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Culture Cafe

Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

'Walking Dead' stars Norman Reedus (l.) and Steven Yeun (r.) talk about the show during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. (Danny Moloshok/FRE/AP)

'The Walking Dead' midseason premiere shows the characters finding their focus

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 02.13.12

Given the difficult circumstances The Walking Dead survivors found themselves in at the end of the midseason finale, the return episode -titled ‘Nebraska’ – really had no choice but to pick up immediately following Rick’s decision to shoot Sophia. That being the case, the majority of the episode works as a direct extension of ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’ – which, as expected, works out to be an exercise in guilt, grief and for some, the realization that believing in hope is tantamount to standing idly by.

Although there are plenty of lingering plot points and character threads the episode could have chosen to cover, ‘Nebraska’ steers clear of hurrying along the storyline for the sake of getting things moving, but the episode feels dutiful and filled with a purpose, nonetheless.

Now that the search for Sophia (Madison Lintz) is over, so too is the sense that there is something to wait for. So now, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Shane (Jon Bernthal) and the rest of The Walking Dead’s core survivors can busy themselves with the task at hand. Largely, that means cleaning up the walkers which had been stumbling around Hershel’s barn. But perhaps more importantly, it means beginning a period of mourning for not only Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride), but also Hershel and his daughters, who had been holding out belief their loved ones weren’t actually dead.

‘Nebraska’ balances the need to grieve with the call to action nicely – even though much of the action consists of digging graves and burning bodies. And while those tasks don’t necessarily get one’s heart pumping, they do fall into that bizarrely fascinating topic of unpleasant responsibilities the end of the world brings about. As Andrea (Laurie Holden), T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Shane busy themselves, there is the feeling of forward progression that was lacking in the first half of the season.

But really, given the undercurrent of distrust and hostility between Rick and Shane, and Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) increasing belief that Shane is a danger to everyone, the characters are likely grateful for the distraction. Moreover, since no time has passed between the events of the midseason finale and now, it’s a decent enough excuse to keep all the characters from standing around wondering: What do we do now?

There are a few characters given the opportunity to ponder what the next move will be, though, namely (and perhaps obviously) Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who have something to lose with the very real prospect of Glenn’s group leaving the farm. Maggie’s straightforwardness concerning the issue of Glenn remaining with her, as well as her admitting she has feelings for him works well against Glenn’s less assertive personality. Although the young couple’s moment is interrupted by Beth (Emily Kinney) falling ill, it does lead to a rather nice moment between Glenn and Rick that gives the group’s defacto leader yet another hat to wear – one suggesting Rick take the role of father figure for more than just Carl.

Showing how easily he slips into the role, Rick deals with Glenn’s confession concerning knowledge of Lori’s pregnancy and her attempt to terminate it by simply saying, “You did what you thought was right. It just so happens it wasn’t.”

With that, the episode slowly turns its attention to Rick, who has to deal with the burden of his inability to save Sophia and the a growing concern that his inefficacy as a leader has resulted in the unpleasant situation at hand. Perhaps Rick’s feelings are rooted in his conflict with Shane, or the loss of Sophia, but most likely, Rick’s doubt may come from the fact that whatever course of action he takes (alone or otherwise) is immediately followed up with someone telling him he’s made the wrong decision.

Case in point: after learning that Hershel has left the farm to get plowed at the local bar, Rick’s first instinct is to retrieve him. Unfortunately, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) sees this as another opportunity for Rick to die, and immediately calls his decision making skills into question – citing Carl’s acceptance of Rick’s judgment to shoot Sophia as evidence. Apparently, a young boy being realistic is cause for more concern than recovering the only person with medical experience, but that seems to be Lori’s role, as of late; hopefully it will change now that she’s found herself in a potentially deadly situation.

It seems like yet another unnecessary spousal spat, but it actually works to give more weight to Rick’s split-second decision at the end of the episode; mainly providing evidence that, more often than not, Rick’s instincts are right on the money.

