Saturday, July 30, 2011

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 39

NEW IN THEATERS


Attack the Block* / 88%
Cowboys & Aliens / 44%
Crazy, Stupid, Love / 73%
The Devil's Double* / 57%
The Future* / 87%
Good Neighbors* / 65%
The Guard* / 94%
The Smurfs / 19%

* = limited release

NEW IN STORES


Dylan Dog: Dead of Night / 3%
Heartbeats / 72%
Ironclad / 44%
Leon Morin, Priest CC / 92%
Life During Wartime CC / 68%
Source Code / 91%
Trust / 78%

CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

* * *

TRAILER ROUND-UP


In my breakdown of trailers, there are several different breeds that clearly emerge as prototypes. Perhaps my least favorite is the "plot summary" method wherein you receive a basic streamlined story-line in two minutes. Unfortunately, the trailer for "Dream House," a new scary thriller starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a married couple with two young daughters, adopts this approach. The spooky image of two girls at the end of the hallway will immediately conjure memories of Kubrick's "The Shining" in any film scholar's mind. That may not be a bad thing as it is widely regarded as a classic of the genre. "Dream House" comes to us from director Jim Sheridan ("In America" and "Brothers"), which is a very promising point. Using the auteur theory one can find struggling families at the core of these films. How will Sheridan's first attempt at a "scary movie" fair in regards to his other critically-acclaimed films? Find out on September 30th.


Dude, a deer gets kicked in the head during the trailer for "Detective Dee"! Hong Kong has long delivered some of the most outrageous action films. Filmmakers like Siu-Tung Ching and Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow have choreographed and filmed some of the most hilarious fight scenes and chase scenes. Their creativity has no limits and only adds to the argument that some of the best films have always come from the Far East. "Detective Dee" is being sold as "'Crouching Tiger' meets 'Sherlock Holmes,' only a lot more fun!" by NY Magazine. Um, where do I pre-order my ticket? Andy Lau ("Infernal Affairs" and "The House of Flying Daggers") stars in the title role, hired by an Empress to find out (and fight along the way) why some of her subjects are bursting into flames. Like the historical epic "Red Cliff," this one features obvious CGI-heavy establishing shots (a very distracting tendency for "epic" moments in films from all over the world these days). Thankfully there is still wonder to be found in them. Also, expect elaborately decorated interiors, another staple in Hong Kong films. At least we can safely assume there is some awesome action sequences strewn throughout. Can you find "Detective Dee" in theaters September 2nd? Probably only if you live in choice cities.


"The Thing" is a prequel to 1982's, "The Thing," which was a remake (of sorts) of the 1951 film, "The Thing From Another World." Hopefully that's not too confusing... The 1982 film (directed by horror legend John Carpenter) has since became a cult classic, even though "E.T." kicked its trash in the box office when they both hit theaters around the same time. The highlight of Carpenter's version were the incredible creature effects, done in a time before CGI. The result was some of the most horrifying visuals audiences had ever seen. Hats off to Rob Bottin and Stan Winston for their work in that film. Except for the most flawless computerized effects, practical effects have always had the edge on realism. The trailer for this prequel looks a lot like Carpenter's version (except for the reliance on digital imagery). Joel Edgerton (who was fabulous in "Animal Kingdom" and who we will surely be seeing a lot of in the coming years) even looks like Kurt Russell, who starred in the earlier entry. He may be a reason to check this out. On October 14th you should definitely see "The Thing," probably the '80s version.

It is prime time for some choice lassoing. Here's this week's awards for the Trailer Round-Up:


