September 18, 2015
        “Inside Out”: Looking at potential Best Animated Feature Contenders                "Black Mass" could get Johnny Depp back in the Oscar game                J.J. Abrams and Denis Villeneuve: Ten potential first time writer/director nominees for Oscar in 2015                Roger Deakins offers up some of his very best cinematography in "Sicario"                "The Martian" launches itself as an awards hopeful at the Toronto Film Festival                "Steve Jobs": Oscar predictions for September                "Sleeping with Other People" is one of the most charming films of 2015                Sandra Bullock looks like a contender in the Trailer for "Our Brand is Crisis"                Sam Smith will sing the theme song for the upcoming 007 film "Spectre"                Richard Gere is an under the radar Best Actor contender for "Time Out of Mind"                Telluride and Venice launch festival debuts into the Oscar race                “The Hateful Eight”: Looking at potential Best Original Screenplay Contenders                David O. Russell and Ridley Scott: Which filmmaking contenders this year are most due for their first win?                Telluride Announces 2015 Lineup - Steve Jobs, Black Mass, Suffragette                “Sicario”: Ten Films to see in September        

Tag Archives: films

The inherent darkness and pessimism of Steven Spielberg’s body of work

By Scott Mendelson Many of the reviews, especially the negative ones, for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse have emphasized the melodramatic ‘boy and his horse’ narrative, accusing the film of wallowing in sentimentality. Moreover, they basically accuse the picture of being ‘conventional Spielberg’, again citing the classic meme that Steven Spielberg isn’t capable of truly playing in on the dark side. For as long as I can remember (early-80s, natch), Steven Spielberg has had a reputation as the “Mr. Mass Audience”, the guy who, film-making chops aside, was looked down upon because of his reputation as a purveyor of mainstream feel-good sentiment. He was the guy who made general audiences tear-up on cue, but still walk out feeling good. But looking over his filmography, not only are his ‘dark and adult’ pictures more frequent than you might realize, his entire reputation as a softy basically stems from one single incredibly popular (and critically-acclaimed) film that he made in 1982. On a film-by-film basis, Spielberg is far more likely to scare you or deeply disturb you than leave you with a nasty case of the warm-and-fuzzies.
It bears repeating that Spielberg’s reputation as an unchallenging filmmaker for the masses has been around for thirty years or so. Looking back on his first decade of mainstream film making (let’s say 1974-1984), it is ET: The Extra Terrestrial that stood out then, and arguably still today as the quintessential Spielberg film. While it certainly stood then and now as one of his most personal films, it’s astonishing success (highest-grossing film of all time for 15 years) basically branded Spielberg as a director whose every film contained the kind of small-town nostalgia and overtly tear-jerking emotionalism that made ET such a smash hit. It’s a meme that has followed Spielberg for the last thirty years. And going through his filmography it’s apparent that it’s not entirely a fair assessment of his career. From 1974 until 2011, Spielberg has shown viewers the darkness at least as much, if not more so, than he has shown them the light.
Jaws is a brutally violent horror drama that offers little good-cheer other than the cathartic final triumph. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a disturbing character study about a husband/father who slowly goes insane and eventually ditches his family to go on a ride with interstellar […]

Jessica Chastain up for role in Kathryn Bigelow’s Seal Team 6 thriller

By Sean O’Connell Jessica Chastain had a massive year in 2011, appearing in multiple Oscar-worthy projects from “The Help” to “The Tree of Life.” She has the potential to carry that momentum into 2012 by picking in-depth, fascinating scripts and directors to work with. Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow certainly qualifies.
Chastain reportedly is in talks to join Bigelow’s military thriller about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, according to She wouldn’t play one of the Seal Team 6 members who took the terrorist down. Instead, Chastain would play a field intelligence analyst who helped the team find him in Pakistan.
Bigelow’s project was penned by “The Hurt Locker” writer Mark Boal (who won the Oscar for that effort). Sony plans to release it on Dec. 19, so casting should ramp up very soon if Bigelow is going to hit her mark.
Chastain is the latest rumored cast member, as other reports are linking Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”), Mark Strong and Edgar Ramirez to the ensemble. We’ll bring you updates as they come along.
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Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

