Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Films of 2016

Image from Entertainment Weekly
By Darian Scalamoni
It’s been seven months since I’ve started this blog and I’d want to say thank you to everyone who constantly reads and appreciates the same love of television and film as I do. It’s been a crazy year in terms of society and the direction the world is going, having said that, there have been some tremendous films this year. Some on my personal top 10 list include blockbusters, others are Oscar contenders, others just personal favorites. Unfortunately, with the 29 films that I saw this year that were released in 2016, I had to narrow it down to a top 10 list. Before I could do that though, I have some honorable mentions: Doctor Strange, Sully, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Secret Life of Pets, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Arrival and Bleed for This. All good movies that I enjoyed thoroughly but there was not enough room so without further ado, here are my personal Top 10 favorite films of 2016.


10. Café Society

Woody Allen has had a few questionable outputs in the last few years between Irrational Man and the atrocious attempt at television with his Amazon series, Crisis in Six Scenes, but his latest film effort that followed a young man who arrived in Hollywood to work for his uncle in the film industry in the 30s before being swept up in love with his uncle’s assistant. The movie is romantic, hilarious and also dramatic in moments but it’s a classic Woody Allen film in terms of substance, spirit and dialogue. Jesse Eisenberg is terrific in a role that seems like it was written for Allen, but with their similar awkward quirkiness, he fits like a glove. Along with a multitude of other great actors such as Steve Carell, Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively, the movie is a hilarious journey through the superficial and realness of some within the Hollywood system. Allen does a great job with the lighting to depict the differences between California and New York City when transitioning from the two great cities within the times. Though the movie feels familiar in tones because a great Woody Allen movie is a great Woody Allen movie, his 46th film feels just as great as some of his other classics from earlier times.


9. Finding Dory

The sequel to one of the most beloved Pixar movies of this generation, Finding Dory didn’t have the same impact as the original movie but still was an incredibly lovable film for its themes and of course, its titular character played by Ellen DeGeneres. Her portrayal in this film is much more of a balance between the delicate nature, optimism and energetic sense from the friendly but often forgetful blue tang fish. Not only that but Nemo and Marlin return and are joined by tons of fun, new characters in the universe including Hank the Octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill and my personal favorite, Fluke the Seal voiced by Idris Elba. The movie stands on its own from the original 2003 film, but also seems familiar as its easy to love these characters that Pixar has brought to life beneath the waters. No other studio understands their audience more than Pixar and that is evident here. The movie is incredibly well-paced and has a creative and informative message from young to old.


8. Zootopia

One of the best Disney original movies in years, Zootopia showcases a modern metropolis in which all animals come together in the “big city”, the rich blend of tremendous voice work, a great story line and clever storytelling makes it one of the best movies of the year and my favorite animated movie of the year as well. The movie is genius for being timely and providing a unique look at society while also being entertaining, funny and beautiful to look at. Some of my biggest laughs of the year came from this film in which the main story follows a bunny rabbit named Judy Hopps heading to Zootopia to become the first bunny cop while teaming up with a fox named Nick Wilde (brilliantly voiced by Jason Bateman) to crack a case. It’s a wonderfully executed film that has a huge reward for all of its viewers and provides one of the most fun experiences when watching of the year.


7. Deadpool

One of the biggest surprises of the year for sure is the rated R comic book film based on the Merc with a Mouth. If you could ever imagine a character being written so perfect for the screen in regards to its comic version, it has to be Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson. The anti-hero provides the audience with extreme violence, obscene gestures and language as well as fourth wall breaking but it was one of the best action movies of the year. Beyond Reynolds near perfect performance in the lead, the direction from Tim Miller is not to go unnoticed. Every action sequence gets better than the next but the scene in which Deadpool is counting his bullets when making his kills is genius. It is an unconventional origin story and appeals to the die hard fans but also the casual viewer who is looking for a wild, hilarious, action filled blockbuster from passionate people who dedicate the film to the source material. Not only one of my top 10 films of the year but the witty, insane protagonist might be my favorite movie character of the year as well.


6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The first attempt at an anthology film within the Star Wars universe was a huge success for Lucasfilm and Disney as a band of rebels go on a mission to steal the plans to the planet killer, the Death Star. The key event within the timeline of the galaxy far, far away is a movie that many never thought they would ever see but they did and it was accomplished in an incredibly successful fashion. The nostalgic trip back in time in which the movie takes place before the events of A New Hope, is first and foremost a war film set in different planets but its filled with all the normal Star Wars touches that everyone loves. It’s a gritty, darker toned Star Wars movie that feels different but also fits perfectly in the timeline. It also features terrific new characters like Jyn Erso, K-2SO and Chirrut while also having classic characters in the film as well such as the iconic villain, Darth Vader. The narrative kept everyone engaged throughout, and the film is one of the best blockbusters of the year by far. 


