<p>Sandra Bullock in &quot;Gravity.&quot;</p>

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity."

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Review: Sandra Bullock dances into great silence in Alfonso Cuarón's astonishing 'Gravity'

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Short but vast Venice opener delivers on the hype

VENICE - “Gravity” opens, in coy denial of the mammoth imagery soon to follow, with modest white letters on a black screen, spelling out facts about outer space that sound more than a little like threats. “Life in space is impossible,” the titles conclude, after warning us off with daunting details of distance, physics and unimaginable cold. It’s a simple and – at least from a terrestrial perspective – pretty inarguable thesis that Alfonso Cuarón’s astonishing new film nonetheless goes to great, gruelling and frequently gasp-inducing pains to illustrate, before opening up less certain possibilities with a sudden surge in its own emotional temperature. Life in space is a no-go, sure. But what about life after?

It’s been seven long years since Cuarón, the serenely versatile Mexican stylist capable of finding grace notes in raunchy south-of-the-border road trips and Harry Potter alike, last visited our screens with a chilling fantasy that now sits as an unwittingly perfect bookend to his latest: in “Children of Men,” life scarcely seems possible on Earth.

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<p>&quot;Dallas Buyers Club,&quot;&nbsp;&quot;Labor Day&quot;&nbsp;and &quot;Joe&quot;&nbsp;are just three titles on our 25 most anticipated fall festival movies list.</p>

"Dallas Buyers Club," "Labor Day" and "Joe" are just three titles on our 25 most anticipated fall festival movies list.

25 most anticipated fall festival movies of 2013

Plus: 'Joe,' 'Labor Day,' 'Devil's Knot,' 'Rush' and more

Four festivals that play out over just seven weeks. Hundreds of films.  Some with distribution, some without. Some that are highly anticipated, others that will become surprise gems. It's fall festival time and that just doesn't mean the beginning of awards season. It means new films that will be fought over by competing distributors for acquisition and other movies that may end up going direct to VOD (if they are lucky). 

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<p>Matthew McConaughey in &quot;Dallas Buyers&nbsp;Club&quot;</p>

Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"

Credit: Focus Features

Matthew McConaughey dares to live in the trailer for 'Dallas Buyers Club'

Is this the role that will bring him an Oscar?

We've had our eyes on this one for over a year now. With Matthew McConaughey in full swing of a career revival -- the McConaissance, as he calls it -- the actor seemed poised to leap to the front of the Best Actor race with Jean-Marc Vallée's "Dallas Buyers Club" on paper. The new trailer for the film only adds fuel to the assumption.

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Oscar in August: 10 predictions for the 2013-2014 awards season

Oscar in August: 10 predictions for the 2013-2014 awards season

Bet on Meryl, Tom, Woody and more

As awards season finally drags itself kicking and screaming back to Hollywood after a long well deserved vacation, there are two momentous events that officially signify its return.  First, this pundit begins speaking in third person once again (oh, you know you love it) and, second, we present 10 predictions for the upcoming season. In August. In very early, er, late August.

Over the years this writer has been very right (calling "Precious" and "Inception" Best Picture nods) and he's been so, so wrong (yikes, I guess that nomination for Steve Martin's "Shopgirl" screenplay didn't happen did it?). Of course, putting yourself out there this early is part of the game and the equivalent of Miley Cyrus showing up at a Parents Television Council meeting anytime soon. But, we'd expect nothing less.  If awards season is anything it's the most political, back-biting and euphoric yearly campaign west of our nation's capital.  Whether you're trying to convince someone the Hollywood Film Awards has more legitimacy than the presiding regime in Syria or a member of the media dealing with feedback from your beloved fanbase.

That being said, we'll know a lot more after many of this year's contenders begin screening at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals this week and the Toronto Film Festival the week following. In the meantime, are you ready to take a step into the future? This prognosticator is sure your knives are sharpening as you get ready to scroll down the page…

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<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Monuments Men&quot;</p>

"The Monuments Men"

Credit: Sony Pictures

'Monuments Men' poster lines up a motley crew with Matt Damon out front

How will this one figure into the awards landscape on the other side of the festivals?

Is "The Monuments Men" an awards movie? That's still the question on everyone's lips after the film started to appear more commercial than the subject matter might have had us believe -- not that that's a bad thing. "Argo" was pretty darn commercial.

George Clooney is playing things cool on the movie. Maybe he doesn't want to deal with the awards press whirlwind. Maybe he's being smart by not showing too much of his hand. Who knows? It's true there isn't an awards consultant (yes, those are a thing) on board, though reports that Sony won't be aiming for Oscars with the film are probably a bit of a stretch. Whatever the case, I loved the trailer and can't wait to see the movie. That's all I know for now as we gear up for the big fall festival push later this week.

A poster for the film has finally been released. It's handsome enough. All the dudes are present (sorry, Cate Blanchett). It's interesting that Matt Damon is featured out front. Does that mean he's the lead of the film? I've been wondering how his and Clooney's roles would shake out on that score. Anyway, check out the poster below and tell us what you think.

