Michelle Monaghan

The Best of Me

The Nicholas Sparks idea well is running dry — also, hey, how come the guy hasn’t tried to kill anyone by tossing them down a well yet? surely, that has to be coming soon — and the prolific author has started cribbing from his own material to slap together lackluster storylines that only approximate genuine feelings, emotional ether floating on the breeze. The latest film to be adapted from Sparks’ written works, Michael Hoffman‘s The Best of Me is rife with plotlines pulled from other Sparks features — kid cancer, car accidents, using an interest in astronomy to prove that someone is smart, disapproving parents, a small Southern town (always a small Southern town, someone introduce Sparks to the North for chrissakes), trademark shocking deaths — but everything is so loosely cobbled together that the film feels closer to a cinematic adaptation of Nicholas Sparks-branded Mad Libs than it does an actual feature. There is, however, one thing that Sparks is still damn good at portraying: the idiocy of first love. But while Sparks’ stories are so often occupied with showing good-looking teens pawing away at each other (and, yes, also pawing away at deep emotions), Sparks steadfastly refuses to face the truth of what he’s writing. These kids are dumb. First love is not the end-all and be-all. The person you are at age seventeen is not the (cough cough) best version of yourself, and continuing to base books and movies on such ideals is, frankly, as immature as anything you’ll find in the average American high school. […]

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The Best of Me

Author Nicholas Sparks knows what he’s doing. The bestselling scribe has penned seventeen novels, ten of which have been turned into films, two of which will arrive in theaters within the next year. Sparks’ films have pulled in nearly half a billion dollars in just domestic box office returns, making a hell of a bankable brand that appeals to all sorts of studios (Sparks’ films have been produced by a variety of movie studios, from Warner Bros. to Relativity to Sony’s Screen Gems label). Sparks know what’s up. The people who make films based on his novel know what’s up. And, if you’ve ever read even one Sparks book or seen one Sparks movie, you also know what’s up, because these productions tend to look pretty damn similar. There are plenty of hallmarks of Sparks’ work, from a Southern setting to imminent death scenes to lots of yelling in the rain, and it appears that the majority of them are on full display in his latest film, The Best of Me. Starring James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan, the autumn offering smacks of Sparks, and its latest trailer proves it. Just how “Nicholas Sparks” is our latest Nicholas Sparks film? Oh, it’s extremely Sparks-y. After the break, let’s all enjoy a second-by-second breakdown of all the most Sparksian elements this new trailer has to offer.

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The Best of Me Trailer

Check your calendars. Gasp. Blink. Check them again. Yes, it’s true. It’s been over a year since we’ve had a brand new Nicholas Sparks film open in a theater (and a heart, awww). For awhile there, it looked as if author Sparks was going to get a tidy little late winter/early spring thing going — Safe Haven opened on Valentine’s Day of last year, The Lucky One opened in April 0f 2012, and 2010 saw a double dose, with The Last Song hitting theaters in March and Dear John opening in February. There was so much Sparks — for a time. Now, however, we’ve been left with the bitter memories of Safe Haven (how safe is it when ghosts are just wandering around, huh, Sparks?) and the distant dream that one day, perhaps soon, we’d get another Sparks film. Rest your little heads, because that next Sparks film is here, and The Best of Me comes complete with an eye-pleasing cast (James Marsden! Michelle Monaghan! Gerald McRaney!), the director of Soapdish (Michael Hoffman, and we do not consider that an insult, as Soapdish is brilliant) and a time-spanning romance. Ah, smells like Sparks. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Tomorrow You

Apparently, today is Random Movies You Didn’t Know Existed That Star Michelle Monaghan Day in Trailerville so, on the heels of the diamond-encrusted trailer for Penthouse North, here comes a sweat-soaked look at Tomorrow You’re Gone. Did you think that Penthouse North looked forumalic? Oh, get ready for Tomorrow You’re Gone. Also starring Willem Dafoe and Stephen Dorff because, hey, they need jobs, too, the film is a “one last job” thriller (the trailer actually uses the “one last job” term in splashy text, so two points for honesty) that pits recent parolee Dorff against string-puller Dafoe. Dorff’s attempts to go straight and keep his new lady (Monaghan) safe go awry when Dafoe calls in return on a debt. You know the rest. Check out today’s other random Michelle Monaghan trailer after the break.

