Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What We Know about "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" So Far

Ye be warned! This post definitely contains spoilers!

1.) The film will be directed by Norwegian duo Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg. They've previously collaborated on Bandidas, a wild-west film starring Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek, as well as a couple episodes of the Netflix series Marco Polo.

2.) It's currently slated for a release date of July 7, 2017.

3.) The only confirmed casting so far includes Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, The Giver's Brenton Thwaites as "British Soldier - Henry" (who is rumored to be Orlando Bloom's character's son), and The Maze Runner's Kaya Scodelario in an undisclosed role. 

4.) Rumored casting hints at the returns of several characters from the original trilogy including Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, Jack Davenport as James Norrington, Martin Klebba as Marty, and Keith Richards as Captain Teague. 

5.) Javier Bardem and Christoph Waltz have both been approached to play the villain. No final casting has been confirmed.

6.) That said, the villain in question is said to be the "murderous, ghostly" Captain Brand. Some vague plot details have been revealed, but nothing is confirmed yet.

7.) From IMDb: "Norrington, Pintel, Ragetti, and the rest of the former pirates that were from the original 3 are rumored to be returning as members of Will Turner's crew, since all of them have died since Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Pintel, Ragetti, and Marty died off camera between At World's End and On Stranger Tides, while Norrington dies in At World's End saving Elizabeth from Davy Jones."

8.) From IMDb: "This will be the first Pirates of the Caribbean film to have Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Geoffrey Rush (Captain Barbossa), and Jack Davenport (James Norrington) teaming up together."

9.) Orlando Bloom has stated that this film will be a "soft reboot" of the previous installments.

Take all these points for what they're worth. Anything could happen between now and July 2017. Stay tuned to your social media and Hollywood news outlets (like this blog!) for developments. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Reel Blog's Best Films of 2014

1. Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

I was fortunate enough to catch this one soon after its initial release at an arthouse theater in Nashville, TN. As soon as the screening ended, I wanted to watch it twice over again. Michael Keaton gives one of the single greatest lead acting performances I have ever seen; far and away superior to any of the other potential candidates in the Best Actor category. Watching a man wrestle with his own ego has rarely, if ever, been done so gracefully and entertainingly. It achieves a level of higher mainstream art in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way that must be seen several times and discussed to be believed.

2. Whiplash

Ever had a professor you just never could get along with? Did that professor ever hurl a chair at your head? Well, that's just one of the nasty methods of the venomous Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a professor of studio jazz at a prestigious New York City music conservatory. The student, Andrew (Miles Teller), desires to be one of the best jazz drummers of all time. Fletcher sees his potential, which is why he seems to exact such harsh methods in his teaching. Watching Teller and Simmons go at it in this indie gem is more electrifying than any studio thriller of the past few years. Rookie director Damien Chazelle gets nearly everything right in terms of  what to include/cut for the purposes of a more impactful message. The heart-pounding ending leaves just enough to the imagination. Now one of my top 10 favorites not just of 2014 but of all time.

3. Boyhood

Like Birdman, Boyhood achieves some higher art by way of its 12-year experiment. Director Richard Linklater spent a week filming with the same cast each year for 12 years. Steve James used a similar technique in his documentary, Hoop Dreams, but it's never been applied to a dramatic feature film before. Boyhood is literally three hours of watching a kid grow up from the age of 6 to 18. What's so interesting about it is that the film is almost a perfect representation of the attitudes that American kids (particularly my age) felt growing up: awkward talks with grown-ups, being indecisive about what to do with the rest of one's life, trying to fake a fever to keep from going to school, riding bikes in the street, going to baseball games, etc. It's the most realistic and relatable coming-of-age film that Hollywood has ever produced.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director Wes Anderson's masterpiece about a pair of maitre d's (Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori) who steal a prized painting is hilarious, violent, and unpredictable. A must see.

