“Men, Women & Children” trailer

This looks like another excellent film from Jason Reitman, with an excellent cast including Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, Judy Greer, Emma Thompson and Dean Norris.

Here’s the official synopsis:

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose – some tragic, some hopeful – as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.

Naturally the topic of how social media is affecting our lives is one we can all relate to. I’m looking forward to this one.

  

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Box office preview: “The Expendables” likely to fend of a mob led by an ugly nanny, unfunny vampires, and flesh-loving fishies

The ExpendablesIt’s very late as I start this and with five new wide releases this week, I’m not going to even attempt to try and describe all of them in any detail. In fact, I’m going to try and make this post as short as possible. Basically, the story is that the prognosticators like Ben Fritz and jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree that last weekend’s megamacho winner, The Expendables, is the most likely winner of this week’s box office derby. That’s because none of the five movies is seen as being that strong.

Personally, as a geek who adores humorous, old school exploitation horror movies but who is also a gross-out negative gorephobe in no mood to have a bloody penis (!) thrown at me or throw-up thrown in my lap, I honestly don’t know whether to be happy or sad that the apparently rather effective “Piranha 3D” is not expected to do very well for the Weinstein Company. That’s despite what should be a successful formula of blood and breasts. It’s always worked before. The movie has been kept away from most critics but — bad sign — most of the ones who have seen it actually like it.

Expected to do better is the English family comedy sequel from Working Title, “Nanny McPhee Returns,” starring and written by the wondrous Emma Thompson as the anti-Poppins. The film, already a success overseas, is seen as having the best shot at kicking the arse of the ass-kicking “Expendables” septet, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Actually, I wouldn’t bet on anything because with so many movies out, it’s really just kind of a mess and anything can happen. I wouldn’t expect an upset, however, from the Warners “‘hood comedy” “Lottery Ticket” or the PG-13 Jason BatemanJennifer Aniston rom-com involving a “baster baby,” the aptly titled “The Switch” from possibly soon-to-be-moribund Miramax.

Jason Batemen and Jennifer Aniston in

On the other hand, there is another movie that’s actually expected to do rather well and, oh god, I have no goddamn clue why that should be. I mean, if I was eight years old, I might find the title of Fox’s spoof film “Vampires Suck” promising. However, there is an emerging and near universal consensus that, whatever stereotypes might be out there about us Jewish guys being as inherently funny as, say, Canadians, they are more than disapproved by the past work of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. These are the guys who foisted “Disaster Movie,” “Meet the Spartans” and “Date Movie” upon an unsuspecting world. IMDb users are not loving it too much either, although there are nine women 45 and over I really wonder about. Hmm. Both guys have to have mothers, right? That’s two. Grandmothers? Aunts? Great grandmothers? Second cousins?

“Suck” is, I’m sure, the worst reviewed major movie of our not-so-young year. Indeed, the alleged comedy was on the precipice of achieving a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes when a lone contrary opinion saved it and got it all the way to a mighty 3%. No, it wasn’t the nefarious and attention-hogging Armond White who found something to not hate in a spoof movie seemingly dripping in the not-funny, but newcomer Michael Ordona of the L.A. Times. Or at least Rotten Tomatoes says it was him. The actual review, at least here, has no name on it. Is somebody ashamed?

The really sad part of this story is that the suck movie was actually released on Wednesday and had a surprisingly okay first day. In theory, it could win the weekend, and that would really suck.

Stay tuned — though it’s looking like my Sunday box office report will likely be delayed to Monday. Can you stand the suspense that long? I know I can.

  

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The end-of-week movie news dump vs. the world

It’s been somewhat surprising, even given my own innate skepticism about practically everything, that for the last week or so there’s been very little compelling movie news — really very little that I could bring myself to even mention here. To be honest, I kind of liked that way. Much less time consuming and more fun to just throw trailers and stuff at you guys. The last 24 hours or so, however, have been a very different story.

* I often wonder where George Lucas went wrong in a number of departments. Today he’s King Midas in reverse with actors — who else could actually make Samuel L. Jackson boring? — but he directed the very well acted “American Graffitti.” His first two “Star Wars” movies were imperfect but great, great fun — and he had the great good sense to bring in the best writers available, and a very strong director, for the second one. He insisted on doing the three prequels himself, however, and in my opinion and lots of other people’s, showed how borderline unwatchable a space opera could be.

What went wrong? I don’t know but one thing that did happen to Lucas was the departure of producer Gary Kurtz, he of the Abe Lincoln beard who I honestly haven’t thought about in decades.

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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Howard’s End

Featuring Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Anthony Hopkins, and a heartbreaking Vanessa Redgrave, 1992’s “Howard’s End” was the third (and most star-studded) adaptation of a novel by E.M. Forster from the famed triumvirate of producer Ismail Merchant, Oscar-winning writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and director James Ivory. With the Merchant-Ivory team’s famed talent for exquisite visuals amidst extravagant period settings, it’s also perfect fodder for a Criterion two-disc DVD set.

Thompson and Bonham Carter are sisters Margaret and Helen Schlegel, affluent early 20th century intellectuals who find themselves embarrassingly intertwined with the crassly wealthy Wilcox family. Eventually, the ailing matriarch, Mrs. Wilcox (Redgrave), starts up an intense friendship with the older and more stable Schlegel sister, Margaret. After her death, wry Margaret unexpectedly falls for and marries Mr. Wilcox (Hopkins), not knowing the ardent capitalist had chosen to ignore a death-bed bequest of enormous import. Meanwhile, the younger Helen’s overweening sympathy for a sensitive clerk with intellectual aspirations (Samuel West) inadvertently threatens everyone’s happiness and proves, once again, that it’s money that matters most. A morally complex blend of complex comedy and drama with florid tragedy reminiscent of another great literary adaptation, George Stevens’ “A Place in the Sun,” “Howard’s End” is everything you could ask for in thoughtful period entertainment, with some highly nuanced ideas from novelist Forster on the interplay of economics and emotional life. Critics sometimes downplay the “tasteful” Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala films, but this hugely entertaining winner of three Academy Awards, including a Best Actress statue for Emma Thompson, gives Oscar bait a good name.

Click to buy “Howard’s End”

  

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