Speaking of which, after Hershel finally turns his back on a nasty case of cirrhosis, he, Rick and Glenn are introduced to a couple of strangers. These men, Dave (Michael Raymond-James, Terriers, True Blood) and his associate Tony, bring with them the requisite sense of foreboding and menace often associated with strangers in such post-apocalyptic settings. Naturally, as Dave’s seemingly casual talk shifts to requests that he and his publicly urinating friend join the trio at wherever it is they call home, the menace suddenly comes from both sides of the discussion, and begins to feel rather pressing.

Although they make no attempt at overt aggression, Rick sniffs them out immediately; he knows there is something off about these two. The scene plays out as one of the most tense to ever be shown by The Walking Dead, as the threat comes from a source other than the titular zombies, and because the writing in everyone’s dialogue – especially that of Rick and Dave – comes with an implication of pending violence. Once it does erupt, the violence is quick and brutal, and shows that Rick (and the show as a whole) is ready to spring into action.

This encounter becomes a portent of conflict to come, and may finally put The Walking Dead where it needs to be: in a world that is rife with danger, which doesn’t necessarily come from the threat of the undead.

Largely because of the ending, ‘Nebraska’ comes off as a positive sign for the remaining episodes of season 2. More importantly, the episode is certainly suggesting that the waiting game is over, and the time for action is now.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Safe House' star Denzel Washington stars opposite yet another emerging Hollywood leading man, Ryan Reynolds, in the new movie. (Jasin Boland/HONS/Universal Pictures/AP)

'Safe House' trailer shows tense action and a strong ensemble (+video)

By Kofi OutlawScreen Rant / 02.10.12

It seems like it’s almost a rite of passage for new leading men to have to do a film opposite Denzel Washington. From Ethan Hawke in Training Day to Clive Owen in Inside Man to Chris Pine in Unstoppable - if you’re the new guy with your name headlining the marquee, your journey will at some point include a stop at Washington station.

Such is the case for Ryan Reynolds in the espionage action thriller, Safe House.

Below you’ll find an official synopsis for Safe House, which features Washington and Reynolds as two spies on the run:

For the past year, Matt Weston (Reynolds) has been frustrated by his inactive, backwater post in Cape Town.  A CIA “housekeeper” who aspires to be a full-fledged agent, the loyal company man has been waiting for an opportunity to prove himself.  When the first and only occupant he’s had proves to be the most dangerous man he’s ever met, Weston readies for duty.

Tobin Frost (Washington) has eluded capture for almost a decade.  One of the best ops men that the CIA’s known, the ex-intelligence officer has given up assets and sold military intel to anyone with cash since he turned.  From trading secrets to North Korea to aiding splinter cells, the damage he’s done to the U.S. is immeasurable.  And he’s now back on the reservation with a secret.

As soon as Frost is brought in for debriefing, mercenaries come and tear apart Weston’s safe house.  Barely escaping, the unlikely partners must discover if their attackers have been sent by terrorists or someone on the inside who will kill anyone standing in the way.  Now it’s up to Weston to figure out who he can trust before they’re both eliminated from the game.

Now that you know that we’re in for a mix of tense action, twisted espionage and plenty of psychodrama, see how well (or not) it all comes together in the trailer for Safe House:

Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (don’t let the name throw you) was responsible for the relatively well-received crime drama Snabba Cash (“Easy Money”) and here it looks like his style is somewhat in line with that of frequent Denzel collaborator Tony Scott (Man on Fire, Unstoppable, Deja Vu). On the other hand the script writer, David Guggenheim, is still relatively untested: his resume boasts just Safe House and the upcoming Nic Cage thriller Medallion as his only film writing credits.  So take that how you will.

Still, the combination of Reynolds and Washington is a strong one, and is particularly suited to a movie that will mix action and witty banter. Not to mention, both actors can be pretty intense when it’s called for, so seeing these two leading men trade sparks should be a pretty good time. The supporting cast is also strong, as it includes Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham and The Killing star, Joel Kinnaman.

Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Safe House' has solid performances by stars Ryan Reynolds (pictured) and Denzel Washington. (Jasin Boland/HONS/Universal Pictures/AP)

'Safe House' has solid performances with Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds

By Marcella PapandreaKiller Film / 02.09.12

As soon as the credits started to roll, I thought to myself ‘That was a surprisingly good film’, going into Safe House I didn’t expect it to be good. I expected it would be a decent and fun affair; a good way to pass the afternoon, as it turned out it was a lot more than that.

The film is about one of the CIA’s most wanted men, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), he seems to have acquired something that some very bad men want. Being on the run and seeing he has no other choice, he walks into the South African US embassy. The CIA aren’t taking this lightly, and send him off for interrogation at a ‘safe house’, one looked after by Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). Before long, the place gets raided and Weston steps up to the plate in order to do the right thing and get Frost out of there. The pair are on the run, there is no trust between the men and what Frost is holding is of high value. A cat and mouse game follows …

Safe House is an action/thriller, it is fast paced for the most part and it certainly contains a level of seriousness that I didn’t expect. It has some crazy action but they definitely tried something different with it, and instead of having people be invincible to bullets and punches, people got hurt and the action was delivered in a little more of a realistic way than we’re used to. While some of the twists you might see coming, the action aspect isn’t at all predictable and some of it is a little shocking. Some if the set pieces are really well handled, and the chase scenes are nicely done.

On the other side of the fence, this was a pretty decently acted film. Denzel always delivers, he is great here, he’s a mysterious character and he never over sells it. Everything we need to know about him is established, and he plays it spot on. The biggest surprise though was Ryan Reynolds, he’s always been an actor that I do like but I can’t take him seriously. He’s usually the comedic guy, and even in something a little serious, there is always some kind of humor there. But this was all gone in Safe House, this was serious Reynolds and I gotta say the dude has the chops! He was really good, he played it straight, and he gave us a sympathetic and engrossing character. Side plays like Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson are fine, they come in and do their thing. Run of the mill roles, but they filled them just fine.

Safe House on paper isn’t really anything new, the story has been told before. But it has been told in a solid and fresh way here, it is an enjoyable and entertaining film, and much better than I had expected. It strengths shine through, and its weaker parts are apparent but they don’t ruin anything. It perhaps could have been a little tighter with pacing, but they got it right where it counted. A solid directorial effort by Daniel Espinosa, and a decent script by David Guggenheim.

Marcella Papandrea blogs at Killer Film.

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'The Bourne Legacy' star Jeremy Renner recently appeared in the action hit 'Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol' with Tom Cruise. (Evan Agostini/FRE/AP)

'The Bourne Legacy' trailer shows star Jeremy Renner's action experience

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 02.09.12

There’s been some confusion surrounding The Bourne Legacy, which is neither a direct continuation of the storyline from previous Bourne movies, nor a reboot of the franchise. Instead, it’s a semi-spinoff that revolves around a different “programmed” Treadstone assassin – as played by Hawkeye from The Avengers (a.k.a. Oscar-nominee Jeremy Renner).

Bourne film series screenwriter Tony Gilroy is juggling both writing and directing duties on Bourne Legacy. His involvement with the new chapter in this popular action-thriller franchise – combined with the film’s respectable cast (more on that in a moment) – was enough to land this not-a-reboot installment a spot on our Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 list.

Renner stars in Bourne Legacy as “Aaron Cross,” a new highly-lethal government spook “whose life-or-death stakes have been triggered by the events of the first three films.” In other words, history ends up repeating itself in the aftermath of The Bourne Ultimatum, once Cross goes rogue – forcing government agents like Pam Landy (Joan Allen) and Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) to track him down, by whatever means necessary.

In addition to returning Bourne universe players like Allen, Strathairn, and Albert Finney, the Bourne Legacy cast also includes decorated stars such as Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz (not to be confused with Gina Carano), along with Oscar Isaac (Drive) and Stacy Keach (Prison Break) in supporting roles. As you will see in the Bourne Legacy teaser, though, this is first and foremost Renner‘s chance to show off more of his action star chops.

