Friday, October 28, 2011

"Puss in Boots"

You may know the illustrious Puss in Boots from the Shrek series, where he simultaneously managed to steal and also charm with his wide, innocent-eyed look. Now, he has his own movie, and while I thought I would miss Shrek and the gang, Puss brings along a new set of characters that are just as funny and enthralling.

The back-story of Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) has never been revealed until this film, but soon he has cause to share it with us. He grew up in an orphanage in the small town of San Ricardo, taken in by his "mama" (voiced by Jessica Shulte, Megamind), and it was there that Puss met the boy who was soon to become his best friend: Humpty Alexander Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover Part II). The two of them plotted to leave the sleepy little town as soon as they were of age, and they played a few small tricks on people when they were younger; however, when they became older, Humpty began to escalate his crimes, and Puss wanted no part in it, especially after he became the town hero after saving an old lady's life.

Unfortunately, Humpty eventually tricks Puss into robbing a bank with him, and the authorities begin to chase them, which culminates in Puss escaping and leaving Humpty on a bridge, where he then takes his infamous fall ("They wrote a song about it!" he later yells at Puss). Now, years later, Puss is trying to track down some magic beans, so that he can find the Golden Goose and pay San Ricardo back for what he owes from the bank robbery. However, another cat is after the beans as well, and Puss soon finds himself having to cooperate with Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek, Grown Ups) and being reunited with his now-enemy, Humpty Dumpty. The beans are being hoarded by the evil Jack and Jill (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), and Puss, Kitty, and Humpty must catch them and plant the beans so they can get the golden eggs.

"In Time"

I love dystopian books and movies - those set in the future with a corrupt or unfamiliar government/life system - and In Time fits the mold exactly. I had been wanting to see this film ever since I first saw its trailer, and luckily it did not disappoint me.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, Friends with Benefits) lives his life on a day-to-day basis in the impoverished city of Dayton. When he wakes up each morning, the first thing he does is check his arm to see how much time he has left that day. Between rent and food payments, he and his mom (Olivia Wilde, Cowboys and Aliens) barely have enough time to get through the day. In the future, time has replaced money as currency. Want a cup of coffee? That will be four minutes. It was three minutes yesterday, but today is four, due to inflation. Today is Will's mother's 50th birthday, and also the day that his life is going to be irrevocably changed, though he doesn't know that yet.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried, Red Riding Hood) was born into time (born into "money"), in the upscale city of New Greenwich, where most Dayton residents only dream about visiting. When her clock kicked in at the age of 25, as is the custom, Sylvia had one year on it, as everyone initially gets. For her 25th birthday present, though, her father (Vincent Kartheiser, TV's Mad Men) gave her a gift of a century in time. She never has to worry about time over her life span, which she's lived in privilege - until she meets Will, who kidnaps her while trying to escape from the Weis mansion. Soon the two of them are on the run from the authorities (including the Timekeeper, played by Cillian Murphy) and they must try to avoid them, while at the same time making sure their clocks don't run out.

"The Rum Diary"

The Rum Diary is based on the novel of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, and is considered a prequel of sorts to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), also written by Thompson. I haven't read the book, and thus have no basis for comparison, but the movie was 120 minutes of drawn out, pointless scenes, save for the beautiful scenery and the outfits worn by Depp and his cohorts. The film was shot a while ago and has been shelved for a few years, though Johnny Depp looks timeless as always, and it makes me wonder why the studio execs finally decided to drag it into theaters. The movie wasn't really a drama, and wasn't really a comedy either - though it certainly tried to be - and it leaves the audience wondering exactly what it's trying to accomplish.

Kemp (Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean) has just moved to Puerto Rico to work for The San Juan Star. His boss, Mr. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins, Let Me In) hardly runs a tight ship, and Kemp has the time to pursue other ... interests while on the job. He finds a friend in coworker Sala (Michael Rispoli, Kick-Ass) and elects to rent a small room in his apartment. Kemp soon gets tangled up in some shady dealings with Mr. Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart, Battle Los Angeles) and unfortunately develops quite a crush on his girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard, The Joneses), pronounced like "Chanel." Sanderson is trying to build a hotel on an island that the U.S. government is about to give up, and he wants Kemp to write some clever articles to help him accomplish this. We also meet the "religion writer" for the paper, Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi, Avatar), who rooms with Kemp and Sala as well, and a host of other writers that all work for Lotterman.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Chimpanzee" to be released in theaters April 12, 2012

I received the one-sheet from Disney Nature today for this and had to share - the chimp on the poster is SO cute!