Seth Rogen’s “The Apocalypse” set up at Sony

By Sean O’Connell Seth Rogen has had a productive working relationship with Sony (“The Green Hornet” and “Pineapple Express” both crossed $100M worldwide), so it’s easy to see why the studio would take a chance on a Rogen pitch that will end up being his directorial debut.
“The Apocalypse” extends a short film Rogen wrote with his regular creative partner Evan Goldberg called “Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse.” The clip featured Rogen and Jay Baruchel playing themselves on the day that the world ends. It takes place in an apartment, as the actors plan their next moves.
THR, which reports Son’s interest, says the feature-length version of this story would pair Rogen and Baruchel with the usual suspects: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson, all “playing themselves as they are stuck in Franco’s apartment in Los Angeles facing an apocalypse. The filmmakers also are hoping to populate the movie with cameos.”
The trade says several studios were interested in the project, which has a reported budget in the $30-40 million range.
Here’s an old. NSFW trailer for “Jay and Seth” that exists on the Internet. The movie could be a little something like this, though it likely will expand the concept (and leave the apartment).

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The Sound and Music of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo In this SoundWorks Collection exclusive we talk with Composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Sound Re-recording Mixer Michael Semanick, and Re-recording Mixer, Sound Designer, and Supervising Sound Editor Ren Klyce.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 English-language drama/thriller film. It is the second film to be adapted from the Swedish novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. The first was a 2009 Swedish-language/English dubbed film. The 2011 film was written by Steven Zaillian and directed by David Fincher. Daniel Craig stars as Mikael Blomkvist, and Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander. In essence, the film follows a man’s mission to find out what has happened to a girl who has been missing for 36 years, and may have been murdered.

To read more go to SoundWorks Collection

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Paramount confirms a fourth “Paranormal Activity”

By Sean O’Connell Paramount announced that a fourth “Paranormal Activity” is happening, and will reach theaters at some point in 2012, probably in October (like its predecessors).
This seems obvious, but it’s still nice to hear the studio confirm it. As EW reports, the low-budget horror franchise “has banked nearly $300 million in the last three years,” with last year’s installment opening to $52.6M and a total domestic take of $103.8 million. Solid.
But where will the series go from here? The “Paranormal” films have gradually rewound its narrative clock, exploring the roots of the spirits that haunt its main characters. The third film was set in the 1980s. Do you think producers will continue flashing back? Or is the home-video concept strong enough to go in different directions?
If you’d asked me years ago, I never would have guessed there would be two “Saw” films, let alone seven. The “Activity” films have enjoyed consistency. We’ll see how much longer it can last.
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Tom Cruise is back! Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

By Scott Mendelson As is often the case, the last weekend of the year is basically a repeat of last weekend, both in general ranking and numbers, as the holiday weekend tends to keep drops low, if often absent. Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol led the pack of major Christmas and holiday releases that actually went up from last weekend. The Brad Bird spy thriller earned $31 million over Fri-Sun, with an eye towards a likely $40 million four-day holiday weekend. At the end of its third weekend, the first of which was IMAX-exclusive, the crowd-pleasing Tom Cruise vehicle will have grossed $140 million by Monday, which means it has already outgrossed the $134 million-grossing Mission: Impossible III. Overseas, the sequel is doing even bigger business, with a worldwide total of $324 million as we close out 2011. The $215 million gross of John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II is likely out of reach, but surpassing the $181 million gross from Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible is not only possible but plausible. Worldwide, the film is shaping up to be $600 million earner, the respective totals, speculative as they may be now, would make this film Tom Cruise’s third-biggest domestic grosser and his biggest worldwide earner ever. MI4 already ranks ninth on both lists.

