Movie News

Nightmare Before Christmas Poem

If you like watching free movies online, you’re probably already a fan of Open Culture. More than film, the site has been curated with education in mind — audiobooks, online courses, curiosities. Its movies are free not because they’re pirated, but because they are in the public domain or directly designed to be free/educational. If you’re not already a fan of Open Culture, you should become one as soon as possible because, according to Torrent Freak, the MPAA has submitted a takedown notice for Open Culture to Google. To be fair, that probably won’t result in anything happening, but to understand why it’s strange, you have to realize that Open Culture vets its offerings carefully and, although they often write brief information about the movies, the majority of what they feature is all on YouTube. Thus, if the MPAA wants Open Culture shut down due to copyright infringement, they’d also need to slap YouTube on the wrist. Except they can’t, because the movies are all legally shared. It’s also quite possible that this request is part of some automated mistake that red flagged “/freemoviesonline,” so it’s not a cause for alarm quite yet — except to say that the MPAA should be more conscientious of what they’re submitting for review. As of posting time, a request for a quote from the MPAA has gone unanswered.

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JLaw in Catching Fire

In the fall of 2003, James Cameron filmed the record-breaking “no limits” free dive of Pipin Ferreras, which was a special event commemorating the death of Ferreras’s wife, Audrey Mestre. A year earlier, she drowned attempting the same feat of reaching a depth of 170 meters (557.7 feet) while holding her breath. During the press conference for the 2003 dive, Cameron confirmed earlier reports from that summer that he would be making a movie about the couple, and it would wind up being based on Ferreras’s 2004 memoir, “The Dive: A Story of Love and Obsession.” More than a decade later, Cameron has been focusing his directorial interests on the Avatar movies, but he’s continued developing the project with other filmmakers coming on board to take the helm. Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) became attached back in 2012, and now Francis Lawrence is the latest substitution, according to The Wrap. He also has an actress joining him for the role of the late diver: his Hunger Games leading lady, Jennifer Lawrence. Apparently she has a strong desire to work with Cameron. 

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Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in CAPTAIN AMERICA THE WINTER SOLDIER

There goes my theory about Black Widow dying in Avengers: Age of Ultron that I pulled out of my ass last year. The character was confirmed in a recent interview with directors Joe and Anthony Russo to be back for Captain America: Civil War, which begins filming soon. Technically Anthony just said they’ll be joined by actress Scarlett Johansson for the shoot, so maybe she’ll be playing the Avenger’s clone or twin or a new character for which she changes her look. He specifies that Chris Evans is returning as Captain America and that the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan, unnamed by Anthony) will be back and that Robert Downey Jr. is on board as Iron Man. He never specifically says Black Widow. Make of that what you will, theorizers. I’m kidding, of course, about Johansson playing another character. Of course she’s playing Black Widow again, and of course she’s the logical other Avengers to return since she was the co-lead (sadly not titularly) in the last Captain America movie, which was also directed by the Russo brothers. With the confirmation, though, we’re now spoiled about her surviving the upcoming Avengers sequel and, more significantly, we’re seeing this next Captain America movie seeming more and more like a full-on Avengers installment. How many Avengers does it take to make it an Avengers movie, anyway? Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is supposed to be in Civil War, too, albeit not likely as a member of The Avengers even by the end.

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What We Do In the Shadows

One of our favorite undistributed movies of 2014 needs help getting distributed in 2015. What We Do in the Shadows, which had us rolling in the aisles at Sundance and SXSW, is set to open on February 13th, but so far the release is limited to New York City and Los Angeles. So, writers/directors/stars of this hilarious vampire mockumentary Jemaine Clement and Taiki Waititi (Flight of the Conchords; Eagle vs. Shark) have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in order to help finance distribution to other locations around the US — 70 cities to be exact. The goal is $400k, and that’s apparently mostly to cover promotional materials like posters and publicity. Unlike the current Kickstarter campaign of David Cross to get his new movie in more theaters, this one doesn’t seem to be covering theatrical bookings to the point that box office ticket sales aren’t still a necessity. Surprisingly, none of the pledge levels will get you a ticket to the movie (well, there are tickets to special screenings) or a link to stream it (update: they’ve added a $30 pledge level with an online screener reward!). Instead, your contribution allows you the possibility of seeing What We Do in the Shadows in a movie theater along with swag perks like copies of the screenplay, t-shirts and, at the higher levels, meet and greets and personal messages from Clement and Waititi. There are also signed DVDs of the comedy — which the Kickstarter refers to as an actual documentary — due upon its […]

