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Friday, June 19, 2015

Television Review: #AloneShow

Not The Typical History Channel Show

Review by David Clark
History channel is once again distancing themselves from the stigma of being a documentary channel with Alone, the latest in competitive survival reality television. Alone is not simply another Survivor or Naked and Afraid. To win Alone contestants will need an impressive set of survival skills, but they will also need a level of mental fortuity that has never before been seen in a reality competition. Taking place on the remote Vancouver Island wilderness, Alone pits 10 men against nature, each other, and themselves. It is a last man standing style game with a grand prize of five hundred thousand dollars. For many people that has the potential to be a life changing amount of money which explains the sacrifices some of the contestants have made. Many of them have left behind families for an unknown amount of time.
That is the other catch. Shows like Survivor have an elimination process that guarantees the show will only last a limited amount of time. Alone has no elimination process and no time limit. The show lasts until all but one of the contestants has thrown in the towel. Whether the contestants are on the island for a week, a month, or a year will depend entirely upon their personal tolerance level for the extreme conditions they face. Each contestant is separated from each other by impassible bodies of water or terrain, meaning they will spend the entirety of their time on the island in complete and total isolation. They do not know when a fellow survivalist drops out or how many are left. They must battle the complexities of nature, forage for food and water, and manage the doubts in their own minds that isolation can cause. To make matters even more stressful, contestants are sharing the island with a high population of predators such as black bears, coyotes, and cougars.
Producers of the show have setup the Island in an almost Hunger Games style with motion activated cameras. Each player has also been given a camera they are required to utilize at every opportunity. For those worried about the camera work being difficult to watch, the shows footage is actually very easy on the eyes. Nobody watching the show will mistake the camera work for that of a professional camera crew but given the shows goal of total isolation the footage works.
Each contestant is dropped off at the island by boat with nothing but a satellite phone and a backpack full of personally selected items to assist in survival. The conditions are cold, damp, and predators are everywhere. The island is home to black bears, coyotes, and cougars, something many contestants will learn first hand within their first few hours. For those unable to handle the pressure rescue is one satellite-phone call away.


Watch the promo for the upcoming series FEAR THE WALKING DEAD.

The story is set in Los Angeles, starring Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane, and Alycia Debnam Carey. Co-starring Mercedes Mason and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

Watch the clip after the Jump...

AMC has placed a two-season order for FEAR THE WALKING DEAD with the first season containing six one-hour episodes and it will premiere this summer on AMC.

This new series is exec-produced by Robert Kirkman, Gale Ann Hurd, Greg Nicotero and David Alpert, basically the guys who brought us “The Walking Dead”

Exec-producer/showrunner Dave Erickson co-created and co-wrote the spinoff’s pilot with Robert Kirkman

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Final #WOLVERINE Movie To Be Based On "Old Man Logan" Comic Book Run

Via Popcorn Talk, Marvel Movie News said that the next new WOLVERINE solo movie, which will mark Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, will have its story inspired by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s 2008 eight-issue comic, “Old Man Logan” which is set in an alternate universe, 50 years in the future where world’s supervillains team up to destroy all of the world’s superheroes.

No confirmation yet, so file that one under rumor for now.

Michael Green (“Blade Runner 2″, “Green Lantern”) will write the script for the third WOLVERINE solo movie which is going to be directed once again by James Mangold (“The Wolverine”) and yes, Hugh Jackman will reprise his iconic role, and this will be the final time he’ll play this iconic mutant.
Green is collaborating with Mangold on the script. WOLVERINE 3 hits theaters March 3, 2017.

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Sony Pictures & Paramount Pictures Skipping #ComicCon 2015

Look who else will not be attending Comic-Con 2015. Matt did a nice piece on why Marvel doesn't need Comic-Con. And now this news.

According to Variety, San Diego’s lucrative fanboy convention will be missing some key players next month: Marvel Studios, home of the Avengers, won’t be dressing up for Comic-Con while Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures have also decided to skip the Hall H presentations.

“It wasn’t a knock against Comic-Con,” one spokesperson explains, “the film cycles just didn’t allow it.”

Sony and Paramount just didn’t have the fanboy material to promote, said sources, while Marvel, which last missed the confab in 2011, already unveiled its new wave of Avengers at a special fan event in October.

Plus, cost of sending a number of movies to Comic-Con can also set back a studio a few hundred thousand dollars, so “why force the issue?,” one exec asks.

Disney is expected to showcase its upcoming slate, which includes sequels for “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Finding Nemo,” at the company’s D23 Expo later this summer.

