Thursday, July 27, 2017

Horrifying second trailer for 'It' is finally here

Thanks to an excellent marketing campaign from Warner Bros., It has slowly but surely become one of the most anticipated event movies of the year. The first trailer got close to 200 million views in its first 24 hours, making it one of the most-watched trailers of all time. While 2017's other Stephen King adaptation (The Dark Tower) seems dead on arrival, there's real potential for It to turn into a breakout smash hit. Which is all rather amusing when you consider that most fans had viewed this film with a skeptical eye since the start, especially when Warner Bros./New Line and director Cary Fukunaga parted ways over creative differences. Amazingly, with director Andres Muschietti behind the camera, this first chapter of King's opus seems set to capture the tone of the book, while also updating the story for the modern audience that turned Netflix's Stranger Things into a massive success. After riding off the momentum of that spooky first trailer for months, WB has returned with a new trailer that manages to up the scare factor and deliver some truly horrifying moments. Check it out below!

That first teaser was almost unreasonably perfect, and it was always going to be a tall task for the marketing team to top that initial look. In fact, part of me thinks that they shouldn't have even tried. But this second trailer certainly does a good job of selling the sheer terror of this film, skipping the slow burn creepiness and jumping straight to the genuinely frightening moments. It starts with a lot of the stuff that we've seen already, but it quickly builds up a head of steam, using the shrieking sound of Georgie screaming "You'll float too!" to underscore some terrifying scenes. We also get a better look at Bill Skarsgard's Pennywise in this trailer, and he sure does look absurdly scary. I started the epic novel back in April after the debut of the first trailer, and while I wasn't able to finish King's 1,000+ page epic, I'm tempted to go back and knock that thing out. It looks like the kind of grand-scale horror that Hollywood has all but abandoned, and I hope that Muschietti has hit a home run here. Judging by the buzz, we're in for something special.

It hits theaters on September 8. Could we see the first true horror blockbuster of the modern era?

Image: WB/IMDB

Violent, darkly funny trailer debuts for George Clooney's 'Suburbicon'

George Clooney is one of the biggest stars on the planet, but he has a rather spotty track record as a director. Yes, Good Night, and Good Luck received multiple Oscar nominations back in 2005 as Clooney's filmmaking breakout, but he hasn't had a bona fide hit in the decade since. The Ides of March received okay reviews, but Leatherheads and The Monuments Men were both critical punching bags and box office letdowns. The latter was widely viewed as a heavy Oscar favorite going into the 2013 season, but when it was pushed back to February 2014, we all knew that something was up. But Clooney has an opportunity to change his luck this fall with Suburbicon, a Coen Brothers-scripted crime comedy that stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac. With distribution from Paramount and a prime October release date, this looks like a true awards contender- and judging by its scheduled appearances at both the Venice Film Festival and TIFF, Clooney and the studio are high on its prospects. Earlier this morning, the first trailer for the film was released- watch it below!

Based on the logline and description for Suburbicon, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Was this going to be some kind of dramatic suburban satire like American Beauty? A deconstruction of 1950s values and small town idealism? I read an interview with Clooney (via Yahoo Movies) yesterday that gave me a slightly better idea, but this trailer sells a film that is more insane and more delightfully wacky than my wildest hopes and dreams. Seriously, this movie looks incredible. It seems to contain some of the elements that I mentioned above, but they appear to be housed within a crime comedy that Clooney described as "angry" in the aforementioned interview. A script by the Coen Brothers without them behind the camera is usually no indication of quality (they wrote Unbroken, after all), but in this brief look, you can really feel their fingerprints all over this project. This thing just looks absolutely bonkers, in a way that I didn't really anticipate. I knew it would be a noir and I knew it would be breaking down American suburbia, but I wasn't prepared for something so subtly hilarious and shockingly violent. The rap track in the second half of the trailer gives the whole thing a jazzy sense of unpredictable energy, and it seems like Damon, Moore, and Isaac all get a chance to shine. This movie looks like a knockout, and if it lives up to the hype, we could be in for one of the year's best.

Suburbicon opens on October 27.

