Thursday, June 27, 2013

White House Down

White House Down and this year's other action film set in our nation's capital, Olympus Has Fallen, were both pitched as "Die Hard in the White House." But while Olympus took that premise and put its own hyper-violent jingoistic spin on it, this movie seems content to operate in John McClane's shadow without bringing the same freshness that made John McTiernan's 1988 film an action masterpiece. Roland Emmerich, the filmmaker who already obliterated the President's residence on film in Independence Day, returns behind the camera here and crafts a goofy and lighthearted throwback to 90s action flicks that works as totally dumb summer fun.

White House Down
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Conjuring (L.A. Film Fest 2013)

Inspired by films like PoltergeistThe Amityville Horror, and The Exorcist, James Wan's The Conjuring is an old school horror ensemble period piece that proves it's still possible to make a truly terrifying movie in 2013 without relying too heavily on CG. This film is horrifying in all the right ways, led by terrific lead performances and Wan's true understanding of how to make his audience squirm. Though the premise seems played out, Wan's technical mastery and a great script from Chad and Carey Hayes make The Conjuring already feel like a classic for the modern era.

The Conjuring
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

You're Next (L.A. Film Fest 2013)

When you break it down, there are really only two types of horror movies: those that embrace conventions of the genre, and those that attempt to subvert them. Director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, A Horrible Way to Die) and writer Simon Barrett have opted for the latter with You're Next, a crowd-pleasing twist on the home invasion thriller that almost makes you feel sorry for the bad guys. Debuting on the film festival circuit back in 2011, the film sat on a shelf for years while Lionsgate acquired Summit and planned for a theatrical release. But unlike the godawful All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (which has received an even lengthier delay and will be released this fall), You're Next is absolutely worth the wait.

You're Next
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Joe Swanberg

Friday, June 21, 2013

Only God Forgives (L.A. Film Fest 2013)

When Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling teamed up to create 2011's Drive, that film's basic premise sounded as if it could have been that of a Jason Statham film: a stunt driver by day works as a getaway driver by night. In their second collaboration, Only God Forgives, the premise sounds like something Jean-Claude Van Damme might have made: an American who runs a boxing club in Bangkok tries to avenge his brother's murder. In both cases, Refn's vision elevates the material beyond the superficial and results in fascinating character studies, but audiences hoping Only God Forgives is a spiritual sequel to Drive will likely be left as dazed as Gosling's OGF character after taking a punch.

Only God Forgives
Writer/Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Europa Report (L.A. Film Fest 2013)

Europa Report marks two significant "firsts" for Ecuadorian director Sebastian Cordero: it's his first English language film and his first foray into science fiction. Based on how well the movie turned out, I don't imagine it will be his last in either category. The film is a strong piece of science fiction with a found footage twist, crafted with a terrific sense of tension and featuring some potent performances from a lesser-known cast of actors. If you're looking for realistic, grounded sci-fi without laser blasts or warp drives, you'll find a lot to like with this one.

Europa Report
Director: Sebastian Cordero
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Embeth Davidtz

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

World War Z

World War Z, the film adaptation of Max Brooks' hit novel, was fighting an uphill battle from the start. The fractured structure of the book doesn't particularly lend itself well to a film version, and once filming finally did get underway, it was plagued with very public production troubles, massive reshoots, and third act rewrites. Most who were following the production's issues were expecting a disaster on the scale of the events in the movie itself, but World War Z somehow managed to stumble through that hellish gauntlet and emerge as a solid piece of summer entertainment.

World War Z
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena

Monday, June 10, 2013

Man of Steel

Man of Steel has long been my most anticipated movie of the summer. Though director Zack Snyder seems to be on shaky ground in the critical community following 2011's Sucker Punch, I'm a fan of his work and was especially excited to see him take on a project of this magnitude while working alongside producer Christopher Nolan. As the casting came together, it looked more and more as if this film would finally be the Superman movie fans have been waiting for. I had insanely high expectations, and in short, this movie lived up to all of them. Man of Steel is now officially the blockbuster to beat in 2013.

Man of Steel
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This is The End

Vulgar, filthy, and laugh-out-loud funny, This is The End proves that writing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are actually pretty solid directors, too. The duo - who became major players in Hollywood with the success of Superbad - wrote this post-apocalyptic comedy as a full length adaptation of a short film they worked on years ago, and they chose this project as their co-directorial debut. Featuring a motley crew of comedic all stars and some impressive creature effects, This is The End imagines the end of the world as seen through the eyes of some of Hollywood's biggest actors and culminates in one of the funniest moments I've seen on film in years.

This is The End
Writer/Directors: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride