Top 5: Colin Farrell

© A24

© A24

This week's release of Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer sees the return of Colin Farrell to the big screen. The Irish actor has been working consistently since the mid-1990s, and he has given the film world a number of memorable performances. In celebration of his new movie's release, I'm counting down my five favorite of Colin Farrell's turns on the big screen. 


5. Syracuse
Ondine, 2009

© Magnolia Pictures

© Magnolia Pictures

Neil Jordan's tale revolving around selkie legend proves to be a bit uneven, but it offered Farrell the opportunity to stretch his dramatic muscles in a way that the mass public hadn't seen him do all that often. Farrell's Syracuse serves more as our window the the story rather than the direct focus of it, but he's able to craft a complex character nonetheless. 

 

4. Travers Goff
Saving Mr. Banks, 2013

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

While the majority of Saving Mr. Banks focused on the relationship between Emma Thompson's P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks's Walt Disney, a number of flashback moments reveal a stirringly emotional turn from Colin Farrell as Travers's father. In a movie that suffers from some highs and lows, Farrell proves to be one constant that benefits the movie every time he appears on-screen. His character offers the dream for creativity and imagination, and it permeates every moment from start to finish. 

 

3. Bobby Pellit
Horrible Bosses, 2011

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Jason Bateman all deal with some pretty terrible bosses in this movie, but Colin Farrell's Bobby Pellit always struck me as the most memorable. Farrell was almost unrecognizable to me on first viewing, and his over-the-top and manipulative actions make him an incredibly engaging villain for the even-tempered Sudeikis. 

 

2. Ray
In Bruges, 2008

© Focus Features

© Focus Features

Martin McDonagh's directorial debut is stellar for a number of reasons, but the chemistry between Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is definitely one of the stronger points. The story of two hitmen hiding out in the ever-so-boring city of Bruges plays for hilarity, and Farrell's manic, comedic performance offers a fantastic dichotomy against the rather dull backdrop. 

 

1. David
The Lobster, 2015

© A24

© A24

Colin Farrell has long been a bit of a sex symbol in Hollywood which makes his performance in The Lobster all the better. He plays against the suave type he had been used to for so long and creates a complex character in Yorgos Lanthimos's first English-language flick. While I have some issues with the film in its entirety, Farrell's David works as the perfect centerpiece to the story, from the hopefully optimistic beginning to the tragically beautiful end. 

Trailer Reactions: No Hype for Princess Diana

Welcome to a new week of Trailer Reactions! Enjoy reading my initial thoughts on some of the newest and biggest trailers that dropped over the past week!


© Columbia Pictures

© Columbia Pictures

THE DARK TOWER (Trailer)
• I believe this is based off a Stephen King novel or series, if I remember correctly. I know a handful of people that are way hyped for this thing. 
• So apparently gunslingers are pseudo-knights or something. We're taking the old west and mashing it with the ideals of medieval Europe. Well, okay. 
• Everything thinks this kid is having weird dreams and hallucinations, but he's actually envisioning another world! Can we finally read this as a trope in 2017? 
• Still, I'll watch Idris Elba in anything. 
• Another trope: parallel universes where one bad thing in one can destroy the other entirely. We just saw that in Tomorrowland
• Hold up. Is McConaughey the villain? And he's apparently worse than the devil? You have my attention. 
• What are all these creatures running around? McConaughey's minions? 
• The visuals look alright. Nothing we haven't necessarily seen before. 
• Honestly, I'm mostly in to see how many different ways Idris Elba can reload a gun, and to see McConaughey play a straight-up villain. He's played seedy before but never a true villain, if memory serves. 
• Oh hey, quick shot of Dennis Haysbert! We're in good hands. 
• "I kill with my heart." That's a bit dark. But it is The Dark Tower, so sure? 
The Dark Tower hits U.S. theaters on August 4, 2017.

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

DUNKIRK (Trailer)
• Finally getting a full trailer for the new Chris Nolan flick! This is probably the movie we should be most excited for this summer. 
• It's nice that we're finally seeing Nolan take on a true-life story. It's the one thing that he hasn't done, and I think that's the one thing that separates him from some of the all-time greats. 
• Alright, the wartime stuff looks pretty good so far. That explosion on the bridge/pier sells it. 
• Wait, civilians are coming to help? I honestly need to read up on the whole Dunkirk situation a bit before this movie comes out. 
• OH YES TOM HARDY. YOU FLY THAT PLANE.
• There's definitely a possibility for some intense situations (i.e., seeing a torpedo strike from inside a ship; seeing a man true to swim from between two boats about to crash into one another; etc.)
• I forgot Cillian Murphy was going to be in this as well. Definitely a star-studded cast yet again for good ol' Nolan. 
• The cinematography looks amazing. 
• I am legitimately excited for the dogfight sequences. 
• My only true concern with Dunkirk is the PG-13 rating. I worry that the full effect of a wartime effort shouldn't be imprisoned in a cleaned-up universe. Still, I have faith in Nolan's abilities. 
Dunkirk hits U.S. theaters on July 19, 2017.

© MGM

© MGM

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING (Trailer)
• The girl is stuck at home because she's sick. It's a Bubble Boy for a new generation!
• Oh look, we're gonna get some cool new text message bubbles so we can see exactly what the two leads are texting each other [read: sarcasm].
• She just wants to get out, you guys! She wants to see the world! She wants to hook up with that guy!
• In all seriousness, it's going to be a coming-of-age tale with seemingly incredible stakes. Even if this girl wasn't sick to begin with, spending her whole life away from the outside world wouldn't have allowed her to build up immunities, so of course bad things are going to happen. 
• I'm wondering how long it's going to take them to get outside. Is it halfway through the movie? A third? I wouldn't want them to prolong the time she's stuck in her home or anything. 
• This movie definitely isn't for me. 
Everything, Everything hits U.S. theaters on May 19, 2017.

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

WONDER WOMAN (Trailer)
• There has certainly been a lack of Wonder Woman marketing. This is the first trailer we've gotten in a while, and the movie comes out in less than a month. Why aren't they trying to hype this movie any harder? 
• We're starting off with some more in-depth looks at her WWI efforts. Jumping straight into the action, if you will. 
• The more I see of her, the more I think Gal Gadot was the right choice for the role. 
• Still in for Chris Pine, too. Although it looks like he's going to be played as the goofy sidekick. Good!
• We're getting our first real glimpse of the villain, someone named Dr. Poison. 
• Uh oh, Diana is stealing stuff so she can go fight. If she's stealing, you know it's serious!
• Yeah, they're definitely going to be using Pine for the addition of humor. 
• Nice to see David Thewlis show up for this one!
• The second half of the trailer is essentially all action. It looks good so far. Definitely more manageable than the over-the-top stuff that Zack Snyder has given us. 
• This is a strong trailer, and I think they needed one considering the lack of presence this movie has had over the past few months. 
Wonder Woman hits U.S. theaters on June 2, 2017.

