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Interview: Real Steel Director Shawn Levy

Night at the Museum, Date Night, Cheaper by the Dozen. See a trend? Director Shawn Levy has a knack for making movies with a particularly wide appeal and his latest, Real Steel, is no different.

The film stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a former boxer forced to change with the times, hang up his gloves and get behind the controls of a robot that will do the fighting for him. A series of brash decisions leaves Charlie without a robot and nearly out of the business. Complicating matters further, Charlie’s ex passes away, leaving him with their young son Max (Dakota Goyo). However, what Charlie first sees as a major inconvenience not only helps him turn around his career, but his life too, as Max’s heart and enthusiasm is infectious.

And that’s not only in reference to Max’s effect on his father. In true Levy fashion, he brings us a child actor who’s wonderfully animated and impossible not to love. Combine that with the visual spectacle of massive robots going at it in the ring and you get Levy’s specialty, a film that aims to wow via incredible effects and wild scenarios, but not without infusing a great deal of heart.

In honor of Real Steel‘s October 7th release, Levy took the time to talk about bringing his robots to life, tracking down the ideal young actor to portray Max and much more. Check it all out in the interview below.

Click here to read the interview.

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Cinematical Seven: Awesome Aliens to Hang Out With

Good friends are hard to come by, so when you spot one in a movie, you can’t help but to dream — even when that potential pal is not of this world. On March 18th, we’re going to meet Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an alien who crash lands on Earth, is held prisoner by the government and decides now is the time to escape. That’s when Paul meets Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), two nerdy guys on their way to check out Area 51. The little gray guy has his own Predator mode, enjoys Reese’s Pieces, has an endless supply of wisecracks and even manages to wiggle his way into his new friends’ hearts so much so that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get Paul home.

They’re fun, loyal and out-of-this-world. Who wouldn’t want to have an alien as friend? Well, odds are, it isn’t happening, but there’s certainly no harm in dreaming. Should my extra terrestrial pal ever beam him or herself down to Earth, I’m hoping he or she would be something like one of these unearthly movie characters.

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Oscars 2010: Forget Who Should Win, This Is Who I Want To Win

Even if a film is the clear favorite in the eyes of the Academy, it doesn’t mean that you want it to take home the Oscar. The Academy Awards Ceremony is about honoring films that achieved a high degree of excellence, but excellence doesn’t always represent the film’s entertainment value. If the Academy awarded the statue to the film that’s most likely to be watched over and over again, the screenplay that has the most memorable one-liners or simply to the most inspiring underdog, it might look something like this:

Best Picture: Inglourious Basterds

Not only is this my favorite film of the year, every time I watch it, it gets better. Everything about this film is spectacular. I’ve had endless arguments with myself about my favorite scene. Yes, I had an argument with myself.

I’ll Be Pissed If This Wins: The Blind Side

This is a lovely feel-good movie, but an Oscar contender? I’m angry enough The Blind Side nabbed a nomination; if it steals a win from a more deserving film (like any of the other nine nominees), I’ll never forgive Sandra Bullock. (Sorry Sandy, I know it’s not your fault, but the blame inherently falls on you.)

Actor in a Leading Role: Jeremy Renner

Perhaps my support for Renner stems from the fact that he’s the clear underdog, but anyone who has seen The Hurt Locker knows he puts on a stellar performance.

I’ll Be Pissed If He Wins: George Clooney

He’s good, but he’s still the actor George Clooney. Clooney passes as Ryan Bingham in Up In The Air not because of the power of performance, but because the film, as a whole, is fantastic.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz

Screw the underdog here. Waltz has nabbed every award out there for his performance in Inglourious Basterds and deserves to top off his successful run with the Oscar.

I’ll Be Pissed If He Wins: Stanley Tucci

Sorry Mr. Tucci, but I can’t forgive Peter Jackson for destroying one of my favorite books, The Lovely Bones. Tucci works with what he’s given, but is incapable of putting on an award-winning performance because a shoddy screenplay makes it impossible.

Actress in a Leading Role: Gabourey Sidibe

This award better go to one of the young’ins in the running. I’d be thrilled to see either Sidibe or Carey Mulligan nab the award, but I’d prefer to see Sidibe make her first feature film performance an Oscar-winning one. Some say Sidibe wasn’t acting in Precious. Did these individuals not see the film? What about Sidibe’s numerous appearances on talk shows? This girl is the polar opposite of her character. She’s cheery, hilarious, humble and totally deserving of this honor.

