Critical Reaction: “Captain Phillips” (PODCAST)

Although Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity continues to dominate the movie world – it dropped a scant 21% this weekend with $44 million, the smallest second weekend drop of all time for a film that debuted with over $50 million – another big awards contender entered the market place and is equally worth your time and money. Captain Phillips, directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) and starring Tom Hanks, recounts the events of the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama off the cost of Somalia with startlingl potency. Supremely tense and masterfully executed, our own Mike Murphy awarded the film a strong 8/10 in his review, claiming, “Captain Phillips is by the book until it decides to write the book, providing a exemplary angle on how to construct a realistic, historic, and restrictive thriller.” In our latest Critical Reaction Podcast, Murphy sits down with Zack Sharf and James Hausman for discussion on all things Captain Phillips. Is Tom Hanks a lock for a Best Actor nomination? Is this Greengrass’ best work to date? Does the film survive a second act lull? Interestingly, our critics all enjoyed the film to varying degrees. If you happened to check out Phillips this weekend – and maybe people did since it opened with a sturdy $26 million, a much needed box office comeback for Hanks – join in on the discussion below:

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“GRAVITY”: Critical Reaction (PODCAST)

This weekend, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity became both a critical and box office darling.  With the best reviews for a nationwide release this year – it has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and our own James Hausman gave it a perfect 10/10 – and an astonishing $55.8 million debut weekend, the largest opening for an October release ever, Gravity is now poised to be a huge player at this year’s Academy Awards. And guess what? We couldn’t be more thrilled! It’s not every year an Oscar frontrunner is also a bona fide box office hit but Gravity is defying expectations, which is extremely fitting for a film that also defies the possibilities for what we think film can do. In our latest Critical Reaction Podcast, Hausman joins Zack Sharf and Mike Murphy to talk everything Gravity, from Sandra Bullock’s mesmerizing performance to Cuaron’s visual and sensory genius. Is it possible to praise Gravity more than we have? Probably not, but we’ll continue to gush over it anyways:

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“Prisoners”: Critical Reaction (PODCAST)

In this blockbuster age of sequels, prequels, reboots, and adaptations, it’s not everyday Hollywood offers up a challenging, original R-rated adult drama. When they do, it’s usually an under-the-radar festival gem that, if lucky enough, gains some traction at the specialty box office. Most don’t unfortunately. This weekend, the nationwide box office saw the release of one of its most ambitious titles in years, Prisoners, Oscar-nominated French director Denis Villeneuve’s dark, dazzling kidnapping drama that has the cast of an American drama but the atmosphere of a European art house movie. Slow burning and head spinning, our own Zack Sharf praised Prisoners as “the first great film of the Fall Movie Season” and it seems audiences agreed, for despite an R-rating and a 153-minute runtime, the adult drama debuted at the top of the charts with a strong $21 million. In our first podcast of the semester, Zack sits down with fellow writers Mike Murphy and James Hausman to discuss everything Prisoners, from the strong ensemble work to the film’s potential Oscar chances. Click below to join:

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Critical Reaction: “The Hangover: Part III” (PODCAST)

In 2009, The Hangover went from sleeper hit to worldwide blockbuster, becoming the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time and jumpstarting the careers of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. Crude, outrageous, and absurd, The Hangover was a breath of comedy fresh air. The Hangover: Part II, not so much. Trying to replicate the original’s success, Part II bombed hard critically in summer 2011 by being nothing but a “do-over” of its predecessor. While the film still managed to take in over $200 million at the domestic box office, Part II left a very, very bad taste in many fans’ mouths. Now here we are two years later and The Hangover: Part III, despite changing up the formula, has done the same thing and then some: it has tarnished the reputation of the Wolf Pack so severely we’re not even sure we can call the original such a milestone anymore. After fizzling out over Memorial Day Weekend with an underwhelming $50 million 4-day haul (Fast 6 grossed $120 by comparison), it seems many fans are also over the Wolf Pack. So what the hell happened? How did a breakthrough R-rated comedy become a cautionary tale of what not to do to a movie franchise? In our latest critical podcast, Zack Sharf and Mike Murphy debate the latest Hangover movie and the franchise’s legacy:

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Critical Reaction: “Oblivion” (PODCAST)

Oblivion debuted with a strong $38.2 million this weekend, not quite as high as the visually spectacular trailers probably hoped for (Universal Studios CGI-heavy marketing campaign was clearly pushing the film to be an April blockbuster a la the studios’ luck with Fast and Furious sequels in 2009 and 2011), but still good enough to deliver star Tom Cruise his best opening weekend since 2005’s War of the Worlds. Over the past couple of years, Cruise has seen his star-power fade thanks to his Scientology practices, his marriage and divorce from Katie Holmes, and his string of box office bombs, including Rock of Ages, Knight and Day, and Jack Reacher, which could only muster up a weak $15 million debut last December. So, does this sturdy opening debut for Oblivion indicate a reinvention of sorts for Tom Cruise? More importantly, should Tom Cruise even be reinvented in the first place? Or should he continue to fade into obscurity? In our latest Critical Reaction Podcast, Zack Sharf and Mike Murphy sit down to talk everything Oblivion; how good is Cruise? What about supporting players Morgan Freeman and the fresh-faced Andrea Riseborough? Is Oblivion too ambitious for its own good? Is the film worth your $10+ at the box office? Take a click below and join in on the discussion:

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Critical Reaction: “To The Wonder” (PODCAST)

Is there a filmmaker more enigmatic than Terrence Malick? Over his decade spanning career, the highly elusive Malick has only made 7 movies, each praised, debated, and endlessly studied thanks to Malick’s ability to blend the personal with the massive, the linear with the nonlinear, the macrocosm with the microcosm. From Badlands to Days of Heaven, The Tree of Life, and more, Malick has forced his viewers to question and come to terms with life in ways that most filmmakers only dream of. As expected, his latest, To The Wonders, follows this trend. Starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem, To The Wonder manifests Malick’s ideas on love and is once again causing viewers to fervently debate on the meanings and purpose of Malick’s vision and ideas. While it’s almost impossible to talk about a Malick film after only one viewing, our critics Zack Sharf and Mike Murphy give it a go in our latest Critical Reaction Podcast. So just how good is To The Wonder? Join in on the discussion below:

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Critical Reaction: “The Place Beyond the Pines” (PODCAST)

Though 2013 is only three months old, The Place Beyond The Pines is easily one of the strongest and most ambitious films of the year.  In the story of three different lives across a couple of generations, Derek Cianfrance, director of Blue Valentine, creates a raw and riveting character drama, headed by a spectacular Ryan Gosling and an equally-as-impressive Bradley Cooper. Co-starring Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, and Ben Mendelsohn, The Place Beyond The Pines is a movie that demands discussion, and after two weeks of great grosses in limited release, it appears there’s enough people out there to talk about Cianfrance’s new masterpiece. Just how good is Gosling? Is Cianfrance the new Paul Thomas Anderson? Join in on our discussion of Pines below:

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