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Film Preview: Starred Up (2014)

Poster


Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 29, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "A troubled and explosively violent teenager is transferred to adult prison where he finally meets his match - a man who also happens to be his father."

Poster: C-

Review: A rosy hue of a shirtless man in prison might appeal to a certain demographic, but that demographic isn't going to be sold on the film by this design. It doesn't give a hint at the meaning of the title, nor does it suggest that there's a purposeful film behind it.

Trailer: B

Review: With a trailer like this, critics' plaudits matter since otherwise it would be difficult to know if the film was really that good. There are some hints at prison politics in the trailer, which give it some intrigue, but it otherwise seems like just another random film about disagreeable people being mistreated in prison.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 24, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Life of Crime (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 29, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Two common criminals get more than they bargained for after kidnapping the wife of a corrupt real-estate developer who shows no interest in paying the $1 million dollar ransom for her safe return."

Poster: C-

Review: A tedious, unimaginative comedy design that's not particularly funny or otherwise interesting. It's nice to celebrate a "starry" cast, but that doesn't help much when many of them have never really sold a movie.

Trailer: B

Review: As appealing as the cast may be, the aged premise might underwhelm the audience and make this a pointless bomb. That said, there is some potential hinted at in the trailer, which might be enough to get it seen.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 24, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Last Weekend (2014)

Poster



Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 29, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "When an affluent matriarch gathers her dysfunctional family for a holiday at their Northern California lake house, her carefully constructed weekend begins to come apart at the seams, leading her to question her own role in the family."

Poster: C+ / C

Review: (#1) The placid nature of the first design may not be able to sell the film as it needs to, but it certainly plays on the mind's memory's of childhoods at the lake, or at least the idealized depictions of such. (#2) This gives the viewer more insight into the film's familial connection and it central star. That doesn't tell you what the film's about and this particular design is fairly overused.

Trailer: B

Review: There's a rather spectacular cast involved here and while the premise seems a bit similar to Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours, that doesn't prevent it from being an entertaining indie gem. Having Patricia Clarkson involved certainly helps.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 24, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: The Congress (2014)

Poster


Poster #1

Additional posters can be found below.

Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 29, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn't consider."

Poster: B- / B / B-

Review: Seldom have three poster designs felt so incongruous and been better for it. (#1) Starting the designs out is a very futuristic-looking design that should appeal to sci-fi geeks even if feels somewhat unimaginative without knowing the film's plot. (#2) Now, we have a design that makes the film seem like it's just an animated film in a style similar to Hayao Miyazaki and other anime designers. It completely betrays the film's overall premise, but it has more meaning when taken in tandem with the trailer. (#3) Taking the second design and putting Robin Wright's visage at the top gives the film the feel of a cross-medium artwork, but neither seems to focus on the sci-fi nature of the premise, which diverts too much from the core plot of the film.

Trailer: B+

Review: It's a fascinating concept that isn't dreary or moribund or particularly fluid in terms of emotion. You have to find the truth in the trailer and understand what the film is about and why you should watch it. With an understanding of what you've seen, things begin to click and the idea takes root in your mind, which could be enough to draw curiosity seekers to the theater.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 24, 2014) Original

Additional Posters



Poster #2Poster #3
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Film Preview: Cantinflas (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 29, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Cantinflas is the untold story of Mexico's greatest and most beloved comedy film star of all time. From his humble origins on the small stage to the bright lights of Hollywood, Cantinflas became famous around the world - one joke at a time. Relive the laughter that has charmed generations."

Poster: C- / B+

Review: (#1) Perhaps this particular poster will appeal to fans of Cantinflas and those who know who he is from his involvement in Around the World in 80 Days. Unfortunately, it's otherwise uninspiring. (#2) The second design, however, is a fantastic premise. It's been done before, but when the style works, it's ok to duplicate it. A rich, detailed design that will encourage passers-by to give it a closer look, which might sell some tickets, but is otherwise the kind of design that appeals to fans of older Hollywood magic.

Trailer: B-

Review: The trailer design follows familiar paths in a biopic mold that isn't necessarily appealing. It tells us most of the character's back story, but that discourages people from wanting to see it before it hits video. Were it more magical like the second poster design, it might have had some pizzazz that pulled people to the theater, hoping to see something grand on the big screen.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 24, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: The November Man (2014)

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Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 27, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "An ex-CIA operative is brought back in on a very personal mission and finds himself pitted against his former pupil in a deadly game involving high level CIA officials and the Russian president-elect."