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Trailer)
• Alright, so it's been years since I've seen the original Blade Runner film. I definitely need to re-watch it sometime before this one comes out. 
• Immediately, we're getting that visual feel that Ridley Scott crafted back in the '80s. [Note: I believe Roger Deakins was the DP for this movie, and if the early glimpses say anything, he better finally win an Oscar, dammit.]
• Look at that Atari logo right at the start. Throwback!
• Hang on, I had no idea Jared Leto was in this movie. How did I miss that?
• Yeah, the visual spectacle will be incredible. That's the early selling point for me. Set the atmosphere, and the tone will fall into place. 
• If anybody besides Ridley Scott could pull this off, it's Denis Villeneuve. And I thought that even before he did Arrival
• I'm hoping that the whole Harrison Ford arc isn't thrust into the story just to get him in the movie. If they can keep him a legitimate character, I'll be in, but I hope it isn't just a gimmicky appearance. On the same note, I don't want him to overstay his welcome. It will be an interesting balancing act. 
• Wait, Dave Bautista is in here too? 
• I have a very strange feeling that this will be a flip-of-the-coin type movie. It's either going to be amazing or an absolute flop. I can't really see a chance for middle ground here. 
Blade Runner 2049 will hit U.S. theaters on October 6, 2017.

Trailer Reactions: Until Lightning Strikes

Welcome to a new week of Trailer Reactions! Check out my breakdown of the most recent trailers below!


© Cohen Media Group

© Cohen Media Group

CHURCHILL (Trailer)
• Brian Cox playing Winston Churchill could prove to be interesting, but it could also falter pretty hard. The movie is coming out too early in the year for any serious awards consideration, though. 
• That opening scene is pretty harrowing: "The beaches always bring it back. I mustn't let it happen again." [NOTE: It also offers a bit of foreshadowing to the rest of the trailer.]
• It seems as though Churchill is attempting to stop the D-Day invasion despite its having been planned for some time. He's getting some opposition from everyone around him. 
• The bit where he contrasts himself with royalty is a nice touch. It serves as a reminder that he's one of the people more than the royal family would be. 
• Oh look, John Slattery. Ever since we've delved into Mad Men, I can't see him as anyone else but Roger Sterling. But let's see how he does as Eisenhower. 
• This certainly seems like a pro-England and anti-America film. They're setting it up to make Churchill look like more of a human individual than Eisenhower, and through that correlation, Britain more loyal to its soldiers than Americans. 
Churchill will hit U.S. theaters on June 2, 2017.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

CARS 3 (Trailer)
• We've seen how well Pixar has done with animation in recent past, but this one looks like it'll be going the Good Dinosaur route: amazing backgrounds hampered by goofy-looking characters. It won't be as glaring as Dinosaur because it's an existing franchise, but it certainly does seem noticeable. 
• They're already talking about the end of Lightning McQueen. Let this please be the end of this saga. 
• But you can't tell Lightning McQueen what to do! He's allowed to make his own decisions or whatever. 
• At least we're getting back into Ornament Valley (that's what it's called, right?). The second movie with all its high-stakes espionage was certainly a step away from an okay storyline. 
• McQueen has to go against a new superfast car. Because of course. 
• This is looking like your typical underdog/redemption story. We can already taste the finish line for this one. 
• "It's not over until Lightning strikes." Shut up.
• Please, for the love of all things good, let McQueen lose at the end of this movie and surprise us all. It's not going to happen, obviously, but a guy can dream, right? 
Cars 3 will hit U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017.

© Dimension Films & Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

© Dimension Films & Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

47 METERS DOWN (Trailer)
• It looks like a cross between The Shallows and Open Water. It's certainly going to bank off the success of the former. 
• Are we going to get a slew of shark-based movies now that The Shallows did decent returns at the box office? 
• They're just going to keep upping the ante. Now we have two characters and a billion sharks swimming around. 
• Uh oh. They're stuck... 47 METERS DOWN. I get it. 
• That being said, the sharks look much more realistic than the one from The Shallows last year. And yes, I will continue to reference that movie as much as I can because these two are related no matter how you look at it. 
• I thought great whites were mostly rogue hunters? I suppose they can congregate in moments of frenzy, but there seem to be a ton of them swimming around, and I feel like that's over-the-top for the sake of being over-the-top. 
• WAIT. They're promotional hashtag for the movie is #Sharkbait. This is the most appropriate time to use the phrase, "I can't even."
47 Meters Down hits U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017.

© A24

© A24

IT COMES AT NIGHT (Trailer)
• We're staring out with some strong imagery here. Joel Edgerton is angry and wants some answers!
• We're finally getting more of a glimpse into the story. The teaser was good enough to whet the appetite, but we're now getting a better look into what this movie might actually offer. 
• It seems like Edgerton has a family deep in the woods and is cut off from society. Then he allows another family to come stay with them. 
• He's certainly hyper-protective and borderline paranoid. 
• "We never got out at night," he says. That's because it comes at night. But what is "It?"
• Oh snap, the door was already open when he got there. There's certainly some trouble afoot. 
• The "I think they're sick" line makes me think there's some sort of disease spreading around the outside world. 
• Whoa, she's just gonna straight up spit up blood on his face while they're making out? Rude. 
• "Fear turns men into monsters." Are the men going to fashion into the monsters themselves through their paranoia? This would fall in line with Trey Edward Shults's style of filmmaking. Expect this to be a slow burn like his debut feature, Krisha
It Comes at Night hits U.S. theaters on June 9, 2017.

© Moonwatcher Inc. & Sparta Entertainment

© Moonwatcher Inc. & Sparta Entertainment

5-25-77 (Trailer)
• It's another comedy based off Star Wars? But we already have Fanboys.
• Hold on, John Francis Daley looks REALLY young in this. [ANSWER: This film was mostly shot in the mid-2000s; it's just now getting distribution.]
• 2001 made him want to become a filmmaker. I can dig it. 
• Apparently he's just going to steal everybody's stuff to make his little home movies. I can get on board with that too, I guess? 
• Wait, the producers of Star Wars and American Graffiti helped make this one? [ANSWER: Yes, Gary Kurtz.]
• Is this autobiographical? It looks like it's the story about an early Star Wars superfan, but I can't tell if it's something original or actually based off a true story. 
• Despite it looking over-the-top and ridiculous, I'm always in for a movie that delves into film history and film geekery. 
5-25-77 hits U.S. theaters on May 25, 2017.


Trailer Reactions: The Hero's Circle

Welcome to another week of Trailer Reactions! Breaking down some smaller movies on this week's list, but I think we've got some good ones coming down the pike. Be sure to check out these trailers and take a look at my notes about each!


