Susan Sarandon

Warner Bros.

Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) is having a pretty bad day. Her car is totaled in a hit and run incident with a deer (the animal hit her then ran), she’s fired from her job at a fast food joint and she comes home early to find her husband is cheating on her with a neighbor. Even worse than catching them in bed together she walks in on them enjoying a lovely meal that he cooked — something he never did for Tammy — so she packs a bag and decides to hit the road. It’s a difficult decision to commit to when you don’t have a car, so she reluctantly takes her liquor-loving Grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) along for the ride in exchange for a vehicle and a wad of cash. The two head to Niagara Falls, but trouble hits almost immediately forcing Tammy to face her history of bad decisions head-on. Laws will be broken, crotches will be grabbed and things will explode. Tammy is not a great comedy. It’s not even a good one really, and if I had to toss an adjective its way to describe the quality of comedy on display I’d go with “okay.” That’s unfortunate for several reasons, not the least of which being that the film is a collaboration between McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, who directed and co-wrote the film with her. The bigger disappointment though is seeing the unusual and appreciated elements of their script and lead character — and the promise of […]

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The Last of Robin Hood

With the recent premiere of Maleficient, we’ve all spent a good deal of time talking about Elle Fanning and her career turn as a real life Disney princess. But the focus is about to shift again to the older sister, with Dakota Fanning stepping into the shoes of a young and impressionable 1940s starlet in The Last of Robin Hood. After all, who would know more about struggling through Hollywood and rising to fame as a teenager than someone who has done it herself? The silver screen gal she’s portraying, Beverly Aadland, was in a bit of a different situation than Fanning, however. Aadland was a chorus girl just at the beginnings of her blossoming film career, with only a twinkle of Hollywood in her future and an overbearing stage mom (Susan Sarandon) at her side. It’s the beauty and talents of the — very, very — young beauty that catches the eye of Robin Hood himself, Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline), and the two begin a dangerous affair that crosses a few too many boundaries. At the time, Flynn was the toast of the town, a mega movie star who was virtually untouchable; charming, undeniably handsome and a beloved figure on the silver screen with roles in The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk. He was a dashing action hero that everyone wanted to work with, everyone wanted to be and everyone wanted to be with at the same time.

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trailer tammy

I’d be lying if I said I was excited at the prospect of a new comedy featuring Melissa McCarthy in a lead role. She’s far better in small doses where her very specific comedic style can hit and run before viewers can grow weary of the same old shtick involving attitude, crass behavior, and physical comedy derived from her large frame. This “character” is essentially what she plays again and again, with little deviation, and while it’s not nearly as insufferable as the ones recycled by the likes of Adam Sandler and Kevin James, it still doesn’t work at feature length. Then again, Identity Thief and The Heat were box-office hits and numbers one and two (respectively) on RedBox’s list of most rented titles in 2013, so what the hell do I know. McCarthy’s (sure to be) blockbuster comedy of 2014 has just gotten a first teaser trailer, and while it’s still early, this may end up being where I eat my words above. Tammy stars McCarthy as a woman having a terrifically bad day. She lost her job, found her husband cheating on her, and smashed her car, and she just wants out. Unfortunately, the only out she has is a road trip with a grandmother (Susan Sarandon) she just doesn’t like all that much. It also stars Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, and Allison Janney. Check out the teaser below and see if you enjoy it as much as I did. I know, I’m surprised too.

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3_DetroitDealer_A004_C043_0117MJ

For a documentary to get noticed these days, it helps to have a fresh angle. But being creative with the form doesn’t necessarily result in an effective film, especially when it’s tackling a serious issue. Stunts occasionally work (see Super Size Me), as do innovative narrative devices (see 1965 Oscar-winner The War Game), but most docs with a gimmick unfortunately seem to hold that stylistic choice in front of the subject at hand. There’s no denying that How to Make Money Selling Drugs is a clever work of nonfiction, but we’re left thinking about the structure more than the film’s point. The real problem, however, might be that the film’s point is not even too clear anyway. Written, directed and heavily narrated by Matthew Cooke, the doc takes the form of, as the title suggests, an actual How-To guide to making money selling drugs. For a while it seems like an amusing piece of ironic satire, as former dealers including rapper 50 Cent and legendary trafficker “Freeway” Rick Ross favorably talk of making big money at very young ages. Then Cooke’s focus veers towards the problems of the Drug War and the prison industrial system and NYC’s Rockefeller laws, and it’s apparent that he may in fact be endorsing the occupation.