But don’t expect Tony Stark or Jack Sparrow to ruin the party in Hall H: In addition to the new “Star Wars” and final “Hunger Games,” fans could see the rumored coming-out party for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s Justice League, which features Batman, Superman, the Flash and Aquaman, among other surprises.

Also expected are 20th Century Fox’s “Fantastic Four” and quite possibly a few “X-Men.”

The 46th edition of Comic-Con will be held July 9-12 at the San Diego Convention Center.

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DADDY'S HOME TRAILER STARRING Will Ferrell & Mark Wahlberg

DADDY’S HOME starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg is here.

DADDY’S HOME” follows a mild-mannered radio executive (Ferrell) who strives to become the best stepdad to his wife’s two children, but complications ensue when their freewheeling and freeloading real father (Wahlberg) arrives, forcing him to compete for the affection of the kids.

Watch the trailer after the Jump...

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#KUNGFUPANDA 3 Official Trailer

DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox have just released the FIRST trailer for the highly anticipated film, KUNG FU PANDA 3! The star-studded cast returns to this franchise with Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and David Cross; joined by newcomers Bryan Cranston, Rebel Wilson, and J.K. Simmons.

Watch the trailer after the Jump...

In 2016, one of the most successful animated franchises in the world returns with its biggest comedy adventure yet, KUNG FU PANDA 3. When Po's long-lost panda father suddenly reappears, the reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters, Po must do the impossible—learn to train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas!

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New #DARKPLACES Trailer, Poster & Images Starring Charlize Theron

Based on the Worldwide best-seller by “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn, DARK PLACES starring Charlize Theron opens in theaters nationwide on August 7th and is currently available for a 30-day exclusive window on DIRECTV. The book has been on the NY Times best-seller list for over 2 years and is currently # 9.

Libby Day (Charlize Theron) was only seven years old when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. In court, the traumatized child pointed the finger at her brother, Ben (Tye Sheridan), and her testimony put the troubled 16-year-old in prison for life. Twenty-five years later, a broke and desperate Libby has run through donations from a sympathetic public and royalties from her sensational autobiography, without ever moving past the events of that night.

Watch the trailer & see all the images after the Jump...

When Libby accepts a fee to appear at a gathering of true-crime aficionados led by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), she is shocked to learn most of them believe Ben is innocent and the real killer is still at large. In need of money, she reluctantly agrees to help them reexamine the crime by revisiting the worst moments of her life. But as Libby and Lyle dig deeper into the circumstances surrounding the murders, her recollections start to unravel and she is forced to question exactly what she saw – or didn’t see. As long-buried memories resurface, Libby begins to confront the wrenching truths that led up to that horrific night. Also starring Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll and Chloë Grace Moretz, Dark Places is an ingeniously twisted thriller based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl).

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#PEOPLEPLACESTHINGS Starring @AJemaineClement Official Trailer

The official trailer and poster for PEOPLE PLACES THINGS, starring Jemaine Clement.

Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) is a graphic novelist and a professor in NYC. At his adorable twin girls’ fifth birthday party, Will’s life is turned upside down when he walks in on the mother of his children, and longtime girlfriend, Charlie, (Stephanie Allynne) with their friend Gary (Michael Chernus). One year later, Will is still alone and trying to put his life back together. He finds unexpected challenges when his talented student Kat (Jessica Williams) tries to set Will up with her accomplished mother Diane (Regina Hall). In this thoughtful comedy, Will is forced to navigate the unknown landscape of single fatherhood and dating in New York City, while remaining an inspiration for his students and coming to terms with himself both as a father as an artist.

Watch the trailer after the Jump...

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Here is the OFFICIAL TRAILER, as well as a new poster and three new images for the highly-anticipated cartel thriller, SICARIO. Directed by the critically-acclaimed Denis Villeneuve, and starring a fantastic ensemble including Academy Award® winner Benicio del Toro, Golden Globe Award® winner Emily Blunt, Academy Award® nominee Josh Brolin along with Jon Bernthal, and Emmy Award® nominee Victor Garber, this film is packed with gripping suspense and non-stop action.

In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent [Emily Blunt] is enlisted by an elite government task force official [Josh Brolin] to aid in the escalating war against drugs.

Watch the trailer and see all the images after the Jump...

Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past [Benicio Del Toro], the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

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#SambaMovie Official Trailer

Here is the OFFICIAL TRAILER for their upcoming film, Samba. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, the acclaimed directing duo of the runaway sensation The Intouchables, re-team with Omar Sy (Jurassic World, The Intouchables) for this cross-cultural romantic comedy also starring Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist, Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & II).

Watch the trailer after the Jump...

Samba opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, July 24, with a national rollout to follow.

