trumbo14Bryan Cranston will be honored with the Spotlight Award at the 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF). The Awards gala, which also features honorees Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender, Brie Larson, Rooney Mara, director Tom McCarthy, Saoirse Ronan and Alicia Vikander takes place Saturday January 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

“Whether on film, television or Broadway, Bryan Cranston is an outstanding actor who delivers an extraordinary and memorable performance with each character he takes on,” said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “In Trumbo, Cranston brings his amazing talent to his portrayal of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. For this brilliant performance, worthy of the awards recognition it has been receiving, it is an honor to present Bryan Cranston with the 2016 Spotlight Award, Actor.”

For his work in Trumbo, Cranston has received two SAG nominations, two Critics’ Choice Movie Award nods, and a Golden Globe nomination.

Previous Spotlight Award recipients include Julia Roberts, Jessica Chastain, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, and Helen Hunt. The PSIFF takes begins January 1 and runs through January 11.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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IFC_ABANDONED_KA_Final_Layout.indd

One of the first releases of 2016 is the The Abandoned, a psychological horror-thriller headlined by Louisa Krause (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Jason Patric (After Dark My Sweet, Sleepers). The trailer suggests the storyline focuses more on things that go bump in the night rather than outright gore, and the actual premise is promising.

Streak (Krause) is a mentally unstable woman who lands a job as a security guard at a once lush and now abandoned apartment complex. Her first night on the job, however, is a harrowing one, as their may be an evil presence that is lurking within the inner corners and forgotten rooms of the building. Patric is Streak’s new co-worker Cooper, a guy who probably knows the ins and outs of the area but presumably leaves Streak in the dark.

The intriguing part of The Abandoned, at least judging from the trailer, is the suggestion that this newfound terror may be a figment of Streak’s imagination.My guess is Streak’s own unstable nature may come into play, but the film’s moniker may suggest there may be someone (or something?) living within the building. The picture marks the featuring directing debut of Eytan Rockaway.

Check out the trailer below and tell us what you think! The Abandoned opens in New York and Los Angeles on January 8 and will also be available on VOD.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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the-big-short-teaser-posterHow do you make a film about banking and the housing bust interesting? You start with casting Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt, then add a director known for comedy in Adam McKay to the mix and soon you’ve got the makings of The Big Short, a film that analyzes the fiscal irresponsibility of banks that led to the housing crisis of the mid-to-late 2000s.

The story centers on a trio of groups, each of which who had the wherewithal to dig a little deeper and see that something horrible was about to happen. It begins with eccentric financial analyst Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a man who is more at home in a t-shirt and playing metal songs on drums than showing up to the office in a suit. Burry has made his company a lot of money, but when he investigates the housing market and spots a trend of people defaulting on loans, he’s convinced that at some point the housing market will collapse. As such, he decides to approach some of the top banking institutions who almost laugh him out of the office when he wants to sell short on bundled mortgages. In fact, they’re more than willing to take the millions he’s willing to invest, which puts his own company on the line. To say the least, his investors are none too happy, but he’s put them in a place where they must commit to his vision.

The second group consists of Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a banker who gets wind of Burry’s prospectus and knows that there’s something to it.  Seeing a way to make money, he starts pitching the idea to a number of groups, but like Burry, he’s laughed out of most pitches until he comes across a financial team led by Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his associates (Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong and Hamish Linklater), who listen to his pitch, do their own investigating and decide to go in with him in shorting the market.

The third group consists of up-and-coming bankers Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), who are looking for a seat at the big table but have come up horribly short. But when they catch wind of Vennett’s prospectus, they too see an opportunity. They reach out to their neighbor Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), a former banker at a major bank who has lost his taste for it. They convince Rickert that they see something that nobody else does and he agrees to help them get their ISDA and pursue their goal.

While it may seem that these three storylines, which never really intersect, would be hard to follow, McKay makes it all work with snappy dialogue and very few lulls in the storyline. Using the device of breaking the fourth wall helps as well as the characters address the audience along the way. And while you may worry that all the banking terms may be above your head, even that is broached in a clever way to help audiences follow along.

The Big Short plays out like a mystery that we already know the answer to, but the journey in getting there is where all the fun is at. It’s equally entertaining and horrific to think about as we learn how the housing bubble came to burst and even more terrifying when we learn the results of the actions taken by the banking industry. Though an ensemble piece, Carell’s Mark Baum is a ticking timebomb that is infinitely watchable, and Gosling’s Jared Vennett oozes the type of confidence he gave in the film Crazy Stupid Love. Meanwhile, Bale could turn some heads with a supporting actor nod for his ill at ease visionary. If you’re banking on The Big Short this Oscar season, you could come up a winner.