 Image: IMDB/Paramount

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

'Bond 25' set for release in November 2019; Daniel Craig reportedly will return

James Bond last graced the silver screen in 2015 with Spectre, the second spy adventure from Sam Mendes that received mixed reviews on its way to $880.6 million worldwide. In the 1.5 years since that film's release, word has been relatively quiet on the Bond front. During Spectre's press tour, Craig frequently complained about his role as the character, making such negative comments that many thought that the chances of his return were close to none. Mendes also separated himself from the franchise, opting to tackle more theater projects and maybe prepping for an adaptation of Pinocchio at Disney. During this time, EON producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have been shopping the series around to new distributors, as their contract with Sony ended with Spectre. With Warner Bros., Universal, and AnnaPurna floated as possibilities for several months now, there is still no announced deal. Throw in rumors of Tom Hiddleston's casting, as well as the potential involvement of Christopher Nolan and his production company, and you have a lot of action in the Bond world.

But on Monday, we got our first concrete piece of information on Bond 25. The official website for James Bond announced that the film will debut on November 8, 2019 in the US, with an earlier release in the UK and around the globe. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade will once again be on screenplay duty (they've written every Craig Bond film), but the site claimed that distribution, cast, and director were all aspects of the production that would be announced at a later date. However, that didn't stop reporters from dropping a seemingly endless barrage of scoops focused on the details of this new film. Shortly after the Monday announcement, New York Times reporter Brooks Barnes revealed that, yes, Daniel Craig will be returning to don the tuxedo one final time, fulfilling the option in his contract. Barnes cited two anonymous sources close to EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn-Maher, the studio that holds the rights to Bond.

Nobody has refuted that story so far, and all signs point to Craig coming back for a final send-off. Two questions remain- who will distribute the film and who will direct it? Earlier today, Deadline's Mike Fleming reported that there are three front-runners for the directorial position- Yann Demange, Denis Villeneuve, and David Mackenzie. Variety's Justin Kroll followed that up with a report of his own, citing that he believes Demange is leading the pack. In addition, Kroll claims that Warner Bros. is heavily favored to gain distribution rights for the picture.

The Demange news makes sense, as Villeneuve is set to direct Dune after the release of Blade Runner 2049, and Mackenzie has been rumored for a myriad of projects since the breakout success of Hell or High Water. Demange is best known for the Jack O'Connell feature '71, but he's currently in post-production on crime drama White Boy Rick, starring Matthew McConaughey. I know most Bond fans would prefer a Nolan or Villeneuve-directed film, but I think that the 25th installment is going to work best as a send-off for Craig. After the success of Logan this year, a tribute to the actor and his incredible time as the character is worthwhile in my book. Look for more Bond news in the coming weeks.

Images: Sony
Sources: 007, New York Times, Deadline, Variety

'Dunkirk' review

Dunkirk is unlike any film I have ever seen. That's not something I get to say too often these days. It's rare for a new movie to provide an experience that is wholly fresh and unique, but then again, we're talking about Christopher Nolan here. Since breaking onto the indie scene with Memento, a twisty low-budget gem that received great reviews, Nolan has become a directorial icon. He's one of the few filmmakers who can open a movie based on his name alone, and while he's probably best known for his definitive take on Batman in the form of the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has never been one to play it safe in the blockbuster realm. This is the man who turned a high-concept thriller about dream thieves into a culturally significant smash hit that made $825 million worldwide. Every time that Nolan is doubted, he hits back with a knockout. There is no doubt in my mind- he is one of the finest filmmakers working today.

After making his most cerebral, ambitious film with 2014's Interstellar, Nolan has returned to reinvent the war film with Dunkirk. Nobody knew what his approach would be when it was announced that he was taking on a World War II film, and some questioned whether he could actually pull it off. Additional questions were raised when the film was set for release in July, as well as when we learned that it would be only 107 minutes in length, Nolan's shortest film since his debut. For many, Dunkirk has been viewed with skepticism since the very start. But as fans on the internet like to say- in Nolan we trust. What emerges is a film that shows the director at his most epic and his most stripped down, a cinematic masterpiece that dilutes the war film to its nerve-shredding essence and leaves you on the edge of your seat. Nolan takes the genre and makes it his own, delivering a structurally revolutionary, viscerally exhausting, tightly wound thriller for the ages. Dunkirk is a paralyzing, jaw-dropping experience, and as a wonderful little bonus, it's also Nolan's most impressively made film. Stark, relentless, and absolutely mesmerizing, Nolan's astonishing work of minimalism is the very best of the year so far.

