There are prison movies, and then there are prison movies. David Mackenzie's Starred Up is a harrowing, violent, bold new take on the "prison movie" that is worth your time to take a look at, playing in theaters now and also available on VOD. The film also introduces the astonishing Jack O'Connell (now well-known thanks to Yann Demange's '71 and 300: Rise of an Empire, plus he stars in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken), who stars as the lead character Eric alongside Ben Mendelsohn, another badass we've already seen in the likes of Animal Kingdom, Killing Them Softly, The Dark Knight Rises and The Place Beyond the Pines. Together they take on an entire prison in Starred Up, and it's a hell of a ride. It's our next Monthly Must See film.
There is a film festival, nestled in the mountains of Switzerland on the corner of Lake Maggiore near the Italian border, that boasts one of the best venues to watch films in the entire world. It's called the Locarno Film Festival, or Festival del film Locarno, now in its 67th year (only Venice, Cannes, Moscow have been around longer). The Piazza Grande is its famous venue, a plaza in the middle of town that is converted into a 8,000 seat open-air cinema every night, showing old and new films every evening during the week and a half the festival takes place in August. Having attended festivals like Cannes, Telluride and Sundance for years, I decided to make my first trip to Locarno this year, and it's truly as unforgettable as described.
Just yesterday, Warner Bros. blinked in their face-off with Marvel that would have seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice going head-to-head with Captain America 3 on May 6th, 2016. But neither studio would have won in that scenario, so Warner Bros. made the smart decision to move the film to March 25th, 2016. Either the studio aims to start summer early, or they see what's becoming more and more obvious: blockbusters don't need to open during the summer anymore. But along with this date shift, the studio also announced a slew of new release dates for DC Comics films through 2020, adding to Marvel's future slate that runs through 2019. But is this truly exciting stuff, or just overkill? More below!
Inspired by a tweet asking "if you could recommend one obscure film you think more people should watch", we're launching a new monthly column today. The tentative title is "Monthly Must See" (I didn't want to use "homework" anywhere in this but that's kind of the idea behind it) and every month I want to highlight one "obscure" or underseen film that I want everyone to take a moment to see. In fact, we'll give you one entire month to watch the film, and we'll choose a film that is readily available in theaters or VOD/DVD/BR already. Up first it's The Lunchbox, directed by Ritesh Batra, starring Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur.
"There's a Comic-Con in all of us," my driver said as we headed toward the airport in San Diego on Sunday afternoon. It's true. As I head home from my ninth year returning to the Comic-Con International in San Diego, I have been reflecting on the experience that is this ambitious comic book convention turned geek madhouse. ~160K people descend upon San Diego every July to spend five days waiting in lines, squished together, tripping over each other, in hopes of getting their hands on some exclusive toy or product or look at a trailer or their favorite movie star. From the outside looking in, it seems crazy. Who would do this? Why do people subject themselves to this madness every year? Because we are passionate about what we love.
"This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it." This past weekend, at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York City, I experienced the spectacular - Stanley Kubrick's seminal sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey projected in 70mm. The film first hit theaters in 1968, but is touring again as a 70mm restored version, which first hit in 2001/2002. The theater was sold out, every seat filled, the audience awe-struck in total silence for most of the entire movie. Words cannot really describe this kind of cinematic event, as it is truly an experience, one that will "dominate and overwhelm the viewer", as Ebert wrote in one of his posts on seeing 2001 in 70mm. It is that enveloping, but that's what makes it awesome.
As a die-hard movie lover, I live for the kind of opening weekends where the only movies hitting theaters are high quality, worth-seeing works of art. In all truth, it's very rare we get a weekend that can be unanimously labeled as one of the best opening weekends of the year with nothing but excellent movies opening. In 2014, this is it, this is that weekend. Where you must find a way—find the money, find the time—to make it to your local cinema to see one of, if not all of, this weekend's new releases. Two of the best films of 2014 open today in America: Richard Linklater's Boyhood and Matt Reeves' Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And I really, truly mean it when I say they're two of the best of the year - both are innovative, masterful movies.