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Penthouse North

Penthouse North should really just be called “Nutty-Crazy Michael Keaton Stalks Poor Blind Girl Michelle Monaghan to Get Some Diamonds,” because that’s exactly what’s going on here and it is still far more interesting than its existing standard issue thriller moniker. Also, guys, Michael Keaton is a nutbag in this, and Michelle Monaghan is blind. And diamonds. Beyond all that, Penthouse North looks like the sort of film that will pop up on TNT in five years, only to make audiences wonder “wait, when did this come out?” It doesn’t really matter, this could have come out whenever (and, considering it was made back in 2011, it really could have hit screens at any point in time since then), and it probably would have still looked just as bonkers. We’ll let this one speak for itself. Hide your diamonds and check out the new international trailer for Penthouse North after the break.

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Director George Clooney

What is Casting Couch? Proof that not everyone’s tracking Hurricane Sandy’s path on Twitter. Some are still out there casting movies. The big casting news over the weekend was all of the big names that were announced for George Clooney’s next project as a director, The Monuments Men. Deadline had the scoop that this period drama about a group of art historians and museum curators trying to recover important and historical works from the clutches of the Nazis is going to star names like Bill Murray, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban. As far as I know none of these people can even speak German, but you’ve still got to look at that list and be impressed. You could cast this crew as an office full of telemarketers and everyone would still watch the movie, making them heroes during the dying days of the Nazi regime is just icing on the cake.

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It’s not every day that press releases are issued that refer to Susan Sarandon as a “devious criminal,” but that’s where we’re at when it comes to Jonathan Mostow‘s Still of Night, a project that sounds compelling just by virtue of those two little words. News from Cannes (duh) reports that Exclusive Media will finance and produce the new thriller, which will see Sarandon’s criminal character making life really hard for Michelle Monaghan, who will portray a woman with more than enough trouble on her plate already. Mostow (Terminator 3, U-571, Surrogates) has penned the script himself, which is described (quite effusively) as “a paranoia thriller that builds to a pulse-pounding crescendo, Still of Night is a smart, stylish ride packed with shocking twists that will give you nightmares – because it could actually happen to you.” What? What, really? No! Tell me more!

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The Avengers hits theaters this Friday, but we’re looking to the future. The not-too-distant future but further out than this coming Friday. May 3, 2013, to be precise, when Iron Man 3 hits. Naturally, it stars Robert Downey Jr., still the comeback kid whose A-list status may as well be written in Adamantium. But it’s also being written and directed by Shane Black, the amazing screenwriter who brought us Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, The Last Boyscout, and this week’s film on Commentary Commentary, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It was Black’s debut as a director, and it’s arguably his best piece of work in 25 years. This week we’re listening to what Black and Downey Jr. have to say about this “indie” action/comedy. Val Kilmer joins the commentary party, too, because any party with Kilmer is better than any party without him. He just loves to drop names, as is indicated by this very bit of audio. With these three in the room together, talking about this very entertaining film, you know a healthy dose of fun is about to be had. So here you have it. All 38 things we learned listening to the commentary for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strips down to his boxers and starts a new training regimen to make him look more like Huge Jackman. He’s got a head start, considering his torso looks almost like Jackman’s… if you turn it upside down. After duking it out with some robots in a boxing ring, Kevin tries his hands at politics because it’s the kind of business where you don’t necessarily have to look like Ryan Gosling to get a young hottie like Evan Rachel Wood. But the primary system leaves him depressed and cold, so he takes a trip to the Sudan to play target practice with some warlords. He hears the Sudan is simply lovely this time of year.

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Machine Gun Preacher is a biopic that does not sugarcoat its violent lead. Unlike most bio films, this is not about a common man rising to become a perfect hero, but instead, a true anti-hero. Sam Childers — biker turned preacher turned freedom fighter — is not the most likable man in the film. Not only would you never want to hang out with him on a weekend, but even after finding Jesus, he commits inexcusable acts. The violence of Childers, at least when he is in Central Africa, is not part of those inexcusable acts. Many critics have said the film takes a very right-wing stance — and perhaps it does, at times — but the methods Sam uses are very black-and-white. He’s an eye for an eye guy. When Sam uses violence to save children, that’s when he becomes his true self. However, when he’s asked to be the father of his own family, that doesn’t come as easy. Again, not your average hero. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with screenwriter Jason Keller about his dynamic lead’s acts, as well as the themes of the film, not making a lifetime movie, and the process of writing for a true visionary.