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SELMA-e1415826982114

This year’s Oscar nominations have left a bunch of movie fans disappointed. Why isn’t The Lego Movie up for Best Animated Feature? Why isn’t Jake Gyllenhaal up for Best Actor for Nightcrawler? Where’s Jennifer Aniston‘s nomination for Cake? Why isn’t A Most Violent Year represented anywhere? How were Life Itself, The Overnighters and Jodorowsky’s Dune all excluded from the Best Documentary race? Why was Selma‘s Ava DuVernay robbed of becoming the first African-American woman nominated in the Best Director category? I’ve heard all the complaints about what’s missing from this year’s crop of contenders, and I too am pretty surprised by the lot of them. Not just because some of them deserved the recognition, but because they’ve already received honors elsewhere. One of these elsewheres is the Critics Choice Awards, the ceremony of which just so happens to be tonight. And you can watch them live on TV — A&E at 9pm ET — to appreciate that, hey, film critics do matter. We’re actually better than the Hollywood elite, as it turns out. You see, the nominees for the Critics Choice Awards include The Lego Movie for Best Animated Feature and Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Actor (and Nightcrawler is up for Best Picture) and Jennifer Aniston for Best Actress. Also, A Most Violent Year is represented at least once with Jessica Chastain up for Best Supporting Actress, Life Itself, The Overnighters and Jodorowsky’s Dune are all in contention for Best Documentary and, most importantly, Ava DuVernay is nominated for Best Director. Additional nominees I’m happy about, particularly as a new member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association who participated in […]

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Focus Features

The fine folks at Focus Features, feeling generous after The Boxtrolls brought in a well-deserved Oscar nomination this morning, have thrown some swag our way. We haven’t done a contest or giveaway in a while, but we all really like this movie so we’ve decided that we’d like some of our readers to be able to see it, as well. All you have to do is jump down into our comments section and caption the above photo. Our editorial staff will then pick our three (3) favorite captions and send each winner a copy of the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. It’s your chance to show off how clever you can be and to win a free copy of one of the year’s best-crafted films.

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MTY Productions

It’s easy to overlook the Slamdance Film Festival while in Park City attending Sundance. But year after year, the smaller event up the hill increasingly proves its programming is worth paying attention to. Last year, Slamdance gave us the odd, ethically complicated documentary Kung Fu Elliot, which became a bit of a cult favorite and wound up at Fantastic Fest in the fall. My sudden most-anticipated selection from the 2015 Slamdance program is sure to head to Austin later this year, too. It’s called Bloodsucking Bastards, and I don’t think there’s any better way of describing its aesthetic than Flickchart’s comparison of “Office Space meets Shaun of the Dead.” Only instead of zombies, the heroes here have to deal with vampires. The metaphorical concept has to do with how working at an office is “soul-killing,” as the synopsis puts it. Not that such a layer of meaning matters, because I don’t think this will be on the level of satirical brilliance of Edgar Wright’s zom-rom-com, but I’m just curbing my expectations for now on something by people I’m unfamiliar with, such as director Brian James O’Connell. Honestly, before seeing Shaun of the Dead back in 2004, I would have thought it looked cool but not necessarily like a contender for one of the best films of the year, let alone decade. Meanwhile, there are a surprising amount of great vampire comedies lately, between What We Do in the Shadows and Only Lovers Left Alive, so eventually something’s gotta disappoint. Hopefully it’s […]

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Tom-Cruise-Dumbfounded-in-Edge-of-Tomorrow

Tom Cruise as a pilot in the 1980s? While we wait forever for Top Gun 2, perhaps a movie in development called Mena will quench our need for speed. Or maybe speed is not the appropriate drug to go with for this project, which will see Cruise playing a real-life cocaine trafficker and gun runner named Barry Seal if the talks reported by Deadline go through with success. Previously, Ron Howard was set to direct the movie, but while it’s still housed at his Imagine Entertainment, the job is up for grabs and the likely hire is Doug Liman. That would make this an Edge of Tomorrow reunion, albeit one that doesn’t promise any of the laughs and sci-fi spectacle we got with that awesome 2014 action flick. Unlike this week’s other re-team announcement for the Gone Girl gang to remake Strangers on a Train, this one is not about a collaboration for more of the same.