Movie Details:

Disneynature takes moviegoers deep into the forests of Africa with “Chimpanzee,” a new True Life Adventure introducing an adorable baby chimp named Oscar and his entertaining approach to life in a remarkable story of family bonds and individual triumph. Oscar’s playful curiosity and zest for discovery showcase the intelligence and ingenuity of some of the most extraordinary personalities in the animal kingdom. Working together, Oscar’s chimpanzee family—including his mom and the group’s savvy leader — navigates the complex territory of the forest.

The world is a playground for little Oscar and his fellow young chimps, who’d rather make mayhem than join their parents for an afternoon nap. But when Oscar’s family is confronted by a rival band of chimps, he is left to fend for himself until a surprising ally steps in and changes his life forever. Directed by Alastair Fothergill (“African Cats” and “Earth”) and Mark Linfield (“Earth”), “Chimpanzee” swings into theaters on Earth Day 2012.

Fun facts:
· “Chimpanzee” is the fourth release for Disneynature, the first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in more than 60 years. The label was launched in April 2008 to bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to capture a variety of wildlife subjects and stories.
· The first three releases under the Disneynature label—“Earth,” “Oceans” and “African Cats”—are among the top four highest grossing feature-length nature films of all time.
· Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife documentary filmmaking, producing 13 True-Life Adventure motion pictures between 1948 and 1960, including “Seal Island” (1948), “Beaver Valley” (1950), “The Living Desert” (1953) and “Jungle Cat” (1958). The films earned eight Academy Awards®.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"The Three Musketeers" (2011)

There have been numerous reincarnations of The Three Musketeers over the years, but the newest version is likely the most fun. You have Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich as villains, and a motley crew of others representing the good and the bad people of France. Add some 3D effects, which means swords clashing in your face, as well as giant ships used for "air travel," and voila! You have yourself an exciting, action-packed film.

The Three Musketeers (Luke Evans, Matthew Macfadyen, and an almost unrecognizable Ray Stevenson) are no longer in their prime, and thus spend most of their time moping around. The young D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman, Percy Jackson and the Olympians), a wannabe Musketeer whose father was one, travels to France to meet them. Instead, he stumbles upon each of them individually, not knowing they are Musketeers, and manages to anger them all. He challenges each to a duel, and when they all meet in the town square they reveal that they are Musketeers. The group has bigger problems, though: the Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz, Water for Elephants) wants them dead, and he has sent their army after them, led by Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen, Clash of the Titans). The group and D'Artagnan manage to avoid the army, and in fact are praised for this by the king (newcomer Freddie Fox), although they were supposed to have been reprimanded.

A year earlier, Milady (Milla Jovovich, Stone) had tricked Athos (Macfadyen) into believing that she loved him, while instead betraying him and giving her allegiance to the evil Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End). Buckingham and Milady are now back, for a visit with the king, and Milady and the Cardinal hatch a plan to propel England and France into war for their own benefit. The Musketeers, however, refuse to let this happen, and so they are off to England to steal back the Queen's necklace which Milady has stolen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Win "Winnie the Pooh" on DVD/Blu-Ray!

You can win a copy of Winnie the Pooh, which is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 10/25, over at my Examiner page! The contest ends on Sunday, October 30th, at 7pm EST, so check it out before then. To enter is easy, all you have to do is "like" the contest post and then send me an email.

Here's the link: Winnie the Pooh contest.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Answer This!"

I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere screening of Answer This! at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor last October, and since then I have been waiting for the film to be picked up for wider distribution. Wrekin Hill Entertainment has picked up Answer This!, and to celebrate that, there was another red carpet premiere screening at the Emagine Royal Oak this past Thursday, October 13. I was interested in seeing if the distributors had made any changes to the movie, and if they had, they are little; however, the movie was just as good as I remembered it.