Coming it at a strong second place was Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Both it and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked debuted below expectations two weeks ago, but both have used the holiday season to pick up lost ground, proving again that the last two weeks of the year are great for leggy runs. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows grossed $22 million, for a new total of $132 million. Combined with Monday’s grosses, that should put the second Sherlock Holmes picture exactly where the first was at the end of its New Year’s weekend, albeit with an extra seven days to get there. Point being, if the film can avoid complete collapse in the mostly barren January (and said mediocre January slate will boost every single film discussed here today), it may get closer to the $209 million domestic total of Sherlock Holmes than anyone thought possible two weeks ago. Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 earned $18 million for the weekend, giving it $94 million with the strong possibility of crossing the $100 million mark on […]

The Best of the Best Movies of the Year!

By Scott Mendelson This time, it’s the best of the best. Of course ‘best’ is a subjective term, so you might want to consider these my ‘favorites’. Despite what everyone likes to whine about at the end of every year, 2011 was in fact one of the better years in a good long time. Maybe it was the effects of the 2007 WGA strike wearing off, maybe it was just dumb luck, but on the whole, movies, especially mainstream movies, were pretty on-spot more often than they weren’t. But just as important, most of the year-end Oscar bait was actually quite good, so this is a year where I don’t have to half-heartedly apologize for having a list filled with movies nobody saw and mainstream pictures that no one admits to liking. Even if it took 1/3 of the year to really get cooking, 2011 was an uncommonly solid year for all forms of cinematic entertainment. And of course, there are at least a few films that might have made the cut if they hadn’t come out so close to the end of the year (mainly A Separation, Shame, and Pariah). But they merely become contenders for the 2012 Black Book award (IE – great films that you saw too late to include in your best-of list, named after Paul Verhoeven’s fantastic 2006 World War II thriller that I saw in mid-2007). And thus, without further ado, here are the very ‘best’ films of 2011. As always, the list will be alphabetical order, with a final paragraph at the end for my very favorite film.
This was a complete and total surprise, one that I wish I had seen earlier in its release so that I might have been able to give it the proper attention. Unfairly written off as a Judd Apatow-wannabe comedy purely due the appearance of Seth Rogen, this fantastic comedic drama from director Jonathan Levine and writer Will Reiser is a loosely non-fiction telling of Reiser’s diagnosis with cancer and how it affected him and those around him. I can’t speak to the medical accuracy of every onscreen moment, but the film feels bitterly real and it is never less than emotionally honest. Joseph Gordon Levitt reaffirms that he is one of the better actors of his generation, and he is surrounded by a wonderful […]

2011: The Year’s Worst Movies

By Scott Mendelson This time, it’s time to document the worst of the worst in cinema for the 2011 movie year. Of course, while most critics make a point to try to seek out the allegedly best in cinema in any given year, not quite as much effort is made to track down every would-be stinker. As such, I’ve tried to highlight truly terrible films that either ‘damn well should have been good’ or represent something greater than itself via its artistic failure. Anyway, without further pretentious ado, here are the nine worst films in alphabetical order, followed by the absolute worst picture in 2011.
The Art of Getting By
This film so slavishly followed that indie formula I’m always whining about (‘brooding young man solves his problems/comes of age with help of a selfless hottie’) to such a degree that with just a bit of tweaking, it could have been a Z.A.Z.-style parody. Emma Roberts again plays the endlessly helpful and forgiving prize to be won for the second time in under a year, after the comparably superior It’s Kind of a Funny Story (that one at least had strong dramatic work from Zach Galifianakis and Viola Davis). All of the cliches are firmly in place, the story has nothing of importance to say, and an extended cameo by Michael Angarano elicits guffaws in the same manner as Clive Owen showing up as ‘not-James Bond’ in The Pink Panter 2, albeit unintentional in this case. In short, The Art of Getting By (and, natch, the equally revolting though lower-profile Waiting For Forever) is the kind of film that makes independent cinema look bad.
Cowboys and Aliens
And now we have a film that makes big-budget blockbuster film making look terrible too. In a year when production budgets generally drifted downward to reflect slightly lowered ticket sales, Cowboys and Aliens spent $160 million to look about as impressive as an Asylum Entertainment picture. This seemingly amusing idea, a hybrid of alien-invasion drama and a classical western, instead becomes a textbook case of how everything can go wrong with a would-be franchise starter. Daniel Craig has not a drop of charisma or sympathy, proving yet again that the very elements that make him an interesting 007 (his cold, brutish, steely persona) kill his worth as a traditional heroic leading man. Olivia Wilde has nothing interesting to […]