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John Krasinski

John Krasinski could wind up one of those actors who isn’t made for the movies. Whether it’s because he’s got a look more suited for television or that we’ll never stop seeing him as Jim Halpert from The Office or that he simply can’t lock down the right breakthrough role on the big screen, maybe he should just let his wife be the movie star (one who had a great 2014, by the way) and he can stick to being famous on the small screen, where his facial expressions get the proper attention in perpetual close-up. Or, maybe he just needs more time, like his UK Office counterpart, Martin Freeman, who just needed Peter Jackson to cast him as the lead in The Hobbit movies for a boost of cinematic notoriety (of course, Freeman’s most notable gigs of late are on TV: Fargo and Sherlock). And perhaps Michael Bay can be Krasinski’s Peter Jackson. Bay is currently set to direct 13 Hours, a serious yet action-oriented movie about the 2012 terrorist attack against Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and Variety reports that Krasinski is in talks for one of the lead parts after apparently blowing the Transformers director away in an audition. He’d play a real-life Navy SEAL, which these days seems to be a good luck charm for comedy actors looking to build a stronger resume, whether in a primary position like Bradley Cooper in American Sniper or Chris Pratt in a minor role in Zero Dark Thirty. But this is still a Michael Bay movie, reminding us more of Pearl Harbor, which also […]

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Birdman

Has it been a good year for movies? That’s inevitably the question that crops up around the time we start kissing people at midnight, and it crops up again as soon as the Oscar nominees are announced. That’s fair, but the Oscars also tell an incomplete story in terms of quality, especially since the cinematic experience is so robust and personal now. We go to festivals, we see movies online that can’t qualify for the Academy Awards, we scroll through Letterboxd. At the same time, the Oscars at least mostly offer us a window into the best of the year. We also have them to thank for broadening the conversation and giving a launchpad to movies that wouldn’t normally get a larger stage. Just wait until your mom finds out about Birdman. At 5:30am Pacific, Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Alfonso Cuaron will announce the 2015 Oscar nominees, the films that will vie for gold at the 87th Academy Awards. We’ll be posting them here as they come in.

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Michael Keaton Birdman 007

Last week, I gave Michael Keaton a hard time on this site for signing on to a blockbuster like Kong: Skull Island in the wake of his acclaimed comeback in Birdman. Now, on the eve of potentially his first Oscar nomination, Keaton is in the news for a meatier follow-up. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor is in talks to play Ray Kroc, the businessman who turned McDonald’s into the king of fast food restaurants and one of the biggest brands in the world. Don’t worry, haters, this is going to be closer to Super Size Me than Mac and Me in its interests. Something darker than the biography you’ll find at the McDonald’s website. THR says the script, by Robert Siegel (writer of The Wrestler and Big Fan but also co-writer of Turbo), is being likened to The Social Network and There Will Be Blood. “There Will Be Burgers” is officially my new name for it. And the “I drink your milkshake” line is already too perfect — seriously, Kroc was a milkshake mixer salesman when he stumbled into the first McDonald’s drive-in restaurant. 

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Electro

I’ve been saying it for a long time: superheroes are the new movie stars, and the issue of these comic book based characters being licensed by different studios is sort of like actors and actresses being contracted with the majors back in the day. Eventually, I figured, the heroes would be on loan and traded between studios for projects much like stars were in the golden days. The analogy still doesn’t work perfectly, but we’re about to see something close enough in practice when Sony allows for Spider-Man to appear in a Marvel Studios feature. According to Latino-Review’s Da7e Gonzalez, the long-awaited deal is done to sling ol’ web-head over into the world of The Avengers. Reportedly the window was missed for Spidey to appear in next year’s Captain America: The Civil War, as he does prominently in the comics version, so instead he’ll make his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 in 2018. Whether the role will be huge or not is unclear, as he could very well just be a part of an awesome ensemble of characters that includes just about everyone from Marvel’s Phase 3 movies to the studio’s Netflix series — but not original Avengers players Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk or Thor, whom Gonzalez believes may all be in space or dead (or both?). He has some additional spoilery details and speculation in his post, which is an essential read if you don’t mind knowing so much. 