Check out the official teaser trailer for The Bourne Legacy, below:

Based on this early footage, Gilroy has traded in the frantic shaky cam and kinetic editing that director Paul Greengrass favored in Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum, in favor of the steadier, but still exhilarating approach of Doug Liman in Bourne Identity. For those who were never big fans of Greengrass‘ style, the news that they’ll actually be able to see what Renner is doing during Bourne Legacy‘s action sequences should be most welcome.

If there’s one potential note of concern to take away from this otherwise promising teaser, it’s that Bourne Legacy could suffer a bit from retconning. That is, Cross is being setup as a much more “stable” and effective killer than even Jason Bourne… and yet, throughout the previous films, there was always the implication that Bourne was far and away the deadliest operative produced by Treadstone. Not that this will detract from Bourne Legacy‘s quality as a standalone story, but still…

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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'The Amazing Spider-Man' star Andrew Garfield (r.) was able to handle a wide range of emotional and dramatic scenes in the new footage from the film. (Jaimie Trueblood/HONS/Columbia Sony Pictures/AP)

'The Amazing Spider-Man' trailer and footage give hope to some doubtful fans (+video)

By Kofi OutlawScreen Rant / 02.08.12

The Amazing Spider-Man trailer is out, and fans are definitely talking. Before the new trailer dropped, it’s fair to say that popular opinion on the film was mixed at best, brutally critical at worst; now, the tide is suddenly starting to shift.

We had the opportunity to attend a live event where a 3D version of the new Amazing Spider-Man trailer was previewed for crowds gathered in cities like NYC, London, Rio de Janeiro and LA, with surprise appearances in those respective cities by ASM stars Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone and director Marc Webb. If a 3D trailer and cast appearances weren’t enough, we also got a look at a longer reel of footage that was first screened at this summer’s Spider-Man Comic-Con panel.

First, check out the new Amazing Spider-Man trailer if you haven’t seen it, then read on for our discussion:

The 3D is Amazing

Director Marc Webb went to great lengths to inform us that The Amazing Spider-Man was indeed filmed in ‘true 3D’ – i.e., shot with ‘those big bulky 3D cameras,’ as Webb told us (with a look of lighthearted frustration) – and the results of that effort certainly shows up onscreen.

3D is definitely not a format that should be used with as much reckless abandon as it often is by studios looking for a way to charge more for tickets, but Spider-Man is definitely a superhero well-suited to the medium. The web-slinging, uncanny acrobatics, action sequences and the overall movement of the character all look spectacular in 3D – and whereas The Avengers will be post-converted into 3D, this film is unquestionably the real deal.

VERDICT: Plan on a 3D viewing.

Andrew Garfield IS Peter Parker

Any debate about Andrew Garfield’s capability as Peter Parker should diminish after this trailer. It’s clear that Garfield – ironically enough accused early on of being too “Emo,” in his portrayal – is going to actually be less mopy and more of a cocky wise-ass Spider-Man than Toby Maguire was…i.e., truer to the character. Even Garfield’s movement and thin, lanky physicality look more in line with the character – who, by the way, was always very skinny – as opposed to Tobey Maguire’s more stocky physicality.

Garfield was on hand at the NYC screening event to discuss the role, which he said (in so many words) that he would have to be an idiot not to want to take. He was also humble in stating that he is aware that the character belongs to the world, and the leagues of fans, and that he is just ‘the guy in the suit.’ There was a guy before him, and there will be one after him – “hopefully,” as Garfield (jokingly?) put it, “an African American or Latino actor.”

The Social Network star has definitely made this character his own. The preview footage screened ranged from the emotional (Peter pained by his parents’ absence), to the romantic (Peter and Gwen falling for one another), to the comedic (the trademark Spider-man wisecracks) to the seriously dramatic (Peter going up against Connors or Gwen’s militant police captain father). No matter what the tone of the moment, Garfield was able to deliver and command the screen.

VERDICT: The kid has earned his spot.

The Action is Epic

Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film does not hold up well, in terms of its action sequences. Back in the early 2000s, with visual FX being what they were, Raimi could only do so much with a CGI Spider-Man; in fact, just seeing the CGI Spidey web-swinging through the city was considered a technical milestone.