Paul Tarson (Christopher Gorham, TV's Covert Affairs) has lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan his whole life. He grew up there, went to the University of Michigan as an undergrad, and has spent the past eight years there working on his thesis in graduate school. His father, Elliot (newcomer and former UM professor Ralph Williams), is a Bible Studies professor at UM, and has just told Paul that he needs to finish his thesis this semester; in addition, Elliot is going to be retiring, so there is a prime associate professor spot open for Paul at the university. Paul needs to finish his thesis soon, but it is competing for his attention with one of his favorite pastimes: trivia. He's on a team with his friend James (Nelson Franklin, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Izzy (Evan Jones, The Book of Eli), and they've just made the finals. Slight problem, though: the trivia finals are on the same night as when he is to defend his dissertation. Which will he choose to attend?

In the midst of this, Paul meets Naomi (Arielle Kebbel, TV's Life Unexpected), whom, he soon finds out, is a freshman in one of the Bible Studies sections that he teaches. It's a definite "no-no" for students to date their teachers, but they continue to see each other anyways. When Naomi stops showing up for his discussion section class, Paul happens to see her in the Diag (the heart of UM's campus), and she tells him that she doesn't want to be "tied down" right now; after all, she's only a freshman and she still has three years of school left. She also thinks it's a bit "lame" that Paul has stayed in Ann Arbor his entire life, and she challenges him to imagine a life for himself outside of the college city. Paul has to decide what he wants to do next year - stay in Ann Arbor and be a professor, or take off for different pastures - and he only has a semester in which to figure it out.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ann Arbor plays itself in "Answer This!"

As a University of Michigan alum, part of the reason I really liked the feature film Answer This! was because most, if not all, of it took place in Ann Arbor, and locations were easily recognizable.

The locations in Answer This! included:

University of Michigan locations:
-The Cube (see above poster) - near the Union on campus.
-School of Natural Resources and the Environment - where English 401 classes are held. Paul (Chris Gorham) and Naomi (Arielle Kebbel) meet in the Diag (center of campus) right outside this building; she is trying to find the building, which, of course, is right in front of her.
-Angell Hall - Paul's English 401 discussion class is held here.
-Rackham School of Graduate Studies - a memorable scene with Paul and Naomi was here. What was pretty funny was that they enter the front doors of Rackham, and walk through a library's reading room - actually the fabled Law Library reading room - and then end up in the stacks, which are actually in the Graduate Library. Three different Michigan locations, but one building in the film.
-The Law Quad.
-Michigan Stadium ... during an actual football game (Western Michigan game, 2009). Apparently they set up a camera in the aisle way to get the shots of Gorham and Kebbel and also a few of the field and players. I just noticed by watching this clip that they weren't sitting in the student section, either (you'd be standing if you were in the student section ... they stand the whole game).

"Answer This!" premieres to sell-out crowd at Emagine Royal Oak


The cast and crew of Answer This! returned to Michigan yesterday for a red carpet premiere at Emagine Royal Oak. In attendance was Arielle Kebbel, one of the stars of the show, and Chris and Mike Farah, the writer/director and producer of the movie, respectively. Ralph Williams, the former UM professor who plays Chris Gorham's father, was also in attendance; Chris Gorham, unfortunately, was in Europe filming Covert Affairs.

Motor City Trivia table
For the general audience, the movie started at 8pm, but for those who had purchased the $75 VIP tickets, to benefit local charities, the party started at 6:30, on the 2nd floor of the theater. Dinner and drinks were served, and Motor City Trivia was in attendance as well to get the party started with some one-on-one trivia. Arielle Kebbel arrived later, around 7:30, to mingle with the crowd, and the Farah brothers were in attendance there as well.