The Headscratcher: We've been hearing about this "Battleship" film for a while now. At first some of us it was a joke, making a game based on the tactical/luck board game by Milton Bradley. Some of us are still hoping it is a joke. Of course, there is not much of a narrative to the game to base this movie on. Really, it is just taking the name and brand. After seeing the trailer you will probably think to yourself, "This looks like the Michael Bay's 'Transformers,' but set in the ocean." No doubt it is modeled after that successful franchise. You may recall how hopeful I was for the latest installment in that series, "The Dark of the Moon." Well, it is easily my least favorite of the year. One bright light about this project is that is it directed by Peter Berg, who brought us one of the most refreshing action/comedies of the last decade, "The Rundown," and directed the film version of "Friday Night Lights" and episodes of the much-liked TV series. This trailer has brought a lot of reactions. People are loving the chance to poke some fun at the project. Here are some of my favorite Tweets about "Battleship" thus far: 
"I'm writing the sequel to BATTLESHIP. It's about a baby cousin who visits and then swallows half the pieces." - @scottEwainberg.
"Saw 'Battleship' trailer at 'Cowboys and Aliens' screening. If someone in the movie doesn't say 'You sunk my battleship!' I'm not going." - @LCJReviews 
In the very least, we can expect more witty commentary about this film before it submerges next spring.



Toss of the Week: From writer/director/actress Mirada July ("Me and You and Everyone We Know") comes "The Future." A couple in their 30s are going to adopt a stray cat (which we get strange close-ups of it's paws throughout the trailer) in 30 days. This causes them reevaluate their lives with some drastic changes and revelations. The quirk charms, the characters fascinate, and the ideas presented will lead you to examine your own life.

* * *

ENLISTED


In honor of the release of "Cowboys & Aliens" this weekend, Brian Warmoth over at IFC presents "The 10 Least Realistic Cowboy Movies of All-Time." I have only seen a few of these and consequently added the rest to my Netflix queue (however, "The White Buffalo" is not available. For those interested, the cowboys meet zombies horror/comedy "Undead or Alive" is currently available on Netflix Instant. However, as Warmoth himself said, "If you spend money to see one zombie cowboy experience in your lifetime, buy the 'Undead Nightmare' downloadable content for Rockstar Games' 'Red Dead Redemption.'" I too recommend that successful blend. Are there any ridiculous Westerns that come to your mind that aren't on this list? I thought of "The Burrowers" and "Shanghai Joe." The first: a strange horror film that really takes itself seriously, the second: an often offensive, sometimes hilarious mess (though worth seeing for Klaus Kinski as Scalper Joe).  

* * *

CAST AWAY


Are you excited for Disney's upcoming revival of "Lone Ranger"? Gore Verbenski, who directed the first three "Pirates" films and this year's quasi-Western "Rango," is teaming up with Mr. Depp yet again, who will play Tonto, the Lone Ranger's right hand man. Armie Hammer, who played both Winklevoss twins in "The Social Network," will be playing the masked hero himself. In a recent posting by The Hollywood Reporter, we learned that Helena Bonham Carter (most recently seen respiring her role as Bellatrix Lestrange in the final "Harry Potter" film) might join the project, playing "the madame of a brothel who deals with gentlemen and scoundrels." Barry Pepper (who I still refer to as "the sniper in 'Saving Private Ryan'") is also in talks to join the already promising cast to play a military officer. The film is reported to begin shooting later this year in New Mexico and Texas.

* * *

THE GOOD


You may recall the first production video I plugged for "The Hobbit" several weeks ago. Well, this month Peter Jackson has posted another two production videos on his Facebook page. Check them out to continue getting amped for next year's inevitable epic. Also, there has been a frequent serving of concept art and dressed actors, primarily for the dwarves (see above). Check out "The Hobbit" page for more.

* * *

AND THE WEIRD


According to CTV News, scientists have discovered the saddest movie ever made. What's more, they have identified key scene from that film. As the article states, "Researchers say the two-and-half-minute climax of the 1979 boxing flick 'The Champ' is the most reliable way to open the waterworks for even the most hardened, cynical viewer." Clearly the scientists have never seen "Dear Zachary" or they would have included that in their study and it undoubtedly would have won. Then again, what am I saying. This whole study seems ridiculous to me. Each film as watched by each viewer creates a unique experience, especially as feelings are concerned. Wanna try the challenge? Watch the mentioned clip from "The Champ." JoBlo shares their thoughts on the story.

