"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars: Episode 7 - The Force Awakens Trailer

It's not coming out until after a year from now but the first teaser from the ongoing saga of the Star Wars has made its presence felt. And how! I was excited in anticipation all day knowing it was coming tonight (early US morning) and now it's finally here, well, I've got to say, I'm not on the fence anymore on whether we needed another Star Wars movie.  These are the original sci-fi heroes and heroines of our childhood, and now we'll have new heroes and heroes to meet.

The first face we see (literally) is John Boyega (Attack the Block) in Stormtrooper outfit after a voice intones "There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?" What's that about? Well, no time to process info because the next shots come at us fast and furious: there's a cute little robot, Stormtroopers, the new 'Leia' maybe with Daisy Ridley playing an unknown character escaping from someone, Oscar Isaac as a pilot, the Sith with a completely badass lightsaber and the shot we've all been waiting for, the return of the beloved Millennium Falcon set to that familiar John Williams composed theme for Star Wars.  And then the title, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and a long wait... December 2015.

No appearances as yet from other key actors like Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Lupita N'yongo or Max Von Sydow who are also cast in The Force Awakens. Oh, and apparently some older actors named Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are also part of this film.  I wonder how Luke, Han and Leia fit into this new universe. We have to lots to guess before the next trailer hits.

So folks are you officially excited that a new Star Wars universe film will greet us next Christmas? Thoughts?

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, it struck me how faithful to the book and the characters the movies remain. More so than even the Harry Potter series. Don't get me wrong, I thought the Harry Potter movies were great but I was always glad I had the books to return to.

In the case of The Hunger Games, no little detail goes unmentioned. And the characters remain true to the books. I could see Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss wrestle with her inner demons and fears just as I could imagine Katniss struggling in the books. I've said it with the previous films as well that Lawrence is the glue that holds the series together. We are centred through her experiences in this journey to make it to the other end, alive.

When we last left Katniss rescued by the rebels from the Quarter Quell had just been told that her district, the only home she's ever know, has been destroyed and she's now in District 13. Needless to say, Katniss has many questions and so do we. Here in 13, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) is in charge, flanked by Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright). They try to convince her to join the fight against the Capitol but Katniss refuses to budge until she knows what happened to Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

Of course, Katniss does agree to be their Mockingjay eventually once she realizes she can bargain with Coin for Peeta and the rest of the tributes' lives.  From therefore, we are launched into a full-fledged uprising as the citizens and top brass of District 13 try to reach out to the other Districts to unite against President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  Snow is just as callous and evil as other film installments of this series. While he wants to quash the rebels, he is also involved in a battle of wills with Katniss.  He knows her deepest fears and attacks them ruthlessly. 

We are also updated into the lives of the other non-Tribute characters.  Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is reduced to wearing grays, a colour that she probably knew existed.  Primrose (Willow Shields), Katniss's younger sister, is training to be a doctor.  And Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is training for war.

War is completely at the forefront in this film.  Katniss is held up by Coin and Heavensbee as the symbol of hope, the reason to keep fighting.  As we read about citizens protesting for basic human and civil rights around the world in 2014, the events of Mockingjay set in probable dystopian future does resonate.  Could this be the future we one day inherit if we are not careful? This does require a lot of pondering. 

However, the Mockingjay Part 1 is setting up the scenario for the final battle. And leaving a lot of questions up in the air.  How will Katniss get her Peeta back? How will the Districts rise up to take down the Capitol? What will their future entail? And will any of them make it out alive?

The A-list cast (most of them Academy and Emmy winners and nominees) are top-notch.  I thought the scenes negotiating Katniss's Mockingjay terms with Moore and Hoffman were wonderful. The film is dedicated to Philip Seymour Hoffman, he will deeply missed.  Moore is a welcome addition as the unreadable but tough President Coin. 