© CBS Films & Lionsgate

© CBS Films & Lionsgate

AMERICAN ASSASSIN (Trailer)
• The start of the trailer offers us a bit of a trippy flashback sequence that serves as a seeming interrogation as well as a bit of exposition. 
• This guy (Dylan O'Brien) has clearly experienced some trauma. He was the victim of a terrorist attack, and the trailer heavily insinuates that his fiancée was killed as a result. 
• He immediately decides to get his revenge and become his own personal assassin? That's going to be a weird logistical stretch for audiences if he's just some average joe who thinks he's going to march into a foreign country and take out the guys who did this. 
• Well, he got pretty good at the knife-throwing thing. So maybe he's actually going to be legit [read: sarcasm]. 
• Yep, we're bolstering the idea that this is a revenge tale. I'm all for a good revenge flick, but so far, this thing seems completely absurd. 
• Hang on. They want him to team up with someone who actually knows what he's doing. How did they even find this kid? Was he posting stuff on Facebook about how he's going to take on the terrorists by himself? 
• Oh shit, it's Michael Keaton! I'm in. 
• Even Michael Keaton doesn't think this kid is ready to go. When Batman/Birdman says it's not your time, it's not your time. 
• This is kind of a B-level cast, aside from Keaton who I think can safely be considered part of the A-list crowd.
• The trailer doesn't do a ton to hype the movie, but maybe they're hoping to temper expectations. Right now, Keaton's inclusion would be the only selling point for me. 
American Assassin will hit U.S. theaters on September 15, 2017.

© The Orchard

© The Orchard

THE HERO (Trailer)
• Sam Elliott has an absolutely perfect voice. Like, absolutely perfect. 
• Looks like another story of a big-shot actor trying to find relevancy in his aging life. 
• Oh, and throw in a "rekindle relationship with the kids" subplot, and you've got all the makings of a Lifetime movie. 
• It's directed by Brett Haley, who also helmed the critically-acclaimed I'll See You in My Dreams. Can he pull off another hit?
• The woman in the trailer loves his mustache, but don't we all love his mustache? Seriously. 
• His character will be receiving some sort of lifetime achievement award. This movie feels like a swan song. 
• Are we going to get a lot of these movies in the wake of the Birdman success? Obviously this is a very different movie, but the basic idea remains the same. 
• Sam Elliott has never been one of those guys that has given much desire to go back and check out his full filmography, but he's certainly an actor who has entered the cultural lexicon as a result of that golden-chocolate voice. 
• This movie could easily be a hidden gem, and I'm glad I stumbled across this trailer. 
The Hero will hit U.S. theaters on June 9, 2017.

© Focus Features

© Focus Features

THE BEGUILED (Trailer)
• It looks like we're getting a Civil War-era drama. The setting looks like an old-style plantation house. 
• There's a strange, smoky atmosphere to the first few shots. Already trying to give us a sense of foreboding? 
• Hang on, was that Colin Farrell? [Note: Yes.]
• Oh no, directed by Sofia Coppola. I feel like she's been very hit-and-miss with her directorial efforts. She had the hit with Lost in Translation, but everything else seems to have fallen by the wayside. 
• The inclusion of Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst immediately shoots this higher on my to-see list. Kidman is always great, and Dunst is completely underrated. 
• Despite that, this looks like you're standard romantic drama. I'm already starting to get a little bored with it. 
• Wait, what's going on? They're poisoning him? 
• This trailer just took a massive shift in tone. Blood spatters on Kidman's dress and the line, "Bring me the anatomy book?" Gore-hounds, this might be up your alley. 
• Is this movie supposed to be a horror/thriller? The second half of the trailer certainly plays as though it will be. [Answer: The IMDb page lists it as a "drama" and "western," so who knows at this point.]
• That final shot is enough to sell me on seeing the movie, if only to find out just what they did to Colin Farrell's character. That's the way to get asses in the seats. 
The Beguiled will hit U.S. theaters on June 23, 2017.

© Screen Media Films

© Screen Media Films

DRONE (Trailer)
• Yet another drone warfare movie. After 2014's Good Kill and last year's Eye in the Sky, I had a feeling we'd start to see more of these. At least those two had more inventive titles. 
• We see that Sean Bean is a drone pilot, and he's clearly out there running missions and stuff. Then we cut to his home life - an interesting dynamic I've discussed when talking about the aforementioned Good Kill - and some guy is there looking to buy a boat. What kind of story is this? 
• Oh wait. There's the drama to the story. Another revenge flick. It seems like this guy lost his family in a drone strike, and he's figured out that Sean Bean was behind the controls. 
• Sean Bean is totally gonna die in this movie. Because that's what Sean Bean does. 
• Is this guy just here to expose him to his family? Or is he actually here to kill him?
• This movie is definitely going to get into the criticisms surrounding drone warfare and delve into the ethics surrounding it. 
• The use of "Amazing Grace" throughout the trailer works pretty well. It's a good trailer, but I don't know if it's going to be a good movie. 
• Still, that trapping the fly in the glass moment at the end of the trailer offers a pretty cool bit of imagery. 
Drone will hit U.S. theaters on May 26, 2017.

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (Trailer)
• We're getting a flashback to the first movie in the hopes of setting the stage for this one. I don't know if it was necessary, but it's a nice transitional touch to the teaser. 
• Looks like Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Roxy (Sophie Cookson) are full-fledged members of the Kingsman now. Good for them. 
• Wait, an underwater car? I like that these movies are trying to emulate the James Bond franchise, but I want them to keep the edginess the first one gave us without completely jumping the shark and just giving us another standard Bond flick. I don't think that's happening here, but I worry. 
• Someone blew up the Kingsman mansion! They can't be done already, right? 
• Oh, Sinatra! I like the music choice. 
• Eggsy looking over the ruins is a nice image. And Merlin (Mark Strong) is back!
• Looks like we're getting into the U.S. stuff relatively quickly. Maybe the Kingsmen were pushed out of England and had to resort to the help of their American brethren? 
• We're still going to get that frenetic action the first movie gave us. They're gonna have a hell of a time trying to best that "Freebird" scene, though. 
• We're getting our first official look at the "Statesmen," the American counterpart to the Kingsmen. This group includes Channing Tatum. So, as one can imagine, I'm in. 
• Why does this guy have one arm? Is this supposed to be similar to the girl with the blade legs from the first one? 
• And apparently someone is going to be Indiana Jones with that whip. What is going on? 
• This is a scary-strong cast. All the returning characters and the aforementioned Tatum will be joined by Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, and a bunch of other big names I won't spoil here. 
• WAIT. Colin Firth is back, and alive?? He's gonna be the villain. You read it here first. 
Kingsman: The Golden Circle will hit U.S. theaters on September 22, 2017.


Trailer Reactions: More Than Just Star Wars

Welcome to this week's edition of Trailer Reactions! I've got some pretty big trailers to break down this week, so skip below to check 'em out!


© TriStar Pictures

© TriStar Pictures

BABY DRIVER (Trailer)
• This new trailer is offering more of the same: we're getting a short look at the storyline, and it's offering a music-filled, action-packed adrenaline rush to tease the excitement. 
• The soundtrack for this thing is gonna be incredible. The movie's already premiered at film festivals (SXSW, I think), so the song list is probably accessible, but I'm going to stay in the dark as long as I possibly can. 
• It's definitely a short trailer - teaser length - but you're still getting a good sense of the storyline once again. 
• Jamie Foxx lays it all out in the midst of the trailer: this story is about money, sex, and action. That should be exactly what we're getting out of Baby Driver
• Hold up. Is Jon Hamm going to turn and end up being a villain in this thing? We've already established that Kevin Spacey's gonna be a bit of a seedy guy, but now Hamm may be turning as well. Color me intrigued. 
• We're definitely getting more glimpses of that Edgar Wright style of comedy. The moment where Baby has to skip back to the start of the song before continuing his getaway plays very well in the trailer. 
Baby Driver will hit U.S. theaters on June 28, 2017.