The clock is ticking. The enemy is coming. On the beaches of Dunkirk in France, 400,000 British and French soldiers are waiting to be rescued. Told from the perspectives of the land, the sea, and the air, locations that operate on different time frames, the film tells the story of the miraculous mission that saw the fate of Britain hanging in the balance. On land, there's a young soldier (Fionn Whitehead) and his new acquaintance (Aneurin Barnard), two desperate teens hoping to find a way off the beach on one of the boats, while Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and Colonel Winnant (James D'Arcy) plot a way to save their army from certain death. On the sea, there's a calmly assured sailor (Mark Rylance) and his son (Tom Glynn-Carney), heading to Dunkirk as part of a civilian rescue team. And in the air, two of the military's finest pilots (Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden) hope to fend off the enemy planes for as long as they can to give the army a chance of escape. Through Nolan's complex method of storytelling, Dunkirk gives us a terrifying portrait of a race against time, an evacuation that shaped the path of the defining conflict in the history of modern civilization.

I am convinced that Christopher Nolan will never make a simple film- and the movie world is a better place because of it. Here, Nolan has taken a story that could be told in a very straight-forward fashion and twisted it into a narrative triptych that evolves into something remarkable. Essentially, the director has taken three separate stories, each set in different locales and on different time frames, and compellingly edited them together to create a complete cinematic portrait of the evacuation of Dunkirk. For some characters, the action takes place over a week, while others are only involved for about one hour. It's a simple, historically accurate observation that lends itself to the intricate nature of the storytelling, and it's a dazzling feat of pacing and tension that he's able to pull it off. The stories build and collide, interlocking and crossing over without ever sacrificing an ounce of the intensity that is so integral to this story. Nolan's structure has moments of weakness, and it may confuse viewers who aren't prepared to connect the dots in what seems like a rather clear-cut war film. But his innovative approach lends itself to a greater sense of gripping pressure and a stronger emotional crescendo, and I can't imagine this film working as well without it.

But Nolan's structural genius does nothing without his superb directorial skills- the two are inextricably bonded together. While I still think that Inception is my favorite film from him, Dunkirk is certainly Nolan's finest achievement as a director. He's working at the absolute peak of his powers here, delivering something as blisteringly intense as it is completely engrossing. This is as close to an art film as Nolan has ever made, and while the ticking clock setup and fierce action momentum allow for general audience accessibility, this is as raw and gripping as modern blockbuster filmmaking can get. Nolan balances gorgeously harrowing wide shots that capture the simple beauty and sheer scope of the evacuation with chaotic, unbelievably intense camerawork that takes you close to the action for a more immersive, you-are-there experience. Nolan has thrilled and dazzled with his films before, but Dunkirk has a haunting quality that gives it the look and feel of a cinematic painting- especially in 70mm, this film is a textured epic the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time.

Nolan has a consistent band of collaborators that work with him on nearly every project, and they all embrace the chance to execute his distinct vision. Editor Lee Smith has done every one of Nolan's films since Batman Begins, and enough cannot be said about his work here. Smith connects the three storylines easily, but he also works everything out so that the non-linear nature of the project never hinders the pacing of the film. That's a feat in the best sense of the word, and I have to believe that Oscar glory will be heading his way. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema joined the Nolan team with Interstellar, and he takes the opportunity to embrace the simplicity of this story and the images on display. Dunkirk never feels visually busy- it deals with both controlled order and absolute chaos, but Hoytema and Nolan never try to push too many things on the viewer, letting the enormity and desolation of the images tell the story. But if Hoytema's beautifully grim work is subtle in the best possible way, Hans Zimmer's score is overbearing in a way that practically defines the film. It's loud and frightening and absolutely perfect, a ticking time bomb of musical suspense that will leave you breathless. There's a certain track that bounces around in my head every time after I see the film. Zimmer knocks it out of the park once more.