5. Sing Street

A movie that took everyone by surprise, the third film from John Carney sticks to his musical roots after Once and Begin Again, the movie follows a young, 14-year old boy named Conor who lives in Dublin and is infatuated with the glam rock scene through bands like Duran Duran and the Talking Heads. After dealing with personal issues within his family and at school, he meets a mysterious and beautiful model named Raphina and aims to win her heart. From there, he decides to ask her to star in his band’s music video except, Conor doesn’t have a band. He then brings together a group of boys who decide to create their own music and film music videos. The movie serves as a romantic journey that is driven by music while also acting as a therapeutic outlet for the main character. Sing Street is sweet, charming, rhythmic and has a true feel of innocence but it is one of the best films of the year. You’ll want to dance and sing to each and every song, while also getting lost within them. The bond between brothers and the band makes the movie relatable to so many and remind them of their youth and how important music is to every moment in life.


4. The Jungle Book

The live-action Disney remake is leap towards cinematic achievement if not alone for its visual magic. With Neel Sethi being the only physical character in the entire film, the movie is engrossing due to its characters, setting and it sets a new standard for CGI unlike any other movie. Jon Favreau continues his trend towards the ambitious as the Iron Man director makes the movie feel so human with all but one character being completely digital. The extraordinary and imaginative world creates an environment that makes all the family sing along to the classic songs while also providing audiences with new incarnations of classic characters like Bill Murray’s Baloo and Christopher Walken’s King Louie. The fun, humor-filled and at times, emotional movie is an incredibly well-made movie and is a rare instance of a remake being just as good as the original, if not better. The vivid illustrations that come to life on screen makes The Jungle Book one of the best films of the year as it triumphs to start a new generational outlook on the genre of live-action remakes of Disney classics.


3. Captain America: Civil War

The biggest and best superhero film of the year pits two of the most iconic cinematic heroes of the decade between Captain America and Iron Man in a spectacle film for the ages. Headlined by an incredible cast with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd and more, the movie is the darkest Marvel has released to date. Dealing with real conflict that pits two best friends together and brings a cinematic showdown to the big screen that many of dreamt of since childhood, Civil War is incredibly well paced, written brilliantly and introduces even more terrific characters into the MCU including Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s portrayal of the beloved web-slinger, Spider-Man. The movie is creative, bright and has more stakes than any other film that Marvel has ever produced. It’s also a testament to the Russo brothers who have done an incredible job of directing these movies after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of the best ever as well. The humor, drama and action makes this blockbuster better than any other of its kind in 2016 and that’s why it is my 3rd best film of 2016. 


2. Manchester by the Sea

The moving, tragic story that follows Lee Chandler taking the reins of becoming a guardian for his nephew following his brother’s death is one of the best films not only of the year, but possibly of the last five years. The moving story that is helmed by a man who knows depressing territory, Kenneth Lonergan flexes his storytelling muscles to the fullest extent and provides an amazing script for actors to put on a showcase. Casey Affleck’s career making role as Chandler is possibly the best performance of 2016 and he carries the movie on his shoulders with help from other terrific roles for the emerging star, Lucas Hedges and multiple time Academy Award nominated actress, Michelle Williams. The movie will wound your soul for quite a bit of time for the subject matter but the film is as truthful as one can be after dealing with the tragedy that these characters deal with. The film is beautiful and as telling as any other movie this year with melancholic depths and even a bit of humor in spots that rewards the audience with an astounding movie that holds the number two spot on my list.



1. La La Land

There are movies that define years but La La Land is a film that will define the career of director Damien Chazelle forever. The movie will immediately run you through every emotion imaginable but will have you smile from cheek to cheek when you walk out of the theater. It’s a musical that will have you tapping your toes, singing along and re-invigorate your love for film all in one. It pays tribute to the past with an ode to old-school Hollywood and films like Singin’ in the Rain while also embracing the present Los Angeles vibes through the two main acting superstars that head the movie, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s a love story but also tells the viewer a story of two independents that are attempting to reach their dreams on their own respective paths. The musical numbers are terrific and filled with a style all its own, it’s a crowd pleaser and salutes all that people love about movies. You become absorbed within the film as soon as the catchy and ambitious opening number begins. The performances are fantastic, the film is original, the direction and musical composition is the best of the year. Overall, the film is magical, magnificent, intoxicating and artistic. For all of the reasons listed above, La La Land takes the cake as the best movie of the year and quite possibly the best of its kind in the musical genre of all-time. 


Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 5 New TV Shows of 2016

By Darian Scalamoni
            It’s been a very special year for television with tons of new series, some new shows I’ve even wanted to watch that I haven’t had the time yet. Some of those shows include Westworld, The Crown and Better Things, but there are also some other shows that I loved that just couldn’t crack my top 5 best new series this year. Those honorable mentions include NBC’s This Is Us, which is one of the best network dramas I’ve seen in years and one show that I really wanted to place in my top 5 but I just couldn’t put it over the other shows and that is Amazon’s Fleabag. The comedy/drama follows a young woman dealing with life through sexual encounters, awkward interactions with family and friends and grief from a tragedy. Everyone should check out the six-episode first season because it is tremendous.


            Having said all of that, here are my Top 5 Best New Television Series of 2016.


5. Horace and Pete (louisck.net/Hulu)

The series in which its creator and star Louis CK describes as a tragedy more than a comedy, and it’s hard to disagree with him. The first article I’ve ever posted on Cinema Wave was my review of this show that follows the two titular brothers played by CK and Steve Buscemi that run a bar together in Brooklyn that is a multi-generational while they deal with their own personal issues. It deals with authentic, serious issues including mental illness and cancer as the two main characters try to deal with the craziness in their respective pasts while dealing with their family in the present. Both CK and Buscemi are terrific in the show as are the other supporting characters played by Edie Falco, Jessica Lange and Alan Alda who steals the show as Uncle Pete. The show will make you laugh and cry but it plays so much like a play rather than a show but the writing and acting are so extraordinary that it warrants a spot on my personal list.


4. The Night Of (HBO)

Here’s a show that took everyone by surprise and that is the miniseries, The Night Of. Starring Riz Ahmed as a convicted felon who allegedly murdered a young woman after a wild, sex induced night and John Turturro as the lawyer who tries to save a young kid’s life, the show was tremendous. It gave a dark, gritty look at the underbelly of the prison system and the changes many have to make on the inside to survive. The show, originally intended to star James Gandolfini before he passed away, had Turturro step into one of the best television roles of 2016 as Ahmed’s lawyer named John Stone. The show enthralls you into an environment and had critics raving when it was on television. The layered crime drama solidified itself as one of the greatest limited series of the year, and possibly of all-time. Another home run for the premium network it was broadcast on.


3. Atlanta (FX)

Definitely the most original show of 2016 is that of Donald Glover’s first crack at being a big-time showrunner, producer, writer and actor. Due to the success of this comedy series on FX, Glover is now viewed as one of the great visionaries in Hollywood today. Following Earn Marks (Glover) as a budding music producer and manager for his cousin Paperboi, who is a viral sensation for his rap music, the show provides an amazing and honest look at life in the city of Atlanta and the relevance on black culture in today’s society. The show has a particular flavor that no other show has ever been able to encompass before and that’s what makes it so special. The urban authenticity gives the audience just a glance into the life of a young, black man wanting to succeed and do what he needs to do to get by when struggling. The acting and writing are some of the best of the year whether it be film or television and it’s smart humor just makes the show that much funnier while handling real topics from week to week.


2. American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson (FX)

Ryan Murphy has quickly become one of the top minds in television today and a big part of that happened this year with the first season of his new series: American Crime Story, which was to be a spinoff series from his beloved horror series, American Horror Story. The first season of this crime formatted show that would follow real life American crimes followed the trial against former football icon O.J. Simpson for killing his wife and someone who was believed to have been her lover. The show was tremendous and truly encapsulated the times when the trial went on for almost a full year before Simpson was acquitted. The show was showcased mostly for its starry cast that included John Travolta, David Schwimmer and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson but it was Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson and a breakout, star-making performance from Sterling K. Brown that truly made the show and content amazing television. Vance and Paulson as Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark, respectively were also amazing, having won tons of awards already for their respective performances. The polarizing first season of the anthology series was polarizing and was truly must watch TV.



1.     1. Stranger Things (Netflix)

It’s remarkable to see where Netflix has come in terms of content and original programming since becoming the streaming giant that it is today. Having said that, the network hasn’t had a show anywhere near as critically and universally beloved as Stranger Things. The 80s set horror/thriller follows a town searching for a missing young boy named Will but when his best friend Mike goes to try and find answers to his disappearance, he discovers top secret government experiments and a unique little girl named Eleven in the woods. The show is truly an homage to classic, suspense filled shows and films of the past such as X-Files, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The efficient storytelling, along with dark humor and terrific dialogue makes for a show that is different than anything else Netflix has produced. As well as star making performances for all the young actors especially Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal of Eleven and even seeing David Harbour play one of the best roles of his career. You can see the influences clearly by the creators of the show The Duffer Brothers as the show is filled with nostalgic substance and style bringing a unique show unlike any other to the top of the ranks of television in 2016. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher passes away at the age of 60

Image from NBC News
By Darian Scalamoni
            We’re sad to report that Carrie Fisher has died at the age of 60 today. The actress and writer who is best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars universe suffered a heart attack just a few days ago and unfortunately, passed away early this morning.