© Paramount Pictures

© Paramount Pictures

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (Trailer)
• We've gotten some of this imagery in previous trailer, but apparently the Transformers have been around on Earth since medieval times? I know there's some old history with all of them from previous films, but honestly, I can't remember any of this crap. 
• Hold up. Optimus is now a bad guy? Alright, I'll buy in for the moment. 
• How does Anthony Hopkins keep finding himself in these movies? Remember when he was good?
• Oh good, Marky Mark is coming back [read: sarcasm]. When will the Wahlberg fatigue set in with the rest of the country? 
• Optimus Prime has apparently destroyed his own home and now wants to convert Earth into a new home for his own kind. Sounds like a lot of other movies I've seen. 
• This girl (Isabela Moner) is gonna be a breakout star, and it's just too bad that this newfound success will have to stem from a Transformers movie. (NOTE: Apparently she's already been signed onto the Sicario sequel, Soldado. Also, there's a sequel to Sicario??)
• No Optimus means no leaders, which means chaos. Which means we're just gonna get a ton of huge CGI-laden battle sequences. This is popcorn fare at its "finest."
• We're definitely delving into a darker side of the story. When Optimus is dropping lines like, "For my world to live, yours must die," you know it's about to go down. 
• Despite everything I've just said, I'm strangely hyped about this movie. They just cut these trailers so damn well that it hides how bad the acting and storyline will probably end up being. 
Transformers: The Last Knight will hit U.S. theaters on June 23, 2017.

© Annapurna Pictures

© Annapurna Pictures

Detroit (Trailer)
• I've been waiting for this movie for like a year. The first I heard of it was that it was a John Boyega-Kathryn Bigelow collaboration, and honestly, I was on board with just that little bit. That's an A+ combination. 
• We're delving into the Detroit riots of the late '60s. It's got that gritty visual style that Bigelow has honed and perfected over her last few films. It'll also be interesting to see her get out of the Middle East storylines she's been portraying in her past few films (i.e., The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty). 
• I knew about John Boyega, but I did not know about Jason Mitchell and Will Poulter. I know that Mitchell can get there dramatically, but this is a very different Poulter than we've seen before. I am excited. 
• Normally the August release would be concerning, but I have complete faith in Bigelow's ability to craft a tense and thrilling storyline. This thing will definitely be getting some awards consideration despite the early release, and that wouldn't be a first for Bigelow. The Hurt Locker came out in June, for example; that thing won Best Picture.
Detroit will hit U.S. theaters on August 4, 2017.

© FilmNation Entertainment & Roadside Attractions

© FilmNation Entertainment & Roadside Attractions

BEATRIZ AT DINNER (Trailer)
• Oh look, a Sundance Festival selection. Maybe it'll be good?
• It's good to see Salma Hayek back. I feel like I haven't seen her around in way too long. 
• John Lithgow is so good at playing an asshole. 
• This is the "first great film of the Trump era." They're setting themselves up for polarizing reviews with hype like that. 
• I can see how this will be played as a dark comedy, but I feel like it's definitely going to trigger a lot of emotions in people. This may hit too close to home for some to be considered funny. 
• This is going to be the movie of things a lot of us want to say but are too afraid to say out loud. 
• If it works, it's going to be amazing, but I just worry that it's going to come off as too polarizing to get a legitimate release schedule. 
Beatriz at Dinner will hit U.S. theaters on June 9, 2017.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Trailer)
• Rey is definitely freaking out about something. She's also certainly still on that same island we left her on at the end of The Force Awakens
• Honestly, her reaction in that first moment was my exact reaction to seeing Luke at the end of the last movie. 
• Luke's saying all the stuff that Yoda and Obi-Wan said to him back in the day; I guess it works as solid parallels. I just always worry about the battle between nostalgia and ripoff. 
• The cinematography is gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. 
• Was that a shot of Leia in front of the map? The tears are definitely gonna flow during this one. 
• Smashed Kylo Ren Mask? (NOTE: Some people are saying its a smashed Vader mask. I can't see that, but maybe I'm an idiot.)
• They're talking a lot about the balance between the light and dark side. Will the theme be the struggle between the two?
• Rey is using that lightsaber like a champ though. 
• I'm sorry, but I totally thought, "Now this is podracing" when all those speeders flew across the desert. I'M SORRY. 
• Finn is still in hypersleep. Ridley will probably wake him up soon to take on the Xenomorphs in Alien: Covenant
• Can Poe Dameron hold onto one damn X-wing without letting it get destroyed? The collateral damage surrounding this guy is atrocious. 
• Ah yes, the obligatory Millennium Falcon shot. Because why not. 
• Glad we're seeing a glimpse of Kylo again. As goofy as Adam Driver is, I think he's still going to play out to be a solid villain. 
• I'm seriously hoping we get more of Captain Phasma. She was brutally underused in The Force Awakens
• Holy shit, a legitimate space battle dogfight. If I wasn't already in, I am now. 
• "It's time for the Jedi to end." Say what?
• This is definitely going to be a step in a darker direction. If they're continuing to follow the constructs of the original trilogy, this will be the Empire of the batch. Which means that Colin Trevorrow's Episode IX will have cuddly dinosaur aliens used solely for merchandising. 
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will hit U.S. theaters on December 15, 2017. 


Trailer Reactions: Hulk Smash! And Rest in Peace

Welcome to this week's installment of Trailer Reactions! We've got a handful to discuss below, and I'm giving my immediate reactions to some of the biggest trailers to hit the airwaves over the past week. Check it out below!


© Lionsgate

© Lionsgate

ALL EYEZ ON ME (Trailer)
• After the success of Straight Outta Compton, I think we all wanted a Tupac movie, right? It was just a matter of time until they threw one out to the world. 
• That being said, I'm still a little bitter they couldn't pull Marcc Rose, who played the legendary rapper in a cameo scene in the aforementioned 2015 flick. He had the look and the vocals to nail it. Still, I'm sure Demetrius Shipp Jr. will do just fine. 
• We're getting a lot of captions, like "The Untold Story." What part hasn't been told? If this movie doesn't end with them telling us he's still alive somewhere, I don't know what to expect. 
• Looks like we'll be getting some flashbacks to add to the backstory. His step-dad was a revolutionary? I admit I don't know a ton about the man himself, so the "bio" portion of this biopic will at the very least be serviceable in my favor. 