Before the movie started, Ralph Williams came to the front of the room to introduce the film, and Chris and Mike Farah, too, talked a little about the film and shooting it in Ann Arbor. Chris had been a student of Williams' at the University of Michigan, which is how he knew him and knew that he was perfect for the role of Elliot Tarson, Chris Gorham's father in the film. Williams said:

“In the 1990s, I had a brilliant student, who came to be a student in Near-Eastern studies, called Chris Farah. He came to my courses on the Bible and English … and then he disappeared. I saw him only once when I gave a lecture in Santa Monica, CA. I didn’t hear any more until about two years ago, when I got an email from him that said “Mr. Williams, I’ve written a script.” And I thought, how clever of him! And he said, “Would you do a part in it?”

actress Arielle Kebbel (left), who stars in Answer This!
Then he showed up in town with a producer. And I thought, this is curious, because I had expected him to show up with a handheld camera!"

Williams added: "To me, [Answer This! is] in some ways a love letter to Ann Arbor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed being a part of it.”

Chris Farah ended the short speech by saying: "If you love the movie – and you will love the movie – make sure to tell all of your friends. Word of mouth is how we’re going to get this going.”

Answer This! will arrive at Emagine Novi tomorrow (Friday, October 14th), and will expand to the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on October 21st, as well as to other Midwest theaters, including Traverse City and Grand Rapids (see the film's website for more details).

Selling "Ice Tigers" t-shirts, which is the name of
Gorham's trivia team in the movie
Arielle Kebbel (left) and Chris Farah (right),
writer/director of Answer This!
Answer This! posters in Emagine's lobby
Dinner buffet (appetizers and entrees)
Panorama of the 2nd floor entertainment room where the
VIP party was held, Emagine Royal Oak


There have been a lot of remakes and reboots in 2011 so far, but the most fun has to be Footloose. The original, with such household names as Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Lithgow, and Dianne Wiest, came out in 1984, and was a great movie, so a lot of skeptics were worried that the new Footloose wouldn't live up to the original. This film definitely pays homage to the former version in some scenes, while making it more modern, and the dancing scenes in it are phenomenal.

Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald, "Center Stage: Turn It Up") moves from Boston to the small town of Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle (Ray McKinnon, "Dolphin Tale") after his mother passes away. Bomont is very different from Boston, and they have a law that says that no minor shall engage in public dancing, which is a problem for Kenny since he loves to dance. When he meets the preacher's daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough, "Burlesque"), he finds that she and her friends like to dance too, and he decides to make a motion to overturn the dance ban. The preacher (Dennis Quaid, "Soul Surfer") doesn't want this to happen, however, and he soon finds himself butting heads with Ren.

"The Big Year"

The trailer for The Big Year was very vague, but with a cast including Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson, it didn't have to be specific - people will go see it just because of these three comedic headliners. Because I went into the film with no expectations whatsoever, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found, although the first half of the movie was funnier than the second.

"The Big Year" is a contest in which "birders" - people who bird-watch - try to sight the most species of birds that they can in the time span of one calendar year. The reigning champion, Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris), previously had spotted 727 birds, and that is the number to beat, and he is thinking of doing another Big Year so that his record will remain untarnished. His competition includes Stu Preissler (Steve Martin, It's Complicated) who is about to retire - for the second time - and who is thinking that this is "his year" to win; and Brad Harris (Jack Black, Kung Fu Panda 2), a broke, full-time office worker who has the gift of being able to identify birds solely by hearing them. Stu and Brad eventually decide to team up, as they want to beat Kenny's record and make sure he does not win the Big Year again this year.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"The Ides of March"

What makes the Ides of March impressive is not that George Clooney directs, or that a good portion of it was shot here in Michigan, but that the cast as a whole works so well together. The story helps, too, of course - what really goes on behind the curtains during elections? - but the main star of this film isn't Clooney. The collective stars are Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, and an increasingly conniving Paul Giamatti.

Governor Mike Morris (Clooney, The American) is running for president and has a superb support crew, including his campaign manager, Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Moneyball); his press secretary and one of the best "media minds" in the country, Stephen (Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love); and a dedicated group of interns (Evan Rachel Wood, TV's True Blood, and Max Minghella, The Social Network). Morris just has to win the state of Ohio, and then North Carolina will follow suit; it's all falling into place, or so he thinks. When Stephen gets a phone call from the opposing candidate's campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti, Win Win), asking him to meet him, he does so, reluctantly, although he's not sure why Tom wants to meet. Tom offers Stephen a job working for his candidate's campaign, and Stephen turns him down - but then makes the mistake of telling Paul about the offer. Things spiral out of control from there, and Stephen is about to realize just how dirty and misleading politics can really be.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New images from "The Avengers" released

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America)
in The Avengers
Disney released two new pictures from The Avengers today, which will be in theaters on May 4, 2012.

