Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. The Sea of Trees is the latest from Gus Van Sant, a filmmaker with a very eclectic track record that proves he's not afraid to put himself out there and experiment. His movies may not always hit their mark but the passion and unique creative voice is always there. Despite early negative buzz at the festival, The Sea of Trees is far from the disaster Cannes audiences have made it out to be. The film is a bit long and flawed in some areas but extremely watchable. Cannes always needs a high-profile whipping boy and with its lush pedigree, this year Van Sant's The Sea of Trees fits the bill but in reality the opposite is true. This film is Gus Van Sant's best since Milk.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve is quickly becoming a crucial voice in cinema, crafting human stories of immense power and durability. His one-two-three punch of Incendies, Prisoners and Enemy has been enough to get him noticed in film-savvy circles, but his latest film Sicario may be his best work to date. It's a bleak drug-trade thriller on the surface but deep down it's really a dense character study with comments on the violence in this modern world. It's in the same ballpark as other modern commentaries like Traffic and Zero Dark Thirty but with its own unique flavor.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Most films depicting old age tell their stories slowly and move in a darker and depressing direction. While this isn't always a bad thing, director Paolo Sorrentino's new film Youth takes a more light-hearted approach to aging and it's a welcome departure. The Italian filmmaker recently won the Best Foreign Language Oscar for The Great Beauty and all the fun and whimsy of that previous endeavor is on full display here as well. Youth is also Sorrentino's second English-language film after the disastrous This Must Be the Place, a huge misfire that has paved the way for this return to form.
For a film about avenues to a better future, Tomorrowland is sure working off a lot of yesterday's ideas. These are big ideas, to be sure, and they're ideas the film's director, Brad Bird, can easily back up with some incredibly big effects. None of that, however, makes up for the banal slate of messages and themes, a hokey sense of humor, and a convoluted narrative that seems to hang its hat on the word "mystery." Bird's co-writer on the screenplay may have had a little something to do with that last bit. Tomorrowland, is a classic case of a project looking really good on paper that fumbles its way to messy execution.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. The Pixar brand has lately been tarnished with unnecessary sequels and sub-par original fare making fans wonder if the magic has run out of the powerhouse. After all, this is the company that created classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E so after witnessing their recent output in the last few years, a cause for concern would make sense. The good news is the drought is over and Pixar has come roaring back with their latest Inside Out, which premiered in Cannes. It's an adventure built inside the mind of an eleven-year-old girl with her emotions as main characters. It's fast, funny and deeply touching in a way that will entertain kids and sucker punch adults.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Director Todd Haynes is best known for making the 2002 theatrical feature Far from Heaven and the HBO miniseries "Mildred Pierce", two works that probed deep into human emotion and hidden desires. His latest is the equally effective Carol, an unofficial companion piece that focuses on forbidden love in the 1950's and delivers top-notch performances from its two female leads. This should come as no surprise since Haynes is used to getting great performances from his actresses but this might be the first time the two ladies in question are so strong that they command the entire movie.
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Two recurring themes in Woody Allen's filmography are murder and dangerous love affairs. His latest is Irrational Man and it continues this trend with mixed results. But mostly it will leave you with thoughts of revisiting Allen's better efforts like Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point and Cassandra's Dream. His latest film (which just premiered at Cannes) takes place in a concentrated college town where everyone seems to know each other and privacy is nonexistent. Insecure philosophy professor Abe Lucas (played by Joaquin Phoenix) has just been hired at the fictional Braylin College and it's treated like an atom bomb of gossip by the faculty and student body.
The Barden Bellas are back, and they're at it again. By "it," I'm referring to performing the most popular musical hits in the world acappella style, something the Bellas know quite a bit about. I'm also referring to the comedy found in Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to 2012's surprise hit, which chooses to cover just about every joke made in that previous film. Overlong, oddly paced, and sometimes downright ugly, it's the latest example of Hollywood's attempt to catch lightning twice in a bottle. As with so many comedy failures in the past, Pitch Perfect 2 uses the same techniques to catch the same lightning. They even use the same bottle.
What a lovely day, indeed. It's been 30 years since we ventured out into the Wasteland with "Mad" Max Rockatansky, 34 if you're not counting the time he went Beyond Thunderdome. Who could blame you? With 30 years worth of hope and nearly 20 years of promise from series creator George Miller, a new adventure in Mad Max's dusty, brutal world had better deliver the goods. That adventure is now here for our sensory feasting. Mad Max: Fury Road delivers on your every, post-apocalyptic wish and with an endless supply of visual insanity. What more could you possibly hope for in Miller's vision for the world after the fall?
Meanwhile, back in the Marvel cinematic universe, it's business as usual. Iron Man soars through the air blasting tanks and terrorists with his repulser beams. Thor, immaculate hair flowing, tosses his hammer around controlling the lightning. Hulk, you know, smashes. Even Hawkeye, with his bow and arrows, flings his…arrows with his…bow. Yes, it's everything you've come to expect and anticipate when the Avengers get back together, and Avengers: Age of Ultron has familiarity in abundance. That's good and bad when you get down to it, and even with the bloom off the rose, Marvel sure knows how to entertain with the best.
It really will be a terrifying end to the world it when artificially intelligent machines choose to rise up and take us over. Until that day, though, we'll have to make due with films like Ex Machina to keep us up late at night staring at our computer while wondering, "Is it watching me back?" Alex Garland, screenwriter of some of the best modern sci-fi has to offer, makes his directorial debut with this terrifying, futuristic thriller that puts the fear of A.I. into you in ways you never even imagined. Intelligent, sleek, and with a small, thermal charge of a cast, Ex Machina is a can't-miss, future classic work of science fiction.
As far as the English dictionary goes, all the synonyms we have for the word "brutal" have a difficult time doing justice to the level of violence on display in New Zealand's The Dead Lands. From the visceral and energetic opening scene, the tribal actioner proves its worth in blood spilt and limbs lopped off. It's a virtual candy store for martial arts fanatics and hand-to-hand junkies, but this Maori tale of honor and vengeance slowly wears down under the weight of all that visual carnage. The level of brutality holds up in The Dead Lands. The story, though itself drenched with grand ideas of legends, Gods, and monsters, barely clicks.
It’s been 14 years since The Fast and the Furious was released, and the franchise that followed has taken more crazy, left turns than the adrenaline-craving gear heads in its character roster. Good, bad, and even tragic changes have brought the series to this finish line. Furious 7 continues the insane and wholly entertaining level of action these films have taken on for the last couple of entries, and while the excitement level is clearly on par, it’s in the tribute to its characters where Furious 7 takes that step above and beyond.
The first thing we see, the first thing we hear, in Get Hard, the new comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, is Ferrell himself crying uncontrollably into the camera, more screams coming from him than actual tears. It’s a good, and early, indication of where the comedy in Get Hard lies. The comedic co-leads combine their greatest hits for the film, Hart’s size and stature coming up a time or two in humorous conversation and Ferrell, well, being Will Ferrell. The schtick may be wearing thin, but the two certainly know how to get the laugh-track going. It may never rise to the heights of Ferrell’s better, earlier efforts, and Hart has definitely accomplished more with less. Though the film never finds its way to full-blown belly laughs, Get Hard definitely knows how to make an audience keep chuckling consistently. More below!