Samba reunites The Intouchables’ acclaimed directing duo, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, with award-winning actor Omar Sy in a richly entertaining chronicle of an undocumented kitchen worker battling deportation from his adopted home in Paris. When Samba (Sy) is suddenly ordered to leave France, he enlists the help of Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an emotionally vulnerable immigration advocate with little experience but plenty of heart. As the immigrant aspiring chef and the burned-out corporate executive tentatively explore an unexpected bond, they inspire each other to reinvent themselves in this vibrant comedy full of tender humor and heartfelt optimism.

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Win Tickets To An Advance Screening For #MeAndEarl And The Dying Girl In Tucson

Win Tickets To An Advance Screening For Me and Earl and the Dying Girl on June 29th at 7:00 PM in Tucson.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is the uniquely funny, moving story of Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior who is trying to blend in anonymously, avoiding deeper relationships as a survival strategy for navigating the social minefield that is teenage life.

He even describes his constant companion Earl (R.J. Cyler), with whom he makes short film parodies of classic movies, as more of a 'co-worker’ than a best friend. But when Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) insists he spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) – a girl in his class who has just been diagnosed with cancer - he slowly discovers how worthwhile the true bonds of friendship can be.

See how to win tickets after the Jump...

Make sure to LIKE SandwichJohnFilms on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all your entertainment news and to be to notified about our upcoming Advance Screenings. Also make sure to subscribe and download our Podcast

Click HERE to get your passes.

DISCLAIMER: ARRIVE EARLY! SEATING IS FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED, EXCEPT FOR MEMBERS OF THE REVIEWING PRESS. THEATER IS OVERBOOKED TO ENSURE A FULL HOUSE. THEATRE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OVERBOOKING. THIS PASS DOES NOT GUARANTEE ADMISSION AND MUST BE SURRENDERED UPON DEMAND. NO ONE WILL BE ADMITTED WITHOUT A TICKET AND ONLY REVIEWING PRESS WILL BE ADMITTED AFTER THE SCREENING BEGINS. Duplicate passes will not be accepted. Screening passes are non transferable. This ticket is NOT for resale. Reselling of tickets is strictly prohibited and punishable by law. All those found in violation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. MPAA - No Recording This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of have against you. Unauthorized recording will be reported to law enforcement and may subject you to criminal and civil liability (including damages up to $150,000). *This includes, by way of example only, smart phones and your belongings and person for such device. If you attempt to enter with a recording device, you will be denied admission. If you attempt to use a recording device*, you consent to your Immediate removal from the theater and forfeiture of the device.

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PHANTOM BOY Acquired By @GKIDSfilms



GKIDS, a distributor of award-winning animation for both adult and family audiences, announced its acquisition of North American rights to PHANTOM BOY, the highly anticipated new animated feature from Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, the Oscar®-nominated writers and directors of A Cat in Paris. The film premieres on June 19 at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and GKIDS plans a theatrical release in spring 2016. The deal was negotiated between Daniela Elstner for Doc & Film International, Annemie Degryse for Lumière Publishing, and Eric Beckman for GKIDS.

PHANTOM BOY marks a return to the stylish animated noir of Felicioli and Gagnol’s A Cat in Paris, which was also distributed by GKIDS and earned the writing/directing duo their first Academy Award nomination. In the new film, the setting has shifted from Paris to New York in this family- and adult-friendly crime animated thriller. The film was produced by Jacques-Remy Girerd and Annemie Degryse, and is a co-production between Folimage, Lunanime, France 3 Cinéma and Rhône-Alpes Cinéma.

Leo has a secret. A mysterious illness has transformed him into a phantom boy, able to leave the confines of his body and explore the city as a ghostly apparition. While in the hospital, he befriends Alex, a police officer injured while attempting to capture a nefarious gangster, who has taken control of the city’s power supply, throwing the metropolis into chaos. Now they must form an extraordinary duo, using Leo’s phantom powers and Alex’s detective work to stop the plot and save New York from destruction. Phantom Boy continues Gagnol and Felicioli’s fascination with animated film noir, in a heart-thumping adventure that pushes their trademark visual style to literal new heights, as Leo soars above the greatest skyline in the world.

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Watch Arnold Prank Fans In Hollywood For A Good Cause

Watch Arnold prank fans as The Terminator on Hollywood Boulevard in this epic new video!

Arnold is partnering with charity fundraising platform Omaze to offer one lucky fan (and a friend) a chance to attend the Terminator Genisys premiere and after-party. All proceeds will benefit After-School All-Stars.