This year has been flying by, and it's hard to believe that it's already July. We've still got six more months of great movies on the way, including the latter half of summer and the entirety of awards season releases, but that doesn't mean we haven't seem some truly spectacular films hit the big screen so far. Therefore, it seems like a wholly appropriate time to countdown my 10 Favorite Films of 2014 So Far. It's hard to say whether or not any of these films will make my final list at the end of the year (but I feel good about a few of them), but these are definitely the ones I've enjoyed the most at this mid-point of the year 2014. See below!
"You're Birdman... Let's go back and show them what we're capable of." Last May, I got a call from Fox Searchlight inviting me to come down to the St. James Theatre on Broadway to visit the set of the new Alejandro González Iñárritu film. Setup like an actual play, complete with an audience and a set on the stage, I watched a few takes of a scene being filmed inside the famous Broadway theatre on 44th St. in New York City. Now over a year later the first teaser trailer for Birdman, the new Iñárritu film, has debuted and it looks incredible. Way better than even I was expecting, and I already have very high hopes for this film. But the set visit was a very fun experience, and the best part about it was watching the cameraman at work.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Tim Burton's Batman. Let's take a look back all the way to the summer of 1989 when the superhero genre saw a resurgence and the Dark Knight was reborn again for a new generation of moviegoers. Batman came out on June 23rd, 1989 - a month after I was born. As such, Burton's Batman was my cinematic introduction to the character. His take on Batman is special to me mostly because of his approach to the character. Michael Keaton doesn't look like a typical superhero, he looks like an average guy. The great appeal of Burton's take on the character is that anyone can be Batman.
Here they are. Meet the directors of the next three Star Wars movies, after J.J. Abrams finishes up Star Wars: Episode VII. At first it was impossible to believe that they were even making another three Star Wars movies, continuing the original trilogy. Then it was even crazier to hear Lucasfilm is planning stand-alone movies in the Star Wars universe to bring us one every year. That will be demanding, and no one director would be able to accomplish that alone. But it gets even wilder when we learn it's these three filmmakers who have landed the coveted, impossible-to-get job of directing new Star Wars movies. Dream come true? Yes. So who are they? Why did they choose them? Meet Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson.
Two weeks have come and gone. The 67th Cannes Film Festival has wrapped up, the awards have been handed out, hundreds (of thousands) of reviews have been written, interviews conducted, parties held, deals closed, cinema experienced, films sold, arguments had. We lost one of the greatest voices in film last year, Roger Ebert, but his presence is still felt everywhere. Ebert, a Cannes regular, was honored with a tribute screening of the doc Life Itself this year. But I am thankful he also joined me at my side through his book, as I navigated the deluge of cinema. "Will you be back next year?" "Everybody will always be back next year."
What are the best films of the festival? Which ones should you be taking an interest in? What should you see? After 12 days at the 67th Cannes Film Festival, after 25 films, it's time to present my 2014 list of my Top 5 Favorite Films. Every year I go back to Cannes, it's genuinely exciting to find out what there is to discover, to wake up every day knowing you may see something breathtaking, or terrible, or hilarious, or moving, or something that will change us forever. This year I was introduced to a few new filmmakers, saw the latest film from many old ones, and caught a glimpse of the future of cinema. Now it's time to introduce everyone else to Xavier Dolan, Ruben Ostlund and the Dardenne Brothers. Let's get right into this list now.
"I could watch you for a lifetime, you're my favorite movie, a thousand endings, you mean everything to me." Here we are at the end again, and while I'm starting to get sad that another Cannes Film Festival is over, I can't help but smile looking back on how wonderful it has been. While I tend to often complain about some of the other critics and their incessant scrutiny or odd moviegoing choices, it was a late night chat with Sasha Stone of Awards Daily and the subsequent blog post she wrote before leaving that made me realize - screw all that. We are truly the lucky ones, sitting here on the Mediterranean, watching the best that cinema has to offer for 12 days straight. Living the life. This is amazing, and I'm so grateful to be here, enjoying this.