 * * *

OR THE COOL


A couple of this year's superhero films ("Thor" and "Captain America") were made in part to prepare for next year's blockbuster, "The Avengers." JoBlo has pics and video (as seen on Yahoo) of that highly anticipated film. You can see the full trailer for "The Avengers" at the end of "Captain America: The First Avenger," which is currently showing in theaters everywhere.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

ALPHAS


"Alphas" is a new science-fiction TV series that began airing on the Syfy channel earlier this month. The story revolves around five superhumans who use their abilities for good. However, there are others gifted with similar powers who abuse them for criminal means. Our five heroes are led by Dr. Lee (played by the talented David Strathairn) to deal with these adversaries.

During last week's Comic-Con "Alphas" presented this real, showcasing the show's premise:



"Alphas" will air every Monday night on the Syfy channel for the first season's dozen episode order. The show is co-written by Zak Penn (who brought us the enjoyable faux-doc with Werner Herzog, "Incident at Loch Ness) and directed by Jack Bender (a very accomplished TV director who, among many among credits, was responsible for some of my favorite episodes of "Lost"). Tonight is Episode 3: "Anger Management."


If you missed the first episode, head over to hulu where you can currently watch the Pilot. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 38

NEW IN THEATERS

  • Another Earth* / 62%
  • Captain America: The First Avenger / 73%
  • Friends with Benefits / 70%
  • Life in a Day* / 96%
  • A Little Help* / 52%
  • The Myth of the American Sleepover* / 76%
  • Sarah's Key* / 67%


* = limited release

NEW IN STORES




  • Amer / 76%
  • Beauty and the Beast (1945) CC / 95%
  • Cracks / 41%
  • Limitless / 70%
  • The Music Room CC / 100%
  • Peep World / 20%
  • Race to Nowhere / 71%
  • The Reef / 77%
  • Small Town Murder Songs / 79%
  • Take Me Home Tonight / 28%


CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

* * *

TRAILER ROUND-UP




I always have an appetite for swashbuckling adventures, yet I still haven't caught the latest in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. Hmm... Anyways, from Peter Lord, producer of several beloved "Wallace & Gromit" films and the co-director of the brilliant "Chicken Run," comes "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." It is curious that Lord's IMDb credits show there is another entry in this apparent "The Pirates!" series, "In an Adventure with Scientists." That film is in post production, while the trailer you just saw is for a movie that is still filming? I am rightfully befuddled. Anyways, it looks like we can expect British accents delivering a trail-mix of comedic styles (deadpan, slapstick, and quirk) that we love in the stop-motion works of Peter Lord and Nick Park, this time given the "high seas" makeover. This ship is set to sail on March 30, 2012 (though I wonder when we'll receive documentation of Pirate Captain's dealings with those savants of science).




When I heard Martin Scorsese (known for gritty gangster flicks and biopics that don't hold back) was making a family film, I was expecting to hear the theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." You see, that is the tune my alarm clock emits to wake me up in the morning. Is this a dream come true or a living nightmare? Watch the trailer for "Hugo" and you tell me. My reaction falls somewhere in between. Not since the trailer for "Legend of the Guardians" (another family-friendly endeavor from a director who usually makes films not for kids) has a pop song been so unwelcome. At one point we even see our child protagonist get out of dodge just in time for the baddie chasing (a cop played by Sacha Baron Cohen) to run into a conveniently placed cake. The kid watches and laughs. Maybe kids will, but those of us who have been there, done that a dozen times before aren't going to. The mix of colorful visuals and cool steampunk ambience does make for interesting aesthetics. I am all for directors who experiment and try new things, but that doesn't always mean I am all for what actually comes of such actions. Since it is a Scorsese picture, I still want to see when it hits theaters November 23rd.