Marc Webb has gone for the more practical approach to filming Spider-Man action (read: a lot more real stuntmen doing the web-slinging) – but “practical” doesn’t mean that The Amazing Spider-Man is going to be lacking in the action department. In that 3D trailer alone we got to see everything from familiar Spider-Man acrobatics, to crazy 3D wall-crawling, to fight sequences in “Spider-Man combat styles” (a sequence of an unmasked Spidey taking on the cops definitely stands out).

If you weren’t wowed by that final sequence of Spidey hanging onto the side of a skyscraper as that big antenna relay comes toppling down: the girl in the theater seat next to me can attest to the fact that, in 3D, the action in this film looks epic. She nearly jumped out of her seat at one point.

VERDICT: Amazing Spider-Man is a definite contender for best superhero action sequences of 2012.

Good Handle on Story & Character

So many people were worried (and some still are) that this retelling of Spider-Man’s origin would stomp all over the original film (which is barely a decade old), while offering nothing new. Having seen the latest trailer and the preview reel, I have to say, that claim seems less and less valid.

The Amazing Spider-Man definitely offers a Spider-Man origin story that is “untold” on film. While some will argue that the movie is too Dark Knight-esque with its darker and grittier tones, I’d say that the more accurate correlation between TDK and ASM is how they both treat story and character – namely putting those elements of the film first and foremost.

ASM has a story where things like super powers, a hero and a villain – which can easily become arbitrary in a bad comic book movie – are all working together to form a deeper plot, richer more complex characters, and a tale with deeper layers and themes woven into it.

Director Marc Webb discussed his desire to explore the character of Peter Parker as an orphan – something that the comics have largely (but not totally) ignored until modern times. Yes, Peter loves his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, but the absence of his parents is something that surely affects him, and this movie will look at how. In addition, the fact that Peter is a genius level intellect will play a much more important role in the story – both in the creation of The Lizard, and gadgets like those mechanical web-shooters.

Rhys Ifans talked about playing Curt Connors, and how he enjoys a villain who is as complicated as Connors is – wanting to do good in the name of science and his own well being, only to have his good intentions devolve (literally and figuratively) into tragic mistakes. Without revealing too much, the actor added that another point of interest is Connors’ connection to Peter’s parents, and ergo, Peter himself.

Emma Stone responded to questions about how Gwen Stacy is any different than Mary Jane (played by Kirsten Dunst in Raimi’s trilogy). The actress noted that Gwen is a strong, smart, go-getter type whereas MJ was…not so much. Gwen has a strong connection to her dad and family (a surrogate family for Peter) whereas MJ did not. Most importantly, Stone added that whereas MJ first falls in love with Spider-Man, Gwen first falls in love with Peter Parker – and therein lies the biggest difference. Unlike MJ, Gwen isn’t necessarily going to be as open and welcoming of Peter’s alter-ego.

So, will all these signs of promise stop some people from complaining about hairstyles, costumes (gold eyes), or choices like including mechanical web-shooters? No. But for those willing to try something new and fresh (isn’t that what people are asking for from their movies these days?), there is some seemingly rewarding material waiting in Amazing Spider-man.

Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Smash' star Megan Hilty (l.) plays Ivy Lynn, who is battling to win the part of Marilyn Monroe in a new musical against rival Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee, r.) (Will Hart/HONS/NBC/AP)

'Smash' star Megan Hilty talks about her transition to television and working with Katharine McPhee

By The TV Addict / 02.07.12

In anticipation of the opening night of SMASH — which on the off chance you’ve managed to miss NBC’s unprecedented promotional blitz, is this Monday after the Super Bowl — recently had the pleasure of talking to star Megan Hilty. Here, in our brief chat that took place during the recent Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Hilty — who plays Ivy Lynn, one of two actresses in the running for the coveted lead role in a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe — talks about what it has been like stepping the role of a lifetime.