• There are a ton of "message" moments in this trailer. It's almost like they're trying to throw back to the "hood" movies of the early '90s. The problem: every time I hear one of the half-dozen they threw into the trailer, I just think about Keenen Ivory Wayans in Don't Be a Menace
• As expected, we'll be getting a glimpse into Death Row Records, all the way down to a look at Suge Knight (played by Dominic L. Santana). 
• Ultimately, this trailer doesn't offer a ton of optimism about the film overall. It looks like it'll be a par-for-the-course musical biopic, but this is one subject that I think deserves more than just your average fare. Here's hoping it'll work out. 
All Eyez on Me will hit U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017.

© Spike TV

© Spike TV

I AM HEATH LEDGER (Trailer)
• Based off the home footage from this trailer, Heath Ledger clearly wanted to be a director. (ADD-ON: Well, it seems like that's what everybody is saying.)
• Heath really was a good-looking guy, wasn't he? Just wanted to get that on the Internet for posterity's sake. 
• I honestly can't get a good read on this doc. The fact that Spike is making it is a little concerning, but they got it into the Tribeca Film Festival, so perhaps that's a plus? 
• I worry that this might fall into a bit of a highlight reel rather than an in-depth look at the man. I'd like to get a little more flavor to his life, but I have a feeling it's just going to talk about the stuff we already know. 
• Also, how has no one made this movie by this point? The man's been gone for nearly ten years, and for how big a deal he was, it feels like this movie should've been made a half-decade ago. 
• The access looks pretty strong, but I worry that the talking heads might be the driving force. That can work at times, but it can also hinder. 
I Am Heath Ledger will hit U.S. theaters on May 3, 2017.

© The Weinstein Company

© The Weinstein Company

3 GENERATIONS (Trailer)
• This movie was supposed to hit theaters a couple years ago but kept getting pushed. At the time, it was titled About Ray, but apparently they've changed it to the much less interesting 3 Generations. Are they pulling a play from 20th Century Women
• It seems like the movie will play more as a comedy than I had originally expected. The early trailers made it seem as though it would be a somewhat heavy comedy, but this trailer definitely punches up the laughs. 
• I'm still sold on the principal cast. They're definitely hyping our lead trio: Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, and Susan Sarandon. They're leaning so heavily on the cast that I worry that the story itself might be suffering a tad. 
• The more I watch this trailer, the more I think they completely reworked the movie and have now packaged it as a slightly-dramatic comedy rather than a somewhat-comedic drama. I wonder if they did reshoots on this thing. 
• It also seems as though the family is more understanding and inclusive in this iteration of the trailer. Everybody seems to be onboard with the Fanning's character's transition whereas the past trailers haven't necessarily cemented that fact. 
• We're definitely also getting a little more of the interplay between Watts and Sarandon. The film no longer seems to be simply Fanning-centric. 
• I think I'm back onboard with this one, but I might have to wait to see if it starts getting some new reviews. 
3 Generations will hit U.S. theaters on May 5, 2017.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

THOR: RAGNAROK (Trailer)
• This is the first teaser trailer we're getting for the latest installment in the Thor franchise. 
• Oh look, Thor seems to be in trouble. He's falling out of the sky and into a pit whilst wrapped in a number of chains. What ever will he do?
• Oh damn, this lady just straight up smashed Thor's hammer. Mjolnir or whatever the hell it's called. 
• Also, Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" will always be welcomed in a trailer. I think the last time I heard it used as well was in the trailer for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
• A few friends have mentioned this as well, but there's definitely a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe to the whole trailer. The music adds to it, but it seems like the comedic aspect is there as well. 
• Chris Hemsworth is pretty damn underrated. Most people will know him as Thor, but let's not forget he was great in Rush, and he stole the show in last year's Ghostbusters. The Thor movies are some of the weaker ones to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Hemsworth has always been a light in the darkness. 
• Hooray for a Jeff Goldblum sighting! Let's get him back in a ton of movies, please. 
• Oh, and Loki is back. As a villain again? As good as Tom Hiddleston has been, can we get away from his character? He's been the one continuing villain - aside from Thanos - throughout these movies, so let us have someone else for once. 
• Oh damn, it looks like Delilah has sliced Samson's hair. We'll see if Thor is just as strong with this streamlined cut. 
• There's a lot of gladiator vibes in the final moments of this trailer. And the appearance of Hulk isn't necessarily a surprise, but it's still nice to see. The Mark Ruffalo Hulk was the best one we've gotten on the big screen. 
• The "He's a friend from work" quip is a stupid, stupid line. It feels goofy and out of place. Instead, they should've had him say something like, "He's a friend of mine." The whole "from work" bit is hokey and not befitting of an alleged god. Just weird phrasing, I guess. 
• All that being said, I'm moderately excited for this. I'll continue to put faith in Taika Waititi. 
Thor: Ragnarok will hit U.S. theaters on November 3, 2017.


Trailer Reactions: Spiders, Clowns, and Mummies; Oh My!

Hello, and welcome to the first-ever Trailer Reaction post! Each Tuesday, I'll be posting my reactions to some of the bigger trailers to hit the interwebs over the previous week. Rather than craft an essay-style look at my thoughts on these trailers, I've opted to keep them in bulleted lists that show my fleshed out initial thoughts on the trailers themselves. With that, we've got a good string to start with this week, so enjoy!


© Columbia Pictures & Sony Picture Releasing

© Columbia Pictures & Sony Picture Releasing

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (Trailer)
• Spidey's suit is definitely more high-tech than the ones we've seen out of the Sam Raimi and Marc Webb franchises. Can we credit the connection to Tony Stark for this advanced suit? (Answer: Yes. Later in the trailer, Tony says, "I'm gonna need the suit back," essentially telling us that he's the one fronting the tech for Spider-Man this time around.)
• We're getting a lot of Robert Downey Jr. in this trailer. I get that he's playing something of a mentor character, but I hope we're not going to get too much of him. I feel like Marvel might be hyping his appearances for the Marvel movie fans, but do we need any other reason to see this movie than the name "Spider-Man" in the title?
• Tony's use of the phrase "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" could either just be a simple call-back or a reliance on nostalgia to generate excitement for the film. I know I'm a cynic when it comes to these comic book movies, but let's hope it's just a nice reference back to the source material. 
• All that being said, this Spider-Man looks to be more fun than previous iterations. We're actually getting a somewhat appropriately-aged actor to portray Peter Parker, and the high school setting will ultimately feel more genuine as a result. 
• In the same vein, I'm good with the best friend so far. It'll be a nice departure from the idea of Harry Osborn, who we've seen portrayed a few times now. If we get too much of this kid, who's being played by Jacob Batalon, I might not be as kind. 
• Honestly, I'm really just in this for Michael Keaton. He very well could be one of the better villains out of the superhero genre simply because he has the acting chops that we don't always get out of our bad guys in these movies. 
• The last ninety seconds of the trailer just focus on the big action set pieces, which sadly have become the selling point for so many of these big-budget movies. All this CGI has made nearly any image possible, so these movies will continue to try to one-up each other until audiences finally turn on them. Spider-Man: Homecoming won't be the tipping point. 
• Much in line with nearly every other trailer over the last few years, this one is just giving us too much too early. We're getting a massive section of storyline and character development that's going to leave little about the character arcs to the imagination. It almost feel like I don't need to see the movie anymore; I've been given the whole story already. 
Spider-Man: Homecoming will hit U.S. theaters on July 7, 2017. 

