How to Preview: Enter “Tomorrowland”


Step 1: Blast off! This second teaser for Disney’s Tomorrowland shows a ton more action, which makes it far more intriguing than the previous trailer. Same idea — girl (Britt Robertson) finds a strange lapel pin that when she touches it, reveals a futuristic parallel universe. She seeks out George Clooney’s character to explain it to her, and this is where this particular teaser takes off into an extended action sequence as they escape some Tomorrowland  baddies.

Step 2: Recognize Clooney’s badass-ness. The actor hasn’t had to engage in any laser gun play in quite a while. He still looks good at it.

Step 3: Praise Disney for continuing to come up clever ideas around their theme park rides. Pirates of the Caribbean… well, maybe just Pirates. I’m pretty sure everyone involved would like to forget The Haunted Mansion. 

Step 4: Travel to Tomorrowland May 22.


How to Preview: The “Jurassic World” View


Step 1: Just don’t create a new hybrid dinosaur. Period. Here’s why: “She’s killing for sport.” Not good.

Step 2: Marvel at how Chris Pratt’s character manages to wrangle velociraptors. I mean, he looks so kickass as a carnivore dino whisperer!

Step 3: Secretly wish there was a REAL Jurassic World… just as long as it doesn’t have any crazy types running it. Bryce Dallas Howard, we are talking to you.

Step 4: Enter Jurassic World June 11.


How to Watch: ‘Unfriended’


Step 1:  Listen to the film’s message. Don’t cyberbully or you could unleash the ghost in the machine.

Step 2: Or, if you’re Unfriended’s six dumb teenagers, learn the hard way. With the film’s POV coming entirely from high schooler Blaire’s laptop (Shelley Hennig), it starts by revealing that it’s the one-year death anniversary of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), Blaire’s classmate who shot herself on school grounds (caught on video, of course). You then discover that Laura offed herself after someone posted a humiliating drunken video of her on YouTube, which prompted a flurry of nasty and degrading comments. Now, while Blaire is searching around online about Laura, she is interrupted by a Skype call from her boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm). Soon, Blaire and Mitch are joined by four other friends… and one unidentified person. Who is it? Why is Blaire suddenly getting messages from the clearly dead Laura on her Facebook page? Who is playing this mean-spirited game and freaking them out? Try as they might, they can’t get rid of this anonymous person who is remaining chillingly quiet. Then they get this message…

Step 3: Don’t hang up or you’re all going to die. Okay, well, that sums it up. This group of relatively unknown actors then spend the next 90 minutes convincingly portraying cyber hell, stalked by a malevolent spirit, and I must say, they do a damn fine job playing terrified through their small-screen laptops. Unfriended doesn’t rely on too many typical found-footage horror gimmicks but rather pits the characters against one another, exposing lies, betrayal and morally questionable behavior.

Step 4: Keep things bone-simple. At a budget of about $1 million, all the filmmakers literally had to do is find six non-distinct rooms for the actors to sit in and just turn on the computers. Smart. There are also only brief glimpses of the gore that befalls these hapless teens, which is actually very effective in this scenario. And for all the buzz the film is getting, expect at least one sequel. Let’s just hope they keep originality in mind and not fall into the same pattern.

Step 5: Wince at the technology. To be honest, what unnerved me the most is how this creepy ghost story uses all the machinations of social media and web play with such ease. Blaire bounces around so fast on her computer it’s a little mind boggling… and she’s not even the tech head of the group. That’s some other guy, Ken, who, at one point, is able to send them all a swipe program within nano seconds to try and get rid of “Laura.” The most frightening is the way Unfriended highlights just how dangerous and pervasive it all can be and how this technological age makes bullying practices so scary and damaging.

How to Podcast: “Monkey Kingdom,” “True Story” and More


From baby bears to cheetah and lion cubs to chimpanzees, DisneyNature documentaries have never disappointed, and with Monkey Kingdom, they’ve succeeded again. With incredible cinematography, it tells the compelling story of how a lowly toque macaque monkey and her newborn son survive the social hierarchy of the Temple Troop, a dynamic group of monkeys living in an ancient ruin in the Sri Lanka jungle. Monkey Kingdom is just another example of how Disney filmmakers teach kids lessons about life and death in nature and the importance of preservation.

I discuss in more detail with ScreenPicks below, plus, I give my take on the mystery thriller True Story, starring James Franco and Jonah Hill.