            In a year that has taken so many influential and monumental talents such as Prince, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin, Muhammad Ali and many, many more this year cannot end enough. This was so unexpected and Fisher had such a larger impact on so many people’s lives, especially women for being truly one of the biggest bad asses in cinematic history as Princess Leia. In addition to being in the original trilogy and the last two entries in the Star Wars universe, Fisher also starred in films such as Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally…, The ‘Burbs and Soapdish.


            Rest in peace to an amazing legend in the entertainment world. Our deepest condolences go out to her family and loved ones during this tragic time. 

First trailer for 'Alien: Covenant' showcases a return to form in the franchise for Ridley Scott

Image from Coming Soon
By Darian Scalamoni
            It’s been close to 40 years since the first Alien film was released and when many people saw the trailer for Prometheus they thought it would be the calling card back to the beloved franchise. But with the first trailer for the upcoming Alien: Covenant, it looks like Ridley Scott has found his niche once again.

            The trailer gives you a great look at just how bloody and messed up this movie is going to be. It looks to showcase brutal carnage and everything that everyone loves about the Alien trilogy and has an all-star cast behind it too. I loved this trailer and it made this film even higher on my most anticipated list for 2017.

            Check out the first trailer below for Alien: Covenant! The movie stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo and Danny McBride. It opens everywhere on May 19th, 2017.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Manchester by the Sea' Review

Image from Fandango
By Darian Scalamoni
            With Oscar season right around the corner, I finally took myself to the theater to see one of the frontrunners for many awards and that would be Manchester by the Sea written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret, You Can Count on Me). Lonergan is often referred to as the “master of depression cinema” and this movie is no exception to that. I want to start by saying that you will not leave the theater in a happy mood most likely after seeing this film. It’s an incredible portrait of depression and emptiness that is beautifully textured and is a richly deep story.

            The movie follows Lee Chandler as a hard-working handyman and janitor in Boston who doesn’t have that much going on for himself. He isn’t big on small talk and just wants to do his job: get in and get out. Chandler then gets the news that his older brother, Joe has died of a heart attack and doesn’t feel much more somber than he already is, even after making the trip back to his hometown, Manchester-by-the-Sea in which certain past circumstances forced him to leave years earlier. These reasoning’s behind his abandonment of his hometown are showed in flashbacks to happier times with his wife Randi and his children. It’s a great technique that doesn’t take you out of the story for one second and helps give the audience more knowledge into why Lee acts the way he does throughout the film.

            The film is gradual in revealing these pieces to the overlying puzzle as you hear many people in the town say “is that the Lee Chandler?” as if he is just a myth or a legend. As the movie goes along there is a deeper thematic sense of past and present in which Lonergan navigates in tremendous fashion. The painful memories begin to rush back to the surface for Lee and though I can’t get into all the details of his tragic past because it could be considered a spoiler, it truly does have your heart wrenching for his character throughout the length of the film. The main plot though as shown in the trailers is Lee taking on legal guardianship of Joe’s son, Patrick. We see in some of the flashbacks how Patrick was as a child and how close he was with his uncle, but now he is a popular, temperamental high school student with two girlfriends. It is within Patrick’s character in which you see a young man not being able to fully grasp the fact that his father has passed away but focuses more on his life and image in school along with doing the things he loves.

            The film is a dramatic movie just for the content alone, following the tragic life of a man like Lee along with the loss of his brother, whom he was closest with. The movie is authentic in its presentation of how people truly deal with loss and grief. It’s often stumbling forward in life one day at a time but not without being a little empty inside.

The acting is tremendous led by Casey Affleck who plays Lee and might be on his way to his first Oscar of his career, in addition to a star making performance for Lucas Hedges as Patrick and even Michelle Williams who plays Lee’s wife, Randi will probably get a Best Supporting Actress nom at the Academy Awards. Lonergan’s direction and incredibly real script partnered with the great acting makes for the best movie I’ve seen this year. If you have problems sitting through subject matter that deals with depression and loss maybe stay away but honestly, everyone should see this movie for the quality alone. Lonergan should also grab some nominations for screenplay and directing this movie which is perfect in my eyes for what it’s trying to accomplish and that’s why I’m awarding it with my first perfect score ever.