More information about The Avengers can be found below:

Cast:                             Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy    Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd and Samuel L. Jackson
Director:                       Joss Whedon
Producer:                      Kevin Feige                  
Executive Producers:      Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Jon Favreau, Patricia Whitcher, Louis D’Esposito                    
Screenplay by:               Joss Whedon                                        

Marvel Studios presents “Marvel’s The Avengers”—the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. Prepare yourself for an exciting event movie, packed with action and spectacular special effects, when “Marvel’s The Avengers” assemble in summer 2012.
In “Marvel’s The Avengers,” superheroes team up to pull the world back from the brink of disaster when an unexpected enemy threatens global security.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

More Disney/Pixar films to be released in 3D

Hot off the presses: Disney/Pixar will be releasing four more films in 3D, due to the success of The Lion King that was recently re-released. Beauty and the Beast, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and The Little Mermaid will all be released in 2012-2013. In addition, the planned sequel to Monsters, Inc., Monsters University, will be in theaters five months after the film is re-released in theaters.

Monsters, Inc. is one of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies, so this is great to hear! What are some of your favorite movies you'd like to see re-released in 3D?

Check out the full press release below for more information:

‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Monsters, Inc.’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ Will Make 3D Theatrical Debut in 2012 and 2013 

BURBANK, Calif. – October 4, 2011 – On the heels of the phenomenal success of The Lion King 3D – which will cross the $80 million mark at the domestic box office today – The Walt Disney Studios has announced limited theatrical engagements for four of its classic films for the first time in 3D. The following titles from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios will be released in 2012 and 2013:

·         Beauty and the Beast – January 13, 2012
·         DisneyPixar’s Finding Nemo – September 14, 2012
·         DisneyPixar’s Monsters, Inc. – January 18, 2013 (Monsters University, a prequel to the original film, arrives in theaters in Disney Digital 3D on June 21, 2013)
·         The Little Mermaid – September 13, 2013

Originally released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast is a classic “tale as old as time” that follows the adventures of Belle, a bright young woman imprisoned in the castle of a mysterious beast and his enchanted staff, who must learn the most important lesson of all – that true beauty comes from within. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film ever nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Picture, earning an additional five Oscar® nominations and winning two. It has grossed $380.4 million worldwide.

First released in 2003, Disney•Pixar’s Finding Nemo takes audiences into a whole new world in this undersea adventure about family, courage and challenges. When Marlin, an overly cautious clownfish living in the Great Barrier Reef, helplessly watches his son get scooped up by a diver, he must put aside his fears of the ocean and leave the safety of his coral enclave to find Nemo. Buoyed by the companionship of Dory, a forgetful but relentlessly optimistic fish, Marlin finds himself the unlikely hero in a seemingly impossible land-and-sea rescue.Finding Nemo won an Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for three others. With a total of $867.6 million worldwide, it was the second highest-grossing film of 2003.

In 2001, DisneyPixar released Monsters, Inc. Lovable Sulley and his wisecracking sidekick Mike Wazowski are the top scare team at Monsters, Inc., the scream-processing factory in Monstropolis. But when a little girl named Boo wanders into their world, it’s up to Sulley and Mike to keep her out of sight and get her back home.Monsters, Inc. shattered every DVD-era home entertainment sales record when 11 million DVD/VHS copies were sold during its first week of release. It won an Academy Award® for Best Song and has grossed $526.9 million worldwide.

Released in 1989, The Little Mermaid, stars Ariel, a fun-loving and mischievous mermaid, off on the adventure of a lifetime with her best friend, the adorable Flounder, and the reggae-singing Caribbean crab Sebastian. But it will take all of her courage and determination to make her dreams come true and save her father’s beloved kingdom from the sneaky sea witch Ursula. One of the most celebrated animated films of all time, The Little Mermaid was nominated for three Academy Awards®, winning two. It has grossed $228.9 million worldwide.