All posts by ryancroftj

Hey, you like movies? Yes! Great, I guess we can be friends AKA you can read EVERYTHING I write. Enjoy! And instead of more on me, I figured I'd just leave you with some helpful advice that always keeps me going, "life's a dirty game, you gotta play dirty to win it".

Men, Women & Children: Deciphering our Interconnected Society

Less than a year after the release of his previous feature, Labor Day, Jason Reitman returns with Men, Women & Children, yet another take on relationships, albeit, more modern and ambitious. Infusing the perils of technology, Reitman creates an interconnected story featuring parents and teenagers trying to decipher what the Internet has done to our society. The segments range from a couple using the Internet as an escape from their strained marriage, to a high schooler struggling with a fetish that deviates from the common sex culture, to a star athlete whose lost interest in football after his mom runs off and finding comfort in the online world of Guild Wars. Some may laugh it off, or find the struggles of this Texas suburban community to be negligent to greater world problems, but it’s through Reitman’s raw telling of the story that makes Men, Women & Children the most honest film of the modern day. Nothing is sugar coated. Every storyline features people we’ve known, stories we’ve heard, and struggles we’ve felt. Yes, some threads are stronger than others, but the overall product creates an extraordinary film.

The binding of the story relies on an ominous narrator, Emma Thompson, who uses Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot to put a perspective on life. She chimes in throughout, ocassionally giving tidbits into the characters’ thoughts for comedic expense, yet mainly as a reminder of how unimportant we are, how insignificant everyone we know, everyone we love, everyone we’ve heard of, is to the universe. It’s through this thought, that the audience is forced to think what matters most to them. To some characters it’s sex, to others it’s love, fame or just acceptance. Reitman and co-writer Erin Cressida Wilson beautifully maneuver Chad Kultgen’s novel into an emotionally satisfying ensemble piece.

Utilizing mostly handheld camera (even shaky dolly shots) and little pop-up blurbs on the screen to show texting, internet browsing, etc., Reitman draws us into this realized world. Fruitvale Station, Sherlock, and others have used similar techniques, but Reitman fluently integrates the technology to demonstrates how naturally it has become involved in our lives such as having the Google search bar appear above a character browsing for escorts, or in one of the most memorable shots, showing kids walk through school with texting, music, tweeting effects hanging above their heads.

Across the board, performances are good with the high school kids for the most part outshining the parents. The standouts have to be Ansel Elgort, who most know as the love interest in The Fault in Our Stars.  Adam Sandler, gives a very subdued performance akin to Punch Drunk Love and proves that despite his recent shit show of films, the guy is capable of being a good actor. Sandler’s son in the film, Travis Tope, is noteworthy, as is Judy Greer, a mom trying to jumpstart her daughter’s modeling career. Jennifer Garner, an overtly protective mother who will go to insane means to track her daughters digital footprints also is a plus.

Men, Women & Children -- Jennifer Gardner

That all said, the film is not perfect. Some of the teen storylines don’t wrap up as nicely as others, leaving a morally ambiguous finale for the ending montage. Also, the scenes where the story transfers from one character to another when they pass each other is a bit cheesy and too coincidental. There’s also some odd choices made of when Emma Thompson voice comes in that felt like Reitman wanted to keep the comedic tone rather then delve straight for the drama. And oddly, J.K. Simmons is given almost the exact same role he played in Juno. A lot of comparisons have been thrown around to last years film Disconnect, which dealt with similar problems derived from the internet and featured another comedic actor with a beard. The biggest difference, is the plausibility of the students and the situations. Men, Women & Children deals with the desire to stand out and the use of the Internet as an escape, while Disconnect was an overly exaggerated film about the extremes of using the internet. The former allows for connection, the latter allows for parents to panic.