Poster: C / C+

Review: (#1 & #2) Cheap designs for action films make their way into almost every promotional campaign, especially for films that don't have much hope of reigning at the box office. The first poster's black-white-red motif is a very old one and one that has not improved with age. It's simply lazy. This particular version minimizes the action, which doesn't help sell tickets. The second design goes for the full color approach, which is an improvement. It doesn't remove the boring poses of two of the characters, but the third smaller character is put into a more exciting pose, which won't matter much to audiences, but it matters in terms of conveying the purpose of the film.

Trailer: C

Review: Many of us remember those by-numbers coloring books when we were kids. The problem is that the adult world tends to employ those same techniques when creating spy thrillers. Little in this trailer looks to be a departure from the myriad look-alikes we've seen over the years.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 24, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Tusk (2014)

Poster


Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 19, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "A man is captured by a maniac and tortured, physically and mentally, into becoming a walrus."

Poster: B

Review: While it's a bit too simplistic, the thematic appropriateness of the design is noteworthy. While there are no visible walruses, the tusks are there and that's enough to identify it easily with the title and the premise.

Trailer: C-

Review: A hapless, boring trailer that tries so very hard to be exciting. There's plenty of attempts at dramatic tension, verbalizations of concepts and allusions to horrific events to come, but it just feels so slow, plodding and boring.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 17, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Believe Me (2014)

Poster


Trailer Link

Release Date:

September 26, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Desperate, broke, and out of ideas, four college seniors start a fake charity to embezzle money for tuition."

Poster: B

Review: The design makes more sense after watching the trailer. The way the characters are displayed, it looks like a film about gay missionaries who are hiding themselves from their religious elders, a story which has been told before. However, after watching the trailer, the design take on new meaning, which is still quite effective. The row of character portraits at the top is a tad distracting, though.

Trailer: C

Review: A modern take on very old concepts, including Elmer Gantry, the film seems to push the egotistical, money-grubbing stereotype of college students as an impetus to bilk religious people out of money to pay for their college tuitions. There are hints that the film has some original elements and I would not doubt that at least one of them (or even all of them) realize the error of their ways and either convert or agree to return the money. That thought is mainly because the trailer makes the film look so rigid in its formula.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 17, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Abuse of Weakness (2014)

Poster



Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 15, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "A stroke-afflicted filmmaker is manipulated by a notorious con man."

Poster: C / C+

Review: With poster design, creating new style for foreign territories is common practice. Sometimes they are better, sometimes worse. In the case of Abuse of Weakness, the original French design (#2) is a dark, foreboding affair. In the English-language version (#1), the position of the lovers is retained, but shifted onto a white background making it seem more pure than it probably is. I don't mind new designs or even repurposed designs, but this type of cheap copy-pasting is exactly that: cheap.

Trailer: B-

Review: Isabelle Huppert looks terrific as usual, though the film seems a bit formulaic for my tastes. Presenting this as a feeble woman being taken advantage of by a man whom she had taken advantage of is not an original idea. While the trailer tries to spin this particular narrative slightly differently, it isn't entirely successful.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 17, 2014) Original

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Looking at the Weekend: Aug. 22-24, 2014

Can Sin City: A Dame to Kill For build on the niche demographic that made the first film enough of a success to warrant a second and turn this into the #1 film of the week or will the football-themed drama When the Game Stands Tall take the top spot. It could also be the romantic drama If I Stay, which if the trailer's any indication, will be beloved by fans of weepies.

Individual Commentaries

Wesley Lovell: What can I say? I'm a fan of the weepie. Are You Here could be interesting, but The One I Love has more promise, as does To Be Takei while Love Is Strange will appeal to a very narrow group of people.
Peter J. Patrick: Having had an office near De La Salle High School during its record-shattering football wins I'm looking forward to this one for nostalgia reasons.
Tripp Burton: As the summer winds down, we still get some strong genre fare this week.
Thomas LaTourrette: None of these films particularly excites me, so maybe a good weekend to work in the yard or catch up on older films.

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2014 Oscar Season Preview: Introduction

After a surprising number of high quality, entertaining films for the first two quarters of the year, it would seem Oscar season has a lot of expectations to live up to. Much of that will be taken care of by a trio of films that could be among the top box office juggernauts of the year, Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. There are others that could be quite good and that's just from a blockbuster perspective.