On making the jump from stage to [small] screen: You know, I never expected it. But then I came out to Los Angeles and did Wicked for a couple of years, started to do a few spots on television and I kind of got bitten by the bug. I really really loved it and I looked around at the actor’s careers that I really wanted to emulate and I realized that the key to longevity is diversifying what you do so I thought it would behoove me to start working in other fields.

On how much research went into playing Marilyn: I’m a lot like my character [Ivy Lynn] in that I want to really immerse myself with as much information as I can and then take whatever I need and whatever I can use. And it doesn’t stop once the show starts, I’m constantly reading about Marilyn because there are a lot of scenes in this show [SMASH] that parallel her life.

On peeling back the onion that is Ivy Lynn: Very quickly you’ll see her relationships, her family life and the emotional roller coaster that is in store for Ivy that explains a lot about her behavior. We actually reshot a scene a couple of times [from the pilot] because we didn’t know what to give away about my mother, but you’ll find out fairly quickly how my family feels about my career choice and all of that.

On her off screen relationship with on screen rival Katharine McPhee: It’s so tragic when we’re mean to each other because the scenes are so much fun to play. But it’s great that we have such a great relationship offscreen because it allows us to have fun in between some really heavy takes.

On preparing for her life to change when SMASH becomes, well just that: How do you prepare for that! If it comes, I’m sure i’ll figure out a way to deal with it, but for now I don’t think there is any way for you to prepare or brace yourself of change anything.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

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'The River' stars Leslie Hope (r.) as the wife of a missing explorer, Joe Anderson (center) as their son and Eloise Mumford (l.) as one of the missing explorer's crew members. (Chris Pizzello/STF/AP)

'The River' will make your skin crawl with its tense plotting -- VIDEO

By Tiffany VogtThe TV Addict / 02.07.12

When a famous television explorer goes missing in the Amazon, his wife and son vow to find out what really happened to him.  Funded by the same reality TV company that provided the financial backing for Dr. Cole prior to his disappearance, the expedition becomes a tug-of-war for exclusive, full-access to the family’s grief and the increasing uncertainty every step of the way.  But the farther they venture into the deep, treacherous jungle, the more everyone begins to realize that this journey is not just about a missing man — but what he found out there. 
 Tensions continue to rise as a few jumpy cameramen, fragile family members strained by not knowing what happened, and some genuinely spooky events take them to the breaking point.  When traveling that far into the untamed wilds of the Amazon, no one knows exactly what they will find.  That was Dr. Cole’s quest.  He wanted to find out what was at the ends of the earth – what secrets does the lush overgrowth cover from the prying eyes of outsiders?  Is it a lost tribe, haunted spirits, or something else entirely?  One thing is for certain:  nothing is exactly what it seems and it is much, much more dangerous.

The series features Leslie Hope as Tess, the estranged wife of Dr. Emmet Cole (played by Bruce Greenwood) and Joe Anderson as Lincoln, their adult son with troubles of his own.  Aiding in their quest is Paul Blackthorn as Clark, the television producer who is more determined to protect the unaired, exclusive footage of those final days leading up to Dr. Cole’s disappearance and anything else they can get on film while on this perilous journey.  Unwilling to rely only on Clark’s empty promises, they also recruit the help of a bodyguard Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Krestchmann) and Dr. Cole’s former crew Emilio (Daniel Zacapa) and Lena (Eloise Mumford).  The journey is about trust, alliances, and never being sure who is working against them. 
 But as more people turn up missing, the series takes on a darker, more sinister tone.  Someone or something is out there in the darkness, lurking and waiting to strike.  With such a lush and realistic setting, the show is stunning to watch.  But that realism is a double-edge sword, it will make your skin crawl and look around to make sure you are still alone as you watch from the comfort of your living room.

Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.

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An image from Universal Pictures' 'Dr. Seuss' The Lorax,' with Danny DeVito providing the voice of the Lorax. (Universal/YouTube screen shot)

Super Bowl ad for 'The Lorax' features Danny DeVito and Ed Helms

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 02.06.12

Previous trailers for Illumination Entertainment’s 3D animated treatment of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax have focused on selling the film as a brightly colorful flick with a child-friendly sense of humor, but also one that retains the themes of the good “doctor’s” original illustrated environmental parable.