Jennifer Lawrence knows Katniss like a second skin, Katniss is much more vulnerable in this film, she not only has to worry about her friends and family. She now holds the burden of what happens to other Districts as well.  Woody Harrelson as Haymitch is completely underused and I wanted more scenes with Effie, she brings some humour to very serious film.

Director Francis Lawrence is much more comfortable in the world and characters in his second film in this series and it shows.  The details of the underground world of District 13 were just as I imagined them while reading.  Though aboveground, District 13 boasts of lush green forests and soothing rivers, it wasn't quite the broken, barren District reduced to rubble from the books.  Most of the cast also spends a majority of time in dull grays, browns and black uniforms.  Those eye-popping costumes from the previous films, (RIP Cinna), are sorely missed as well.  

Fans of The Hunger Games series will no doubt like the film but like I rushed through reading Mockingjay in one go when I got the book, I wished the film wasn't broken down into parts. But then again, it does leave you wanting more.  

Directed by Francis Lawrence; Screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong; Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins; Cinematography by Jo Willems; Edited by Alan Edward Bell and Mark Yoshikawa; Music by James Newton Howard

Additional cast: Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Mahershala Ali, Natalie Dormer


What I'm Thankful for in 2014: Movies Edition

There's so much to be thankful about every year: family, friends, your health.  But I always make it a point to make a list of movies I'm thankful for. Why? As Mel Brooks once said, "Movies saved my life. They rescued my soul."  I feel the same way.  Through the good times and the bad times, they've been my companion in life.  So without further ado, here's my list of top 5!

1) Book adaptations: There were some great book to film adaptations out this year from Gone Girl to The Fault in Our Stars to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.  And while they stayed faithful to the original material, they have retained their voice.  All of these films debuted at number one at the box office, a pretty impressive feat.  Who says the book is better?

2) The LEGO Movie: I'm still humming the crazily catchy 'Everything is Awesome' from the extremely funny and clever The LEGO Movie from co-directors and writers, Chris Miller and Phil Lord.  With a surprisingly emotional core and hilarious interpretations of iconic characters (I loved Will Arnett's angsty Batman), the animated film was meta to the extreme. But hey, it worked, I can't remember another film where there were more adults for an animated film than children.

3) Comic book adaptations: From March until the end of summer, you couldn't go far without bumping into a comic book film.  They were everywhere, from the universes featuring Spider-Man, some Avengers, X-Men and even some new Guardians of the Galaxies.  And there's here to stay, as is evidenced by both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios both unveiling a superhero franchise lineup that goes deep in 2020. And I'm afraid that's only the start as The Guardians of the Galaxy proved with claiming the number one this summer season.  Clearly, this audience wants more.

4) Time Travel: This oft used trope was back early this summer in two highly enjoyable films, The Edge of Tomorrow (a clever sci fi Groundhog Day starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt for 2014) and X-Men: Days of Future Past where the X-Men generations past and present collided in an A-list bonanza that audiences loved.

5) Hiccup and Toothless: It was a long wait but 2014 featured the return of one of my most favorite animated duos, Hiccup and Toothless, older and wise, but just as adorable in How to Train Your Dragon 2.  Their friendship goes through some pretty difficult tests in the second film from the trilogy and that ominous line about Toothless's future has me pretty worried for the finale.  But, until then, let's enjoy the lovable antics these two get into up high in the skies.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The host of the 2015 Oscars is...

Multi-talented, multi-hyphenated Neil Patrick Harris is the new host of the 2015 Oscars. This is pretty awesome.  This will be the first time the actor is hosting the Oscars, although he has hosted the Emmys twice and the Tonys four times.  He also an Emmy and an Tony.  Hmmmm, methinks he aiming for the EGOT of hosting AND winning.  That Barney Stintson always was an overachiever.  Harris is currently starring in David Fincher's Gone Girl which could quite possibly be nominated for some awards itself come Oscar day.  The Academy Awards airs live worldwide on February 22, 2015.  

New Trailers: Tomorrowland, Foxcatcher and Focus!