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Sally Hawkins

What is Casting Couch? It’s starting off the week right with a new round of casting announcements. Read on to find out which project is going to unite the dream team of Ellen Burstyn and Luis Guzman. Godzilla has found another puny human to knock over a building onto. Deadline is reporting that Happy Go Lucky star Sally Hawkins has just been hired to take what is being described as the last lead role in Gareth Edwards’ currently-filming Godzilla. Though Hawkins has become something of a big name in the indie world over the last decade or so, this will be her first role in a blockbuster film that utilizes big action and effects work and whatnot, so it should be interesting to see if she’s one of those actors who transitions well into doing larger scale work, or if she’s one of those actors who looks disengaged and out of place whenever they’re involved in something with a big studio label on it. You know, like James Franco.

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kristen-wiig

What is Casting Couch? It’s basically a casting news bonanza. Learn who the big names Melissa McCarthy has recruited for her movie Tammy are, as well as what Kiefer Sutherland is getting himself into, after the jump. Though we’ve yet to see for ourselves what the results of teaming Kristen Wiig up with the Anchorman crew in Anchorman 2 are going to be, the film’s director and star, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, must be happy with what they’ve seen so far, because THR is reporting that they’re now in talks to make her the star of an indie comedy they’re producing called Welcome to Me. McKay’s wife, Shira Piven, will be directing the film, which is said to be about a woman with dissociative personality disorder who stumbles into a fortune and uses her newfound cash to create a cable access show where she talks about her life. Sounds like it’s going to be like that live tour thing that Charlie Sheen did, only not scary because it isn’t real.

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Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 3.38.25 PM

Snitch is “inspired by true events.” Which is to say, it centers around a real-life choice mandated by the justice system for prisoners arrested on drug charges: become an informant, or face lengthy jail time. This preface gives the wrong impression though since the characters in this film don’t exactly have real-life counterparts. If they did, well… then they would probably have to be as jacked as Dwayne Johnson. Snitch, directed and co-scripted by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, may have cheated somewhat with this veil of supposed truth, but he does succeed in making a consistently entertaining film that certainly delivers with its action sequences and many winning performances from its very strong cast. Unfortunately it also falls short plot-wise, somewhat detracting from its overall action film bravado, and has some pacing issues too thanks to staggered action sequences.

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Snitch Movie

What would you do if your son was facing a ten-year mandatory minimum drug sentence for a crime he swears he didn’t do? You’d probably make a lot of road trips to the prison with cigarette carton gift baskets over the next decade, but if you’re Dwayne Johnson, you kick everyone’s ass and help Susan Sarandon take down a kingpin. The thing to look for in Snitch will be the stunts. The trailer gives a glimpse of 18-wheeler and fist-fighting action, but director Ric Roman Waugh started out doing stunts for flicks like Lethal Weapon 2, Total Recall (1990) and probably close to a hundred others, so it’ll be exciting to see what he pulls out of the ammunition box. Plus, as hard as it is to believe a former wrestler did this, Johnson has emerged as a truly charismatic, aggressive lead who’s shown some real range. He’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, especially because he’s believable as a badass, so even in what looks like a straightforward action movie with a slightly unbelievable (yet based on true events!) story, he just might make it shine.

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Cloud Atlas Review

Editor’s note: Cloud Atlas finally arrives in theaters today, so please dive deep into it with this review, first published as part of our Fantastic Fest coverage on October 3, 2012. It starts with an old, scarred, and obviously hard-lived man sitting near a campfire speaking to the audience, and it ends with the same scarred old man concluding his story at that same campfire talking to a group of children about past adventures. As the credits start to roll, it evokes a nostalgia that you may have just sat through the kind of immersive and imaginative tale that you wish you could recall all the details to tell it to your children exactly as it was told to you. All that was missing was a stick and a bag of marshmallows. In between these comforting bookends is a story that transcends time, tonal cohesiveness, or convention of almost any kind. Cloud Atlas an elaborate, beautiful, and ever-growing spiderweb of human causality and inter-connectivity that’s woven together by themes that support an idea that we are never unbound from one another or a purpose. Your life is not necessarily your own as you are tied to others in your time, others who came before you, and those who will come long after. What you do is what will define you and will determine the living conditions of those who follow. What you do may seem insignificant, or irrelevant to the plan at large, but most everything matters – and if […]