But for all of the virtues of Nolan's craft, he never loses sight of the effect that his filmmaking should have on the audience. Dunkirk is about a world on the edge of destruction, and in the words of the director himself, a world stuck between the possibilities of surrender and annihilation. It's a film about desperation, the lengths that humanity will go to survive during times of great struggle. Nolan's vision is never less than awe-inspiring, as he infuses the film with a perfect sense of exhaustion, fear, and hopelessness, a roller-coaster of sensations that will leave you gasping for air. He doesn't let the audience off the hook, and Dunkirk is a film that puts you through the physical and emotional ringer. It doesn't let up, it doesn't give you a moment to catch your breath, it doesn't even consider dishing out those crowd-pleasing scenes- Dunkirk drops you in and lets the horrors unfold at a remarkably fast clip. This is blunt force cinema at its finest, and the bleak, harsh experience crafted by Nolan is wonderfully contrasted by his elaborately grandiose filmmaking.

Nolan is often considered to be a cold director, one who pushes emotions to the wayside in favor of his dense plotting, mind-blowing twists, and stunning visuals. And when he made his most nakedly emotional film with Interstellar, he was punished by critics for being treacly and sentimental. When it comes to this angle for his films, it seems that Nolan cannot win. Of course, these same claims have already been levied against Dunkirk- that it's lacking in humanity, that it's completely cold, that Nolan lacks any kind of warmth or humorous touch. Having seen the film four times now, I've been able to grasp the narrative and its impact in an interesting way. And it's true, Nolan doesn't give you much when it comes to the characters. I could really only list the names of a few, and there's just a single moment where a character's motivation is described in a way that is meant to tug on your heartstrings. Other than that, Nolan's tight narrative prevents the conventional development of characters, something that most mainstream viewers will probably view as a baffling decision.

But there's no question about it in my mind- Dunkirk is the most human film that Nolan has ever made. By dealing with a subject matter that is grounded in a historical reality, Nolan is able to place his characters under a microscope and examine humanity in the midst of imminent danger. You see this everywhere in Dunkirk. You see it in two scared kids who pick up a random stretcher on the beach, hoping that this wounded man is their ticket to survival. You see it in the trials of an old fisherman, determined to push his boat to the absolute limit in the hopes of helping a grounded pilot. You see it in the sky, as a pilot uses every last drop of fuel to make his way to the beach and stop the enemy from doing further damage. You see it in a group of boys, stuck in a boat and turning on one another as the enemy opens fire on them. Betrayal, anger, the loss of hope, innovation, inaction, and desperation in the face of death- this isn't easy stuff by any measure, and Dunkirk is certainly not an easy film. The merits of patriotism here have already been debated and discussed by much better critics than me, but in my view, Dunkirk is less a movie about triumph and more about grit and dignity in the face of overwhelming odds. A country comes together to save itself from certain disaster, and there's something incredibly noble about this outcome. Nolan never once loses sight of the failure and the magnitude of the casualties during this fateful battle, but he does inject the film with a sense of humanity and an ending that manages to provide profound relief and catharsis to the audience.

For such a big, grand epic, Dunkirk thrives on the little moments. Mark Rylance has the best shot at nabbing an Oscar nomination, serving as the embodiment of grace and poise throughout the entire film. And while there is nearly zero dialogue for most of the characters, everyone gets a chance to shine- Tom Hardy is brilliant, Cillian Murphy does incredible work, and yes, even Harry Styles is dynamic as a brash young man struggling under the weight of the war. But in the end, it all comes back to Fionn Whitehead, the quiet, introspective center of Dunkirk. Nolan makes a purposeful choice to frame the massive conflict through his eyes, and it's a choice that grows in brilliance the more I watch this film. Nolan said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that he viewed the young protagonists not as men, but as boys, something that seems to define the central narrative of his vision. Whitehead conveys a perfect mix of wide-eyed innocence and weariness, which works all the way up to the final frame. Dunkirk thrives on subtlety, minor touches that are enhanced and enriched by each subsequent viewing.