When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: To reset the future…

Directed by Alan Taylor

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6 WAYS TO DIE In Theaters & VOD On July 31st

Sonny "Sundown" Garcia is the top cocaine distributor in the United States, which has made him a very rich and powerful man. It has also made him plenty of enemies. John Doe is just such a man. A nameless man of mystery, John lives to see Sundown not just dead, but to suffer six meaningful losses before his death—his fortune, his freedom, his love, his reputation, his most valuable possession and, finally, his life. John hires six hit-men, each one assigned to inflict one of the six meaningful losses upon Sundown.

Starring: Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand, Swordfish), Dominique Swain (Face/Off, Lolita), Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill, Independence Day), Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down) & Bai Ling (The Crow, Anna and the King)

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#WizardWorld Comic Con #Sacramento Panel Highlights

Malcolm McDowell, Billie Piper, Manu Bennett, Henry Winkler Q&As Highlight Programming at Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento, Friday through Sunday.

Interactive Sessions with Katie Cassidy, Danny Trejo, Alfonso Ribeiro, Kelly Frye, Adrian Paul, Reggie Lee, Festival of Animation, Film Festival, Costume Contests Featured At Sacramento Convention Center

Q&A sessions with Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange ), Billie Piper (“Doctor Who”), Manu Bennett (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, “Arrow”), Henry Winkler (“Happy Days,” “Royal Pains”), Katie Cassidy (“Arrow,” “Gossip Girl”), Danny Trejo ( Machete, Machete Kills), Alfonso Ribeiro (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Kelly Frye (“The Flash”), Adrian Paul (Highlander), Giancarlo Esposito (“Once Upon a Time,” “Revolution”), Jason Mewes (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”), costume contests, comics-themed sessions and more are among the programming panels scheduled at Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento, Friday through Sunday at Sacramento Convention Center. Most programming is included as part of the standard event admission.

Some highlights of the more than 50 panels scheduled after Jump...

Interactive Q&As with McDowell (Saturday, noon), Piper (Saturday, 3 p.m.), Bennett (Saturday, 4 p.m.), Winkler (Sunday, 2:30 p.m.), Cassidy (Saturday, 2 p.m.), Trejo (Saturday, 1 p.m.), Ribeiro (Saturday, noon), Frye (Saturday, 12:30), Paul (Saturday, 1 p.m.), Esposito (Sunday, 11:30 a.m.), Mewes (Sunday, 12:30 p.m.), WWE® Diva Eva Marie® (Saturday, 10:45 a.m.) and The Bella Twins® (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.), Reggie Lee (“Grimm”, Saturday, 2 p.m.) and others
Dual Q&A sessions with the Boondock Saints tandem of Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco (Sunday, 1:30 p.m.) and “Power Rangers” duo of Jason David Frank and David Yost (Saturday, 3 p.m.)
Industry sessions with Howard Chaykin (Friday, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30 p.m.), Video game experts Genese Davis, Eric Kieron Davis (with Chris Hughes, Friday, 6 p.m.; with Adam Simon, Sunday, 11:30 a.m.), “Marvel at 76” with Danny Fingeroth and Travis Langley (“Saturday, 2:30 p.m.), cartoon animator/director Tom Cook (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Sunday, noon) and more
Spike And Mike’s Festival Of Animation (Friday and Saturday, 7-10 p.m., paid event)
CONtv Film Festival: Sacramento: Friday, 3-6:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Costume contests for adults (Saturday, 5 p.m.) and kids (Sunday, 3:30 p.m.), plus cosplay-themed sessions with Wizard World personality Damian Beurer (Friday, 7 p.m.) and others
Evening events including Drink & Draw (Friday, 8:30 p.m., Barwest, 2724 J St.) and Official Wizard World After Party (Saturday, 9 p.m., Social Nightclub, 1000 K St.)
Meet-and-greet with Jason David Frank (Saturday, 5:30 p.m.) (Paid event)

Unless noted, programming events take place in the designated General Programming Rooms at the Sacramento Convention Center. VIP tickets or additional costs may apply to ensure access to select activities, as noted.

A full list of Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con programming is available at http://www.wizardworld.com/programming-sacramento.html (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).

Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con is the 13th of 26 events currently scheduled in the 2015 series produced by Wizard World, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD). For more on the event, visit www.wizardworld.com/home-sacramento.html.