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Aural Fixation - Large

Have you ever looked at the expensive highrises that dot the New York City skyline and wondered what it would be like to run one of the companies housed within them? Not necessarily the long hours, tough decisions, and stress that would come with such a position, but the type of life that kind of work leads to – a life of privilege, beauty, and lack of consequences. A life where working above the fray causes you to feel like you may almost be above the fray itself. Director Nicholas Jarecki takes us past the velvet ropes and doormen into this decedent and stunning world, a world you usually only find in people’s fantasies, but one that is a reality for those select few able to afford it. While this life is unquestionably beautiful and enticing, the big businessman it is afforded to got a bit of a shake up when things started crashing down on Wall Street and those who may once have been viewed (and viewed themselves) as untouchable started to experience some undeniable cracks. Arbitrage focuses on the life of powerful businessman Robert Miller (Richard Gere), a man whose world is surrounded by rich mahogany, dollar signs, and the insides of town cars. His life is one you would expect for a man in his position, but Cliff Martinez takes a more unexpected route with his score, giving this stiff and almost antiquated environment some real texture and vibrancy. The juxtaposition of these classic settings with Martinez’s more modern, electronic sound helps create a […]

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Arbitrage 2012 Film

Editor’s note: With Arbitrage hitting theaters this week, here is a re-run (totally free! no financial risks to you!) of our Sundance review, originally posted on January 22, 2012. Last year’s Sundance Film Festival featured a break-out hit with J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call, a taut and talky tale of investment bankers trying to chuck bad money and bad books in the early days of the financial crisis. Chandor’s film cleaned up nicely on the awards circuit, and it’s surely paved the way for screenwriter and documentarian Nicholas Jarecki‘s feature film debut, a sexier sister to Margin Call.  Arbitrage brings out the big guns to tell its twisted story – starring Richard Gere as hedge fund magnate Robert Miller attempting to sell his family business, with Susan Sarandon as his charitable wife Ellen, Brit Marling as smarty-pants daughter Brooke, and the ever-solid Tim Roth as a police detective steadily cracking open their rarefied lives. Here, Jarecki has crafted great atmosphere – we understand the Millers’ lifestyle and relationships within mere minutes, and the film holds that tone and that feel throughout its perhaps slightly-too-long runtime. Arbitrage is slick and watchable, well-made and with some nice surprises, but it’s void of any sense of humanity, and seeing rich people doing bad stuff doesn’t amount to stick-to-your-ribs cinema.

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Robert Redford in The Company You Keep

Just last week we reported that Robert Redford’s latest film, The Company You Keep, managed to score a distribution deal before it even played any festivals. Well, the film is gearing up to play Venice and Toronto regardless, so TIFF has released a trailer promoting it. Complete with typewriter sounds and vintage news footage, said trailer starts off by making The Company You Keep look like it’s going to be an authentic, journalistic look at the history of the radical anti-war group The Weather Underground, but then we’re suddenly dumped into present day, and it’s revealed that this is actually going to be a fun-looking chase movie about the last few members of the movement still being on the run from the law. The Company You Keep is full of grizzled old activists/bank robbers, plucky young reporters, plucky young F.B.I. agents, action, intrigue, murder, and a cast that features names like Redford, Susan Sarandon, Shia LaBeouf, Brendan Gleeson, Anna Kendrick, Terrence Howard, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Richard Jenkins, Chris Cooper, Brit Marling, Julie Christie, Stephen Root, and Stanley Tucci.

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Robert Redford in The Company You Keep

The latest directorial effort from screen legend Robert Redford, The Company You Keep, was all set to make a big splash and impress distributors at the upcoming deal-making feeding grounds that are the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, but a new development is making it look like the film’s screenings at those fests are going to come off as something of an afterthought. If you’ve got a used car that you need to get rid of, or maybe some old exercise equipment lying around that you’ve been thinking of putting on eBay, then maybe you should think of having Redford write the ad copy for you, because it seems that he’s something of a salesman. THR is reporting that the director, along with his fellow producers Nicolas Chartier and Bill Holderman, have already struck a deal with Sony Pictures Classics to handle all U.S. distributions rights for the film. Based on a book by Neil Gordon, The Company You Keep stars Redford himself as a former Weather Underground militant, wanted for bank robbery and murder, who gets exposed decades after his crimes by a meddling young reporter (as played by Shia LaBeouf).