10/10

Denis Villeneuve to direct sci-fi epic reboot, 'Dune'

Image from Odyssey
By Darian Scalamoni
            Denis Villeneuve is becoming somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to sci-fi film. With his most recent film, Arrival being an awards contender, along with the upcoming Blade Runner 2049, he’s certainly getting a good repertoire together. He revealed recently that his dream would be to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune and now according to Variety, it appears his dream is coming true.

            Legendary got their hands on the TV and Film rights last month and now the studio is in talks with Villeneuve who also directed Prisoners and Sicario to helm the film version of the long-running novel franchise. Alejandro Jodorowsky famously attempted to adapt the property in the mid-70s but he wasn’t successful. He later chronicled this in the documentary, Jordorowsky’s Dune. It was David Lynch though who adapted the original novel in 1984 led by Kyle MacLachlan. The film has achieved cult status but was a commercial and critical failure when it was first released.

            The premise of Dune is as follows: “Set in the distant future, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides whose family accepts control of the desert planet Arrakis. As the only producer of a highly valuable resource, control of Arrakis is highly contested among the noble families. After Paul and his family are betrayed, the story explores themes of politics, religion, and man’s relationship to nature as Paul leads a rebellion to restore his family’s control of Arrakis.”

Wes Anderson reveals newest film, 'Isle of Dogs' highlighted by an all-star cast

Image from The Daily Beast
By Darian Scalamoni
            It seems like it was longer since the world of film received a Wes Anderson movie, as he released The Grand Budapest Hotel back in 2014. Yesterday, Anderson revealed a first look at his upcoming animated film, Isle of Dogs. Though production began yesterday, Anderson’s last stop-motion/animated project Fantastic Mr. Fox took years to film.

            Isle of Dogs has a remarkable voice cast that includes Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Frances McDormand, Yoko Ono along with other Japanese actors Kunichi Nomura, Akira Ito, Akira Takayama, Koyu Rankin. The movie has been regarded as a “Japanese story” according to Anderson. As a big fan of Fantastic Mr. Fox and most of Anderson’s films in general, I’m definitely excited what he can do with this cast.

            Check out the video below of Anderson and Edward Norton giving a first look at the film, Isle of Dogs!


Monday, December 19, 2016

First trailer 'Blade Runner 2049' reveals the sequel to a cult classic

Image from Indiewire
By Darian Scalamoni
            Today, the first trailer for the highly-anticipated Blade Runner 2049 was released. The movie is a sequel to the 1982 cult classic film that was directed by Ridley Scott. Though there is essentially no reveal of the plot in the short clip, the trailer is gorgeous and atmospheric.

            Blade Runner 2049 will follow K (played by Ryan Gosling) chasing after a secret in a future world even more dystopian than the one that Harrison Ford’s lead character from the first film, Deckard occupied thirty years earlier. The first look gives us great imagery in terms of cinematography with foggy streets and silhouetted shots. It’s clear that director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) and legendary cinematographer, Roger Deakins are paying homage to Scott’s original.

            Check out the first teaser trailer for Blade Runner 2049 below! In addition to Gosling and Ford, the movie also stars Mackenzie Davis, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Barkhad Abdi and Robin Wright. Blade Runner 2049 opens on October 6th, 2017.

'Mr. Robot' creator Sam Esmail to develop 'Metropolis' miniseries

Image from Wikipedia
By Darian Scalamoni
            Sam Esmail recently has become one of the TV giants since he created the hit drama, Mr. Robot, now he’s bringing an iconic film to television. According to THR, Esmail will adapt 1927 sci-fi classic, Metropolis as a TV miniseries.

            Esmail will serve as an Executive Producer for the series and it won’t be launched for two to three years so he’ll have time to finish Mr. Robot which just wrapped its second season. The original movie was critically panned when it was first released but later was praised for being one of the first movies of its kind. The film had an epic scale and groundbreaking visual effects so now, it seems that Esmail will be able to do even more with the show than director Fritz Lang could accomplish. Universal Cable Productions will help produce the series and will even dedicated $10 million an episode.

            The small-screen adaptation will take place in a future society where wealthy industrialists rule the vast city from high-rise tower complexes, while a lower class of underground-dwelling workers toil constantly to operate the machines that provide its power. Risking everything they know, two lovers from opposite sides of the divide must find a way to bring down the whole system. Sounds to be very much of the same plot of the movie, so I’m looking forward to it.