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

FERDINAND (Trailer)
• Hold on. John Cena is voicing a bull with a heart of gold? I don't know if I want to live on this planet anymore. 
• The comedic jabs in the trailer play just like the ones out of every other Blue Sky Studios production (i.e., Ice AgeRio; etc.). 
• The china shop gag is funny for all of five seconds before it completely overstays its welcome. This is the state of comedy in the 21st century: beat the horse to death. 
• This story is based off a "beloved classic." Is this something I don't already know about? (Answer: Yes. It's based on a children's book called The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. This gives me slightly more hope for the movie.)
• Apparently the bull is going to have some sort of friendship with the little girl, but this first trailer isn't setting up a ton for that storyline just yet. 
• Also in line with previous Blue Sky Studios films: goofy supporting characters with wacky hairstyles. 
• Based on what I'm seeing so far, I'm sure kids will love this movie. I just don't know if it's going to carry enough for the adults in the audience as well. 
Ferdinand will hit U.S. theaters on December 15, 2017. 

© STX Entertainment

© STX Entertainment

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS (Trailer)
• We're definitely getting that Luc Besson visual style. His most recent flick (2014's Lucy) was all style and no substance; hopefully this one will hearken back to something more along the lines of The Fifth Element
• We're getting a little more build-up to the overall storyline with this trailer. I feel like I have a bit of an idea as to what's going to happen now. The first teaser didn't give much more than the beautiful imagery. 
• This is the type of movie that would've made a killing in the mid- to late-1990s. The fact that it isn't an incredibly well-known property is going to hurt its box office appeal, even if it ends up being a strong flick in and of itself. It's just going to be a hard sell in a cinematic landscape dominated by more conventional comic book fare (even if this is based off a graphic novel, I believe). 
• That being said, this trailer definitely gives me a little more excitement about the overall prospects. The visuals look incredible in a way that throws back to The Fifth Element, and Besson is certainly due for a hit. 
• Also, Dane DeHaan is in the movie, so that alone means I'm sold.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will hit U.S. theaters on July 21, 2017. 

© Paramount Pictures

© Paramount Pictures

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER (Trailer)
• Full disclosure: I had no idea this movie was coming out until I saw the trailer listed over on IMDb. 
• I haven't seen the original - documentaries weren't really my jam back in 2006 - so I can't speak to its overall message or power, but I'm sure this new one will be just as polarizing for the same reasons. 
• The film will definitely still be taking a political stance, as evidenced by the multiple clips featuring President Trump. 
• Still, the overall message of the trailer seems to be promoting positivity in the face of overwhelming opposition.
• This is definitely a more fiery Al Gore than I have ever seen. Everything I heard about the original doc was that it was essentially a glorified Powerpoint presentation (all hearsay, mind you). This one looks like Gore will be going around the world to show the actual effects of global warming. Maybe I'll have to watch that first one so I actually know what I'm talking about. 
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power will hit U.S. theaters on July 28, 2017.

© New Line Cinema & Warner Bros.

© New Line Cinema & Warner Bros.

IT (Trailer)
• This is a remake of a TV mini-series that's its own adaptation of a Stephen King novel. You can take it or leave it. 
• The excitement generated by this trailer is a little bit strange; I had no idea so many people were so fond of the It mini-series. 
• Oh my god, that kid got knocked the eff out. Was not expecting. 
• We're only getting the kid side of the story in this trailer - when will we be seeing the adult versions? (Note: Research shows we should be getting two separate It films: the first will feature the kids' story; the second, the adults.)
• There are some legitimately creepy moments in the trailer, but it seems like a lot of them rely on jump scares. Let's hope that's simply the marketing team trying to hype up the imagery for the film. 
• I think that this is definitely a story worth revisiting. The original mini-series is pretty awful when you think about it. I'm sure there's a nostalgia factor to it all, but if you take Tim Curry out of the picture, the 1990 It is absolute garbage. I'm definitely down for an R-rated retelling. 
• The best scene in the trailer is the slide projector scene. It's cut in a way to maximize its trailer effectiveness, but I have a feeling that's going to work pretty well in the constructs of the finished flick.
• I was worried that this new Pennywise (played by Bill Skarsgård) would have a difficult time holding a candle to Curry's performance, but this trailer helps quash some of those reservations. He looks legitimately terrifying. 
It will hit U.S. theaters on September 8, 2017.

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

© Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (Trailer)
• As far as I'm aware, this is the second full-length trailer for this movie. Just like Dawn, I'm already feeling some mad hype for this new installment. 
• They pulled some dialogue from Rise and Dawn for the beginning of the trailer to set the stage for Caesar. 
• We're definitely getting a bigger look at the wartime effort. It looks as though we're fully entrenched in the war that had started to be set at the end of Dawn
• More evidence to the above point: the soldier with "Monkey Killer" scrawled across his helmet. 
• We're also getting more of a look at Woody Harrelson. The guy is fantastic and can play both sides of the spectrum. He can slip into comedy and drama with ease. I'm not worried about him at all in this one. 
• We're also getting a little more about one of the subplots: a gorilla has defected and joined the human side of the war. Caesar is clearly pissed. 
• Also, I'm 99% sure we're going to see apes flying planes. It's a little hard to tell from the trailer, but I think it's a possibility. 
War for the Planet of the Apes will hit U.S. theaters on July 14, 2017.

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (Trailer)
• This trailer is definitely relying on Jude Law more than previous trailers have. He's certainly a more recognizable face than Charlie Hunnam even if he's playing the villain. 
• We're seeing a little bit of flashback Arthur's childhood. Flashbacks are always a fifty-fifty proposition, so we'll see how that pans out.
• This is going to be an action-packed flick; they're using this final trailer to really amp that side of things. 
• Wait, where did the slow acoustic music come from? Weird tonal shift in the middle of the trailer. 
• Was that Eric Bana? (Answer: Yes.)
• Wait, Djimon Hounsou is in this too? Damn, I just might have to see it now. 
• I completely forgot this is a Guy Ritchie film. There were so many signs, and I just didn't pick up on them. That doesn't give the movie a full pass in my book, but it certainly adds a level of interest even if Ritchie has been a little hot-and-cold as of late. 
• Oh look, giant elephants. Playing for the Lord of the Rings crowd, are we?
• There's going to be some interesting visuals and cinematography here, but Ritchie has lately struggled with style versus substance. Let's hope he can pack something tangible into the storyline and character development here. 
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will hit U.S. theaters on May 12, 2017.

© Warner Bros.

© Warner Bros.

