvigorated the Iron Man series with its best entry yet. Iron Man 3 is smart, clever, fun, full of surprises, overflowing with action, and loaded with terrific moments. It's the perfect way to kick off Phase Two of Marvel's Cinematic Universe.

Iron Man 3
Co-writer/Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pain & Gain

It's been eight years since Michael Bay directed anything other than a Transformers movie, and if you've read interviews with him over the past couple of years, it's obvious the director has been itching to move out of Optimus Prime's shadow. But in a classic case of "one for them, one for me," Paramount gave Bay a modest $25 million budget to direct Pain & Gain if he agreed to come back and direct the fourth entry into the giant robot franchise. For Bay, it was a good deal not just because of the stacks of money he'll assuredly make by returning to his robot saga, but because this film lets him flex a different set of creative muscles. This is a small scale passion project that tells the true story of kidnapping, extortion, sex, and murder in Miami during the mid-1990s; in other words, it's a story Michael Bay was born to tell.

Pain & Gain
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Oblivion

After taking the reigns on the sleek-but-hollow sequel TRON: Legacy a few years ago, director Joseph Kosinski is back with his second feature, Oblivion. It's a sci-fi passion project that shows a marked improvement over Kosinski's debut film, and while it certainly fuels his reputation as a filmmaker that loves to use gorgeous visuals to tell his stories, it also proves he isn't as soulless behind the camera as his first effort led us to believe. Despite some eye-rolling moments and more than a few derivative plot points, Oblivion is a solid science fiction film filled with beautiful cinematography, strong performances, exciting action, and a sense of heart that ties it all together.

Oblivion
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Company You Keep

Just so we're all on the same page, I want to put it out there that I'm normally a sucker for these kinds of journalism movies. Throw on All The President's Men, Network, Shattered Glass, Anchorman, and even lesser films like State of Play and Scoop (plus, Netflix's terrific new series "House of Cards" and the fifth season of HBO's legendary show "The Wire") and I'm hooked. The Company You Keep has so many things going for it - an awesome director in Robert Redford, a story with an interesting hook, and the most impressive ensemble cast this side of Spielberg's Lincoln - but its slow pacing and meandering plot removes much of the film's liveliness, ultimately rendering it a boring and unfulfilling entry into a genre I normally love.

The Company You Keep
Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf



Jurassic Park 3D

Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park is not only a fantastic adventure movie, it's also a brilliant science fiction film and a pulse-pounding horror thriller. The 1993 film has been converted into 3D for its twentieth anniversary, and though the new layer of depth doesn't add anything essential to the viewing experience, this re-release provides fans with another opportunity to see one of Spielberg's biggest blockbusters on the big screen, where they can reassess its themes all over again and find depth in the storytelling while the extra dimension gives more physical depth to the image.

Jurassic Park 3D
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Upstream Color

In 2004, former engineer Shane Carruth released his debut film - a low-budget time travel movie called Primer - which he wrote, produced, edited, composed music for, starred in, and directed. Despite its incredibly dense technical dialogue and rough-around-the-edges appearance  the film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and earned a cult following, turning Carruth into something of a rock star for cinephiles. Carruth has attempted to get a few projects off the ground since then, but has remained quiet...until now. His second feature, Upstream Color, premiered at Sundance earlier this year and comes out in limited release on April 5th, 2013.

Upstream Color
Writer/Director: Shane Carruth
Starring: Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, Andrew Sensenig


Monday, April 1, 2013

Trance

A slick narrator sets up a daring art heist, but things go south when he's hit in the head and can't remember where he stashed the multi-million dollar painting he just stole. His colleagues aren't pleased with his forgetfulness, so after torturing him, they take him to a hypnotherapist to try to unlock his mind. He doesn't think he's met her before, but she clearly recognizes him. Are they secretly in cahoots? Is he faking the amnesia? Could they escape together with the money and leave the bad guys in their rear-view mirror? This is the set-up for Danny Boyle's Trance, an intense psychological thriller loaded with suspense, deception, and more twists than a corkscrew factory.

Trance
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel