Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) Movie Trailer

Pitch Perfect 2 opening in theaters on May 15, 2015

The Barden Bellas are back in Pitch Perfect 2, the follow-up to summer 2012’s smash hit. The comedy is directed by Elizabeth Banks, co-star and producer of Pitch Perfect, and produced by Paul Brooks, Max Handelman and Banks. Writer Kay Cannon returns to the team to pen the next chapter.

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American Heist (2014) Movie Trailer

Frankie (Christensen) and James (Brody) are two brothers with checkered pasts; one struggling on the road to normalcy, the other just released from prison. When one drags the other into an ill-fated bank robbery by a gang of dangerous criminals led by the nefarious Sugar (Akon), the loyalty of their sibling bond is tested and the brothers prove how far they will go for greed and family.

DIRECTOR: Sarik Andreasyan
STARRING: Hayden Christensen, Adrien Brody, Akon, Jordana Brewster
GENRE: Action, Thriller
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The Age of Adaline (2015) Movie Trailer

After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.

Release Date: 24 April 2015
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker
Genre: Drama, Romance
Country: USA
Production Co.: Lakeshore Entertainment, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Sierra / Affinity
Distributors: Lionsgate (USA)

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Paddington Bear (2014) Movie Review

paddington_bearBen Whishaw voices Paddington, the brave bear from Darkest Peru, in this new film adaptation of Michael Bond’s much-loved character

Charming, thoughtful and as cuddly as a plush toy

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins

Director: Paul King

Launched by a much-loved children’s book, A Bear Called Paddington (1958) by Michael Bond, which spawned yet more books, a clutch of TV series of varying quality, and oodles of merchandising, Paddington Bear is not a brand to be messed with lightly. The original stories’ marmalade-flavored, quintessentially British tone of voice and the ursine orphan’s episodic adventures don’t seem immediately feature-friendly given the tales’ lack of superpowers, princesses or stuff blowing up.

Perhaps that’s one reason that the marketing campaign for the new Paddington film, produced by Heyday Films (which created the Harry Potter franchise) got off to such an inauspicious start, with the first trailer in June 2014. The clip quickly spawned Internet memes about the CGI bear’s supposed “creepiness” and much concern from British fans and Anglophiles abroad that the finished product was “in a mess,” to borrow a Bondian description, especially when news broke that Colin Firth had stepped away from the microphone and been replaced by Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

To top it all, there’s been an uproar in the British press this week because the film, which opens on Nov. 28 in the U.K. (and Jan. 16 in the U.S.), will have a PG rating instead of the expected U (the U.K. equivalent of a G). Crikey, many thought, what have they done to Paddington?

It’s a relief to report that the final film is actually quite charming, thoughtful and as cuddly as a plush toy, albeit one with a few modern gizmos thrown in. These include a contemporary (if decidedly retro) period setting, an extended narrative arc featuring an invented baddie (Nicole Kidman) to add tension, a right-on subtextual message about tolerance, and some winking jokes and allusions only grown-ups will get, like references to Wes Anderson films. All in all, it strikes a judicious balance between honoring the spirit of the original books and servicing the needs of the target demographic. Plus, there’s a scene where Paddington puts his head in a toilet and floods the bathroom. What’s not to like?

Inevitably, the opening stretch gussies up Paddington’s backstory considerably. Where the original book was content to merely tell the reader that our hero was a stowaway on a boat from “Darkest Peru” raised by an aunt now in a home for retired bears, the film shows us this and more. First, a mock newsreel unfolds, telling how Paddington’s Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo (voiced by Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon, respectively) met a mysterious British explorer who introduced them, cargo-cult-style, to the wonder that is marmalade and also helpfully left behind a gramophone that taught them English with a received-pronunciation accent.

But years later, by which time their young, orphaned and notably disaster-prone nephew has come to live with Lucy and Pastuzo, the latter is tragically killed in an earthquake and this sets the young bear on his way to London. But at Paddington Station, he finds the locals less welcoming than he’d expected. (Nevertheless, the film is basically one big love letter to the city, and much of it was shot on location.)

Kind-hearted Mrs. Brown (Sally HawkinsHappy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine), a children’s book illustrator, takes a shine to the little bear, whom she names after the station. She manages to persuade her stiff-backed insurance-assessor husband Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey) and kids — sulky teen Judy (Madeleine Harris) and tween geek Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) — to let Paddington move in with them and their elderly relative Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) until he finds somewhere more suitable to stay. The aforementioned plumbing-related disaster soon occurs, followed swiftly by mishaps on a subway escalator, an elaborate chase through Notting Hill involving a skateboard and a double-decker bus, and assorted other hijinks that will tickle younger viewers pink.

Meanwhile, a taxidermist (Kidman) gets wind of Paddington’s presence in the city and determines to acquire him for the collection at the Natural History Museum. To this end, she recruits help from the Browns’ grumpy but randy neighbor Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi, Dr. Who). The two storylines come together satisfyingly for the finale, prompting the requisite neatly packaged message about makeshift families and love conquering all, but done with an admirably light touch.

Indeed, the great achievement of writer-director Paul King, who comes more from a TV comedy (The Mighty Boosh) and pop video background and has made only one feature (Bunny and the Bull, a semi-animated curio), is his ability to work with a broad palette here, in both emotional and technical terms. In between all the knockabout physical humor, there’s a palpable sense of sadness and loss, and a running theme about displacement that evokes variously the evacuation of Jewish children from Germany during World War II, the Afro-Caribbean people who came to Britain in the 1950s and ’60s, and contemporary immigrants, whose presence is a hot-button political issue at the moment. One clever if not terribly original device, for example, has some of the music performed by a five-piece calypso band that at first sounds like it’s part of a non-source soundtrack only for the camera to reveal they are itinerant buskers within the scene itself.

