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True Story

Fox Searchlight Pictures

James Franco makes a lot of movies, many of which aren’t released for a very long time. See his 2010 documentary Saturday Night, for instance — and now you actually can, thanks to Hulu, six years after it was shot and four after it had its premiere at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. I’d like to assume The Interview will also eventually see the light of day, despite Sony’s current plans to shelve the movie entirely, without any kind of theatrical or home video release, due to the threat against any venue willing to show the comedy. A big studio feature is different than a nonfiction pet project like Saturday Night, of course, as is the reason for its deference. I’ve seen industry experts speculate that Sony will write-off The Interview as a total loss to collect on their insurance, and that would mean the movie couldn’t ever be released down the road after this all blows over.

We’ll just have to move on to what’s next from Franco, then. While I’m not sure what will be released first, the actor has two new features debuting next month at the Sundance Film Festival. One is I Am Michael, which has Franco starring as the real-life Michael Glatze, a former gay rights activist who later denounced his homosexuality. The other is True Story, in which he plays another real person, Christian Longo, who murdered his wife and three small children in 2001. We can say it in those terms rather than having to write “he was convicted of” or that “allegedly” he committed the heinous crime, because he fully admitted to doing so after his trial. This was also after he had spent his first year in jail corresponding with journalist Michael Finkel (played in the movie by Jonah Hill) claiming innocence in hopes of being acquitted through the influence of stories written on his case.

Watch the trailer for True Story via Yahoo after the jump and find out how the story of Longo might be relevant to what’s become of The Interview.

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Annie

Sony Pictures Entertainment

The Annie mythos — culled from various versions, from an 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley to the Harold Gray-crafted syndicated comic strip to the beloved 1977 Broadway musical and its subsequent 1982 film adaptation — has evolved quite spectacularly over the years. Once a character in a poem that is straight up about goblins, Annie is now the adorable, plucky heroine of a feel-good musical about finding your own family (and copious amounts of cash) in the most unexpected of places. Still, the problem with Annie is that, jazzy song-and-dance sequences aside, the story itself is almost too wrenching to be believed. At least, that’s the problem with Will Gluck‘s Annie, which insists on foisting still more troubles on our pint-sized leading lady while also involving a weirdly adult subplot about corporate invasions of privacy.

Isn’t being a goddamn orphan bad enough? No, because this orphan has to soft-shoe it through a feature that thinks that illiteracy works wonders as a late-breaking, totally tossed-off issue and that selling kids for cash is the kind of feature the entire family can enjoy this holiday season. Still worse, the musical elements of the film — which is still a musical, no matter how many times its own characters make fun of the genre during the actual course of the feature — are ham-fisted, poorly made and embarrassing.

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Dreamworks

Dreamworks

 

This article is presented in partnership with Cadillac.

This summer, Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenged producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants made a short film over a single weekend in late June, and you can watch the semi-finalists’ films at the Make Your Mark website. The 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards.

One of those filmmaking teams was lucky enough to receive mentorship from Bruce Cohen, the producer behind American BeautyBig FishMilkSilver Linings Playbook and more. He has more than three decades of experience, and for semi-finalists Tim Wen and Chidi Onyejuruwa, all of that was a phone call away.

Cohen speaks with us about his approach to mentoring aspiring filmmakers and shares some advice about finding a balance between the height of your creative imagination and the practical limits of putting them on film.

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2014review_imports

We made a point with this year’s “Best of” lists to only include titles that received a U.S. release in 2014, but I’m not going to stick with that here. Foreign language films in particular can be difficult to highlight and give attention to if forced to wait for a proper American release — 2000’s Battle Royale, for example, took over a decade before getting a U.S. release — and many titles only see festival screenings before leaving our shores for good.

So while the majority of the films below have been released in some form or other here in the States five of them remain outside the system. The odds are that some of them will debut here in 2015, and we’ll spread the word if and when that happens.

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2014review_scifi

Thanks to the continued popularity of superhero movies and YA literature adaptations and now the reignited interest in monsters, the joined genres of science fiction and fantasy are giving us what seems to be more releases than ever. It helps that computer effects are cheaper and easier for the benefit of indies and that so many makers of shorts see simple yet impressively visualized stories involving robots, dystopias and alien invasions as the perfect calling card for Hollywood.

The plethora of works dealing with the unreal and as yet impossible means that while last year a Hobbit movie made the cut, this year the final chapter did not. It means that a new sci-fi film from Terry Gilliam, my longtime favorite director, also fell below our limit of the top 14. And it also means there was just too much out there for me to get around to. Apologies to Space Station 76, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, The Boxtrolls, A Girl Walks Home Alone at NightThe Frame and many others.

Some interesting trends to note about the year in sci-fi and fantasy before we get going: at least a few 2014 movies involve doppelgängers or doubles or clones or alternate versions of some sort; another bunch feature a plot similar to Groundhog Day; and a lot were not mere magic and space opera but rather emphasized the science side of sci-fi by at least promoting scientists and innovation (if not also always getting the tech or theories quite right). Also Scarlett Johansson.

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2014review_trailers

Movie trailers have become an odd business unto themselves. As the promotional budgets for blockbusters spiral upwards to ridiculous heights, we’ve recently seen the introduction of things like trailer teasers (ultra-brief trailers for trailers). Studios now want to build anticipation for things meant to build anticipation for other things. Where will it end? It won’t. Things will only get more ridiculous from here — just wait and see.