Mars looks a lot like Southern Utah in the anticipated trailer for "John Carter." I happen to know they filmed part of this in my hometown's neck of the woods (specifically Grand, Wayne, and Kane counties and Lake Powell). The iconic and unescapable beauty of that area has been the backdrop for many Westerns ("Once Upon A Time in the West," "Rio Conchos," and "Westward the Women,"  and an occasional sci-fi fantasy film ("Planet of the Apes," "Galaxy Quest," and "Spacehunter: Adventures of the Forbidden Zone"). This time around it is primarily used as the latter. Based on the popular "Barsoom" series penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of "Tarzan") wherein a Civil War vet by the name of John Carter is somehow transported to Mars where he must deal with the aliens native to that planet who have big problems of their own. Much like fellow Pixar superstar Brad Bird ("The Incredibles"), who is in the director's chair on a live-action feature for his first time with the latest "Mission Impossible" entry, Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo" and Wall-E") is trying his hand at live-action for a change. That said, there are massive amounts of digital animation going on in this big-budget adaptation that Disney has been trying to make into a film for 80 years now. Taylor Kitsch, who seems fairly young (too young?), will be playing the galactic traveller himself. There is so much to see in this trailer that you may need to watch it twice. The Michael Giacchino (who composed the Oscar-winning score for "Up," the music for "Lost, and possibly the single greatest classic piece in years, "Roar!" for "Cloverfield") score takes us on a thrill and then back to where it started. I see battles, aliens, romance, flying jumps, mystical lights, and spaceships... I am not sure what to make of it all, but I am left very interested and excited for March 9, 2012.



So, in last week's issue I said, "I'd say we still got quite a bit of time before a teaser or trailer" regarding "The Dark Knight Rises." Well, just days after I saw the teaser before my screening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." It also hit the internet in a big way when it debuted on "The Dark Knight Rises" facebook page. Over 15,000 users Liked it. As we are seeing done with "The Hobbit," they are pushing the marketing campaign through that mighty social network. So it seems my prediction proved quite inaccurate. That said, this trailer is pretty slim in terms of showing us anything new. Most of what we see is from the first two films. The image of the Gotham skyscrapers falling as we rise to the Batman icon above is far from realistic, but that may just be the means for the icon. Scott Mendelson, over on his blog, called the teaser "sloppy" and "lazy." It is not Toss of the Week material, but will surely still get the job done for Warner Brothers: get fans excited for next summer's blockbuster.




The Head-Scratcher: The only known entity attached to "Phase 7" is that it is from the Executive Producer of the sleeper-hit "Paranormal Activity" and its equally good sequel. The apocalypse seems to be a favorite topic for film, books, and video games lately. The trailer for "Phase 7" asks us what we would do to survive the apocalypse? Apparently that is what the film is about. We follow a young married couple and their neighbors living in Beunos Aires. The hard rock song throughout, mixed with the overacting (intentional?) makes the one amped up flick. The film is in select AMC theaters this month.




Toss of the Week: Besides having one of the coolest names this side of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (a fellow British film) "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" has the style and sensibilities to make it one to definitely look forward to. Based on the 1973 spy novel by John le Carre of the same name, this involves a mole in the Secret Intelligence Service. It seems likely to keep the characters involved guessing to the very end. The film features an ensemble cast of the finest UK actors that did not appear in the "Harry Potter" series (except Gary Oldman): including John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, and last year's Academy Award winner, Colin Firth. The musical piece accompanying the trailer build beautifully in tension and melody, I am still trying to find its name. (Update: My ever-helpful friendly cinephiles over at IMDb informed me that this music in the trailer is actually "Wolf Suite Part 1" by Danny Eflman from the recent remake of "The Wolfman." Considering the source it seems a very random piece for the likes of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," but it fits so marvelously well. Click here if you'd care to listen to the entire number.) The film looks like a classic Look for the mole on September 16th.

* * *

ENLISTED




The Hollywood Reporter has served up the "20 Best Taglines From Movies Over the Last 30 Years." 

 * * *

OR THE COOL




Tuesday marked the 50th Anniversary of in-flight movies! Wired has the story on how "By Love Possessed" became the first film shown on an airplane on July 19, 1961 during a flight from NY to LA. (Thanks to Roger Ebert for Tweeting this.)






Also thanks to Ebert's Twitter feed, I learned of fandor, an online film library specializing in independent films. Signing up lets you watch one film for free. I think I will be using my freebie on "Sleep Furiously," an acclaimed documentary from Wales, that will be available one day only on July 29th. Check out the trailer and the site itself here.