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JOHN WICK and dog

After 35 years, it’s time for the Razzies to apologize. The annual occasion to dishonor the worst in movies has long been criticized for itself being one of the worst things to happen to cinema. They crap on easy targets more than they serve a good cause, and the majority of their nominees in recognition of awful filmmaking and performances in 2014 proves little exception. There’s another Transformers movie, another Adam Sandler movie, another movie starring someone from Twilight, and it’s mostly the same handful of titles represented in each category. Transformers: Age of Extinction tops with seven nominations and Saving Christmas and The Legend of Hercules got six, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got five, A Million Ways to Die in the West got four and each with three are Left Behind, Sex Tape, The Expendables 3 and Blended. The apology, however, comes in the form of a new Golden Raspberry category for past Razzie nominees and winers who’ve turned the quality of their work around. The Razzie Redeemer Award contenders in the backhanded honor’s inaugural appearance are Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Keanu Reeves, Kristen Stewart and Mike Myers. The last is due to the actor’s directorial debut with Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon. So, apparently the Razzies are not only being positive, they’re celebrating documentary. I’d argue that Supermensch is in fact one of the worst docs of 2014, and from what I hear Cake isn’t really enough to claim Aniston is redeemed for past offenses with her Razzie nominees for The Bounty Hunter (two […]

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Doctor Who Dark Water

Movies come and go from Netflix Watch Instantly every month, and we’re normally fine with the idea. It’s not that different from the decades-long tradition of movies coming and going from premium cable rotation. If anything, it gives us meaning in our lives to have expiration dates to plan our lives around. That last weekend of any month is an occasion for marathoning those titles about to leave our queues (yes, I still call them that). But there’s a difference between movies being purged from the service and TV shows getting the boot. Netflix subscribers go ballistic when whole series expire, and it might as well be the end of the world if multiple series from one network are headed out the door. I’ve seen people get upset in the past over Discovery, Learning Channel and ESPN 30 for 30 programming going bye-bye. It’s nothing like what I’m seeing over the current expiration notices for all of BBC’s shows, which will apparently no longer be available after January 31st. So long, Doctor Who (the classics and the new run), Torchwood, Red Dwarf, Little Britain, Luther, the original House of Cards and old favorites like Fawlty Towers and Black Adder, plus 14 other titles. Unless, that is, the arrangement between Netflix and BBC is renewed. This is actually quite normal practice for the service and its content. A lot of deals are revisited at the end of their contracted period, and many aren’t settled until the last minute. Movies, too, as was seen last […]

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Ben Affleck in Gone Girl

Criss-cross! If you thought Gone Girl was Hitchcockian, wait till you see what the gang is up to next. According to Deadline, David Fincher will re-team with writer Gillian Flynn and actor Ben Affleck for a fresh, much-altered remake of Strangers on a Train. The 1951 classic, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is about two men who meet and arrange a murder swap, although one of them wasn’t actually being serious about the idea. It was sort of already redone as the underrated 1987 comedy Throw Mama From the Train, directed by Danny De Vito. This next version, like the original to be an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, will change things up almost as much. Instead of a famous tennis pro, Ben Affleck is filling the Farley Granger part as a movie star at the height of his career (with Oscar buzz!), who meets a stranger on a plane — or at least meets a stranger than accept a ride from him on his private plane. The question is, will the title now be Strangers on a Plane (or Strangers Who Meet and Then Share a Ride in a Private Plane Owned by One of Them)? You can’t really keep the original title if there are no trains in the movie, right? Also, will it end at an amusement park with a big stunt involving a carousel? Will it feature the famous balloon popping by whoever plays the other guy? Who will play the other guy? Can it be Neil Patrick Harris? […]

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Thanks to the Internet, both short film and the artistry of advertising has been celebrated more than ever. Video sharing is a huge part of our culture now, and sometimes it’s not all silly home movies or scripted sketches that are being passed around. Still, shorts could be more respected within the whole of cinema and commercials shouldn’t be such a large part of what we’re being entertained by. I’ll make an exception on the latter, however, when it’s beneficial to the former. Especially if Martin Scorsese is the one handling them. A few years ago, I recognized a Hitchcock-mimicking ad for Freixenet by Scorsese as one of the best shorts of 2007. Now he’s potentially going to deliver one of the best of 2015 in something called The Audition, which promotes a new casino resort in Macau, China. This time Scorsese has some help to up the prestige and more blur the lines between advertisement and legitimate film release. Robert De Niro, who was once the director’s primary leading man, appearing in eight of his movies, and Leonardo DiCapro, who is the more recent favorite with five collaborations, are appearing together for the first time in a Scorsese project (they appeared together in This Boy’s Life and Marvin’s Room in the ’90s, when DiCaprio was young and neither had a connection to Scorsese). The gimmick is also the joke, as they play themselves in the short, made to compete for the lead in the next Scorsese feature. Brad Pitt is also […]

