Monday, March 30, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, March 12, 2015, 8:58 AM
"What the....!!!!! We have to keep doing this for 29 hours?!" The Ultimate Marvel Marathon, coming at ya. ZADE ROSENTHAL / Disney

In an epic test of endurance and sanity, the AMC and Regal chains have announced they'll be running the “Ultimate Marvel Marathon” beginning at 6p.m. on April 29 -- showing all 11 Marvel movies starring the respective and collective Avengers, plus that gang from Guardians of the Galaxy,  back-to-back-to-back-to-back and so on. And on.

That’s right, 29 straight hours of Black Widow and Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man, Thor and that guy with the bow and arrow – plus those Guardians dudes, with Bradley Cooper, as the voice of Rocket the Raccoon, quipping “It’s not Bugs Bunny in the middle of The Avengers” – all of them trading wisecracks and punches with supervillains of every stripe. To cap the Marvel mayhem, Avengers: Age of Ultron, reteaming Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo, will debut. Those in the audience who are still conscious may recognize James Spader rumbling with villainy as the voice of the metal-alloyed megavillain, Ultron. Joss Whedon directs the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Here’s the schedule:

  • 6 p.m. IRON MAN
  • 8:25 p.m. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
  • 10:35 p.m. IRON MAN 2
  • 1 a.m. THOR
  • 3:10 a.m. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
  • 5:30 a.m. THE AVENGERS
  • 8:48 a.m. IRON MAN 3
  • 11:15 a.m. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
  • 1:45 p.m. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
  • 4:20 p.m. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
  • 7 p.m. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

And here are the area theaters committed to this folly:  AMC Deptford, AMC Loews Cherry Hill, AMC Marple and UA King of Prussia.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 3:05 PM
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg walk and talk in the snow, across "Bridge of Spies."

Steven Spielberg, who first went to the movies when he was a kid living in Haddon Township, has been stacking up the projects lately, like a flight controller working thr tower at JFK.  He’s finished shooting Bridge of Spies, a Cold War thriller based on the story of James Donovan, a lawyer brought in to negotiate the release of an American U2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, shot down in Soviet airspace. Tom Hanks is starring as Donovan, and he's joined by Alan Alda, Mark Rylance and Amy Ryan. The film is slated for October release. It’s Hanks’ fourth team-up with Spielberg, after Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal.

This week it was announced that the director has signed Jennifer Lawrence for It's What I Do, based on the just-published memoir by Pulitizer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario. Addario has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Congo, Darfur, Haiti and Iraq for the New York Times, National Geographic and other outlets. In 2011 she was one of four journalists taken prisoner by the Libyan Army. (Right now, Lawrence is playing another real-life figure, Joy Mangano, the millionaire entrepreneur and inventor of the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers, in Joy, from her American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell.) The full title of Addario’s book: It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.      

On top of that, Spielberg is making The BFG, adaptating the children’s book by Roald Dahl. And the director has long been attached to Robopocalypse, based on Daniel H. Wilson’s 2011 futuristic cyborg novel of the same name. Spielberg has also been holding onto the rights to use Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches for a planned biopic of the Civil Rights leader. That’s the reason Ava DuVernay had to write “new” speeches for King to deliver in her Oscar-nominated Selma.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 3:13 PM
Philadelphia Independents II Animation Festival. (Plastic Club image)

Who says Philadelphians aren’t animated? (Probably nobody, but why pass up the chance at a cheap lead?) On Saturday evening, Feb. 28, the Philadelphia Independents II Animation Festival presents itself at the Plastic Club, the historic Center City institution dedicated to the visual arts. More than a dozen area artists are scheduled to show and discuss their work, including animators from the faculty at the University of the Arts, Drexel and Moore. In addition to the likes of Ross Bollinger, collaborators Lowell Boston and Liz Goldberg, Geoff Beatty (head of Germantown Studios) and the animation collectives Motion Heads  and Juggling Wolf, the program’s roster includes Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, the groundbreaking duo behind the 2009 feature adaptation of J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip. Fierlinger, of Drawn From Memory fame, is a legend in animation circles, starting his career in Czechoslovakia in the late 1950s.

The Plastic Club, located on tiny Camac Street in the Wash West section of town, is one of those hidden Philly gems. Philadelphia Independent II Animation Festival promises to have a few gems of its own. The Plastic Club, 247 S. Camac St., 215-545-9324. www.plasticclub.org Things begin at 6:30pm. The event is free, but seating is limited.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 4:50 PM
Alejandro Inarritu wins Directors Guild award for best director.

While the hype and hoo-ha of the Oscar campaigns have kept the various nominees busy these past months, it hasn’t stopped the stars, and the filmmakers, from moving ahead with new projects. And who knows, maybe some of the work will land them back in the Oscar race next year? Here’s what a few of the top contenders in Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony are up to:

Alejandro G. Inarritu, nominated for best director, best screenplay (co-writing credit) and best film (co-producing) for Birdman, has been busy in the Canadian Rockies with The Revenant, a frontier thriller about real-life 19th century fur-trapper Hugh Glass. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Glass, who was attacked by a bear and then robbed and left for dead by his companions (Domhnall Gleeson, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter).

Richard Linklater, up for best director, screenplay (co-writer) and picture (co-producer) for Boyhood, has been batting around That’s What I’m Talking About, set in the world of college baseball. Blake Jenner, Ryan Guzman and Tyler Hoechlin star.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 4:13 PM
Edward Snowden, from "CitizenFour."