Shortly after the first images were released from Disney's Tomorrowland (2015), the first teaser was unveiled too. Starring Britt Robertson as Casey as young girl who stumbles across a secret world (aka Tomorrowland) by possessing a very special pin. This first teaser shows us how Casey comes about that pin. Also making an appearance in the trailer is George Clooney as former boy-genius Frank Walker who promises "a secret place, where nothing is impossible. A miraculous place where you could actually change the world." I'm ready to go, Frank! Tomorrowland releases worldwide on May 22, 2015.


Director Bennett Miller's (Capote, Moneyball) next is based on the true story of millionaire Jon du Pont (played by an unrecognisable Steve Carell) and his involvement with the Schulz brothers, Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo).  This longer trailer shows how du Pont's sponsorship of Mark for national and international competitions complicates relationships between them all.  And spoiler alert, things do not end well!! Miller has already won the Best Director award at Cannes this year and big things are expected from Foxcatcher this awards season.  Foxcatcher releases November 14, 2014.

There was a time when Will Smith dominated the box-office with his films. But since taking a four-year hiatus from films and coming back with less than stellar cinema (Men in Black 3, After Earth), Smith needs to bring back some of his old mojo. Focus, a romantic thriller, pairs him with Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) as two con artists who were once romantically involved. Three years later, they meet again in Buenos Aires and throw a wrench in each other's con games. Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Recqua (Crazy, Stupid, Love.), Focus releases next year on February 27, 2015. I've missed a good Will Smith movie and this one hopefully shows Smith back in form. Unfortunately, the release date (right after the Oscars) is maybe not the best opening for the film. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Images from Disney's Tomorrowland

My favorite place in Disney's Epcot Center is Tomorrowland. Always has been. As a child, I thought it was the coolest 'lands', mainly because of the future it promised.  Oh, think of the flying cars!! It's one of life's greatest disappointments that there are no flying cars.  Disney's big summer tentpole for 2015, Tomorrowland, hopefully has some flying cars.  The mysterious project, directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol), has long been under production without much information... until now!

Entertainment Weekly has some cool new images - showing the concept art and stills from the upcoming film.  

Concept Art from Disney's Tomorrowland (2015)

Britt Robertson as Casey Newton in Tomorrowland (2015)

George Clooney as Frank Walker with Britt Robertson in Tomorrowland (2015)
A quick look on Disney's website brings up this synopsis of the film:

From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure “Tomorrowland,” starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever. Featuring a screenplay by “Lost” writer & co-creator Damon Lindelof & Brad Bird, from a story by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird & Jeff Jensen, “Tomorrowland” promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of.

Most intriguing is Lost co-creator and writer (who also co-wrote this screenplay) Damon Lindelof's take on the film. He says, “What Hogwarts is to magic, Tomorrowland is to science: They are both easy to find if you are a wizard and very difficult to find if you’re a Muggle."  Curiouser and curiouser.  I'm loving the Potter references and adding this to next year's list of eagerly awaited films.

Tomorrowland also stars Hugh Laurie, Judy Greer and Keegan-Michael Key and releases on May 22, 2015.  Check out the Entertainment Weekly article on Tomorrowland to read more of what the filmmakers have to say about the film.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

First Teaser Trailer for Pixar's Inside Out

It feels like it's been such a long time since we've seen a Pixar film and looking at some old friends (Dory, Woody, Remy, Merida and more) at the beginning of the first teaser trailer for Inside Out, the next offering from the famed animation studio, those old emotions are coming back again.  Did I say emotions? That's funny! Because director Pete Docter's Inside Out is all about emotions. Specifically, the emotions that reside inside 11-year-old Riley, who wrestles with Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) in her head.  The film takes us through Riley's journey as she adjusts to a new life in a new city after her father moves their family to San Francisco.  Inside Out releases on June 19, 2015.  My question: Why do we have to wait that long? I want to see this now!
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