Still, on their own, trailers make for addictive viewing. I reinforced that for myself in perusing every notable trailer that came out this year in order to make this list. They are made to suck you in, to be watched over and over; the hope is to create a void in the viewer that can only be satisfied by seeing the film proper. Taken independently of their films, trailers are curious beings. They are all potential, all speculation generators, even after their movies come out and we know whether their promise ends up fulfilled. Even though I didn’t end up enjoying the films that each trailer here promoted, I still come back to those trailers. They still stand alone as works of … perhaps not art, but something artistic, at least.

So without further ado, here are 14 of the trailers I just couldn’t shake from 2014.

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20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Over the course of director Matthew Vaughn‘s career his love for James Bond has rang loud and clear. In Vaughn’s debut feature, Layer Cake, the suave anti-hero, XXXX (Daniel Craig), wields an old-fashioned gun with an ultra-cool pose that, for anyone who saw the film before Casino Royale, made Craig seem like an obvious contender for Bond. In the audio commentary for Layer Cake Vaughn mentions how XXXX, during that scene, “wants to be Bond.” Not only does XXXX want to be Bond, but Matthew Vaughn clearly wants — or wanted — to direct Bond. Now Vaughn has gotten his way by making a film that’s about as close one can get to Ian Fleming’s English spy. With Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn has basically directed his own Bond picture, except without any self-seriousness, an anguished hero, or other modern Bond staples.

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2014review_rob

2014 has been a brilliant year for movies. We can talk all day long about the disappointments and straight-up garbage shoveled our way, but that’s a waste of time and effort when so much greatness is available too.

So lets talk about the great ones.

One quick note: There are always acclaimed films that slip by and go unseen before the year-end deadline, and this year is no different. So for what it’s worth, at the time of this writing I have yet to see Citizenfour, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice and Selma.

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Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

The world of movies is a little darker today thanks to the cancellation of The Interview‘s release over threats from a group of hackers. Theaters backed down then Sony backed out. It’s all gone to hell in a fear-soaked hand basket. Then Universal Pictures released this new image of Chris Pratt in Jurassic World. At first, it could very well be confused for the first look at a future season of True Detective, but it’s really just Pratt and his raptor buddy. Star-Lord’s relationship with said predator is explained below.

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Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

Update: Since the publication of this article, Sony has announced that it will not move forward with the release of the film on Christmas day. This further proves that an online release would be the best option at this point.

What is Sony Pictures going to do with The Interview?

The film, which has been cited as the reason why an online group perpetrated a massive hack and subsequent leak of corporate documents, emails and even several films, is due to be released in the United States on Christmas Day. Those who follow the world of film closely know that it’s just another bromance comedy for Seth Rogen and James Franco, who decided to follow up their Hollywood-set apocalypse tale This Is The End with something based in the real world. It just happens to be about one of the world’s most ruthless and least humorous regimes. Early word about the film itself is that it’s pretty funny, albeit far fetched. And as Rogen (who co-wrote with Evan Goldberg) explained on The Colbert Report earlier in the week, they actually make North Korean dictator Kim Jonh-Un out to be “sort of adorable.”

North Korea didn’t get the joke. Hackers took the movie too seriously and now we sit, following one of the most massive corporate hacks in history, wondering what will happen to the movie itself. In recent days, the hackers have threatened theaters with violence. And while the Department of Homeland Security has said that there is no evidence of a credible threat, theaters have begun to run scared. Today, major chains Regal Cinemas, Landmark Theater, AMC and Cinemark have announced that they will no longer show The Interview, bowing to the threats from an anonymous online terror group.

While a number of theaters are moving forward with The Interview as planned — including Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse — the backing down of the major exhibitors will be a major blow to the film’s revenue and ultimately to Sony’s bottom line. Which leaves the entertainment conglomerate in a precarious position. You have a film that’s getting a lot of attention, the kind of buzz you can’t buy with any amount of advertising, but you can’t get theaters to show it. How can Sony turn the tables on their online adversaries? By putting the movie online.

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Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

When considering the value of a film, there are at least two ways to think about it. You can measure its impact on you as an individual, or you can think about what it might mean for society as a whole. Ideally, we would do both, but it is often difficult to weigh the two against each other – especially at this time of year when we reduce the totality of a year in cinema to a simple list of ten. So let us, for the moment, put a film’s purely artistic achievements on the backburner, and celebrate those films that impact our world in a positive way. These socially-conscious movies dramatize the plight of oppressed or marginalized communities, bringing light to issues that too often seem to get stuck in the dark.

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2014review_music

2014 has been an exciting and fun time for movie music with a return to the classically styled soundtrack full of popular music to scores going against convention by adding an unexpected element (vocals) or honing in on a single instrument (percussion). We also got a bunch of catchy new songs to sing along with (and get stuck in our heads) along with scores that moved us, upset us, confused us, or simply made us smile.

As films and filmmakers stretch themselves to bring audiences fresh, new stories, those creating the music are starting to push the boundaries as well (or return to more “vintage” means) to mix things up and keep audiences guessing. The movies of 2014 had a very distinct sound that spanned a wide range of genres and musical styles. This year introduced us to some new talent, showed us a new side of familiar names, and had favorites working at the top of their game – read on to listen through the film sound of 2014.

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Adopt Films

Adopt Films

In his most talky and arguably most “Turkish” film to date, writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan grandly ponders and elaborates on an immense amount of thickset, intricate and ever so spiraling drama around the human condition. 2014’s Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep, the seventh feature of Ceylan’s career, takes aim throughout its 196-minute expansive running time and shoots its thorny ideas around class, society and the many self-righteous trivialities of the privileged to an often brutally truthful outcome. Not all of these bullets always find a target, mind you –Winter Sleep occasionally squanders its wealth of wisdom amid hitting redundant notes (one can imagine a shorter and equally effective film)– but when they do, the icy, visceral pain it evokes is at once humanizing and mystifying in equal measure. 

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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