* * *


Updated 7.25.11

Saturday, July 16, 2011

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 - REVIEW

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Released: 11.19.2010

Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves


"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is a superb adaptation, though only a half of J.K. Rowlings' beloved finale to a series that changed a generation. The world and its characters have matured in a marvelous way. From the seasoned performances to the fantastic special effects and this imaginative chronicle that paves the journey, this may be the best in the series yet.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END


"These are dark times, there is no denying," Rufus Scrimgeour proclaims in an address to the Wizarding population at large. These are the first words we hear in the beginning of the end as spoken by the Minster of Magic himself in darkened hall of reporters. It is a twitchy bit of public speaking. Scrimgeour is terribly upset, yet upsettingly terrified in an brief, but engrossing performance from the great Bill Nighy (not the "Science Guy"). It was at this moment that it finally dawned on fans of the books and films (one or the other, or both) that the lengthy saga was truly nearing the end of its rope.


Though not quite yet...


The end of the end would have to wait some seven months later when "Part 2" hits theaters in a decision that I still feel has more to do with hand-rubbing producers than head-scratching artists. Warner Bros. and all involved saw it fit to split the final installment into two feature films. We will be seeing this move in other popular IPs as well: both "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" and "The Hobbit" will be given excruciating intermissions for Twihards and LOTR-fanboys alike. I for one belong to the latter camp. (Don't believe me? See my room at my folks' house.) On one hand, we are getting more content. On the other, we'll have to pay twice for what could have been one. Give us a 200-minute epic a la "Lawrence of Arabia." Really though, we are getting more bang for more buck. It is not one way or the other and so there is a fair amount of justice involved. Also, isn't it exciting to have something to look forward to?


SETTING THE STAGE


Besides how "Part 2" is destined to begin, "Part 1" is as somber as starts come. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are each shown mentally preparing for what they know must be the final battle. (Or are Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, who we've seen grow up on screen over the past decade, finally realizing the amazing ride of making these films is almost through? I am sure it is a little of both.) Long gone are the days of anticipating a return to Hogwarts that usually begin each film. Hermione's entrance is especially sorrowful as she "obliterates" her existence from her muggle parent's memory. The effect is seen as she is erased from pictures on the mantle and on the shelf (though I couldn't help wonder what the Grangers would think of all the blank photos). 

Among the early scenes lies one of my favorites in the entire series. Severus Snape arrives as the Malfloy Manor where He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and company have formed an "ill council of the round table" (well, rectangular). "Severus," he is greeted by Voldemort himself, "I was beginning to worry you had lost your way." Has he? Both sides are wondering that. Alan Rickman, who has so coolly played the cold Snape all these years, hides the emotions of his complicated character well. Between his long black hair and his long black robes we have only the subtleties of his face to study. There are many guests at the table, including a prisoner who is suspended in the air on her back. Ralph Fiennes, who has made a career out of playing deplorable villains (from a Nazi commander in "Schindler's List" to the God of the Underworld himself, Hades, in the under-appreciated mythic remake earlier this year, "Clash of the Titans"), is Lord Voldemort, who is feared by his victims and followers alike. Here they make plans for the capture of The Boy Who Lived. Explaining why he needs another's wand, he rises from his seat at the head of the table and walks along the side, behind those seated. I wonder if those Death Eaters were ever more uncomfortable... I was reminded of an equally effective scene in "The Untouchables" where Al Capone is the one walking behind his followers seated at a table. Both scenes conclude with a horrific display that show how brutal and how menacing these masters are.


WHAT FOLLOWS


"Inception" was not the only film this year to feature an elaborate heist, the likes of which we have never seen before. Our dear trio infiltrates the Ministry of Magic (again, under the effects of the Polyjuice Potion) at one point to retrieve a vital locket kept by the treacherous Umbridge (played so that we despise her, which was exactly what the director would have ordered, by Imelda Staunton who we first came to loathe in "Order of the Phoenix"). It is a thrilling sequence that involves novel mechanics invokes cliched reactions: sitting on the edge of your seat and nail biting. Another key sequence finds Harry and Hermoine in Godric Hollow. He is able to visit his parents graves for a quiet moment of reflection. The mood immediately changes when they come across Bathilda Bagshot. This was one of the most memorable and chilling parts from the book; David Yates and team nailed it.