Buzz surrounding Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is pretty positive for that reason, in combination with the news that the minds behind the popular feature-length CGI version of Horton Hears a Who! are likewise giving cinematic life to Seuss’ eponymous speaker-for-the-trees. The new Super Bowl XLVI TV promo for the film should only further improve its image as a quality piece of entertainment for the whole family.

Here is an official synopsis for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax:

The animated adventure follows the journey of a boy as he searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams.  To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.

Danny DeVito will lend his vocal talents to the iconic title character of the Lorax, while Ed Helms will voice the enigmatic Once-ler.  Also bringing their talents to the film are global superstars Zac Efron as Ted, the idealistic young boy who searches for the Lorax, and Taylor Swift as Ashley, the girl of Ted’s dreams.  Rob Riggle will play financial king O’Hare, and beloved actress Betty White will portray Ted’s wise Grammy Norma.

Now, have a look at the Super Bowl promo for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, below:

Be sure to check out our Edit Bay Report on Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax for more information about the film in general – along with a more intimate behind-the-scenes look into the creative process of adapting a famous children’s book for the big screen.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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Jennifer Lawrence (r.) stars as Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to participate in deadly games after her sister is chosen by the cheerful Effie Trinket, played by Elizabeth Banks (l.). (Murray Close/HONS/Lionsgate/AP)

New 'Hunger Games' trailer shows more of heroine Katniss's struggle

By Contributor / 02.03.12

Ravenous “Hunger Games” fans got another look at the upcoming March movie with the release of a new theatrical trailer yesterday, which will also air during the Super Bowl Sunday.

The movie adaptation is set to be released March 23, and three other movies, adapted from the next two books in the “Hunger Games” trilogy by author Suzanne Collins, are also planned.

Much like earlier teaser and theatrical trailers, the new one, which is a minute and eleven seconds in length, begins by introducing the important choice of heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). In Collins’ novels, it’s a dystopian future where the government forces two children, or young adults, from each area in the country to participate in deadly games. Only one contestant makes it out alive each time.

The trailer shows Katniss volunteering to go in her younger sister Prim’s place when Prim is chosen as the female contestant for that year. We also see a glimpse of Donald Sutherland as the powerful President Snow, projected on a video screen before the contestants are selected, and Elizabeth Banks playing Effie Trinket, a peppy announcer decked out in thick, white makeup.

This latest preview also details Katniss’ friendship with her hunting partner, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), whom she implores to provide food for her family while she’s gone, and shows Katniss with Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), the man hired to be Katniss’ stylist who also becomes her supporter. Brief training sequences as the contestants prepare for the games are shown as well as the Games' participants running through the forest after the contest has begun. And a blue-haired Stanley Tucci conducts an interview with Katniss as Caesar Flickerman, a Capitol resident who talks with all the Games contestants.

That eerie, whistling musical theme that ends the preview is bound to get any fan wishing it was March 23 already.

Check out the latest trailer below:

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'Chronicle' stars Alex Russell (l.), Michael B. Jordan (center) and Dane DeHaan (r.) play a trio who have a strange encounter that leaves them with telekinetic abilities. (Alan Markfield/HONS/20th Century Fox/AP)

'Chronicle' is an interesting twist on found-footage movies and superheroes (+trailer)

By Ben KendrickScreen Rant / 02.03.12

Found-footage films have become an increasingly bankable and a low risk prospect for movie studios. Audiences continue to fill theater seats in search of the next compelling found-footage franchise – even if a film doesn’t sport high production values or recognizable actors. That said, the genre has typically enjoyed its biggest successes with horror fans – and is mostly untested in other film categories.

With Chronicle, first time feature-film director Josh Trank tries to deliver compelling character drama and entertaining onscreen action – as well as prove that there’s more opportunity in the genre than just spooky jump scares.