            Esmail is currently in production on Mr. Robot Season 3 which stars Rami Malek and Christian Slater. The award-winning USA Network drama is set to return at some point in 2017. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

'Collateral Beauty' Review

Image from Screen Rant
By Darian Scalamoni

            About a year and a half ago there was an announcement that Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was set to helm a movie titled Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara and Jason Segel. With the director attached and amazing ensemble it immediately skyrocketed to the top of my most anticipated list for 2016. Soon after, Jackman, Mara and Segel left but were replaced by other top talents including Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren and there’s still plenty more passed that. The trailers have pitched this film as one that stars Smith as a man who has lost his daughter and he writes letters to Death, Love and Time only to discover human embodiments of the things are coming to answer his letters. Unfortunately, the trailer shows a completely different movie than you’re getting into. I personally don’t believe these are spoilers because it is the plot of the movie but if you’re worried and want to see the movie for yourself, leave now and come back to read this review after you see it.

            Now to get into the movie. Yes, Will Smith’s character of Howard does write these letters to the three elements of life but instead of people actually embodying these entities, they’re hired actors. Whit, Claire and Simon (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena respectively) play three co-workers and best friends of Howard, who just three years ago was a charming, successful head of an advertising company but since the death of his daughter, he’s been getting filled more and more with grief. He is no longer talking to his friends, barely eating and is letting the company slip. As Whit tries to get to his friend, he hires a private investigator to see if there’s anything Howard isn’t telling him and she discovers that Howard is writing the letters. This is when they hatch up a plan to hire actors to play the “parts” for Death, Time and Love. The idea is to make Howard seem unstable enough that he must give up control of the company to Whit.

            I walked out of this movie completely disappointed. The film is overly manipulative and though it has positive intentions, it sure isn’t conceived that way. The movie has many problems with it but before we get into that, let’s begin with the good. Despite a weak script, Will Smith gives one of his best performances as a man truly struggling with living after losing the most important aspect of his life. He encompasses how I would expect to see a father react and live with a loss that significant. Also, the other two standouts are Helen Mirren and Jacob Lattimore who play Death and Time, respectively. Mirren absolutely shines in her role and even provides a bit of humor as she takes her role of Death to be her “calling card” for her acting career. The young actor Lattimore, who is surrounded by Oscar-nominated talent throughout the film is given the best material to work with in the movie and he stands out because of it. With the rest of the all-star cast; Norton, Winslet, Pena, Keira Knightley and Naomie Harris, they completely fall flat. They’re absolutely wasted in the movie and could’ve been played by absolutely anyone and had the same effect.

            The plot and script try to anchor an emotional reaction from viewers to invoke crying and strong feelings in your heart but doesn’t do anything beyond that. The writing of this movie tries to be a portrait of grief and how to deal with life itself facing a tragedy as Howard did, but the movie doesn’t do a good job of being sincere or authentic whatsoever. What group of friends would ever try to push their friend who gave them their start out of the business that he started just three years after his daughter died? The movie beats you over the head with feelings and direct symbolism that it doesn’t make for a movie that you can enjoy but as if you’re living in a lecture of how life is supposed to be.

            The movie as a whole is very Hollywood-ish and campy. Most of the characters are flimsy portrayals of “normal people” played by some of the industry’s finest attempting to do their best with an awful script. The unethical, emotional blast in the face didn’t live up to the hype of the cast, premise or even its trailer that sold a different movie. I was sitting in the theater for much of the film trying to find reasons to care for any of the characters other than Howard even though that the end result that the director, David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) was attempting to achieve was just that. The movie is a complete misfire and other than a few good performances, there’s nothing good about the end product.

4.5/10

Friday, December 16, 2016

First red-band trailer for 'Snatched' reveals comedy team-up of Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn

Image from Hey U Guys
By Darian Scalamoni
            Amy Schumer has been in the spotlight of female driven comedies for the last year and there was a lot of intrigue surrounding her upcoming movie with Goldie Hawn to be directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies). Today, we received the first red-band trailer titled Snatched starring the comedic pairing and we have it here for you all to see.

            Snatched follows Schumer and Hawn heading to South America for a vacation after Schumer’s character is broken up with. In the midst of enjoying themselves, they’re captured by a gang and must escape. This is for sure a rated-R, raunchy action/comedy vehicle for the actresses and should do well for the female crowd the way that Bad Moms did. Unfortunately, I can’t get behind this upcoming film as much as that one. Besides the opening joke, I didn’t laugh much at this trailer. I loved Schumer in Trainwreck but other than that, I genuinely don’t see the appeal in her comedy. I’m not a big fan of her stand-up or her other movie roles so it’s gonna take a lot to get me to the theater to see this movie.

            Watch the trailer below for Snatched! The movie also stars Christopher Meloni, Ike Barinholtz, Oscar Jaenada, Randall Park and Wanda Sykes. Snatched opens on Mother’s Day weekend May 12th, 2017.

First trailer for 'Homeland' Season 6 teases the return of Quinn

Image from Google
By Darian Scalamoni
            It seems like forever ago when Homeland was an awards darling but it was only three years ago that the Showtime drama was winning Emmy’s and Golden Globes. The new trailer showcases a time of transition of a newly elected President and the CIA while dealing with a new terrorist threat.