But for all of its humanity, for all of the things that make it a rich, deeply personal story, Dunkirk is still an old-fashioned piece of epic entertainment told on a mind-blowing scale that is nothing shy of momentous. It's the kind of movie that could only come from the mind of Christopher Nolan, but it also feels like the filmmaker is displaying cinematic abilities that he hasn't shown us before. It's a propulsive, heart-stopping thriller, one that pushes you to the limit and then some. It's everything that this movie should be, and it is as tensely gripping as it is hauntingly magnificent. It's another work of extraordinary genius from one of the best directors on the planet, a man who has shown us that he is capable of just about anything. Dunkirk is the best movie of the year by a wide margin, a flawless piece of cinema that will surely become a classic. It will leave you in a state of shock and awe for 107 riveting minutes, a feat that most filmmakers could only dream of accomplishing. For Nolan, it's just another film in his growing collection of cinematic monuments.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                             (10/10)

Images: IMDB/WB

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 Toronto International Film Festival unveils first wave of titles

We're creeping closer to August, which means that the fall festival season is just around the corner. Each and every year, Hollywood's best and brightest head to three major festivals- Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, in that exact order. We already know that Alexander Payne's Downsizing will be opening the Venice Film Festival, a prestigious slot recently held by Damien Chazelle's La La Land and Alejandro Inarritu's Birdman. But there have been rumors swirling about what films would be heading to Toronto and what films would be staying home for weeks now, which makes today's announcement a needed bit of clarification. The announcement of the Toronto slate also helps us piece together the Venice and Telluride lineups, thanks to TIFF's labeling of films as World, International, North American, or Canadian premieres. So without further delay, here are the movies that will be playing in the Gala and Special Presentations sections of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

Gala Presentations

-Breathe, dir. Andy Serkis
-The Catcher Was A Spy, dir. Ben Lewin
-C'est La Vie!, dir. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
-Darkest Hour, dir. Joe Wright
-Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool, dir. Paul McGuigan
-Kings, dir. Deniz Gamze Erguven
-Long Time Running, dir. Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier
-Mary Shelley, dir. Haifaa Al Mansour
-The Mountain Between Us, dir. Hany Abu-Assad
-Mudbound, dir. Dee Rees
-Stronger, dir. David Gordon Green
-Untitled Bryan Cranston/Kevin Hart Film, dir. Neil Burger
-The Wife, dir. Bjorn Runge
-Woman Walks Ahead, dir. Susanna White

Special Presentations

Opening Night Film- Lady Bird, dir. Greta Gerwig
Closing Night Film- Sheikh Jackson, dir. Amr Salama

-Battle of the Sexes, dir. Valerie Farris and Jonathan Dayton
-BPM (Beats Per Minute), dir. Robin Campillo
-The Brawler, dir. Anurag Kashyap
-The Breadwinner, dir. Nora Twomey
-Call Me By Your Name, dir. Luca Guadagnino
-Catch the Wind, dir. Gael Morel
-The Children Act, dir. Richard Eyre
-The Current War, dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
-Disobedience, dir. Sebastian Lelio
-Downsizing, dir. Alexander Payne
-A Fantastic Woman, dir. Sebastian Lelio
-First They Killed My Father, dir. Angelina Jolie
-The Guardians, dir. Xavier Beauvois
-Hostiles, dir. Scott Cooper
-The Hungry, dir. Bornila Chatterjee
-I, Tonya, dir. Craig Gillespie
-mother!, dir. Darren Aronofsky
-Novitiate, dir. Maggie Betts
-Omerta, dir. Hansel Mehta
-Plonger, dir. Melanie Laurent
-The Price of Success, dir. Teddy Lussi-Modeste
-Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, dir. Angela Robinson
-The Rider, dir. Chloe Zhao
-A Season in France, dir. Mahamet-Saleh Haroun
-The Shape of Water, dir. Guillermo del Toro
-The Square, dir. Ruben Ostlund
-Submergence, dir. Wim Wenders
-Suburbicon, dir. George Clooney
-Thelma, dir. Joachim Trier
-Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, dir. Martin McDonagh
-Victoria and Abdul, dir, Stephen Frears

It's fascinating to look at this lineup, because I think it's easier to say what isn't going to Toronto than to break down all the titles that are coming to this year's fest. This Oscar season appears to be extremely front-loaded, and while many of these titles are released much later in the year, it still leaves the question- what's left for awards pundits and critics to see? We know that Richard Linklater's Last Flag Flying will be opening the New York Film Festival in late September, with Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel closing the fest in October. Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Paul Thomas Anderson all have new films set for release in December, which leads to me to assume that they'll be the late-in-the-game wild cards that we all love. Clint Eastwood is also supposedly working on some kind of war movie, and I wouldn't put it past him to get that thing out before year's end.