Reitman’s film doesn’t say that using the Internet is bad or that we shouldn’t, it just wants us to realize how it has changed the world and to decide on our own whether that is good or bad. Is it wrong to find solace in others online? To some it may be, for example a character using online chatrooms to encourage her anorexic diet, but for others, like Ansel’s character using Guild Wars, it’s a place to be himself and to feel like he’s constantly working towards something instead of being unimportant to society. That’s the debate at the heart of Men, Women & Children. Is the easy access to our desires online good or bad, and whether these desires should be important or unimportant. The film doesn’t give a clear-cut answer, it simply gives the audience enough to recognize technologies connection to our society.


Images:  Paramount Pictures

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Trailer Roundup: Aronofsky’s Epic, Indie Sci-Fi, Some ‘Need for Speed’, and More

Every week countless trailers go unnoticed or unreported. Trailers are an art form in and of themselves and can be just as entertaining, if not more, than the actual films, thus they deserve their own recognition. That’s why every week we sort through them and put the ones we feel you should watch here in our Trailer Roundup.

[tabgroup][tab title=”Noah”]

trailer roundup

Synopsis: An epic retelling of the biblical story of Noah who, after suffering deadly premonitions of an apocalyptic flood, takes extreme measures to protect his family.

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer(s): Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Stars: Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson

Release Date: March 28, 2014

Thoughts: The Fountain was Aronofsky’s first foray into larger scale films, but this looks to trump that in every which way by being a true epic. Not surprising though, considering the budget is almost quadruple the formers, but by the trailer, it doesn’t look like Noah is using that budget for a complex and as intricate a story as his previous works. That said, it’s a forgivable problem considering most people know the story, or at least the general gist, so there isn’t much wiggle room to change it. Then again, it is most likely just the marketing trying to sell the film with its giant action set pieces. Some scenes in the trailer did seem to delve into Lord of The Rings territory, but the money shot at the end, the ark floating, ultimately sold me.

[/tab][tab title=”Maleficent”]

Maleficent Poster

Synopsis: The classic tale, Sleeping Beauty, is given a new spin when told from the perspective of the villainous Maleficent, looking specifically at the events that hardened her heart, and got her to eventually curse the young Princess Aurora.

Director: Robert Stromberg

Writer(s): Paul Dini, Linda Woolverton, and John Lee Hancock
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlito Copley, and Juno Temple

Release Date: May 30, 2014

Thoughts: The idea of the untold story of Sleeping Beauty is unique, and Jolie seems perfect for this villainous role, but the overindulgence in CGI at the end really put me off and ruined what could’ve been an excellent teaser. It reminded me of a dark version of Sam Raimi’s Oz. Luckily though, the film is still a ways off so judging the effects is a bit unfair, but it brings up the question of why put it in the trailer? It doesn’t look very good, and I don’t think that’s a picky judgement. Hopefully the next trailer either moves away from it, or at least polishes the effects up a bit, cause the tone it’s going for could stand alone without it. Regardless, I still think Disney will have a hit on their hands come May.

[/tab][tab title=”Need For Speed”]

Need for Speed Poster Aaron Paul

Synopsis: After being released from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business man joins a race across the country with revenge in mind. Meanwhile, his ex-partner puts out a bounty on his head just as the race begins.

Director: Scott Waugh
Writer(s): George Gatins, John Gatins, and George Nolfi
Stars: Aaron Paul, Michael Keaton, Dominic Cooper, Dakota Johnson, and Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi)

Release Date: March 14, 2014

Thoughts: Story wise this appears to be pretty generic, but look wise, it seems freakin’ awesome. While it doesn’t look to have any direct thread to the game in its story (obviously besides for cars racing),  there looks to be some pretty awesome action set pieces. A similar big budget franchise, Fast and Furious, has the whole insane stunts down to a point where they’re fantastical in their execution. This looks to counter with a more realistic feel to it all. In vein of Christopher Nolan’s work ethic, the majority of the film is done with practical effects, and the trailer did a good job of showing it. On the other hand, the acting seems competent. We know Aaron Paul is tremendous, but the material just doesn’t seem to be there to showcase his skills. The addition of Kid Cudi as the cool best friend looks fun, and for those that watched How to Make it In America, he’s really not a bad actor.