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Posted by AC


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soa1

One of the RPG titles to look forward to in 2016 is the release of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, which is the fourth installment of the popular franchise. Known for its sumptuous visuals and expansive storytelling, the game will be available on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita consoles.

The story has gamers taking on the role of Kiriko, a hero who enters a new virtual world named “Sword Art: Origin.” The title is a collaboration with Sword Art Online creator Reki Kawahara, so expect this virtual reality adventure to hopefully harken back to as well as grow the entire SOA universe.

“The Sword Art Online franchise has experienced incredible growth in popularity on a global level with light-novel and anime fans. We are excited to bring Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, the next Sword Art Online game, to fans in the Americas,” said BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, Inc. VP of Marketing Eric Hartness. “With Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, we’re striving to take fans even further into Sword Art Online’s VRMMORG (virtual reality massive multiplayer online role playing game) world. We hope players are ready for the challenge.”

There is no specific date release for the title, but we’ll post the info as soon as the specific date is released and also review the title!




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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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concussion-movie-posterThe NFL has found itself under the microscope in recent years for the way in which it has dealt with everything from drug use to domestic violence, but an even bigger issue for the men who play the game has been the effects that the long term impact that the beautiful but brutal sport has left them in long after the final whistle has blown. That serves as the basis for Concussion, the new film that takes a more in depth look at the man who uncovered the cranial trauma that was affecting so many former players.

Will Smith stars as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a principled and highly educated coroner in Pittsburgh who discovered CTE after performing the autopsy on NFL Hall of Famer and Pittsburgh Steelers great Mike Webster. As we see early in the film, Webster (David Morse) appears to have gone crazy, living in his vehicle, separated from his family and often seeking either medication or more extreme ways to alleviate the voices in his head. Much to the surprise of Omalu, who was on duty when Webster’s body arrived, the initial look of the brain was consistent with a man of 50, but did not explain why he went crazy at such a young age. The persistent Omalu then orders a series of tests to further investigate, much to the consternation of one colleague (Mike O’Malley) and with a word of caution from his boss, Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), who realizes the can of worms this can open up if something is found that paints the NFL in a bad light.

Omalu eventually discovers CTE, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in those with repeated trauma, and he authors a paper on it. But it’s not long before the NFL gets wind and attempts to discredit him. So Omalu takes his findings to the press, and that’s when the threatening phone calls come in. But amidst all the calls, there is one, from a Dr. Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin) that suggests that while he is “in trouble,” he’s not wrong. Bailes is a former Steelers team physician, who meets with Omalu, sees his findings and helps sets him on a path to bringing CET to the NFL’s attention. As you might expect, Omalu’s desire to do the right thing often conflicts with the NFL’s desire to keep things business as usual and he’s met with much resistance at each step.

As for the film itself, Concussion serves more as a biopic about Omalu. We see the dedicated doc fall for a Nigerian woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) whom he takes in at his church’s request, we see how his discovery affects their relationship over time and we see how the NFL’s dogged determination to deny his discovery led him to question how far he was willing to go for them to hear what he had to say.

There’s no denying that Smith’s acting and portrayal of Omalu is top notch and the overall story intriguing, but there’s just something holding this film back. It feels as though the movie is a tad long and while Omalu’s story should be the centerpiece, the players affected with CTE are often glossed over. Their stories are told in brief scenes where we see them at their most pained moments before taking their lives. While powerful and making the point, it could have perhaps been more impactful to see the changes to their personality over time. Only briefly do we see this portrayed through Dave Duerson, a former player high up in the NFL offices and staunch supporter of the league who initially denied fellow players seeking help. But later Duerson would suffer from CTE himself, taking his own life but having the cognizance to leave the brain intact for study. It was ultimately Duerson’s sacrifice that led to the NFL having to listen to and entertain Omalu’s findings.

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Posted by AC


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brothersgrimsbyAlthough the final days of the year are usually devoted, at least film wise, to discussing the best and worst movies of the year, it’s also advantageous to know what movies may strike our fancy in 2016. One of the comedies we’re looking forward to is The Brothers Grimsby, which features the unlikely pairing of Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator, Bruno) and Mark Strong (Robin Hood).

Cohen’s comedy, which blends outrageous situations with subtly topical humor, and Strong’s penchant for playing laser focused protagonists should provide a wonderful mix to the film. Louis Leterrier, who directed the 2013 hit Now You See Me, is behind the camera, and all this top talent should translate into solid entertainment fare. Plus, the idea of long lost brothers (Cohen’s a soccer hooligan, Strong’s a spy) bonding while the world’s safety hangs in the balance also makes for an engagingly ridiculous plot.