5. The Babadook

A hot topic in the industry today is how there aren't enough good female directors. If this first feature from Australian director Jennifer Kent is any indication, the future of the business looks bright. The Babadook is about a woman (masterfully played by Essie Davis) and her young son who are struggling to cope with the loss of their patriarch. More than that, the film focuses on the difficulties of coping and what it takes to overcome those demons. This is the rare horror film that actually deals with true fear; the fear of being alone or abandoned. A lack of cheap jump scares and a penchant for real, slow-burn terror easily make this the best frightfest in at least a decade.

6. Foxcatcher

An intriguing true story about Olympic medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and the chemicals mogul who mysteriously chose to back him, John E. DuPont (Steve Carell). This is a bleak tale that feels tailor-made for David Fincher but still manages to enthrall in director Bennett Miller's hands. Carell steals the show in a career-changing performance. His DuPont deserves to be in the conversation for all-time greatest movie villains.

7. The Lego Movie

A concept that, on paper, shouldn't work has more imagination in its tiny, yellow hand than anything that mainstream Hollywood has produced in years. It captures the same sense of creativity that I remember having whenever I played with Legos in my formative years. This film is a blast, and it's a crime that the Academy snubbed this from the Best Animated Feature category.

8. Fury 

Not since Saving Private Ryan has a war film portrayed the horrors of combat in such a harrowing way. Graphic and visceral with unforgettable action sequences and strong performances from Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and Logan Lerman. The level of authenticity is to be appreciated as well. This is a film about WWII tanks, so it's only appropriate that real M4 Sherman tanks are used throughout the production.

9. The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are wonderful in this story about the relationship between Jane and Stephen Hawking. Watching Hawking's slow deterioration at the hands of ALS is tragic and suddenly makes all those Ice Bucket Challenge videos a lot less interesting.

10. Gone Girl 

Like the popular novel, the film features a similarly maddening ending, but it's one of the closest "book-to-film" adaptations I've ever seen. Ben Affleck gives the performance of his career, and Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with as Amy.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"American Sniper" Review

Clint Eastwood directs American Sniper, a film that explores the true story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history. The story is undeniably intriguing & Cooper gives one of his better performances though I don't believe he deserves his Oscar nomination over Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler or David Oyelowo for Selma.

I appreciate the fact that the violence here isn't sanitized, allowing the audience to really experience the toll each tour of duty takes on Kyle's psyche.

A sense of jingoism typically permeates any American-made war film. Eastwood lays it on a bit too thick here, but it makes sense in the context of Kyle's down-home character. It paints a rare picture of the mentality of some of our soldiers, especially in this post-9/11 scenario. 

After Chris's second tour, the film starts to slog. The listed run time of 2 hours and 12 minutes feels almost like 4 hours and 12 minutes. Seeing Chris evolve for the worse as a result of the war makes him a compelling character to watch, but it's exhausting to see him endure hardship during combat and then, over and over again, come home to a family at its breaking point as a result of his absence. There's no emotional relief or sense of humor to anything about this film. 

One could hear a pin drop as the audience left the theater after our screening. Lots of emotional intensity at play here.

I'm not sure anyone would say this doesn't deserve its Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, but don't be surprised if American Sniper comes away on Oscar night empty handed.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Big Eyes" Review

Big Eyes is a true story of "art and the art of deception". It chronicles the painter Margaret Keane's awakening and success in the 1950's on through her legal troubles with husband Walter, who took credit for her sensational work during the 60's. Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams are brilliant as the artistic couple. 

Production design & musical score from Danny Elfman are also strong, which should be expected in a Tim Burton film. The only minor misstep I noticed was an occasional shift in tone. At times, Eyes doesn't know whether to be a quirky, Burton comedy or a serious biopic. On the whole, however, the picture seems to work all the same.

I didn't expect to find this movie so entertaining! I'm glad to see Burton can still make a stellar flick without Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter. The director's best in years.