About Wizard World (OTCBB: WIZD)
Wizard World, Inc. (http://www.wizardworld.com ) produces Comic Cons and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, television, cosplay, comics, graphic novels, toys, video gaming, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more. A first-class lineup of topical programming takes place at each event, with celebrity Q&A's, comics-themed sessions, costume contests, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Wizard World has also launched CONtv, a digital media channel in partnership with leading independent content distributor Cinedigm™ (NASDAQ: CIDM), and ComicConBox™, a premium subscription-based monthly box service. Fans can interact with Wizard World on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media services.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Movie Review: 'Dope'

The imperfect comedy Dope is still a laugh-out-loud good time.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Director/Writer Rick Famuyiwa's Dope, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a high school senior who wants desperately to escape the gang-infested Inglewood for the success of Harvard. He's smart but dorky, ambitious yet mindful of the problems around him, loves 90's Hip-Hop, and dresses like he was transported out of a Kid n' Play video. His friends the 14% African-American Jib and the dike Diggy (Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons) are also band mates and band geeks, jamming out after school to the disgust of the custodians. But Malcolm's life changes when he's invited to a club where the thug Dom (rapper A$ap Rocky) gets involved in a drug-related shootout, dumping his bricks of drugs and a weapon into Malcolm's backpack. Upon its discovery, Malcolm must decide whether to dump it, deliver it to AJ (Roger Smith), or the craziest idea: sell it.

Dope is hardcore funny, filled with enough Hip-Hop references and clothing to easily sustain itself. Add in the modern technology of "caught on iPhone" reporting, inexpensive home studios, and the N-word being thrown around like gang signs and you begin to see how quirky this is. That will be off-putting to those who can't stand the rather liberal use of the N-word these days, but it has so much energy, such a great soundtrack, and so many pop-culture references that it's hard to not like it. A lot. But it's also got a stirring message about the double standards in higher education, along with the way our society now expects things opened-handed and free. Experiences like these can devolve into a mess with no real meaning at the end, but luckily Dope escapes that...sort of.

My two biggest problems with Dope are its multiple endings (I think it would still be going on right now if it could), and the unfortunate decision by Malcolm to enter the drug trade. And while that's all deception, it's a big gamble on Famuyiwa's part that yields hilarious results while still ringing extremely inappropriate. Some kids will emerge from this a changed person, but others will go home to immediately research selling drugs on the Black Webs. I hope that's not Famuyiwa and Producer Forest Whitaker's intention, because the rest of the film works so well.

Moore does more than merely lead this cast, he is the heart and soul of it. Malcolm is the perfect kind of child for this new world, unwilling to allow his troubled environment dictate the path his life will take. Moore embodies Malcolm, taking Revolori and Clemons on his back as they get themselves into one harrowing situation after another, while philosophizing on who can use the N-word or arguing greatest labels of the 90's at a local record store. If only John Cusak could have made a High Fidelity cameo...

Famuyiwa's script is purposely self-reverential but also contains some amazing dialogue near the end as Malcolm writes his letter to Harvard. But it's also Famuyiwa the director who stitches all of it with great sequences and funny interludes, while giving his troupe the legs they need to run out their characters. Some don't fare so well, such as Malcolm's mother (Lisa Hayes), who provides zero leadership to her son. Some like A$ap are there long enough to play their pigeon-holed role before they disappear into the ether. But Zoe Kravitz plays another understated winner who also desires an escape but needs her GED first, thus enlisting Malcolm and eventually falling for him.

As the movement this year seems to be towards well-apportioned teen comedies (The DUFF and the gorgeous Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl), Dope can happily assume its place behind this pantheon of modern-age John Hughes/Cameron Crowe 80's classics. Minus its inability to actually end and the horrible decision to sell drugs (albeit to screw AJ), this one could have sat alongside The Breakfast Club and Better off Dead.

Dope is a funny, inventive, sometimes deep affair whose experience will largely depend on who sees it. Regardless of who that may be, its particular brand of comedy is infectious and might actually lead to the kinds of conversations with children that I think Whitaker and Famuyiwa are hoping for. Let's just hope that the legality of selling drugs to implicate another is not one of them.

Dope is rated R for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence-all involving teens and has a runtime of 103 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

Television Review: 'The Roosevelts: An Intimate History'

The engrossing, impressive The Roosevelts: An Intimate History peels away the story behind this complex family.

Review By Matt Cummings

The story of America is usually chronicled through glitzy, face-paced editing with a smattering of unknown college professors. It sometimes works (see Nazi Mega Weapons), but for the most part it's an uneven affair at best. The Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History demonstrates that the more traditional methods of creating a documentary still work, resulting in a powerful experience about the 20th Century's most beloved but complex family.

History takes us through nearly 60 years of family history, starting with the irrepressible Theodore (voiced by Paul Giamatti), brought whose big energy and unwavering foresight ushered the US away from the demons of Reconstruction and into the modern manufacturing world that Alexander Hamilton desired so greatly. But he's also a champion of nature and a social worker who believed that everyone should be given fair chances to get ahead. The story moves into his niece Eleanor (Meryl Streep) and nephew Franklin (the late Edward Herrmann), both ostracized in their youth who come together to lead a troubled nation through depression and war. It also recounts the warring that the Oyster Bay Roosevelts waged on the Hyde Park ones, sometimes publicly admonishing the other, even while FDR sought a third and fourth term. Together, FDR, Eleanor, and TR set forth the story of modern America, bringing a nation shattered by civil war into the 20th Century, to become the world's protector and beacon of democracy.