A lot of the year-end Oscar contenders, which this season tends to represent more than either of the others, don't seem to be as evident this time around, but that could just be because schedules are still being finalized and what's listed here is just the tip of the iceberg. We'll find out more as November and December approach, the two biggest month for Oscar-competing entries.

To introduce you to the upcoming films, there will be two preview articles every month and this introduction every four months. The Season Preview article will focus on one of three seasons Spring Season (January through April), Tentpole Season (May through August) and Oscar Season (September through December). In these introductory articles, I will give you the current release schedule for the specified season, which may change as the release dates get closer.

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Film Preview: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Poster



Trailer Link

Release Date:

December 17, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "The Company of Thorin has reached Smaug's lair; but can Bilbo and the Dwarves reclaim Erebor and the treasure? And, if so, can they hold on to it?"

Poster: A / B

Review: (#1) This first design is as perfect a design as you could get for this franchise. With Smaug's attempted destruction of Laketown being a centerpiece battle of the film, this dramatic, tense design heightens the possibilities. (#2) The second design is a bit more laid back, sets our protagonist up on his calm before the story, but doesn't really excite the way the first design does.

Trailer: B

Review: As much as I love this franchise, the trailers have been less than impressive. While there are elements here that are quite exciting, it is, for the most part, straight forward and generic. I give them props for pulling one of the best songs written for the franchise out of The Return of the King and putting it into the trailer. It is a surprisingly fitting tune with lyrics that are quite perfect for the somber proceedings.

Oscar Prospects:

While the Lord of the Rings films were Oscar juggernauts, the previous two Hobbit films have been nominees, but not nearly as many as its predecessors. The film will still snag nominations, but how many depends on how good the film is. Look at the tech and creative categories primarily with top categories requiring strong support from critics.

Revisions:

(August 17, 2014) Original

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Film Preview: Foxcatcher (2014)

Poster



Trailer Link

Release Date:

November 14, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Based on the true story of Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestler whose relationship with sponsor John du Pont and brother Dave Schultz would lead to unlikely circumstances."

Poster: A- / C

Review: (#1) While the first design takes something of a cue from the poster design for Nebraska, it is an interesting piece that requires focused inspection to find all the details. That's a good sign. (#2) The second poster, however, does precisely what too many others do: attempt to sell of the film's star. Why is there not a poster of Mark Ruffalo or Steve Carell? Channing Tatum may be the central focus of the film, but this type of design should be reserved for character posters, not primaries.

Trailer: B+

Review: An intense drama starring the typically comical Steve Carell could make for an interesting movie. That he's presented as something of an egomaniacal villain only enhances that perception. The trailer does a good job positioning this film as a movie for adults that could have the type of dramatic fireworks that make the Academy stand up and take notice.

Oscar Prospects:

Two feature films. Two Oscar nominations for Best Picture. Capote was his first outing in the Best Picture race and his film came away with one Oscar for Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance. It was also nominated in Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener), Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Six years later, Moneyball did that film one better picking up six nominations. It didn't win anything, but it was nominated for two acting awards, Best Editing, Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay. If that pattern holds steady, a Best Picture nomination, two acting nominations and a screenwriting nomination (while this is his first original screenplay, it's co-written by Capote scribe Dan Futterman, which is an added benefit) are pretty certain. If it can tick up one to seven nominations, I wouldn't be surprised.

Revisions:

(August 17, 2014) Original

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Weekend Preview: Aug. 22-24, 2014

Below are eight previews for films opening next weekend.
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Film Preview: The One I Love (2014)

Poster


Trailer Link

Release Date:

August 22, 2014

Synopsis:

From IMDb: "Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for a weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma that awaits them."

Poster: C+

Review: The mysterious elements of the film are ignored in favor of employing a common and tedious technique of hand-drawn/painted poster designs. Some artist is clearly making a killing off indie producers, but it's not always the right way to go.

Trailer: B

Review: There's a hint of suspense in the trailer suggesting the commonplace events of a marriage falling apart are somehow twisted and enhanced by a surprise twist. That might help the film escape the feeling of been-there, done-that.

Oscar Prospects:

None.

Revisions:

(August 17, 2014) Original

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