ANNABELLE: CREATION (Trailer)
• So this is a prequel to Annabelle, right? 
• I didn't see the first movie. The only connection I have to this franchise was the minor subplot/flashback given in the first Conjuring movie. 
• The trailer gives us a creepy children's song (in this case, "You Are My Sunshine") to wreak havoc on our ears. 
• Hold on. Is Annabelle a little girl in this one? I'm very confused. (Answer: Seems like yes and no.)
• We knew James Wan was producing since the whole Conjuring franchise is his baby, but David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) took the helm behind the camera. Lights Out was a critical and commercial hit last year, so perhaps they're looking for something a little better than this movie's predecessor could muster. 
• The Conjuring movies have done well not to focus purely on cheap tricks and jump tactics, but this trailer makes it seem as though Annabelle: Creation will be diving headfirst into that realm of horror. That was one of the many knocks against the first stand-alone Annabelle movie, so I'm once again hoping that Creation can distance itself in a new and refreshing way. 
Annabelle: Creation will hit U.S. theaters on August 11, 2017.

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures

THE MUMMY (Trailer)
• Based on the weaponry shown at the start of the trailer, I would say that this movie definitely takes place in the modern-day (i.e., 2017 or so). The previous trailer could have left it anywhere within the last few decades. 
• I'm liking the use of "Paint It Black" in the trailer. It's throwing a similar sign of menace as when Ramin Djawadi used it in the midst of his score for HBO's "Westworld." 
• As usual, Tom Cruise's character just does whatever he wants, regardless of regulation, rhyme, or reason. This time, it's going to bite him in the ass. 
• We're getting some ancient-time throwbacks, and I'm definitely in for that to tell the mummy's backstory. It looks like she's legitimately bad. In the previous Mummy films (to which I cannot help but compare this new one), Arnold Vosloo's mummy was just trying to revive the love of his life - I don't know if he was as straight-up evil as this new mummy.
• That plane crash is going to be absolutely bonkers.
• Oh yeah, I keep forgetting that Russell Crowe is going to be in this movie. Apparently he's playing Dr. Henry Jekyll. I remember the earliest reports saying he'd be playing Van Helsing, but I guess we'll be getting a Jekyll & Hyde story out of Crowe in the near future. For that, I am very concerned.
• We're getting some interesting visuals here, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. They're definitely throwing back to the Brendan Fraser films. Can we just have him back, please?
• One of the positive aspects of the Brendan Fraser franchise (at least the first one) was that it blended action and horror rather well. Considering the Mummy franchise stems from a Universal horror classic, I'd like to see this new one do the same. We're getting a little taste of that in this trailer, but I have a feeling we'll ultimately have to settle for all-out action instead. 
• So far, I've seen at least two scenes in these trailers that offer scenarios that should have killed Cruise's character. Is he, in fact, a superhuman?
The Mummy will hit U.S. theaters on June 9, 2017.


Review: Stray Bullets (2016)

Stray Bullets
2016

© Screen Media Films & Glass Eye Pix

© Screen Media Films & Glass Eye Pix

Directorial debuts often prove to be some of my favorite movies. There's something truly exciting about seeing a new and upcoming talent, and it generally manages to strike a solid chord with me. Over the past few years, I have made it a mission to keep first-time directors on my radar in the hopes of finding someone new to follow. More often than not, these movies come from filmmakers in their twenties and thirties, but once in a blue moon, we can find someone that predates them all. That's the case with Jack Fessenden, the teenage director of Stray Bullets

The film follows Ash (Asa Spurlock) and Connor (Fessenden), two friends making their way into the woods across town to clean out Ash's father's trailer. Upon reaching their destination, however, the find that a trio of thieves on the run has taken to hiding. Cody (James Le Gros) and Dutch (John Speredakos) quickly take the boys hostage in the midst of fretting over their boss Charlie's (Larry Fessenden) mortal injuries. Ash and Connor soon learn that the men's car has broken down, leaving them stranded in the middle of the woods. In the hopes of ensuring their safety, the boys offer their assistance in acquiring medical and mechanical supplies to aid the gang in their getaway. 

I gravitate towards directorial debuts for a few reasons. First, they give an audience the chance to see an unknown artist experiment with their own personal style. So many seasoned directors fall into their set routines which makes new takes all the more exciting. While Fessenden isn't necessarily bringing anything new to the table with Stray Bullets, he definitely exudes a clear confidence behind the camera; you would simply never believe that a sixteen-year-old directed this flick. Jack grew up on film sets with his father and learned from him first-hand. With that kind of background and personal education, I believe that Jack may just be getting his feet wet with this one. 

The kid does need a little bit of work in his writing. Oftentimes we see feature debut directors working with their own screenplay, and the same goes for Stray Bullets. So many of these feature debuts are passion projects for the filmmakers, and when everything clicks, we can see the passion ooze off the screen. Unfortunately, I think Fessenden's age shows glaringly in some of this script's miscues. While there's a great skeleton of a story here, it just doesn't have the meat on its bones to be a fully-fleshed experience. The story itself proves rightfully simple, but the lack of depth and overall clarity raise a few red flags along the way. We get a few scenes that stray from the storyline that almost feel like an attempted subplot that was never fully realized; with a scant eighty-three minute runtime, I still felt that those particular scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor. I think that Fessenden will be learn and craft his writing with time, but this is still a valiant effort for a first-time writer. 

The cast does a decent job keeping pace and pulling what they can from the muddled screenplay. Young Jack and Asa Spurlock prove to be the weaker elements of the cast, but their adult counterparts aren't exactly revelations either. The elder Fessenden hams it up as the mortally-wounded leader of the gang, and he's flanked by the semi-convincing badass Cody (Le Gros) and the somewhat dimwitted Dutch (Speredakos). Although the individual performances don't amaze, their chemistry works. We're given a look at the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, and we do see the characters begin to flesh out enough to make us care about them by film's end. Truthfully, the story revolves around the trio rather than their teenage counterparts who just happen upon the situation and prove to be observers more than anything else. 

Ultimately, Stray Bullets proves to be a flawed but fine debut for this young director. Teenage directors don't come along all that often - the first one that comes to mind is Emily Hagin's low-budget zombie flick Pathogen - but what they lack in experience their certainly make up for in passion. I can't quite say that Stray Bullets has flashes of brilliance, but a lot should be said about Jack Fessenden's skill behind the camera. This may not be the best movie, but it certainly gives me hope for Fessenden's future. 


Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast
2017

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Over the past few years, Walt Disney Studios has found financial success in remaking a slew of their animated classics as live-action fare. The results have been relatively mixed, with films like The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon meeting critical praise while endeavors such as Maleficent and the Alice in Wonderland franchise have been relatively panned. The most recent attempt at breathing new life into an animated classic hit theaters this past weekend in the form of Beauty and the Beast

The film opens with Belle (Emma Watson), a beautiful and learned outcast in a small French village, who dreams to leave her quiet life behind in the search for adventure. When her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is taken hostage by a mysterious beast in a hidden castle, she pleads with the Beast (Dan Stevens) and elects to live a life imprisoned in her father's stead. She initially attempts to escape the Beast's gruesome clutches, but as time begins to pass, she learns that he is a cursed figure with a heart of gold hidden deep beneath his rough exterior. As the two grow closer, Maurice returns home and informs the villagers of the creature's existence. A ravenous mob led by the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans) surges toward the castle in an attempt to murder the Beast and rescue Belle from his seemingly wicked grasp. 