What makes this documentary unique is that the big three - Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor - are observed together, wrapping their lives into a single, collective narrative. The result is truly masterful: by taking the rather traditional approach of time as opposed to theme, Burns is able to encompass the entire history of one of the 20th Century's most complex and popular families. In truth, it makes The Camelot days of The Kennedys seem pedestrian. This could have been a modern tell-all - and in some ways it is - but Burns knows how to keep the scandal behind FDR to the facts: the frequent visits by Lucy Rutherford, the 'assistance' of long-time friend Daisy Suckley (Patricia Clarkson) and Missy Lehand. But what opened my eyes the most comes in the final two episodes. There, we learn just how ill FDR had become, the efforts by the administration to conceal his congestive heart disease, and how all of this was kept from his children and the American public. When one son back from war walks in on Rutherford - the two had not previously met - rubbing FDR's polio-stricken legs, we are as surprised as the young man.

Burns has cut his teeth on this style, in many ways furthering the process by which modern documentaries are told: fill it with first-class historians, dig deep into the journals and speeches, and hire well-known actors to voice them. It might be a tired formula for some, but the way he weaves the larger facts with smaller anecdotes still impresses: TR's final expedition, Eleanor's constant strain against her mother-in-law, FDR's unscheduled meeting with a naked Churchill all bring a heightened sense of reality to the popular history of this complex family. And the story of the Roosevelts is tough to watch at points, not because it's poorly done, but because it casts an ugly shadow on 20th Century America as self-centered, racist, and short-minded. Burns knows how to pluck those strings melodically but decisively, demonstrating that his multiple Emmys over the years were well-deserved.

The voice cast is superb, led by Streep, but also featuring Ed Harris, Kevin Conroy, John Lithgow, and Billy Bob Thornton. Each works with varying results, but it's Streep who nails Eleanor both in tone and inflection. As the final episode's 30 minutes focuses squarely on her, we get the sense that the story has come full circle, that the depressive TR's need to be constantly working in order to feel worthy had always been a part of Eleanor. It's a poignant moment, but one that Burns orchestrates with his usual tactical brilliance, painting her and the rest as people first, leaders second, fighting graying battles over loyalty, and ultimately faced with monumental decisions about the fate of the free world. Not many could succeed under those kinds of pressures, but I believe it was their humanity which allowed them to win the day, a fact which our 21st Century standards should never forget.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History is another stunning victory for Burns, the preeminent storyteller of our time. In the end, he's able to do something that most directors forget to do: document without judging. Rather than overpowering us with his perspective, he encourages what Journalist Walter Cronkite once said, to "hold up the mirror - to tell and show the public what has happened." Audiences will no doubt find plenty of chances to do so in the 14-hour, seven episode affair, not when he is retelling of their greatness but in those moments when the Roosevelts are ordinary, conflicted by family troubles, or faced with great personal loss. The way we interpret Burns' message - that one must overcome personal tragedy in order to be great - is then set squarely on our shoulders. With so much fast-paced entertainment out there, you would do well to slow down long enough to check out Burns' newest masterpiece.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History is available on most PBS stations.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

DVD Review: Transporter: The Series - The Complete Second Season

Frank Martin’s small-screen exploits still a road to nowhere.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Filmmaker Luc Besson, that prolific purveyor of Euro-junk action thrillers, seems hellbent on making a cottage industry out of The Transporter. The original 2002 film, the coming-out party for Jason Statham’s tenure as one of filmdom’s core badasses, was a surprise hit and spawned two sequels, with a reboot-flavored third on the way. Besson also launched The Transporter as a TV series in 2012, to relatively little fanfare. Besson, famously a voracious fan of dollar signs (we didn’t get those nonsensical Taken sequels for the sake of art), clearly works under the impression that there is a wealth of profit potential in this franchise, yet the material at the core of The Transporter empire is so thin that the amount of stretching Besson is attempting to do with it threatens to tear it apart.

Case in point, Besson has now completed a second season of Transporter: The Series and the franchise’s limitations are evident all over this latest batch. In the Transporter films, Statham portrayed Frank Martin, a superhumanly skilled driver who works as a sort of underworld courier, either transporting valuable materials for shady clients or operating as the getaway driver on high-risk criminal operations. Frank is a very fastidious man, who is extremely fussy about the state of his vehicle and his black-suit wardrobe, and stringently adheres to a set of rules that he demands both he and his clients follow to the letter. Though Frank operates in the criminal realm, he’s not an evil man, so much as morally neutral. He’s a consummate professional, though one not unwilling to get down and dirty when jobs go sideways, as they often do.