A similar playfulness runs through the movie. A dollhouse in the attic opens up to reveal all the residents of the Brown household, moving from room to room in a way that directly quotes, as does the musician device, any number of Wes Anderson movies, although The Royal Tenenbaums is probably the most resonant reference. Elsewhere, an invisible cut shows the seemingly instantaneous transformation of Mr. Brown from a freewheeling, motorcycle-riding rebel into a Volvo-driving dad on the day his first child is born. The production design by Gary Williamson and costume design by Lindy Hemming similarly straddle the gray area between realism and luridly colored exaggeration.

Performances across the board sing in the same key, with everyone a bit hyped up and overacting just enough to make it fun. Hawkins, whose casting is inspired here, stands out especially and brings a particular poignancy to the party, while Bonneville shows off a comic side he hasn’t been allowed to indulge enough. The “acting” from Paddington himself, or rather the CGI animators at London’s Framestore, is subtle and expressive although some of the fur movement is a little computer-y. Whishaw’s gentle tenor voice has such a touching fragility to it that one wonders how they ever thought anyone else could have done it better.

Production companies: A Studiocanal presentation in association with Anton Capital Entertainment with the participation of Amazon Prime Instant Video of a Heyday Films production
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Kayvan Novak, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton
Director: Paul King
Screenwriters: Paul King, based on a screen story by Hamish McColl and Paul King, “Paddington Bear” created by Michael Bond
Producer: David Heyman
Executive producers: Rosie Alison, Jeffrey Clifford, Alexandra Ferguson
Director of photography: Erik Wilson
Production designer: Gary Williamson
Costume designer: Lindy Hemming
Editor: Mark Everson
Music: Nick Urata
Casting directors: Nina Gold, Theo Park

No MPAA rating, 95 minutes


Reach Me (2014) Movie Review

reach_meJohn Herzfeld’s dark comedy concerns a reclusive self-help author and the myriad characters in his wake

Not bad enough to be a guilty pleasure, but plenty bad nonetheless

Opens: Nov. 21 (Millennium Entertainment)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Tom Berenger, Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Lauren Cohen, Kevin Connolly, Kelsey Grammer

Director: John Herzfeld

Filmmaker John Herzfeld (15 Minutes, 2 Days in the Valley) must have delved deeply into his obviously prodigious Rolodex to cast his latest effort, about a reclusive lifestyle guru and the many eccentric characters affected by his self-help books. Featuring an impressive cast including Sylvester Stallone, Tom Berenger, Kyra Sedgwick, Thomas Jane, Kevin Connolly, Kelsey Grammer and others too numerous mention, the crowdfunded Reach Me mainly demonstrates the apparent inability of well-known actors to choose their projects carefully.


Extraterrestrial (2014) Movie Review

extraterrestrialClose encounters of the not-so-friendly kind

You’ve seen one anal probe, you’ve seen them all

Opens: Nov. 21 (IFC Midnight)

Cast: Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironide, Anja Savcic, Emily Perkins, Sean Rogerson

Directors: The Vicious Brothers

Opening shot of its sexy young heroine’s backside in panties….check. Teenagers spending a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods…check. Conspiracy theories involving UFOs…check. Anal probes….check.

The simple plot revolves around a trip by April (Brittany Allen), her boyfriend Kyle (Freddie Stroma) and three of their friends (Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia, Anja Savcic) to the vacation cabin in which April spent summers as a child. Things proceed in the usual nondescript fashion—there’s some mild drama concerning Kyle’s unsuccessful marriage proposal—until a sudden fireball in the sky changes everything, as the intrepid group heads to the crash site and discover a burnt-out alien spaceship and the unsettling sight of strange footsteps heading in the direction of the cabin.

Cue the resulting high-decibel mayhem, as the not-so-friendly aliens do what aliens tend to do, such as beaming up hapless humans to their spacecraft where they, having apparently read endless accounts of alien abductions, indulge in the aforementioned anal probe. What they hope to find is anyone’s guess.

Featuring dialogue on the order of “Dude, that’s a dead fucking alien,” the film doesn’t exactly win points for sophistication. But it does have its witty touches, including a conspiracy-minded pot grower (genre stalwart Michael Ironside) who informs the hapless group that the U.S. government has had a treaty with the extraterrestrials ever since Roswell, one that’s been broken after April makes the mistake of killing one of them. There’s also a neat bit in which one of the characters attempts to avoid being sucked up into the sky by handcuffing himself to a tree, with less than felicitous results.

Also involved in the proceedings is the local sheriff (Gil Bellows), who has a personal stake in the matter since his girlfriend had been abducted by the aliens years earlier.

The action is staged in proficient fashion with some imaginative visual touches, but it all feels hopelessly generic and the requisite ironic ending (hint: think Night of the Living Dead) smacks of creative desperation.

Production: Abductions Films, Manis Film, Vicarious Entertainment, Twin Engine Films, Pink Buffalo Films
Cast: Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironide, Anja Savcic, Emily Perkins, Sean Rogerson
Directors/screenwriters/editors: The Vicious Brothers
Producers: Shawn Angelski, Martin Fisher
Executive producers: Paris Kasidokostas, Terry Dougas, Randy Manis, Mark Lindsay, Kim Arnott, Marina Grasic, Jonathan Bronfman, Arni Johannson, Mark Cohen, Geoff McLean, Fraser McKeen, Dale Wallster
Director of photography: Samy Inayeh
Production designer: Scott Moulton
Composer: Blitz Berlin
Casting: Tiffany Mak

No rating, 107 min.


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