            I can only comment based on what I’ve seen and what I know so I’d like to start by saying that I’ve never seen one episode of this show before but after seeing the trailer it does make me interested. I’m not a big fan of Claire Danes but Mandy Patinkin is an incredibly underrated actor in my opinion and I love that he has a starring role within this show. It’spossible that I get around to this series in the new year but with so much amazing television and this show already being in its sixth season, it’s harder to binge.

            Check out the trailer for Homeland’s newest season below! Season 6 starts on Showtime on Sunday, January 19th at 9 p.m. 

First trailer for 'Going in Style' gives a hilarious look at Zach Braff's remake to the caper comedy from 1979

Image from Collider
By Darian Scalamoni
            Zach Braff, known for being quite an original filmmaker with his last two directorial efforts (Garden State, Wish I Was Here) but now he’s getting behind the camera for a remake. The film he’s remaking is the ensemble comedy from 1979, Going in Style.

            The original movie centered around three aging friends who were originally played by George Burns, Lee Strasberg and Art Carney who decided to rob a bank in order to get a great final payout before kicking the bucket. Braff’s version though will star three Oscar-winning actors, Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. The plot is pretty straightforward as is the trailer but it got a lot of laughs out of me so I’m excited to see it.

            Check out the trailer below for Going in Style! The film stars Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Joey King, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Dillon, Peter Serafinowicz and John Ortiz. It’s set to open everywhere on April 7th, 2017.

Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara in talks to join Gus Van Sant's new film starring Joaquin Phoenix

Image from The Wrap
By Darian Scalamoni
            Back in November, we reported that Joaquin Phoenix would be reuniting with Gus Van Sant for the film, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and it seems that cast might be even more studded than we thought. According to Variety, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara are in talks to join the cast of the biopic.

            The movie will follow Phoenix as a quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan who turned to drawing as a form of therapy after he became paralyzed after a car accident at age 21. His drawing appeared in the Portland newspaper, the Willamette Week and his town reacted with protest due to his vulgar subject matter. His works later appeared in magazines like The New Yorker, Penthouse and Playboy. It’s unclear at this time who Hill and Mara would play at this time but Variety also reports that Amazon Studios is the frontrunner to land the distribution rights.


            Mara and Phoenix just wrapped filming Mary Magdalene in which they played the title character and Jesus respectively. Hill, who was just nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in War Dogs is prepping for his directorial debut Mid-90s. Also, he’s set to reunite with Superbad co-star Emma Stone in Cary Fukunaga’s Netflix series, Maniac.

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Review (Non-Spoiler)

Image from Disney
By Darian Scalamoni

            Ever since Disney purchased Lucasfilm, people had known that there would be incredible expectations for what they would do not only to continue the episodic adventures but also introducing this expanded universe and other stories through anthology films. The first one that they would make in what Disney CEO, Bob Iger called “experimental films” was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The movie would follow a band of rebels stealing the plans to the planet killer base, the Death Star. It was originally said by the director himself, Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) that it would be “like Saving Private Ryan but in the Star Wars universe”, and I would say that’s the best way to describe this film in its entirety.

            Rogue One is not really a sequel or a prequel but it can be interpreted either way if you've seen the other movies. This adventure is unlike any Star Wars movie you’ll ever see and it's evident after you leave the theater. There is truly a different feeling in your heart, more pride than anything else. The movie follows a band of Rebels who must steal the plans for the Death Star from the Imperial Army before the enormous, planet-destroying ship wreaks more havoc than it should be capable of. Rogue One is darker than any other Disney tentpole that’s ever been released but it truly is a war film, first and foremost so expect to see a lot of darker imagery than you’re used to seeing in a movie with this name and brand attached to it. Having said that, there is definitely some great humor in the film as well, mostly from one of the film’s standouts, a droid named K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk and one of my favorite characters ever in a Star Wars film, Chirrut played by Donnie Yen. The acting is great, Diego Luna does a comparable job as Cassian but Ben Mendelsohn and Felicity Jones are the fantastic in their roles as lead protagonist and antagonist in the film.

            The question will be asked, “Do I need to be a huge Star Wars fan to enjoy this movie?” And the answer is no. Will it help? Of course, it will. The film has some incredible nostalgic moments and appearances from central characters in the lore of the other movies but as a movie in general, it could be just as enjoyable from just the perspective of it being a war film in space. The cinematography is also something to marvel at. The movie is definitely an epic so you get these grand sweeping shots of landscapes as well as battle scenery and hundreds of people on screen at once. The core group of heroes is entirely new as is the central villain, Orson Krennic so you’ll be introduced to these characters for the first time just like the most hardcore Star Wars buffs.