There was never much to Frank as a character in the three Transporter films beyond his OCD nature and badass efficiency, but Statham, with his pub-bruiser charm, made him at least seem like an interesting protagonist. The juxtaposition of Frank’s finicky tendencies and his bone-crushing skill set was something Statham played with aplomb, locating the sweet spot between gentleman and thug. The problem with the Transporter franchise has always been that there is precious little to the whole operation besides Statham’s rough-hewn appeal, glimpses of European scenery and some nifty car-chase sequences, and the TV series visibly strains under those limitations. Getting three movies out of Frank Martin was already a tall order. Getting an ongoing television series out of him is a fool’s errand.

Transporter: The Series replaces Statham with Chris Vance, and that alone is enough to derail the train. The Transporter films only got by due to Statham’s unique tough-guy charisma, so removing him from the equation and replacing him with someone lacking all the qualities that Statham brought to the character is a fatal hindrance. Vance seems to think he’s playing 007 rather than Frank Martin, giving the character a softer, uncharacteristically debonair aura while lacking the intimidation factor that Statham exuded in waves. Even Vance’s look is off, with his well-coiffed hairstyle; Frank Martin even having hair feels like a huge miscalculation. Statham’s appeal is distinctively his, but casting Vance in this role indicates that no one behind the scenes either understood what it was that made the character work or cared about trying to adhere to it as much as was possible.

Not that it might have mattered. There simply isn’t enough meat to The Transporter as a franchise for a multi-episode series to function, at least not without a lot more thought being put in than the makers of this series are clearly willing to expend. Frank receives a new female partner in the form of Caterina Boldieu (Violante Placido), whose life he’s hired to save in the season’s opening scene and who then inexplicably decides to join forces with him simply so there’s an attractive female on hand. Also returning from Season 1 is Dieter Hausmann (Charly Hübner), Frank’s loyal mechanic (the Frank Martin of the movies would never allow nor require anyone other than himself to touch his car, but a TV show needs its secondary characters). Most enjoyably is the return of François Berléand as Inspector Tarconi, the character he portrayed in the films. Tarconi’s peculiar friendship with Frank was always the one bit of character-based amiability that this unshakably meat-and-potatoes franchise had at its disposal, so it’s nice to see that relationship continue, even if it’s with an inferior version of Frank.

Transporter: The Series is perhaps even junkier than much of Besson’s largely disreputable film oeuvre. The action sequences and car stunts are far less impressive here than in the films, and the series lacks the wit and intelligence necessary to get it over that hump. That Besson, whose low-rent sensibilities have come to define him much more than his earlier, richer work, would consider this to be good enough is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that Frank Spotnitz, the second-in-command on The X-Files during its entire run, is a major creative force on this series, acting as both executive producer and writer. I guess for all Franks associated with this series, the mindset is that a job’s a job.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Emma Stone Turned Down Ghostbusters

The prospect of bustin' did not make her feel good.

By Brandon Wolfe

Back when Paul Feig’s female-driven reboot of Ghostbusters began congealing, one name that kept getting tossed around was that of Emma Stone, who was personally championed for the role by her Zombieland and Aloha co-star, former Ghostbuster Bill Murray. Now word comes that Stone was indeed offered a part in the film, but declined to participate, not wanting to take part in another mega-franchise so soon after her stint in the Amazing Spider-Man films.

"The script was really funny,” said Stone. “It just didn't feel like the right time for me. A franchise is a big commitment - it's a whole thing. I think maybe I need a minute before I dive back into that water."

Speaking of the film, which begins shooting tomorrow with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth, The Boston Herald has unearthed a few tidbits about its heretofore unknown plot:

Wiig and McCarthy play a pair of unheralded authors who write a book positing that ghosts are real. Flash forward a few years and Wiig lands a prestigious teaching position at Columbia U. Which is pretty sweet, until her book resurfaces and she is laughed out of academia. Wiig reunites with McCarthy and the other two proton pack-packing phantom wranglers, and she gets some sweet revenge when ghosts invade Manhattan and she and her team have to save the world.

Finally in Ghostbusters news, another former Ghostbuster, Dan Aykroyd, spoke to Comic Book Resources, stating that the new film will "[refer] to the to the first two in a really neat, classy way." Aykroyd went on to say "The new one's going to be big. The interplay, and with each of them, their individual voices are so well defined. They're just such different characters, and there's a friction. There's a dynamic there. I'm not going to spoil it for people, but it's going to be big, big!. This is all going to introduce [the franchise] to a whole new generation of girls that are going to want to be Ghostbusters. We always needed them.”