The presumptive front-runner in the best documentary feature race in the 2015 Academy Awards, Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour offers a gripping, you-are-there account of security contractor Edward Snowden’s fateful decision to share top secret intelligence files with the media and the world at large. A whistleblower, or a traitor, depending on who you’re talking to, Snowden’s story is the stuff of a gripping international thriller. And now Oliver Stone, the director with a string of controversial takes on recent American history -- JFK, Nixon, W., World Trade Center – plans to bring the Snowden story to the big screen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been cast as Snowden, the intelligence and security contractor who holes up in a Hong Kong hotel while Poitras films him angsting over the release of top secret documents, as investigative reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill look on.

Joining Gordon-Levitt in Stone’s dramatization, adapted from  the books Time of the Octopus by Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, and The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,  by Luke Harding,  are Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills; Melissa Leo as filmmaker Poitras; , Zachary Quinto (Spock in the Star Trek reboots) as Greenwald, and Tom Wilkinson as the British journalist MacAskill. Expect a 2016 release.

POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 5:16 PM
Johnny Depp.
It started with The Wrap, Sharon Waxman’s much-bookmarked movie biz website, issuing an email with the subject field “5 Ways Actors Over 50 Are Avoiding the Johnny Depp Curse” and then following it up with another snarky missive linking to another story: “41 A-List Actors Who Bombed as Hard as Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai.'  And true enough, the art world comedy caper, released Friday, Jan. 23, without previewing to critics (rarely a good sign), was greeted with gleefully derisive reviews   (“strenuously unfunny,” “a whirlwind of horrible British accents,” “an anachronistic mess”) and practically no box office whatsoever. Opening weekend: a scant $4.2 million, for a film that cost $60 million to make, and millions more to market (thank you, Lionsgate, for the argyle socks with the Mortdecai mustache pattern! ). By contrast, American Sniper (also strenuously unfunny), scoped out $64 million in its second weekend of release.

But Johnny Depp, despite his embarrassing presenter’s speech at the Golden Globes and a run of big screen thuds – Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows – managed to parlay his Keith Richards imitation into a billion-dollar franchise, starring as that rogue swashbuckler Jack Sparrow in four Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters. (A fifth installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is on tap for 2017.)  True, the shtick gets progressively shtickier as the series sails on, but Depp is central to the skull-and-crossbones tentpole (or flagpole). And no one can take these oddball and adventurous performances away from the actor: Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood for Tim Burton, Dead Man for Jim Jarmusch (a couple of scenes with Robert Mitchum, no less!), Donnie Brasco, Blow, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. And though it’s too sweet for some, many more found Chocolat, with Depp as a gypsy wooing Juliette Binoche, disarming and charming and Oscar worthy.

Here’s what Depp (who cameos as the lip-smacking pederast wolf in Into the Woods ) has lined up in the near future: London Fields, an adaptation of the Martin Amis novel, starring Depp’s current companion, Amber Heard, as the clairvoyant femme fatale; Kevin Smith’s teen party romp Yoga Hosers (OK, this is going to bomb) and Black Mass, the true crime story of Whitey Bulger. Depp stars as the infamous Boston mobster, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Kevin Bacon and Joel Edgerton join in for the fun. The director, Scott Cooper, did Crazy Heart, which won Jeff Bridges his Oscar. Maybe one – or more – of these will find an audience, and people will stop picking on Depp. And if they all do fizzle out at the multiplexes,  well,  let Charlie Mortdecai saunter off into the sunset with his walking stick and his mustache and his ascot and his faux upper crust accent and what little dignity he has. Johnny Depp, we knew him when he was cool.
POSTED: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 5:27 PM
Patricia Arquette contemplates her future, in "Boyhood."

“I feel like I’ve watched this really strange shift in cinema over the course of my career,” Patricia Arquette observed, back last summer when Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, the 12-years-in-the-making movie about a kid growing up and the family growing up around him, was just rolling into theaters across the land. “I’ve seen it become a business of bankers and spreadsheets,” she added, noting that “the way that Rick chose to make this movie — the structure, the collaborative openness” was a reaction against a formula-following, demographic-driven industry.

“There are philosophical elements about the human connection, there is space for human relationships” in Boyhood, Arquette affirmed. Her performance, as a struggling single mom who makes some bad choices with the men in her life, and some good choices when it comes to raising her son (Ellar Coltrane) and daughter (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s kid), brings heartfelt specificity to challenges that working parents face everywhere, every day.

Arquette, an Emmy winner and Golden Globe nominee for her starring role on the NBC mystery series, Medium, said that signing up for Boyhood, in which the cast would shoot for a few weeks every year, as Coltrane’s character evolved from grade school to college dorm, was a daunting commitment. “It was jumping into the void from the get-go.”

POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 9:20 AM
Michael Keaton in "Birdman."

Birdman, a breathless backstage drama starring Michael Keaton as a fading Hollywood star trying to reclaim his career, and his soul, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s between-the-wars screwball romp, tied with nine nominations apiece  as the list of films and filmmakers vying for the 87th Academy Awards were announced this morning in Beverly Hills.

Rounding out the eight (out of a possible ten) best picture contenders: American Sniper, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash. The Imitation Game came away with eight nominations,  and American Sniper and Boyhood followed with six each.

In the best actor race, Keaton, who made his screen debut in 1978, in the Joan Rivers-directed Rabbit Test, received his first Academy Award nomination. The Birdman star is up against Steve Carell for his transformative take on Newtown Square multimillionaire John du Pont in Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper as the Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle in American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch as the British codebreaker and mathematician Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and Eddie Redmayne as  Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Keaton’s role is the sole fictional character in the bunch. And a surprise snub: no nomination for David Oyelowo, who stars as  Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma.

About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at srea@phillynews.com.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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