Check out the trailer below (the recently released poster, featuring Cohen balancing a gun and a pint of beer, is also pretty amusing), and tell us if you’re also excited to see The Brothers Grimsby!



The Brothers Grimsby opens March 11, 2016.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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1286100 - Concussion

Concussion centers on Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who discovered that football injuries which originated from repeated hits to the head could lead to early-onset dementia. His 2002 findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) on late NFL football player Mike Webster was not exactly met with open arms, especially since the NFL is arguably America’s most popular sport.

“It really plays into my strong suits when I can talk to the person,” said Smith. “It’s much more terrifying (with) the end product because you know one day you’re going to be sitting in the movie with person while you butcher their life (laughs)! It’s terrifying in that sense.”

Thanks to his work in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith is comfortable playing real life character. By spending a healthy share of time with Omalu and realizing the spiritual approach the doctor took to his profession, Smith found his way into the role and the narrative.

Click on the media bar below to hear Will Smith talk about meeting Dr. Bennet Omalu in preparation for Concussion.





Co-starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alec Baldwin, Concussion opens Christmas Day.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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everybodywantsDescribed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some is Richard Linklater’s (Boyhood) look at a group of college baseball players in the 1980s. Since Dazed & Confused served as a starting point for many an actor’s career (including Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck), it will be interesting to see if, twenty years from now, Everybody Wants Some will have a similar effect on the careers of Blake Jenner and Ryan Guzman.

Coming of age stories is a bread and butter topic for Richard Linklater who, in a storied and diverse directing career rarely misses the mark (The Newton Boys did have its moments!). Even Me and Orson Welles, one of Linklater’s woefully overlooked films, featured one of Zac Efron’s strongest performances to date.

Expect Everybody Wants Some to continue Linklater’s creative hot streak, and as much as we’re looking forward for the director to cover the “greed is good” decade, we hope it’s not another decade or two before he sets his sights on the 1990s! Check out the trailer below and tell us if you’re excited about Everybody Wants Some!

Everybody Wants Some opens April 15, 2016.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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Wolf_Totem_BD_Litho.PDF

Director Jean-Jaccques Annaud is known as a master weaver of epic adventures, most of which feature an animal (or two) as its protagonist, and his latest feature Wolf Totem continues his passion for the wild kingdom and nature. The feature, now available on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD, is definitely worth a look for a number of reasons which we’ll cover below.

Shot in Inner Mongolia, and based on a novel by Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem centers on Chen Zen (Shaofeng Feng), a Beijing student who is tasked with living in Mongolia to teach Mandarin to a group of nomads. Chen is immediately intrigued with their culture and strong connection with the wolves that surround the area.

Against the wishes of his new living mates, he brings a Mongol wolf cub into their fold. His decision, though done out of respect for the cub’s well-being (wolves are being killed by the area’s inhabitants to protect their livestock), may come back to bite him - literally!

Though most of the narrative deals with Chen’s passion for his new and potentially endangered environment, the plight as well as the complex nature of the wolves is also an integral aspect of Wolf Totem’s storyline. Annaud’s penchant for evocatively capturing beautiful landscapes, as witnessed in The Bear and Seven Years in Tibet, is on full display with Wolf Totem, and the picture is also blessed with a rousing score from late composer James Horner.

Wolf Totem’s Special Features:

1. “The Director’s Adventure” (5:26) - A profile on director Jean-Jacques Annuad.

2. “A Look At The Cast” (3:20) - The lead actors in the film talk about working with Annaud.

3. “Saving the Environment” (5:29) - An interesting featurette on how the production ensured the safety of the grasslands of Mongolia by dramatically reducing their footprint on their environment.

4. “The Nature of the Wolf” (11:28) - A definite must-see segment on trainer Andrew Simpson, who raised the wolves as cubs and spent three years in China getting them ready to work on Wolf Totem! At the end of the featurette, Simpson also gives an update on their move from China to Canada and their acclimation to their new surroundings.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi


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bubleGrammy winner Michael Bublé is back on the music charts with another hit single The More You Give (The More You’ll Have). Throughout out his whole career Bublé has had his share of criticisms from music reviewers, and surprisingly the singer has actually used some of those critiques to his advantage. Part of his process, even in the midst of all his success, is to not take himself too seriously, and this freedom allows him to take the good and the bad reviews that come his way.

(Click on the media bar below to hear Michael Bublé)

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Posted by AC


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