[/tab][tab title=”The Machine”]

The Machine Poster

Synopsis: Two programmers create the first ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, designed to help humanity. But it takes a turn for the worse when the MoD (Military possibly? No explanation to acronym) steal the design, and use it as a robotic weapon.

Director: Caradog W. James
Writer(s): Caradog W. James
Stars: Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens, and Denis Lawson

Release Date: TBA

Thoughts: I’m really starting to dig these Indie Sci-Fi films. When done right, you get some high-concept, yet smaller films that are really awesome, and I think The Machine could be one of them.  Besides for the very generic title, I like the concept, and overall it seems like a low-budget I-Robot. The effects look competent, albeit the red glowing, and the tone, a mash of horror/thriller, seems to be pretty spot on for the idea. Also, it looks to delve into some ‘Splice’ territory at one point in the trailer, which could definitely be interesting.

[/tab][tab title=”In Fear”]

In Fear

Synopsis: A contained thriller in which a couple gets lost on the way to a Music Festival, and soon become terrorized by an unknown evil as they drive to find their way out.

Director: Jeremy Lovering
Writer(s): Not Available
Stars: Ian De Caestecker, Alice Englert, and Allen Leech

Release Date: TBA

Thoughts: That’s how a horror trailer should be done. Set up the basic premise, add in some creepy music, disjointed dialogue, and make it go bat-shit insane by the end. This film has been getting rave reviews, and it looks to be getting a US release sometime soon. ‘Agents of Shield’ fans will recognize Ian De Caestecker taking quite a departure from that respective role, and the girl, Alice Englert, looks to hold her own, though isn’t given much in the trailer. The concept too feels so obvious, a couple getting lost driving in the woods, but I don’t believe its been executed properly in recent years. Word on the street is In Fear changes that.

 

[/tab][tab title=”Chavez”]

Ceaser Chavez

Synopsis: A biography of the civil-rights activist and labor organizer Cesar Chavez.

Director: Diego Luna
Writer(s): Keir Pearson
Stars: Michael Pena, Rosario Dawson, and John Malkovich

Release Date: April 4, 2014

Thoughts: I’m really digging the tone this films going for. Cesar Chavez is a super important man in US history, and it could easily be done in a very feel good way, but it seems like they’re going for a darker take to his story which resonates more to real life. It also makes it look more thrilling, and could definitely attract a greater audience that other Biopics have trouble getting. Acting wise, Pena looks pretty incredible in this role, and it’s about time he breaks out with a complex character such as Chavez.

 

 

[/tab][tab title=”Tar”]

Tar Poster

Synopsis: A poetic road trip through Pulitzer prize-winning CK Williams’ life.

Director: 12 NYU Film Students
Writer(s): 12 NYU Film Students
Stars: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Zach Braff, and Bruce Campell

Release Date:

Thoughts: So this trailer doesn’t look very good. The story seems very disjointed, the cinematography looks uneasy and fluctuates, and the performances don’t look like anything special. But the conceit behind the production is why it’s noteworthy.  12 NYU students were picked to write and direct a part of CK William’s life, and major actors volunteered to be a part of it. The fact that these stars are helping up-and-comers is tremendous, and shines light away from the conceited view of most Hollywood actors.

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Trailer Roundup: LSD Trips, Wall Punching, China Treachery, & Much More

Every week countless trailers go unnoticed or unreported. Trailer’s are an art form in itself, and can be just as entertaining, if not sometimes more, than the actual films, so they deserve their own recognition. That’s why every week we sort through them for you guys, and put the ones we feel you should watch here in our Trailer Roundup.