I’ll Be Pissed If She Wins: Sandra Bullock

I could keep it simple and tell you to refer back to the Best Film section, but I can rant about The Blind Side issue all day. Sandra Bullock for Best Actress? What the @#$%? Not only is the film not worthy of an Oscar nomination, but neither is Bullock’s performance. On top of that, her spot should have gone to Avatar’s Zoe Salanda.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo’Nique

Both the supporting actor and actress categories are no contest. Mo’Nique’s performance as Mary in Precious is downright chilling. Come to think of it, she’s more of a villain than Waltz’s Hans Landa.

I’ll Be Pissed If She Wins: Penelope Cruz

How is Nine eligible to win anything? This film is terrible. Cruz’s performance isn’t even particularly notable. If anyone from Nine got a nomination, it should have been Marion Cotillard.

Animated Feature Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Call me crazy but I didn’t enjoy Up nearly as much as the majority of moviegoers. Call me heartless, but not once did I get the urge to shed a tear. Fantastic Mr. Fox, on the other hand, was an absorbing and immensely enjoyable experience. Everything from the voice work to the animation is brilliant.

I’ll Be Pissed If This Wins: Coraline

This movie just rubbed me the wrong way. It doesn’t know what it should be, a children’s film or a horror film, and gets lost in the mix.

Directing: James Cameron

Avatar wasn’t my favorite film of the year, but it did make it to number three on my list. I’m going with Cameron not because he excels in comparison to his competition, but because he deserves it. He spent fifteen years developing the project, pumped in about $300 million and delivered big time. You don’t make the top grossing film of all time and not get an Oscar for it.

I’ll Be Pissed If He/She Wins: Nothing.

I have a preference for whom I’d like to see win, but every individual is deserving of their nomination and I’ll be glad to see anyone take home the statue.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino is a damn genius. You know how there are always particular portions of a film you look forward to? Well, I’m thrilled about every second of this one. Everything is perfectly timed and presented with each word in the screenplay serving a purpose.

I’ll Be Pissed If This Wins: Anything But Basterds

I refuse to budge on this category. Inglourious Basterds must win or I will not be happy.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Up in the Air

This is a tough one. Precious is an excellent book-to-film adaption, but the manner in which Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner manipulated Walter Kirn’s novel is especially impressive. Up in the Air the film is far different from the book, yet respects the original elements necessary to maintain the story’s sense of heart and effectively expresses it on screen.

I’ll Be Pissed If This Wins: In the Loop Continue reading

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Perri’s Top 10 Films Of 2009

I’ve always seen a lot of movies, but thanks to my ever-increasing workload at CinemaBlend.com and a few other film-related websites, I’ve spent a significant amount of 2009 in the theater. While it wasn’t always pleasant, the discovery of a handful of gems made every minute worth it.

Rather than go directly to the movies that achieved near-filmmaking perfection, my mind gravitates towards the ones that I walked out of with the biggest grin on my face. I have an easy time seeing why particular films are award-worthy, but that doesn’t mean they’re entertaining. While every film on this list isn’t without flaws, the immense amount of fun I had watching them makes those faults completely irrelevant.

I’ve made great memories with friends and family throughout the year, but a significant part of my life is movies, and these are the ones that made 2009 such a blast.

Having spent much of my childhood at the amusement park Adventureland is based on, I had very high expectations for the film. When it soared above and beyond my hopes, Adventureland became an instant favorite. Greg Mottola puts together a perfect combination of humor, romance and drama to create a film that strikes a chord on many levels. This is also where my infatuation with Jesse Eisenberg begins. He’s nerdy and awkward yet strangely appealing. He’s got an unusual charm that’s sure to make you sympathetic towards his character.

Awesome Quote: “If someone wins a giant assed panda on your watch you should just go home cause you’re fired, OK?”

This is the travesty of the year. How did this film not have a better showing at the box office? It’s novel, fun and features a stellar cast. Similarly to Adventureland, Whip It combines a wide range of emotions that successfully makes it a drama, comedy and action film neatly wrapped up into one. Drew Barrymore does an excellent job her first go-around in the director’s chair while simultaneously providing a chunk of the film’s comic relief. Ellen Paige carries the film with ease and is surrounded by a number of minor yet profound characters.

Awesome Quote: “I like smart girls. That’s why I married your mama. Well, that and I knocked her up.”

And so my Jesse Eisenberg obsession continues. I’ll always remember Zombieland as the film that turned around one of my worst days of the year. I walked into the theater in an intensely sour mood and walked out a different person. When you think about it, the plot (beyond the whole zombie thing) may be a little thin, but that flaw is completely washed over by the sharp dialogue and on point cinematography. Zombieland is Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrelson) zombie stomping ground and I had a blast being a part of it the entire time.