In fact, despite an awkward dance scene in a tent between Harry and Hermione (awkward because it feels so out of place and so out of character), the plot barely misses a beat. In one of the greatest uses of exposition I have ever seen, we learn about the Deathly Hallows (the Elder Wand, the Resurecction Stone and the Invisibility Cloak) in a short animated film within the film (that would be a downright fun Top Ten to attempt someday: films within films). It is an exquisite show of shadows and silhouettes. The flickering glow of the backdrop recalls a campfire story, which this very well might have been for young witches and wizards. I want to see more from Ben Hibon, the man responsible for crafting the wonderful sequence. Wouldn't it be great if he gave the other tales from Beedle the Bard a similar treatment?


I have already mentioned some of the great cast that can be found here. The adults and teenagers are all excellent! It is almost like a British equivalent of a Bollywood production in the sheer amount of localized talent. Much is especially asked of star Daniel Radcliffe in an early sequence wherein five others drink some Harry-flavored Polyjuice Potion (which we first saw put to extraordinary use in "The Chamber of Secrets"). Hermione and others take on his appearance to hilarious results.


COMPLIMENTS TO THE HOUSE


I saw "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" at Stadium 8 in my hometown of St. George, Utah. The final sequence of the film shows Voldemort, having successfully disturbed the tomb of Dumbledore and retrieved the Elder Wand (yes, one of the Deathly Hallows). To test the all-powerful wizard weapon he casts a spell into the air- BOOM! The house lights all snapped on! We all caught our breath. It was as if the Dark Lord's spell had penetrated the silver screen and struck the movie house (kind of an unnerving notion to let occupy your mind). For all we know, it did. "Part 1" ends there, exactly there. This really should not affect my review; this touch had nothing to do with the filmmakers. It was part of my experience with the film though and I thought it worth mentioning. Furthermore, it brings up interesting possibilities for similar effects. I asked others who saw the film in different theaters about it and they had no such thing occur. Having the theater operators meddle with your film-watching experience may seem like one of the highest offenses in filmdom, but trust me, this worked exceptionally well. I wish I had questioned some of the attendants about it at the time to learn more. In any case, my sorting hat off to whoever was responsible.


UNTIL THE END OF THE END

The "dark times" that Scrimgeour mentioned as the film begins are well underway. Characters we have come to admire, respect, or otherwise love are taken from Harry (and from us really). Our feelings are deeply invested and occasionally circuited. If "Part 2" can match the fine work that is "Part 1," rivaling in majestic set pieces, injecting adrenalin and brewing emotion all along the way, then I'll officially cease critiquing the split. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" just might be my favorite of the series and is one of the better products in 2010, which I still declare as a great year for films.



 ★★★★½ 



CONTENT: several violent action sequences, disturbing and frightening moments, a scene of brief sensuality and mild nudity


Updated on 7.25.11

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 37

NEW IN THEATERS


  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II / 95%
  • Life, Above All * / 90%
  • Salvation Boulevard* / 10%
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan*
  • Tabloid* / 88%
  • The Tree* / 71%
  • Winnie the Pooh / 80%
* = Limited Release

NEW IN STORES


  • Arthur / 27%
  • Insidious / 67%
  • The Lincoln Lawyer / 83%
  • Rango / 88%
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives / 89%
% from Rotten Tomatoes

* * *

TRAILER ROUND-UP


I actually enjoyed this trailer for "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." It made me want to revisit the 2009 film it follows, which I only somewhat enjoyed. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, who are great together as the Holmes himself and the one, the only Doc Watson, reprise their roles as they face Professor Moriarity in a battle of brains and braun. Director Guy Ritchie returns with all his slo-mo glory. If all you wanted was Christmas was more of what you saw last time, you'll be getting an ealy present on December 16th. (On a related note, I have been hearing wonderful things about the recent BBC revision of this infamous detective. Maybe that is what I should be checking out instead?)


Ayrton Senna is an F1 racing legend. I just learned that today, which is okay, because that is what is so great about documentaries: they so often open up a whole new world for us. This is the story of "Senna," showing the man's life "on the track and off." I look forward to learning much more about him when I see the film. This doc races into select theaters on August 12th.