The Greatest Showman seems like the kind of film that will avoid the festival circuit altogether (except maybe AFI in early November), and that first trailer seemed to indicate a much more commercial play. The Disaster Artist will likely go to Fantastic Fest and possibly AFI after its successful SXSW run, but it remains to be seen how much of a contender that James Franco project will be. Roman Israel, Esq. is a weird one that I'm not ready to predict, while Killing of a Sacred Deer feels like a New York play. AFI Fest seems like the likely destination for Molly's Game, and Wonder could very well skip the festivals entirely. The absence of Mary Magdalene was a bit of a surprise, but I wasn't shocked to see Blade Runner 2049 missing from today's announcement- seems like Warner will handle this in a similar manner to Dunkirk.

Other than that, TIFF has.....well, everything.

Toronto is undergoing a bit of a re-branding this year, as they realized that there were simply too many movies for festival-goers to handle. But it's worth noting that TIFF barely has any big-ticket world premieres this year- Venice and Telluride have really stolen their thunder in that regard. Their biggest world debuts for 2017 include Breathe, Disobedience, I, Tonya (a 2018 release), Kings, The Mountain Between Us, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Stronger, and The Current War, none of which seem poised to blow the roof off the race with the sole exception of the final title.

But for whatever TIFF may be lacking in premiere prestige, they make up for it with sheer volume of titles. Essentially, this lineup combines the Venice and Telluride packages, and we're in for a treat with some of the films this year. Downsizing and The Shape of Water seem poised to pull off the fall fest trifecta, which puts them in an enviable position for the race moving forward. Suburbicon and Three Billboards look to be raucously violent returns for promising filmmakers, while Joe Wright hopes to capture some of the Dunkirk magic with Darkest Hour. Battle of the Sexes could be a nice crowd-pleasing sleeper, while I'm very intrigued to see what Paramount ends up doing with Darren Aronofsky's mother! In addition, Sundance and Cannes favorites like Call Me By Your Name, BPM, and Palme d'Or winner The Square round out the tremendous lineup, ultimately making for a list of films that is beyond sensational.

I had a blast at last year's TIFF, and judging by the looks of this year's roster, I wish I was going again. Oh well. Here's to a great Oscar season! I'll certainly have more news on the race for the gold in the coming weeks.

Monday, July 24, 2017

New 'Thor: Ragnarok' trailer is flat-out awesome

Marvel takes a lot of heat from movie fans, but there's something to be said for how their financial position allows them to make very unique films. Executive Kevin Feige hasn't always been the most filmmaker-friendly executive, and his battles with Edgar Wright and Patty Jenkins have particularly turned him into a despised figure in some circles. But the tide seems to be turning at Marvel, and if you watch something like Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 or see the trailer for Black Panther, that doesn't seem like a studio that is playing it safe. Granted, they have a safety net in the trappings and interconnectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yet there's undoubtedly a growing sense of innovation and visual experimentation at the studio. This is probably best exemplified by Thor: Ragnarok, a film that feels like the complete creation of its director, Hunt for the Wilderpeople genius Taika Waititi. After two middling Thor installments, it appears that Waititi has revived the franchise from irrelevancy and given us the imaginative blast of a movie that we craved all along. Ragnarok looks great, and while the first trailer sold me, I couldn't wait to see more. New trailers forAvengers: Infinity War and Black Panther were kept as Comic-Con exclusives, but Marvel did manage to post the new trailer for Ragnarok online. And yes, it is amazing. Check it out!