Awesome Quote: “Sno-Balls? Sno-Balls? Where the fuck are the God damn Twinkies?”

Moon is beautiful in its simplicity. With just one primary actor and one primary location, director and co-writer Duncan Jones is able to create an elaborate situation with an eerie undertone guaranteed to make your heart ache. Sam Rockwell’s work is remarkably powerful. The concept may have come from the mind of Jones, but it’s Rockwell’s performance that generates the raw emotion. Moon is completely character driven and Rockwell does exactly what’s necessary to make you frustrated yet enthralled by Sam Bell’s situation.

Awesome Quote: “I hope life on Earth is everything you remember it to be.”

When you can watch an entire movie from the theater floor and still not want it to end, it’s a damn good movie. Once The Hurt Locker began I completely forgot about the consequence I was suffering after arriving at the theater far too late. This movie is explosive in every sense of the word. Even when the film’s pace slows – deactivating a bomb is quite the tedious process – my heart is racing. The suspense is so intense it makes me sweat just as much, if not more, than Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) himself.

Awesome Quote: “If I’m gonna die, I want to die comfortable.”

This is the alien invasion movie we’ve all been waiting for. The premise is ingenious, the story extremely well told and, best of all, the film isn’t tarnished after getting a look at the ETs. Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) and Christopher Johnson are the ultimate tag team. The transformation of the two characters is immense and I am fully engaged every step of the way. The fact that they’ve got some pretty cool toys to play with only enhances the action. The movie leaves the door wide open for a sequel, and in this case, I really hope someone takes advantage of it.

Awesome Quote: “When dealing with aliens, try to be polite, but firm. And always remember that a smile is cheaper than a bullet.”

Paranormal Activity scared the absolute shit out of me. I let myself become fully engrossed in the situation and my openness paid off big time. It breaks my heart to see such a fantastic film tarnished by its own success. Of course if you walk in all macho with the attitude that this little film can’t scare you, you’ll ruin the effect. Well, that’s nobody’s fault but your own and you’re really missing out. Who needs blood and guts when just $11,000, some simple ingenuity and crafty camera work can give an audience nightmares? This really is the little film that could.

Awesome Quote: “How about we just get a Ouija Board, find out what it wants, and just give it what it wants, and then, you know, it’s gone?” “Because what it probably wants is Katie.”

It’s awkward to go from a movie with an ultra-low budget to one of the priciest, but every penny James Cameron spent making Avatar is justified. This is the most unlikely four-quadrant film. Between the stellar animation, the action, the romance and the fascinating characters, there’s something for everyone here, but what makes Avatar truly special is the quality of all of those elements. Between the complexity of the situation on Pandora and the planet’s vast amount of environmental details, you’ll forget Avatar clocks in at over two and a half hours. In fact, you’ll wish it were longer.

Awesome Quote: “Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

Up In The Air made me feel funny. It took quite a while after I walked out of the theater to sort through a barrage of thoughts and realize I was emotionally overwhelmed by it. Director/co-writer Jason Reitman takes just what he needs from Walter Kirn’s book and adds wonderfully appropriate details to make the concepts just as effective on screen. As luck would have it (for Reitman at least), Up In The Air landed at the perfect time to hit home for anyone suffering from unemployment. It doesn’t put a fairytale spin on a brutal situation, yet doesn’t leave you hopeless and dejected. It just gives you the sense that things happen for a reason and change will come in due time.

Awesome Quote: “I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.”

While putting this list together, nine of the movies were shuffled around until they fell into the appropriate spot, but not for a moment did I rethink awarding Inglourious Basterds the number one position. The more I watch it, the more I’m convinced that it’s absolutely perfect. It’s impossible to pick a favorite scene because there isn’t one second of this film I don’t thoroughly look forward to seeing. Every line of dialogue is quotable, every performance commendable and every moment well thought out by Quentin Tarantino. Inglourious Basterds is a technical, narrative and entertainment masterpiece and I look forward to making it part of my life for many years to come.

Awesome Quote: “That’s a bingo!”

Thanks for reading and have a happy and healthy New Year!

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Avatar Fans Rave About Film After Midnight Screening

Avatar opened in midnight screenings early Friday, and fans leaving those screenings generally seemed to agree that the movie was worth the wait, the epic runtime and the massive budget.

One fan raved to MTV News after catching a midnight screening in New York City, saying, “The imagination that James Cameron brought about was well worth the 15 years that he put into it.”

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