It is simply not right that I have yet to see a John Sayles film, a man who has been paving the road for independent filmmakers in America over the past 30 years.  I'll correct that error soon. Any Sayles fans have a recommendation as to where I should begin? The writer/director''s latest film, "Amigo," takes place during the turn of the century in the American-occupied Philippines. The situation is especially tense in one village wherein Rafeal (played by Joel Torre) is mayor. The great Chris Cooper plays Col. Hardacre of the U.S. Army, who lives up to his name and confronts and enlists Rafael to help find guerilla Filipinos. There is a lot of praise for this film already, which can be seen in certain cities come August 19th.


"Magic Trip: Ken Kensey's Search for a Kool Place" comes from the Oscar-winning director brought us "Taxi to the Dark Side," Alex Gibney. Along with co-director Alison Ellwood, comes a groovy film documenting the birth of the '60s. Kensey, the renowned author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," souped up a bus and took a trip. His passengers, the Merry Band of Pranksters, and their cargo, LSD, took many more trips. This ain't "The Magic School Bus" we used to watch in grade school; it's more like the psychedelic voyage we are taken on by Dr. Robert (as played by Bono) in Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe." This film is currently available On Demand and hits theaters on August 5th.


I have been told that if you try to make a film for everyone, you end up making a film for no one. Actor/writer/director Alex Kendrick has a specific audience in mind when he makes his films. Being an associate pastor for the Sherwood Baptist Church, his films are often for his congregation and other Christians around the world. I have seen two of Kendrick's previous film, "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof," and while the filmmaking and acting might not be up to snuff with what Hollywood constantly delivers, there is a lot of heart to be found in these stories, which Hollywood is lacking more and more. These are faith-promoting films (which may just be a pretty way to say propaganda when it is a specific creed) are a welcome diversion to the constant onslaught of some mind-numbing rehashes you'll find at the local theater. Kendrick and company's latest film is "Courageous," the story of four male police officer who are also trying to be good fathers. Even if you're not the church-going type, there is bound to be some life lessons all of us would be wise to sup from herein. This film will likely receive a very limited released on September 30th, but you can surely find it sometime next year on DVD, Blu-ray, and/or digital formats.


You never know what to expect from director Steven Soderbergh. He is a man who has dabbled in the mainstream, independent, and experimental. He seems to be going big again for "Contagion" (just look at the star-studded list of cast), a thriller about an airborne virus that can rob a human's life in mere days. Matt Damon is a powerhouse of an actor! Simply put, this trailer is intense and appears to represent a great film that will be at a theater near you Septemeber 9th.

Time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards:


The Head-Scratcher: A cop (Terrence Howard) gets called to talk down a potential jumper (Charlie Hunnam) on "The Ledge" of a tall building. He leans out the window and begins to question the man. The plot immediately thickens. (Well, at least in the trailer.) The story involves a very awkward affair of the man on the ledge and a evangelical's wife (Liv Tyler). The religious zealot of a husband (Patrick Wilson) decides to take matters into his own hands. It gets pretty weird. Some of my favorite films happen to include false prophet characters who take their beliefs to unhealthy and seemingly unGodly extremes: "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," "There Will Be Blood," and "Night of the Hunter." Will "The Ledge" reach such levels of complex character development and religious commentary or will it lose itself in the jump to the thriller genre? The film is currently playing in limited release.


Toss of the Week: Wanna talk about off the radar? Wanna talk about "War Horse"? I do! This new film by Steven Spielberg (one of the few directors who has long been a household name) took me by complete surprise. I did not even know this film was existed in any way, shape, or form, yet alone that it will be out this year. Might this be a return to form for Mr. Spielberg who has arguably not delivered overall greatness since 2005 ("Munich") or before? "War Horse" is set in Europe during the First World War and follows the journey of a singular horse to show us many-a-clime and many-a-folk. The wide scenic shots are exquisite. The brief acting we see seems heartfelt (especially the brief monologue from the older gentleman at the start). The film is based on the children's book and theatrical play of the same name. (Wow, I'd like to see a play about a horse!) Will "War Horse" find a place on the shelf of great horse films along the likes of "The Black Stallion" and "Smoky"? Will it find a place on the shelf of great Spielberg films along the like of "Schindler's List," "E.T.," "Jaws," Raiders of the Lost Ark," Saving Private Ryan," "Empire of the Sun," "Minority Report," "Jurassic Park," and "Catch Me If You Can" (gosh, he has one of the best portfolios imaginable...)? If this trailer is any indication, I am hopeful. Said shelves might be adjusted on December 28th.