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<p>&quot;Soongava: Dance of the Orchids&quot;</p>

"Soongava: Dance of the Orchids"

Credit: Rapsodie Production

Nepal and Greece enter the foreign-language Oscar race

At least one lesbian-themed drama will be in the running

Well, it won't be France's "Blue is the Warmest Color" (for eligibility reasons discussed here), but at least one lesbian-focused drama stands a chance at winning this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And it's from rather an unexpected country: Nepal. Subarna Thapa's film "Soongava: Dance of the Orchids," a story of a young dancer who defies her wealthy Hindu family's plans for an arranged marriage to move in with her working-class female lover, was announced as the landlocked South Asian state's official submission yesterday.

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<p>Mia Wasikowska in &quot;Tracks.&quot;</p>

Mia Wasikowska in "Tracks."

Credit: See-Saw Films

Venice preview, part four: 'The Zero Theorem,' 'Joe,' 'Tracks,' 'Via Castellana Bandiera,' 'Sacro GRA'

Casting an eye another five Golden Lion contenders

Concluding our preview of the 20 titles in the running for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off on Wednesday. Today's selection includes new films from Terry Gilliam, David Gordon Green, John Curran, Emma Dante and Gianfranco Rosi.

"The Zero Theorem," directed by Terry Gilliam: It's been nearly 20 years since the last Terry Gilliam film that was widely embraced by either critics or audiences, but when it comes to festival programmers and industry peers, goodwill from the honorary Brit's "Monty Python"-to-"12 Monkeys" glory days is a seemingly limitless resource. The Venice Film Festival has backed Gilliam in times both thick and thin. "The Fisher King" premiered there in 1991, winning him the Silver Lion; 14 years later, he received a frostier welcome on the Lido with the roundly (and rightly) panned "The Brothers Grimm." Which way will "The Zero Theorem" go? We can hope that the presence of "Grimm" star Matt Damon in the cast isn't a sign pointing to the latter route.

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<p>Scarlett Johansson in &quot;Under the Skin.&quot;</p>

Scarlett Johansson in "Under the Skin."

Credit: Film4

Venice preview, part three: 'Under the Skin,' 'Night Moves,' 'Tom at the Farm,' 'Ana Arabia,' 'The Police Officer's Wife'

Casting an eye over another five Golden Lion contenders

Continuing our preview of the 20 titles in the running for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off next week. Today's selection includes new films from Jonathan Glazer, Kelly Reichardt, Xavier Dolan, Amos Gitai and Philip Gröning. 

"Under the Skin," directed by Jonathan Glazer: Regular readers may well have worked out that this is my most anticipated title of the Venice Film Festival -- if not the entire remainder of 2013. Impatiently, I held out a sliver of hope that Glazer's long-awaited third feature would show up in Cannes, but it was always likeliest to premiere on the Lido -- where the British director's last feature, "Birth," was unveiled a full nine years ago. The eerie reincarnation drama was an immediately polarizing title. Some denounced it as overreaching twaddle; I'm in the camp that deems it one of the films of the new century. Nothing about "Under the Skin" suggests that Glazer, in his long absence, has grown any more inclined to play it safe.

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<p>Zac Efron in &quot;Parkland.&quot;</p>

Zac Efron in "Parkland."

Credit: Open Road Films

Venice preview, part two: 'The Wind Rises,' 'Parkland,' 'The Unknown Known,' 'L'intrepido,' 'Miss Violence'

Casting an eye over another five Golden Lion contenders

Continuing our preview of the 20 titles in the running for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off next week. Today's selection includes new films from Hayao Miyazaki, Peter Landesman, Errol Morris, Alexandros Avranas and Gianni Amelio.

"The Wind Rises," directed by Hayao Miyazaki: It's been five years since the last Miyazaki-directed feature, "Ponyo," premiered in Competition at Venice -- and honestly, that sweet but unapologetically minor children's film wasn't enough to satisfy Miyazaki fans' cravings for over half a decade. Since the veteran Japanese animator ascended to festival auteur status (a promotion sealed when eventual Oscar-winner "Spirited Away" won the Golden Bear at Berlin), his work has arrived with crossover expectations that "Ponyo"'s gentle maritime charms couldn't quite fulfil. That looks likely to change with "The Wind Rises," a significant change of pace for the director, and one of the most ambitious projects of his big-dreaming career.

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<p>The ensemble of &quot;The World's End.&quot;</p>

The ensemble of "The World's End."

Credit: Focus Features

Tell us what you thought of 'The World's End'

Will you raise a glass to Edgar Wright's apocalyptic bar-crawl comedy?

Years from now, when the dust has settled on the multiplex offerings of summer 2013 -- and I have a feeling we're talking quite a lot of dust here -- people will still be confusing "The World's End" with "This is the End," and vice versa. (In fact, the passage of time will only render the distinction fuzzier.) Perhaps they'll be put together in a box-set, so people will have their bases covered. Anyway, both are casually structured apocalyptic comedies, both have boisterous, largely male ensembles, and both are reasonably amusing. It's the British one, however, that has won the critical war.

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