            In terms of pacing, the movie is paced in an interesting way for the first hour. It jumps from slow to fast and you’re taken to multiple locations in a rapid fashion but stick with it. It’s not anywhere close to jarring as other blockbusters this year like Suicide Squad but the movie works on multiple levels and is fleshed out more later. It’s a character driven drama with an ensemble cast set in a galaxy far, far away. The narrative is superb and will make everyone appreciate this film as a whole when you walk out.

            There are a few negatives that I have with the movie but it could be spoiler-ish and nitpicky so I won’t be displaying those in this review, one thing I can comment on though is the score. It was unfortunate when it was announced that John Williams would not be doing the score but instead, it was Michael Giacchino. Though Giacchino is a very capable composer, he gets lost within this universe. Unlike other iconic scores from the episodic movies, the score within Rogue One often feels awkward and doesn’t always fit the tone of scenes within the movie. It’s very much forgettable compared to some of the most memorable compositions in the history of cinema in the other Star Wars movies.

            I would say based on what I’ve seen from blockbusters so far this year, it has to be up there as one of the best. Though it has a few problems in which I can’t give this movie a perfect score, it’s hard to argue how tremendous it is as a whole. It could be regarded as a top three Star Wars movie ever when all is said and done.

9.2/10

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First trailer for 'Despicable Me 3' has Gru battling a former 80s child star for the crown of supervillainy

Image from Los Angeles Times
By Darian Scalamoni
            Universal has had massive success with their Despicable Me movies from the original in 2010 to its lackluster sequel in 2013 and especially the spinoff film simply titled, Minions that made over a billion dollars worldwide without a plot. The newest film though, Despicable Me 3 got a new trailer that actually had me laughing quite a bit.

            Despicable Me 3 follows Gru facing off against a new villain in Balthazar Bratt voiced by the magnificent Trey Parker. Bratt is a former child star that is driven to supervillainy as a result of the abrupt cancellation of his TV series in the 80s when he hit puberty. I’ve never seen any of the films in this franchise but this one looks the most enticing to me that I’ve seen so I’m excited especially when you have talent like Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker on board.

            Check out the trailer below for Despicable Me 3! The movie will open everywhere on June 30th, 2017.

Margot Robbie to return as Harley Quinn for David Ayer in 'Gotham City Sirens'

Image from The Playlist
By Darian Scalamoni
            Suicide Squad was for sure, one of the biggest disappointments of this year, but one of the positives that came out of the movie was the performance of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. After critics raved about her performance, it seemed that Warner Bros. was destined to find another project to involve her in the DCEU beyond the Suicide Squad films and it seems they have done just that. According to Deadline, Robbie will reunite with the director of Suicide Squad, David Ayer for a film titled Gotham City Sirens.

            Gotham City Sirens will be an all-female DC villains film that will feature Harley Quinn alongside Poison Ivy and Catwoman to name a few. This is an intruiging idea and I’m hoping they do just as well with the casting for the other femme fatales as they’ve done already with Robbie. The movie will be adapted from the recent DC Comics’ run in 2009 that centered around the Batman villains. I love the news that this movie will be happening but keeping Ayer on as a director is worrisome as his poor writing and direction are major problems of mine with the villain ensemble film that was released this summer in Suicide Squad.


            Ayer is close to being done with production on his fantasy thriller titled Bright with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton for Netflix. As for Robbie, she’s set to co-star with Domhnall Gleeson in a currently untitled A.A. Milne Project that looks at the author of Winnie the Pooh and how he was inspired with creating the iconic character. She’s also set to appear in the thriller, Terminal alongside Simon Pegg and Mike Myers that will be seen early next year.

First trailer for 'Dunkirk' reveals Christopher Nolan's epic WWII drama

Image from Movies Plot
By Darian Scalamoni
            We have finally gotten our first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama, Dunkirk and after seeing it, it might be my most anticipated movie of all of 2017. The iconic director who’s helmed films like Inception, Memento and The Dark Knight trilogy is going out of his comfort zone to work within the genre of war films.

            Dunkirk follows the historical true event in which an evacuation of 330,000 Allied soldiers were rescued when being surrounded by German forces. The trailer is brilliant and its clear that the movie is going to be much more about the soldiers as a unit rather than individuals as no one actor is given a huge moment to take away from fellow characters. The interesting dynamic is that the movie is rated PG-13 and will depict war so I’m curious to see how Nolan will be able to handle this and still make it feel like an authentic battleground.

            Watch the magnificent trailer for Dunkirk below! The film stars Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy. Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney and Harry Styles. It opens everywhere on July 21st, 2017.