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How to Preview: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” Is Here


Step 1: Realize nothing is sacred when it comes highly anticipated trailers… and what a week of them! Director Zack Snyder announced last week he was premiering the trailer to his epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice sequel with a special April 20 IMAX event… but of course, it somehow made it on the Internet waves on Friday. So here it is:

Step 2: Know that this time it’s personal. Not entirely sure why Batman (Ben Affleck) wants to make Superman (Henry Cavill) bleed, but it looks like everyone hates Superman because, you know, he’s an ALIEN and not to be trusted.

Step 3: Recognize some of the voice-overs. You clearly hear Holly Hunter (playing a “senator” according to IMdb) and Jeremy Irons, who’s playing Bruce Wayne’s stalwart man-servant, Alfred.

Step 4: Ask “Where’s Wonder Woman?” And then answer: This is only the first trailer. She’s bound to turn up in the teasers to follow.

Step 5: Get ready for Batman v Superman March 16, 2016.

How to Interview: Michael Douglas and Jeremy Irvine on ‘Beyond the Reach’


Oscar winner Michael Douglas has played a few rich bad guys in his career and in the indie thriller Beyond the Reach, he adds another one to the list.

Douglas portrays Madec, a millionaire with a penchant for hunting exotic animals. On a hunting expedition in the Mojave Desert to find bighorn sheep, Madec befriends his young tracker, Ben (Jeremy Irvine), but when things go awry, Madec turns on Ben, and the young man suddenly finds himself in a dangerous game of survival as he is forced to traverse the desert landscape while Madec tracks him.

I spoke with the actors about making the film, including working in the rough terrain, and Douglas explains why he likes to play bad guys. Plus, he talks a little about his upcoming Marvel summer movie, Ant-Man!

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How to Preview: The Old Guard Is Back in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Trailer!

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Step 1: Rejoice! All that you’ve come to love and respect about the Star Wars franchise is represented in this latest trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. There’s the Millennium Falcon, R2D2, Luke’s voice… and the killer capper, Hans Solo and Chewbacca making an appearance, as Hans declares, “Chewie, we’re home.” Goosebumps.

Step 2: Get pumped! The teaser premiered at the Star Wars Celebration event today in L.A. with much fanfare and a stellar panel discussion that included director J.J. Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy and some of the cast, old and new. The trailer is also a marked improvement from the first teaser, which didn’t show any of the beloved returning characters. To say I’m now completely beside myself with anticipation is an understatement.

Step 3: Hail to the newbies! Newcomers to Star Wars universe – Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac – also have ample screen time in this trailer, even though we aren’t quite sure who they are yet. Isaac did say at the Star Wars celebration that he’s “the best freakin’ pilot in the Galaxy, sent on a mission by a certain princess.”

Step 4: Wait and wait and wait… December 18 is the date.

How to Preview: Creepy Crawly “Ant-Man” Trailer


Step 1: Watch out, there are real ants! As Marvel continues to take over the movie universe with all its different iterations, we have the latest Ant-Man trailer to gawk at… and Paul Rudd’s miniature superhero really does run with ants.

Step 2: Believe it. Rudd pulls off the superhero thing… with a wink, of course.

Step 3: Packs a punch. Evangeline Lilly should be a nice and formidable female addition, as will Corey Stoll as Ant-Man’s nemesis, Yellow Jacket.

Step 4: Get Marvel-ized into ant form July 17.

How to Podcast: “Ex Machina” and More

ex machina

The eerie Ex Machina explores a popular theme in movies: What happens when man creates artificial intelligence and tries to reign it in. But it does it to great effect. This three-person character study is full of proper mind games and suspense, with Oscar Isaac a clear stand-out as the mad scientist.

I discuss with my ScreenPicks crew, plus we talk about the Simon Pegg crime comedy Kill Me Three Times.

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How to Interview: “Kill Me Three Times” Star Simon Pegg


Actor Simon Pegg steps out of his comedic comfort zone to play a professional hitman in the indie crime dramedy Kill Me Three Times, which centers on a story of murder, blackmail and revenge in a small Western Australian town.

Of course, Pegg can’t help himself and still brings a certain amount of farce to the dysfunctional proceedings. He talks about making the film.

Step 1: Prepare for the role

Pegg: “Well, I spent some time killing people for a living. No. It’s all on the page, with this film, it was right there, and part of the joy of it was reading it and thinking, ‘Oh, I could so play this character,’ because it was a gift, in terms of it wasn’t a regular, nice chap, which I often play. It was a sort of amoral, very suave monster. It kind of felt like, yeah, ‘This is gonna be fun.’”
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