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ENLISTED


Report card time can be stress-inducing. Now that we are half-way through the year, we are seeing some for this year's movies thus far. The Hollywood Report has released "Movie Report Card: 10 Biggest Flops of 2011 (So Far)." These are films that did not make back their budget at the box office. If I am not mistaken most of these were critical flops as well, except for #10, "The Beaver." Their #1, which I don't believe anyone I know has seen, is "one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history."

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CAST AWAY


Nick Frost, who we loved if we saw "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz," "Paul," or the recent "Attack the Block" (usually seen beside Simon Pegg) has been cast as the seventh dwarf in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Cinema Blend also lists all seven if you haven't heard.

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THE BAD


This internets wept yesterday when Deadline announced Netflix would undergo a price increase. My subscription (and millions of others') of Instant streaming plus 1 DVD checkout will go from its current $9.99 to $15.98 (for each additional DVD, add a few bucks to that price), which adds $70 to each of our yearly expenditures. Unless you are quick at your DVD exchange and fit in more than 8 turnovers a month (which might be barely possible...), you're better off canceling the DVD checkout option if you want your money's worth. Luckily, just an Instant streaming subscription will remain $7.99, which is still one of the greatest deals on the planet. The price change goes into affect immediately for any new customers and will begin on Sept. 1 for existing customers. Netflix users, expect a message from the service sometime soon informing you of the bad news.


In a recent issue I shared my thoughts on lesser American remakes of greater foreign films. Sure, sometimes they can be an improvement, but it is the idea in general that I am not a fan of: "This film was brilliant! Let's share it with Western audiences who don't like to read subtitles." Now, hopefully this is not the only reason remakes happen, but I would like to know why else. We should subject ourselves to foreign films. Do not be ignorant to the art of the world. Read subtitles and expand your film-going experiences. Remakes can be fascinating re-imaginings and remember that sometimes other countries try their hand at American movies. Last time it was Chris Columbus leading a "Trollhunter" remake. What is it this time? Spike Lee, who is a deservedly renowned director, remaking Park Chan-wook's "Oldboy." Chan-wook's Korean thriller is a tour de force and blew the mind of film geeks across the globe. Thus, many of us are lamenting this news. Still, like I said last time, "each film [should and] shall get judged on its own merits." If anything, this might lead more people to check out the original. JoBlo shares their thoughts on the news.

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AND THE WEIRD


Cinema Blend has the scoop on the recent hot topic of Michael Bay recycling footage from "The Island" for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." The article includes a video clip to prove it. Is this a big deal? Well, now it is certain that he did not shoot ALL of it in 3D, which was an additional selling point to the already uber-popular franchise. Interesting enough, that freeway scene was probably my favorite moment of the event. For the record, I feel "The Island" is a MUCH better film than this recent "Transformers" drivel.


Studios Paramount and Marvel gave other countries a choice as to what they could call their latest superhero action flick: "Captain America: The First Avenger" or just "The First Avenger." Only three (Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine) chose to shed the film of our great nation's name. For more, check out The Hollywood Reporter.

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OR THE COOL


Warner Bros. has released a teaser poster for what is probably the most eagerly anticipated film in the world right now, "The Dark Knight Rises." Gotham City crumbles in the infamous shape of the Batman icon. It is a very fitting image from Christopher Nolan and team who blew my mind with city-bending in last year's "Inception." Fanboys can only look at this image so long before they start getting hungry for more. With a July 20th, 2012 release date (over a year from now), I'd say we still got quite a bit of time before a teaser or trailer.


"The Thing" (2011) which is the prequel to "The Thing" (1982) has a poster. Here is the official Facebook page.

(I may have to add a new category to "The Film Tome Report": The Poster Round-Up. What do you think?)

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