Each one of us can make our own determinations about whether Disney should be remaking these animated classics, but the fact that none of these films has stuck a perfect landing should give pause to moviegoers. On one hand, Disney's remakes bring these age-old stories to a younger generation that has become accustomed to fast-paced, computer-generated blockbusters; kids of the twenty-first century simply may not have the patience for a classic two-dimensional cartoon. Those like myself, on the other hand, must sit idly by as these nostalgic stories from our own childhood continue to be rehashed and recreated time and again, and while none of these attempts have been absolute bombs, they all pale in comparison with their animated counterparts. Unfortunately, this new rendition of Beauty and the Beast could not break that cycle. 

Let's start with a little bit of history. The animated Beauty and the Beast was the last of the Disney animated films to feature a cast predominantly drawn from the stages of Broadway. As a result, the musical atmosphere of that film works every step of the way as we know that the women and men behind the characters truly hold the talent and vocal chops to pull off these performances. With this new iteration, however, some of the principal cast seems to have been chosen for name recognition rather than necessary talent. I had my reservations about the cast going into the film, yet little did I know that the one person I assumed would do well would prove to be the film's faltering point. I don't know of anyone who would readily compare Emma Watson to Paige O'Hara, but considering the circumstances of the remake, I believe it has to be done. This new film doesn't take long to showcase the immense disparity between O'Hara's talent and Watson's seeming lack thereof. Emma proves serviceable in her acting moments, but as musical's central protagonist should not be resigned to offering an auto-tuned performance. This is a glaring miscast that will surely rekindle the recent discussion about casting for name recognition rather than for inherent ability. 

Watson aside, the rest of the cast performed admirably. The underrated Dan Stevens plays the titular Beast well but is certainly aided by a motion capture performance and CGI retrofitting. Josh Gad, who seemed like the most solid casting decision as the bumbling LeFou, provided a few good laughs early but ultimately seemed to overstay his welcome and suffered from a loosely thrown together character arc meant to make him redeemable. The true standout of the film has to be Luke Evans, whose casting was initially the most worrisome to me as my only recognition of him stems from his villainous turn in Fast & Furious 6. He took the Gaston character and crafted a performance that echoes his animated counterpart while allowing for just a little bit more sleaziness. He even nails his limited singing moments, so a true round of applause for him. We also get some decent performances from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, and the aforementioned Kline; still, the rest of this ensemble could not hide the fact that the film's lead simply couldn't keep up. 

I have already discussed some of the film's music as it pertains to the vocal performances of the actors, but it's worth mentioning that Alan Menken came back to recreate the score he crafted over twenty-five years ago. The orchestral score still flows as beautifully as it did in 1991, and the cast follows it well enough with those aforementioned exceptions. Menken also added a few new songs to the mix, but I myself was left wondering throughout whether they came from the Broadway production (which I have not seen). I have been told since watching this film that these unfamiliar songs were, in fact, original compositions, but it did add some confusion in deciphering this new music when so much of this movie was resting on its nostalgic roots. 

For the most part, the film follows the same basic storyline and plot structure that its predecessor set forth. The animated version finishes in just under ninety minutes whereas this new version pushes just past the two hour mark, and honestly, it feels a bit bloated at times. As can be imagined, little bits were added to expand the storyline here and there. Certain aspects of these additions benefit this new version as we get more in-depth backstories into some of our principal characters that the much-shorter animated classic simply isn't able to give. Our two leads receive complementary backstories that serve to bring them even closer together. The also offers some pressing questions many have had since 1991 (i.e., why don't the villagers know about this gigantic castle a mere nightly walk away?).

Still, a few moments falter. The aforementioned addition to LeFou's instrumentality to the plot ultimately falls on deaf ears. Much hullabaloo has been made about certain revelations surrounding the character's sexual orientation, but the overall process of presenting LeFou's arc does not give the character nor that reveal any true justice. My biggest gripe with the film as a whole, however, stems from the iconic finale; in this new version, the ending has been tampered every so slightly but in such a way that it changes the very outlook of those climactic moments and very nearly negates the importance of a central plot device. As a result, the breath has been taken from the romantic power of those final moments.

In regards to the Disney live-action remakes, the jury may still be out, but Beauty and the Beast has helped push me towards my own verdict. While this film is nowhere near the worst of the bunch, it certainly stands as the most disappointing. The 1991 animated classic stands as a true masterpiece and holds its place in history as the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. The brilliance of that film lies far beyond its nostalgic power; it simply proves to be a beautiful cinematic endeavor that stands the test of time. I very much wanted to conduct this review in a void without having to compare it to the original, but such is the nature of Beauty and the Beast considering the well from which they draw. All that said, I may be in the vast minority with my criticisms and opinions: the audience in my screening gave the film a rousing ovation as the credits began roll while I quietly wondered what they had seen that I did not. 


The Shaunies, 2016

Below is a list of the nominees and winners (in bold) for the 2016 Shaunie Awards. The winners were announced on the affiliated podcast episode (click here!). Enjoy!


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
A Monster Calls

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Bradford Young, Arrival
Fedor Lyass, Pasha Kapinos, & Vsevolod Kaptur, Hardcore Henry
James Laxton, Moonlight
Linus Sandgren, La La Land
Natasha Braier, The Neon Demon

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Al Hoffman, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Can Canatan, John Klenner, & Jorma Taccone, "I'm So Humble," Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Benj Pasek, Justin Hurwitz, & Justin Paul, "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," La La Land
Dave Bassett, "Set It All Free," Sing
Gary Clark & John Carney, "Drive It Like You Stole It," Sing Street
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, & Opetaia Foa'i, "How Far I'll Go," Moana

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dario Marianelli, Kubo and the Two Strings
Fernando Velázquez, A Monster Calls
Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
Mark Korven, The Witch
Nicholas Britell, Moonlight

BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE
Alan Tudyk, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Auli'i Cravalho, Moana
Edward Norton, Sausage Party
Idris Elba, The Jungle Book
Liam Neeson, A Monster Calls

BEST YOUNG STAR
Alex R. Hibbert, Moonlight
Angourie Rice, The Nice Guys
Harvey Scrimshaw, The Witch
Royalty Hightower, The Fits
Sunny Pawar, Lion

BEST DIRECTORIAL DEBUT
Anna Rose Holmer, The Fits
Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, Swiss Army Man
Nicolas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother
Robert Eggers, The Witch
Trey Edward Shults, Krisha

BEST CAST
20th Century Women
Captain Fantastic
Everybody Wants Some!!
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Dev Patel, Lion
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Timothy Spall, Denial

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Felicity Jones, A Monster Calls
Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Viola Davis, Fences

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Denzel Washington, Fences
Ethan Hawke, Born to Be Blue
Logan Lerman, Indignation
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Arrival
Emma Stone, La La Land
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Rebecca Hall, Christine
Ruth Negga, Loving

BEST SCREENPLAY
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Eric Heisserer, Arrival
Jared Bush & Phil Johnston, Zootopia
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

BEST DIRECTOR
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Ezra Edelman, O.J.: Made in America

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight
O.J.: Made in America