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Robot and Frank

Editor’s note: With Robot and Frank hitting limited release this week, here is a re-run of our review from Sundance, originally published on January 22, 2012. If Jake Schreier‘s Robot and Frank is too believed, the near future is very similar to the present – just with more hipsters enamored of things they don’t understand and more robots consigned to help with everyday tasks. Both come, oddly enough, to a head in Schreier’s feature debut about a man, his robot, and the things that bond them (including a distaste for said hipsters). The film is a wily mix of genres – Robot and Frank is a buddy comedy, a fish out of water story, a heist film, and a drama about aging in its many forms – and it mostly delivers on its immense promise when it works within the bounds of dry and clever comedy. But when the film allows itself to slack, it slumps almost irrevocably, and it never quite recovers from an unsatisfying and overemotional middle.

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The novels of David Mitchell are densely layered affairs concerned with a complicated multitude of characters facing big and complex issues. Or so I hear. His novel Cloud Atlas is a favorite of many, but even those who would love to see a film version have been adamant that such an endeavor would be a foolish and fruitless undertaking. That opinion didn’t change when Tom Tykwer and Andy & Lana Wachowski announced they had written a screenplay and were looking for funding and distribution. It wavered slightly when the casting announcements started rolling in, but it otherwise stayed steadfast. But now the first official trailer has dropped, and while the possibility of a disaster remains it looks like these three writer/directors have accomplished something amazing. Will it live up to the novel? Who knows, but there’s no doubting anymore that they’ve accomplished something audacious and wonderful here. Check out the extended trailer below (courtesy of Cinema Blend).

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In good news for people who love bad movies, the current trend of putting together projects that are named after holidays and feature the largest ensemble casts ever assembled seems to be continuing. Director Garry Marshall and New Line Cinema had so much success with their relationship compendiums Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve that some new players are looking to get into the game. Writer/director Paul Duddridge is all set to bring us Mother’s Day, a film that will examine the relationships of twelve different mother/daughter pairings. Not much is yet known regarding the specifics of Mother’s Day’s plot or character descriptions, but Deadline Astoria has all the latest scoops regarding the casting details. Already cast in undisclosed roles are the real-life mother/daughter duo of Susan Sarandon and Eva Amurri Martino, and joining them in keeping the theme of familial authenticity going are the newly cast team of Andie MacDowell and her daughter Rainey Qualley. Christina Ricci is also said to be signed, but there’s no mention of her real-life mother, so boo to her for ruining a nice theme.

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Arbitrage Movie

The feature narrative directing debut of writer and documentarian Nicholas Jarecki features a flaming car, a businessman, and way too much money on the line to tell the truth. Arbitrage – starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, and Brit Marling – is the story of a car accident that threatens to derail the gravy train of a morally-questionable man facing a large merger. The trailer makes a huge impact. It’s incendiary and thrilling, hopefully marking the arrival of a stunning work of drama. Not too bad for a movie channeling a super sexy macro-economic pricing theory. Check it out for yourself:

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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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Mark and Jay Duplass like people. No matter how much their characters screw up or how mean they get, they love them. There’s no cynicism or condescension from their part. When you’re dealing with a character who lives his life based on the ways of M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs, it wouldn’t be too hard to poke fun at him. The Duplass brothers don’t do that. Their newest film, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, is pretty in line with their past films. It’s a story of good-hearted people who are completely lost, all looking for the right signs. And, as Rev. Graham Hess did in Shyamalan’s alien-invasion film, they find them in unexpected places. Here’s what Mark and Jay Duplass had to say about Jeff’s adoration for Signs, how they build their characters, and the importance of improvisation:

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In one sense, Mark and Jay Duplass continue their march toward the mainstream with Jeff, Who Lives at Home, their latest writing-directing effort. After all, the Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips bloodlines merge in the form of co-stars Jason Segel and Ed Helms. But Jeff isn’t the sort of vulgar but heartfelt comedy one might expect from that those leading men. There’s no Segel nudity to speak of, and Helms tones down his familiar likable-frat-boy comic relief shtick. Segel plays a slacker, sure, but one imbued with a higher purpose. He’s stuck home, planted on the couch, waiting for a sign to point him toward his destiny. The Duplass brothers’ latest is exactly the sort of whimsical, slight indie enterprise that would be centered on such a character, the sort of movie that begins with Segel’s Jeff waxing poetic about the deeper meaning of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs before the start of an ordinary day-in-the-life that spins ever so slightly out of control. Helms plays his estranged brother Pat, who has business lunches at Hooters and buys Porsches he can’t afford. When Pat discovers his wife Linda (Judy Greer) might be having an affair, he enlists Jeff in some reconnaissance.

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


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