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Marc Forster‘s Machine Gun Preacher is a humanistic picture. Despite the atrocities conveyed in the film and the fact that the story focuses on an actual anti-hero, the director managed to end on a hopeful note. Some call it dopey, I say humanist. Even with the upbeat nature of the film, there’s a slightly dark moral dichotomy; should a former junkie and criminal, Sam Childers, be the one leading a freedom brigade? Are his methods necessary or justifiable? Sam Childers isn’t the only character with his own moral conundrum, as one is also a part of Lynn Childers, played by Michelle Monaghan. This is the second time I’ve interviewed Monaghan, and like the first time, she reminded me of that popular girl in high school who was cool with everybody. Some actors look like they’re two seconds away from killing themselves during junkets, but Monaghan comes off like she couldn’t be more pleased to be discussing her work — with a guy like me interviewing her, I’m not sure how she does it. Here’s what Michelle Monaghan had to say about the ending of Source Code, the moral dichotomies of Machine Gun Preacher, when journalism and acting collide, passion projects, and the greatness of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

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No one can ever criticize Marc Forster for covering the same ground. Thematically, all his work ties together, but rarely does he play with a certain genre more than once. Over the past ten years he’s made a James Bond picture, a meta drama, an adaption, a 90 minute nightmare, and a raw family drama, and is now working on an epic zombie film. Forster is not only an eclectic filmmaker, but a candid one. In our interview for his latest drama, Machine Gun Preacher, the acclaimed director could not have spoken more objectively about his work, and what people think of it. Prime examples: Quantum of Solace and Stay. Upon the the release of both films, they were heavily criticized, and unlike how most directors may have responded to such criticism, Forster didn’t go with a simple “they didn’t get it.” In our chat, he openly discussed issues with some of his work, along with capturing his imagination, making blockbuster films personal, and the ethics of Machine Gun Preacher.

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Lionsgate is currently shopping a project around the Toronto International Film Festival that is notable for two big reasons, the awesome and sometimes underappreciated duo that they have attached to star. Penthouse North will see Michelle Monaghan playing a haunted photojournalist who is running from a past tragedy by holing herself up in a posh New York penthouse, with Michael Keaton playing a criminal who seeks a hidden fortune that he believes is somewhere in said penthouse. The two will then presumably engage in some sort of cat and mouse shenanigans that eventually see Monaghan’s character having to muster up the resolve to get past her trauma and survive the incident. The film is set to be directed by Joseph Ruben, who hasn’t done much lately, but who made a string of pretty sweet late night cable catches in the mid-’90s, films like Sleeping With the Enemy, The Good Son, and Money Train. And it’s being made from a script penned by Obsessed and Lakeview Terrace writer David Loughery. His movies aren’t guilty pleasures of mine, so I won’t say anything about them. Let’s just focus on the good; Michael Keaton is always amazing to watch, Michelle Monaghan is always a rock. It’s nice to see these two get a chance at starring roles. [THR]

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Machine Gun Preacher! It’s not just fun to say! It’s a movie, too! Marc Forster’s latest (the one before the World War Zadaptation fans everywhere are already bemoaning) focuses on a true-life story that comes oh-so-conveniently pre-packaged with a catchily-nicknamed protagonist. The film stars Gerard Butler as that supposed “machine gun preacher,” Sam Childers, a former drug dealer who turned his life around to save the often-orphaned children of East Africa, youngsters forced into the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to serve as soldiers before they’re even old enough to properly wield a gun. The synopsis for the film makes the story seem fantastic, and in the hyperbolic sense, because the concept of a former drug dealer saving African child soldiers by way of going straight into the belly of the beast and rescuing said kids by hand (and with a machine gun) is all a bit too much to believe. Yet, Childers is indeed a real person, and Forster’s film does depict some real life instances in between a mess of standard action film beats. Take a look at the boom-boom-pow trailer after the break.

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Editor’s Note: This editorial contains spoilers for Source Code, so if you haven’t seen it 1) you should and 2) you probably won’t get the jokes either. It comes from guest writer James Kopecky who has thought far too much about what happened at the end of Duncan Jones’s latest. When I see a movie, I take it as a two-hour-long glimpse into a reality that has a rich history, as well as an ongoing, unwritten future. After the credits roll, I assume that the characters and the story keep moving, most likely in the direction they were headed when the picture ended. So when I saw Source Code, I thought about what happened to the characters after screen faded to black. This turned out to be problematic for me, because the ending of Source Code raised a slew of questions, some more perplexing than others.