As moviegoers become more selective about the never-ending flood of superhero and found-footage “me too” projects available to them, it would be easy to write-off Chronicle as just another trendy cash-grab. However, after a string of less-than-satisfying faux “documentaries” (such as The Devil Inside) and high profile, but ultimately uninspired hero flicks (such as Green Lantern), it’s safe to say that Chronicle is poised to genuinely surprise a lot of moviegoers with intriguing characters, cool visuals, and an increasingly gripping central storyline.

Following the exploits of average teens Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Steve (Michael B. Jordan), and Matt (Alex Russell), Chronicle begins when the friends encounter a mysterious entity that – after afflicting them with days of bloody noses – results in the trio developing advanced telekinetic abilities. The boys quickly discover that their newfound super powers can be manipulated, honed, and strengthened – resulting in the ability to control larger objects, as well as mimic other traditional enhanced “abilities,” such as flight and invulnerability. However, as their powers increase, so does their potential to unintentionally (or intentionally) cause harm to others. Ultimately, the friends agree to keep their abilities in check, but it’s a delicate balance that one member of the group – the proverbial loner who has suffered physical and emotional abuse at home and at school – isn’t as ready to accept.

While there’s no shortage of awkward ways in which the events of Chronicle are caught on film (especially in the last act, where none of the primary characters have time to carry actual cameras around), some of the implementations represent a major step up for the genre. Early on, Andrew perfects the ability to move the camera with his telekinetic powers – resulting in much more dynamic and fluid cinematography that subsequently allows all the characters to be in various scenes, instead of always having one hiding behind the camera. While that method obviously can’t be applied to other found-footage films, it doesn’t detract from the creativity of the Chronicle filmmakers, who were especially methodical in delivering both an entertaining and unique movie that’s made better because of its found-footage format.

Another area where the film excels above similar genre fare is the trio of super powered protagonists. Chronicle doesn’t try to strong-arm audiences from action sequence to action sequence, and actually takes the time to build a cohesive character journey for its characters. Instead of flat and shallow protagonists, Andrew, Steve, and Matt each have interesting interpersonal dynamics and arcs that flourish as they explore both their abilities and their newly formed friendships. While the succeeding events might be somewhat familiar to comic book movie regulars, the characters offer plenty of entertaining and believable moments – even after the movie starts to take a dark turn.

Watching the guys discover and revel in their abilities never gets old, and the “rules” of the film open up a lot of fresh opportunities as the friends grow stronger and more capable – resulting in increasingly interesting super-power sequences, as well as a lot of fun nods to traditional superhero source material. That said, while the movie presents plenty of cool visuals, it is Chronicle‘s dedication to its characters and their experiences that truly elevates the experience. The end result is a surprisingly charming and humorous ride for the majority of the proceedings.

As mentioned, the overarching narrative arc is also pretty dark and touches on some disturbing elements that could be challenging for some moviegoers expecting a more whimsical superhero film. Andrew endures a number of realistic bullying and abuse scenarios – which are not at all understated. While it’s unfair to criticize a PG-13 film for being “dark,” events in the third act do come fast and furious, representing a pretty sharp shift in tone that some viewers might not feel is entirely “earned” – even if the proceedings are believable and successfully grounded in the larger storyline.

Though some of the character moments might prove to be too intense for younger superhero enthusiasts, Chronicle offers an intense and riveting finale that is on par with plenty of bigger budget action films. The use of camera phones, security footage, and police surveillance tapes might seem like a hokey way to showcase the final climactic moments of the film, but surprisingly that doesn’t actually distract from the strength or success of the final set piece. There’s no doubt that Chronicle will raise the bar for visual spectacle in future found-footage movies.

Director Josh Trank, paired with a cast of likable actors, has definitely proved potential naysayers wrong – Chronicle is not a genre mash-up cash grab. Due to some truly creative thinking and intriguing cinematography, the filmmaking team has shown that “found-footage” doesn’t have to be relegated to thin story lines and flat characters who do nothing more than move audiences from jump scare to jump scare. Chronicle isn’t just a unique found-footage movie or superior superhero film, it’s a truly enjoyable blend of the best each genre has to offer.

Ben Moore blogs at Screen Rant.

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