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Melissa McCarthy in Spy

To say that Spy looks like the funniest comedy of its kind in years isn’t saying much, especially if we’re talking broad Hollywood releases. In her latest collaboration with director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), Melissa McCarthy follows some really terrible vehicles starring Jackie Chan, Rowan Atkinson and Steve Carrell for something that looks familiar right down to the font of the credits. Every now and then a studio has to make a spy movie spoof featuring an inept or otherwise bumbling agent, and McCarthy is the latest in a line going back as far as Chaplin (excluding the 101-year-old Without Hope, in which Marguerite Marsh plays a waitress who foils an evil espionage plot). They tend to work as well as their lead can do, but lately that hasn’t necessarily been the case (Chan, Atkinson and Carrell are not the reasons their respective spy comedies fail their mission). Will McCarthy rise above? On first look, it’s a maybe. Two trailers dropped for Spy today, one Green Band and one Red Band (see below), and they sell a movie on simple slapstick and swears — the latter just in the Red Band version. McCarthy has a certain charm and has terrific timing, but otherwise her brand of comedy isn’t all that distinct. This is a movie that could star just about anyone as the CIA desk jobber who is tasked with saving the world when all the actual agents have their covers blown. Maybe there wouldn’t be the same exact lines, such as Jason Statham‘s calling McCarthy a “lunch lady,” but […]

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Unfriended Movie

Here’s a film that was literally made on a computer. It’s not that big a deal, no more than cheap hand-held camcorders were in 1999, allowing for more and more documentaries to be produced and also for the found footage genre to begin. 15 years later, the concept of desktop cinema has exploded onto the scene with the likes of docs such as Kevin B. Lee’s Transformers: The Premake and now the next level in found footage: a Skype- and computer screen-based horror. Levan Gabriadze‘s Unfriended is the hot example at the moment, though it follows desktop-centric found footage material seen previously in The Den and Paranormal Activity 4. One reason that Unfriended is shining as its own unique thing is that its new trailer, which debuted this week on MTV, is pretty well done. Probably a bit on the spoilery side — I don’t know for sure, just making a guess based on how much plot is laid out — but thrillingly intriguing. Unfriended, which used to be titled Cybernatural, is basically a familiar horror premise where someone has died and a year later they appear to be back in order to murder all who did them in. Specifically for this movie, the dead person is a girl who became so humiliated by video leaked online that she then killed herself live on webcam. The whole movie, then, takes place on the first anniversary of her death, during and within a multi-line Skype call between her friends — and maybe also […]

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Thor vs Tony Stark

Tonight, Marvel premiered a new trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron during a college football game, and for all of us non sports watchers it fortunately arrived online at the same time. But after checking out this second spot for the upcoming blockbuster, I almost feel like I caught the roughest game of full-contact scrimmage. The kind where your team is divided up and you go up against your mates. There was Thor grabbing Tony Stark/Iron Man’s throat. There was Hulk bashing Iron Man off the screen. There was Scarlet Witch blasting Iron Man into a wall. Okay, maybe Scarlet Witch isn’t on the same team, but I presume she will be later on. This is the Iron Man gets his butt kicked a lot edition, although we also see Captain America and Thor and Hulk feel some pain, as well. Watch the trailer after the jump and then we can discuss.

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Alphaville

That Godard is so hot right now. I don’t even need to write his first name in the lead-in. His recent 3D film, Goodbye to Language, was named the best picture of 2014 by the National Society of Film Critics, and when that sort of thing happens you can bet Hollywood will come calling. Never mind that Godard has been around and considered one of the masters of cinema for more than half a century, and never mind that there’s not really anything the American studios could do with the material in that acclaimed new film (nor have they optioned any of the other foreign films the NSFC have honored in the top slot, as far as I can recall). They don’t need to remake Goodbye to Language, anyway, because Godard has decades worth of output to mine from. His most famous, Breathless, has already been recycled, but Alphaville is apparently up for the taking. And now it’s been taken. According to The Wrap, Twin Peaks cinematographer Frank Byers optioned the 1965 sci-fi film from Godard with his own money and will make his directorial debut with a “fresh take on the story that aims to reflect what’s happening in today’s political climate.” The script for this indie version is by writer/director Franc. Reyes (Empire), who previously employed Byers as a director of photography on his films. Frankly, I’m surprised this one hasn’t been remade sooner. We’re coming up on its 50th anniversary this Spring, and while it inspired a low-budget Hollywood movie in the early […]

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published: 01.26.2015
B-, C-
published: 01.26.2015
A-
published: 01.26.2015
B


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