The new Ghostbusters will be released July 22, 2016.

Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.


Movie Review: 'Inside Out'

Pixar's Inside Out doesn't use its inside voice as well as it could.

Review by Matt Cummings

WARNING: Spoilers ahead

In Pixar's 15th animated film Inside Out, the 11-year-old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) has moved from the idyllic Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). Riley is intelligent, loves ice hockey, and has strong friendships, all managed by a team of emotions in her head that store core memories and fuel five theme parks in her mind. The lighthearted Joy (Amy Poehler) is the dominant emotion, striving to make sure Riley stays happy, while Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) keep her safe and on guard. After the black sheep of the group Sadness (Phyllis Smith) accidentally poisons Riley's core memories, Joy and Sadness are transported to the far reaches of Riley's mind, forcing the two to make the long trek back. But they need to hurry: without Riley's core memories, the theme parks begin to fail, cutting off transport back to Headquarters and potentially forcing Riley down a dark path.

As someone who loves animated films for their simple joy, quirky characters, and strong messages, I found this 94-minute movie to be more of a 2-hour ordeal. Too much time is spent in Riley's head - not enough in Mom or Dad's - and the whole premise of Joy and Sadness trying to return Riley's core memories does little to solve Riley's growing sense of separation and failure. Even when those memories are returned, Riley's family will most likely stay in SF, leaving her former life and those same memories of Minnesota as nothing more than distant reminders of her old life. There's never a time when she comes to realize this, is never told that by her parents, and never ever a time when the audience can experience that with her. Nothing will change the course which her parents have set, so it takes away from the importance of the journey which Joy and Sadness make back to Headquarters. Riley must live in this apparently dreary world of San Francisco (a preposterous notion if you've visited one of the most beautiful cities in the country) whether she has these core memories or not.

There is a message here (buried deep) that all the emotions have to work together, but that's a practice which only happens in the last minutes of Inside Out. What bothers me most is the way Sadness is portrayed: she is far more destructive to Riley than the film's creative team would like to admit. Why she decides to randomly poison Riley's memories by turning them blue is never explained, making her look like either a dim-witted emotion or a glorified tagger. Is she angry at Joy, or simply not aware that her actions are causing a sea change in Riley? Moreover, the message that emotions need equal stage time in order to be respected isn't realistic: normally, people choose to exhibit an emotion according to external stimuli, not to who's ruling the roost at that particular moment. Perhaps that's a clinical way of looking at things, but Directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen don't seem to care whether we appreciate this or not. They're focused squarely on Riley, Joy, and Sadness, with everyone else either a fun distraction or an unnecessary weight.

Our voice cast is good but not great, with the enthusiastic Poehler and the morose Smith not given enough to expand either of their characters. Mom and dad are simply window dressings, content to play people who tell Riley what to do without learning why they operate the way they do. Getting inside their heads as much as Riley's might have yielded better (or more comedic) results. Hader, Black, and Kaling get their moments, with Black's Anger benefiting the most, but again there's just enough for us to know of them without knowing about them. They really play subservient caricatures to Joy, even at the end when the team is given an improved navigation board that the adults already have, allowing each emotion an equal voice.

This is not a kid's film by any stretch of the imagination, so don't expect the silliness of a Monsters Inc or roar of Cars. This is a rather serious adult affair that doesn't work half as well as it should. I know that's a minority opinion, but when I can see a scene played out better in my mind or one that involves the death of a beloved character, that's too much to be able to recommend to younger families. Perhaps it's made for the 12-14 year olds who grew with Toy Story and Finding Nemo, but it's certainly not for a new generation of kids half that age.

If Pixar wants to be viewed as an animation studio that produces fun comedies and more serious affairs, I think that's a smart move; but marketing the film as anything other than what it is feels underhanded. Little kids will have no idea what is happening half of the time, especially when the death of memories is played out to rather uncomfortable results. I'm not kidding: wait until you see what happens to Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind).

There is also an overly-long short film that plays before Inside Out called Lava. It's perhaps the worst of Pixar's esteemed achievements, focusing on a Hawaiian-singing lonely volcano. Yes, you heard me right.

In the end, Inside Out will either be a terrific personal experience or a tedious one. For me, there's too much opportunity left on the table and a way serious story of growing up that's being marketed to the wrong audience. Its stunning animation will no doubt garner it consideration for Best Animated Film come February, but any talk about a Best Picture nomination is both way too early and not at all earned.

Inside Out is rated a surprising PG for mild thematic elements and some action and has a runtime of 94 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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