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If most thoughtful action films snagged a GED after dropping out of high school to train full time, Source Code is the kind of action film that went to college. Maybe it didn’t make it much farther than sophomore year philosophy, but that’s a good thing, because the movie knows how to drop some knowledge and still play a wicked, fun game of beer pong. Source Code is the best movie it could possibly be. Stream-lined and smart, refusing to condescend to its audience, filled with tense moments and active frustration – it may not have the hardest impact, but it’s a movie that sticks in your brain even after you’ve tossed the popcorn bag into the trash. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens – an army helicopter pilot who wakes up on a train that’s about to explode. He’s confused, frightened in a way that won’t allow him to show it, and when the train explodes, things get even weirder. He wakes up in a military training pod and told he has to go back in to find a bomb in order to stop another attack from happening.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr recovers from a full day of watching Armageddon back-to-back to crawl back to the multiplex. He re-lived the last eight minutes of Source Code over and over, thoroughly confusing himself. Then he stumbled into the theater next door to learn about the true meaning of Easter from Russell Brand and James Marsden. Things take a decidedly creepy turn when he watches Insidious and wets himself more than once. This led to a very unfortunate scene while he watched the sexual-predator cautionary tale Trust. No one would believe him it was just wee wee.

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Source Code really solidifies a suspicion we all have had about director Duncan Jones: he’s a real people person. Yes, unlike most sci-fi filmmakers, there is very little cynicism or dread to his films. While both Moon and his successful sophomore effort, Source Code, do explore the idea of man abusing science, ultimately, there’s a huge amount of hope in his work. Not only that, but he follows generally fun and – if a tad flawed – good people. That’s right, there’s no mopey, emo action lead in Source Code. Colter Stevens, the hero of the film, is the Han Solo archetype. He’s charming, brash, and sometimes, thinks more with his fists than his head. Stevens is quite similar to Duncan Jones’s previous antagonist, Sam Bell. There’s an everyman quality to both leads. They’re not macho. They’re not invincible. And they’re both flawed individuals. Like Bell, Stevens doesn’t shy away from acting like a jerk here and there. The predicament he’s in – once again, just like Sam Bell – raises ethical questions. Although Source Code isn’t entirely hardcore science-fiction, Jones does what all classical films of genre should do: ask a few questions. If you’ve ever seen Jones an interview before, then you already know he’s a personable and fun-seeming filmmaker. He manages to take that upbeat spirit of his and interject that good nature in his films, and as was the case with Moon, it works. WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers.

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Colleen Goodwin is a risky character in Source Code. Goodwin is the most exposition-reliant character, and if she was handled wrongly, this GPS machine could have been the most ham-fisted character of the year. Nearly every line Goodwin has is exposition. As an actor, as Vera Farmiga discusses, walking a fine line of being a character instead of a device is no easy task. For exposition to generally work, it requires a sense of urgency. Considering most of Farmiga’s screen time involves her talking on a computer screen, that must have made matters even more difficult. This type of exposition either flies or falls completely flat, so it was a smart move on Jones’s part to hire a pro like Farmiga. Although Goodwin is the main key to explaining things for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Colter (and for the audience), she’s also important for raising the main ethical questions of the film. By the end, Goodwin makes for a bit more than a lifeless and pandering talking head. Here’s what the well-spoken Vera Farmiga had to say about the art of bullshit, the difficulty of discussing Source Code, bringing realism to exposition, and more:

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If you don’t know who Duncan Jones is, it’s high time you learn. Jones burst onto the movie scene with his debut feature Moon, a low-budget sci-fi flick that wowed audiences at Sundance back in 2009. Picked up by Sony for US distribution, Moon is a subtle, quiet film featuring an incredible performance from Sam Rockwell, but the best part about it is that it’s a smart film. With the bright shiny colors and backseat plot propelling Avatar to eleventy billion dollars worldwide, it’s surprising that anyone rolled the dice on a small, smart sci-fi film. It’s refreshing that someone had the balls to say “yes” and doubly refreshing that audiences mostly embraced it. Now Jones is back at the helm with about 35 million of Summit’s hard-earned Twilight dollars to play with for his second feature, Source Code. Note: I saw Source Code blind and I think that’s a good way to see this type of film. I’m told the trailer gives away basically the same information that I’ll reveal below but it could be considered spoiler-y. If you’d rather go into not knowing anything, and I highly recommend that method of film-viewing, then please skip the next three paragraphs.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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