Good Films you missed – 13 Assassins, The Skin I Live In, Tree of Life, Warrior

By Scott Mendelson is the third of several year-end wrap essays detailing the year in film. This time, it’s about highlighting the good or great films that slipped under the radar somehow. Some got rave reviews and wide releases but stiffed at the box office while some never made it out of limited release. All are worth tracking down and all are, with one exception I will point out, now available on DVD/Blu Ray/download/etc. And nearly all of them are not hardcore independent films, but seemingly mainstream dramas and comedies that would have likely merited a wide release even a few years ago. Once again, these will be in alphabetical order.
13 Assassins
Like pretty much all Magnolia titles in the last few years, the majority of the film’s initial profits came from their OnDemand services, with Takashi Miike’s truly epic samurai drama receiving on a token theatrical release in a few major cities. No matter where you see this one, it’s a surprisingly compelling shades-of-grey morality play. At its core, it’s about the morality of committing murder, political assassination no-less, in the name of dispatching a regional ruler who may be too evil to eventually wear the crown. For the first two thirds it is a character study and a classic samurai drama. But the entire last third of the picture unleashes one of the longest and most impressive non-stop action sequences I’ve ever seen. If for no other reason than it’s last 40 minutes, 13 Assassins is a must-see action picture.
Attack the Block
If you read any blogs that travel in the ‘geek circles’, this may be the most talked-about movie that nobody saw this year. The film premiered early in the year to rave reviews from the Faracis and McWeenys of the world, but it’s token limited release from Sony Screen Gems on July 29th, a weekend with six new releases. Needless to say, it died and never really expanded. Is the film as gloriously awesome as you may have read elsewhere? Not quite. It doesn’t break much new ground, but it does what it intends to do very well. The young kids are all quite good and the aliens they encounter are all the scarier for their sparse use. This is just a rock-solid genre entry that is just different enough to […]

National Film Registry adds “Bambi,” “Lambs,” “Gump”

By Sean O’Connell Each December, the Library of Congress adds new films to its preservation list. Today, they revealed the 25 selected titles that will be protected by the National Film Registry.
Walt Disney’s “Bambi,” Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump,” and Charlie Chaplin’s classic “The Kid” are among the movies selected for this year’s list.
“These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said. “Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams.”
Annual selections are finalized by the Librarian, who reviews hundreds of titles nominated by the public. This year 2,228 films were nominated for consideration. The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation then works to ensure that every film added to the Registry is preserved for generations to come.
Here are the 25 films added to the list this year:
“Allures” (1961)
“Bambi” (1942)
“The Big Heat” (1953)
“A Computer Animated Hand” (1972)
“Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment” (1963)
“The Cry of the Children” (1912)
“A Cure for Pokeritis” (1912)
“El Mariachi” (1992)
“Faces” (1968)
“Fake Fruit Factory” (1986)
“Forrest Gump” (1994)
“Growing Up Female” (1971)
“Hester Street” (1975)
“I, An Actress” (1977)
“The Iron Horse” (1924)
“The Kid” (1921)
“The Lost Weekend” (1945)
“The Negro Soldier” (1944)
Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-40s)
“Norma Rae” (1979)
“Porgy and Bess” (1959)
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
“Stand and Deliver” (1988)
“Twentieth Century” (1934)
“The War of the Worlds” (1953)
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