Trailers are a huge part of the fabric of movies. They play before every film shown in theaters, and on every movie website around the world. They’re commercials, obviously, but they’re also more than that; miniature works of art that utilize the core elements of cinema—image, sound, music, action, editing—at their most pure and refined. And today at ScreenCrush we’re celebrating movie trailers by saluting the best sneak previews of 2014.
James Cameron doesn’t lack for confidence. And why should he? This is the guy who made the biggest movie in the history of the universe, and then he topped himself and made the biggest movie in the history of the universe a second time. If there is anything in the world of movies James Cameron can’t do, he hasn’t found it yet.
A sequel to Ben Stiller’s ‘Zoolander’ has been a long time coming. The original movie, which followed the hilariously dumb misadventures of a male model named Derek Zoolander (Stiller), opened in the fall of 2001. 13 years later, work is finally starting to ramp up on the follow-up. Actor and writer Justin Theroux will direct ‘Zoolander 2’ (which should be called ‘2lander,’ for obvious reasons), and Stiller will reprise his role as Zoolander, along with Owen Wilson as his model buddy Hansel and Will Ferrell as the world’s most evil fashion designer Mugatu. Deadline says that the returning cast now has its first new addition in the form of the lovely Penelope Cruz.
That is one of the most famous lines from one of the most famous scenes in all of cinema: Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin trying not to be seduced by Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson, his father’s partner’s wife in 1967’s ‘The Graduate.’ The film was just the second directed by Mike Nichols, the enterprising comedian turned theater and cinema director, who died Wednesday at the age of 83.
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1’ is a movie comprised almost entirely of deleted scenes. As it says right in the title, this isn’t the final chapter of ‘The Hunger Games’ series; it’s just the first half of the final chapter, and that’s exactly what it feels like. It’s table setting for a meal that won’t be served until next November. ‘Mockingjay - Part 1’ is good-looking, well-acted, and utterly inessential.
'White House Down' has the disadvantage of being the second 'Die Hard'-in-the-White-House movie of 2013 after 'Olympus Has Fallen,' and the advantage of being superior to its predecessor in every conceivable way. It's better directed, better written, and better acted. The action is better, with more impressive special effects; the production design is better, with a much more convincing replica of the White House; the camerawork is better; with clear, lucid images. Where 'Olympus Has Fallen' was grim and stern, 'White House Down' actually embraces the silliness of its premise. It's more exciting and more faithful to the 'Die Hard' formula. This is still basically a shameless ripoff popcorn movie, but it's a shameless ripoff popcorn movie popped to near-perfection.
College is not an obvious setting for a Pixar movie. For all the vaunted animation studio's reputation for producing mature, adult children's films, college lends itself to a more immature brand of adult humor -- the kind with lots of nudity, profanity, and outrageous drunken antics. Sure enough, Pixar's 'Monsters University' brings new meaning to the phrase "safe school" -- this G-rated riff on 'Revenge of the Nerds' and 'Animal House' (they probably thought about calling it 'Monster House' at some point, right? They had to) doesn't push any envelopes in terms of content or humor. It's basically a formula college comedy, minus the raunch, in the world of 'Monsters Inc.' Nevertheless, it's a formula executed by some very talented animators, who've produced a lively, if mostly forgettable, movie.
The term "product placement" feels insufficient to describe the role of Google in 'The Internship.' This is not so much product placement in a movie as movie placement in a product. For two hours, viewers are treated to a series of bright, high-energy sales pitches for the San Francisco search engine and its vast array of products and services -- Google Play, Google Drive, Google Helpline, Google Maps and, of course, plain-old Googley Google -- plus, occasional attempts at comedy from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson while they stand in front of giant Google logos. Shameless? Absolutely. But that wouldn't be such a problem if 'The Internship' wasn't so mirthless, as well.
The magic of cinema and the magic of magic tend to cancel each other out. Once you convince someone they're seeing alternate realities, alien conquerers, and distant futures, pulling a rabbit out of a hat looks a little underwhelming. It is a cruel, sad truth that a single cut negates all the impact of the greatest act of sleight of hand.
So, a movie about magic needs to be about more than just magic. The silly but not entirely unpleasurable 'Now You See Me' is about showmanship. There are a lot of good actors in this movie, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Melanie Laurent, and Mark Ruffalo. They play illusionists, mentalists, hucksters, debunkers, billionaire industrialists, Interpol officers, and FBI agents, respectively(ish). All of them, no matter whether they're wool-pullers or wool-pullees, look like they're having a grand old time misdirecting us through a labyrinthine plot involving magicians, bank heists, and decades-old vendettas. For a while, the fun is infectious. I found myself chuckling at the outrageous character names -- Dylan Rhodes! Jack Wilder! Arthur Tressler! Thaddeus Bradley! J. Daniel Atlas! -- and grinning at the ludicrous twists. Like a mark at a good magic act, I knew I was being worked over and was enjoying every second.
'The Hangover' giveth and 'The Hangover' taketh away.
The first 'Hangover' made Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and especially Zach Galifianakis stars, and it elevated Todd Phillips from middling Hollywood director to name-brand comic auteur. But in the film industry, success that surprising and enormous demands more success; the beast must be fed. But as 'The Hangover Part II' and especially the new 'Hangover Part III' prove, it is very hard to make a good sequel to a truly original idea. 'Part II' went the rehash route, recycling the plot of the first movie so brazenly you almost had to admire its chutzpah. 'Part III' finally breaks with the formula a little (SPOILER ALERT: there is no hangover), but still doesn't produce anything even remotely worthy of the first film.
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