What is there to even say after watching a trailer like that? This film just looks awesome in every single way. The cosmic adventures of the MCU have proven to be some of the most entertaining, and Ragnarok looks superior to both previous Thor installments in just about every way. In a universe where we've seen two installments of Guardians of the Galaxy from sci-fi mastermind James Gunn, it's insane to think that this looks like the craziest Marvel film yet. The colors and visual madness on display are incredible, and some of the images in this trailer are straight-up jaw-dropping. It looks like Waititi has crafted something that is beyond gorgeous, and I can't wait to see this crazy sci-fi universe come to life. Marvel's greatest sin in recent years has been their visual staleness, but with this, Guardians, and Black Panther, the studio seems to be overcoming that issue. And in addition to all the beauty on display, this movie just looks like a lot of fun. It's great to see Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner back on screen, and it's even better to see the Hulk actually talking. Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Tom Hiddleston's Loki are always delightful to watch, and it looks like Cate Blanchett is having a blast chewing the scenery as the baddie. I'm all in on Ragnarok. This could be one of Marvel's best yet.

Thor: Ragnarok hits theaters on November 3.

Poster: Disney/IMDB

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Steven Spielberg returns to blockbuster filmmaking in the first trailer for 'Ready Player One'

Few filmmakers have had as much of an impact on pop culture as Steven Spielberg. Most directors are lucky to make one movie that taps into the cultural zeitgeist and becomes a staple of the collective subconscious. By my count, Spielberg has made a whopping seven- Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan. When you say the words "film director," Spielberg comes to mind. In the minds of many, Spielberg practically is the film industry. So when it was revealed that he would be directing Ready Player One, the response was a mix of weariness and delight. On one hand, the novel by Ernest Cline is said to lean heavily on Spielberg nostalgia, and while the director has committed to not referencing his own work, it still seemed risky. But on the other hand, nobody makes blockbuster entertainment quite like Spielberg. He hasn't really done a truly innovative sci-fi project like this since the early 2000s, and Ready Player One is said to be pushing the limits of virtual reality technology. A futuristic fantasy about the world's most popular video game and a series of clues left behind by its eccentric creator, this movie really could be a game-changer. I've been intrigued since the project's announcement, and yesterday at Comic-Con, we were treated to the first trailer- watch it below!

Ready Player One is a project that has been in development for a long time, as Ernest Cline's 2011 novel became an instant hit. I even remember a time when it was rumored that Warner Bros. was going to have Christopher Nolan direct this film as his next endeavor after Interstellar. But my excitement was truly piqued when Spielberg joined the project, as Deadline's breaking announcement report seemed to indicate that we would be getting something truly revolutionary with this film. The news site positioned Ready Player One as the biggest breakthrough in cinematic special effects in decades, and the idea of Spielberg messing around with virtual reality technology to tell a reference-heavy story was thrilling to me. Rumors that the director approached the late Gene Wilder to appear in what is essentially a video game riff on Willy Wonka enticed me even further, giving me an interesting idea as to what the tone of this project would be. And the final cast list didn't hurt matters- Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, T.J. Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, Lena Waithe, Hannah John-Kamen, and of course, Mark Rylance.

Going into yesterday's trailer reveal, this was undoubtedly one of my most anticipated films of 2018, if not the movie that actually topped the list. After watching this quick glimpse at footage......I can't say I'm entirely sold. There are moments that seem to capture Spielberg's distinct sense of childlike whimsy, but I can't entirely shake the feeling that this isn't going to be the movie that I want- the racing scene of utter chaos and destruction at the end did nothing to increase my excitement. The first half of the trailer is superior to the second half, and I love that they have "Pure Imagination" as the main musical cue. This trailer looks good, but I want more than good. I would be looking forward to this project regardless of who's directing it. This is just a cool concept with the potential for some groundbreaking effects.

But this is Spielberg. And I want him to make another pop masterpiece. After years of stodgy (although very strong) biopics and ambitiously misguided efforts, I want him to make a film that becomes as iconic as Jaws and E.T. and Jurassic Park and all of those other movies that have become a part of our cultural lexicon. I want Ready Player One to be his middle finger to the system, the movie that proves he's still one of the greats of blockbuster filmmaking. I want him to be capable of a movie like this. The trailer does a good job of compelling the viewer, but not selling the actual story. Although I think this film looks impressive, but can it transcend the visuals to become something else entirely? We shall see.

Ready Player One hits theaters on March 30, 2018.

Image: IMDB/WB