Continue reading Trailer Roundup: LSD Trips, Wall Punching, China Treachery, & Much More

Star Wars: Episode VII – Officially Pushed to December 2015

After much speculation, Star Wars Episode VII has officially been moved from its summer 2015 release date to December 18th of that year. This comes on the verge of last week’s news of the writer change-up with J.j Abrams and Episode’s  5 & 6 writer Lawrence Kasdan taking over from Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3). The film’s plot is still tightly under the wraps, but rumors have it that Abrams was very unsatisfied with the initial draft, and felt a need to speed up production to hit its original summer date. Thankfully though, he’ll now get an extra few months to polish up the film and deliver a worthy inclusion to the Star Wars Saga.

Alan Horn, the chairmen of The Walt Disney Studios said in his press release,

[quote]”We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII, where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture”.[/quote]

Not only does the report give a release date, it also gives an estimated shooting date and location, which means they’ll also get an extra few months on the effects heavy post production,

[quote]Shooting is scheduled to begin spring 2014 at Pinewood Studios.[/quote]

All in all, this is great news. Yes, it won’t be hitting the usual May release that all previous 6 films have, but it’ll give Abrams more time to deliver a quality picture instead of a rushed one. While this film is almost destined to make bank, it doesn’t hurt that it be separated from the surplus of blockbusters due to hit summer 2015.

This list is long so bear with me: The Fantastic Four reboot, the video game adaptation Assassin’s Creed, Edgar Wright’s ‘Ant Man’, The Terminator reboot, the sequel Jurassic World, the sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron,  the sequel to Independence Day, the sequel Batman vs. SupermanTed 2and lastly Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak.

Wow. That is a lot. Now to be fair, the majority of those, besides the Marvel films (which are pretty much locked in), are bound to change in some form. But still, even half those in one summer would be a little insane. Would I like them all to be released? Hell yeah, to see all those one after another, but the film business is about money, so putting them back to back could really hamper their box office, and dissolve chances of more big blockbusters being produced. On the other hand, Star Wars Episode VII will now be in the clear for its pre-Christmas release date.

Star Wars 7 fan art

 

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Trailer Looks Epic

Almost exactly a year since the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the follow-up is set to debut. Once again directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug picks up immediately after its predecessor, continuing the journey of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, who reluctantly teams up with a group of Dwarves and the great wizard Gandalf to retrieve their gold from the vicious dragon Smaug.

The majority of the cast from the first film returns, Martin Freeman (Sherlock), Ian McKellen (X-Men), and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) to name a few, but the more exciting news is the additions to the cast that include Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness, Sherlock), returning LOTR’s star Orlando Bloom, and Fast & Furious 6 villain Luke Evans. The trailer’s a bit long, coming in around 3 minutes, but it does a pretty stellar job of showcasing the scale of this film. While I wasn’t that excited before, this trailer’s finally convinced me. Check it out:

This trailer is pretty awesome, but what scares me is the trailer for the first Hobbit was pretty damn good too. Going into that knowing this series was set up for a trilogy, I found I was able to simply enjoy it and have fun, without looking for an actually fulfilling story. That worked cause it was simply setting up the characters, but at the same time, it led on that it’d be this epic journey, when in actuality it was a small adventure. This again looks to be an epic journey, and hopefully it can skip the exposition of teaching us the characters, and move past seceding the story to preserve for the third film. Also, the addition of Cumberbatch is always welcomed. Even in voice alone, he is a force to reckon with, and makes me that much more excited for the film.

The Hobbit Benedict Cumberbatch

Lastly, it’ll be interesting to see the ticket sales this time around for the HFR (48 Frames per a second) because last year people were selecting to see it that way to check out this “new form of cinema”, but this time they most likely have an opinion on it (and most likely negative). To me, I didn’t mind it too much, I thought the scenes of character’s faces and of the landscape were beautiful, but the special effects stood out like a sour thumb, and the majority of people I’ve talked to really disliked it.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Poster

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is due out December 13th.