New SPIDER-MAN Music Is Here, In Michael Giacchino’s HOMECOMING Suite (AUDIO)

The webs won’t spin until they have a theme to guide them. Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino, who’s become the John Williams of our time as a go-to maestro for blockbusters (just check his IMDb list), is onboard for the Marvel hero’s reboot in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Sony Classical Music has just released this First Listen Suite medley of Giacchino’s work for the movie.

Variations on the Main Theme can be heard at 1:20 and again at 5:00.

Spider-Man: Homecoming opens on July 7, 2017.

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CARS 3 (Movie Review)

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*** out of ****
Rated G
(for all audiences)
Released:  June 16, 2017
Runtime: 109 minutes
Director: Brian Fee
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Armie Hammer, Nathan Fillion, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger

The word “obscene” is not an adjective one normally associates with Pixar, but that’s exactly the kind of cash grab that Cars 2 was. Nothing more than a merchandise promo in feature length form, that eye-popping but soulless sequel is the low point for Hollywood’s premier animation studio.

The prospect of a third felt not only unnecessary but truly cynical, so it comes as a relief to find that Cars 3 is a nice heartfelt tune-up for the anthropomorphic racing car franchise. It’s no classic, but after a bumpy start this finds its heartfelt inside lane once again.

With a three-act structure that goes, respectively, from conventional to sentimental to surprising, Cars 3 starts sluggish but finishes strong. Our introduction back into this world is barely better than where we last left it. Sure, it starts colorful, cute, and fast-paced, but the script doggedly sets up the story’s premise and conflict, one that predictably laps what you’d expect from a third go-around.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), the sport’s top race car, is passed up by the latest hotshot rookie Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), causing McQueen to confront the possibility that retirement may be forced upon him even while he still has a need for speed. One more race will tell the tale, and it could be his last.

Yawn. The movie has energy, but inspiration it doesn’t. Plus, the humor isn’t even half-hearted, barely squeezing out racing puns and little else.

The remainder of the film’s first third meanders through a hodgepodge of better sequences: a brief soul-searching return pit-stop to Radiator Springs, followed by an overwhelming high tech training center, and then an undercover entry in a dirt car mudtrack event. There’s some clever bits here and there, thankfully, and the smooth, even graceful car animation still ranks among some of Pixar’s best work, but on the whole it feels like a random collection of leftover ideas scrapped from the first two films.

The best thing to emerge from all of this is Cruz Ramierz (relative newcomer Cristela Alonozo), the top trainer at the state of the art racing facility. She is a feisty, motivational coach who knows which buttons to push in order to get the best out of her racers. A lively bond forms between Cruz and McQueen; it’s sometimes oil-and-water but always amiable and charming. Better still, they both have things to learn from each other.

Like the original, Cars 3 is at its best when it slows down for meaningful character moments. The film’s middle section downshifts considerably to this end and, subsequently, ramps up its appeal; McQueen and Cruz find an old town off the beaten path with a special history that, for Lightning, strikes a deep personal connection.

There, he’s mentored by an old retired legend named Smokey (Chris Cooper). On the surface this narrative turn bares an all-too-familiar construct to the dynamic between McQueen and Paul Newman’s now-deceased Doc Hudson, yet it’s also where the movie finds itself. It does so by rediscovering the heart that fueled the first film to begin with, one that came from a very personal place for Pixar chief John Lasseter, and it proves meaningful to watch McQueen reconnect with those core values once more.

This is where Cruz comes into her own as well, rising from sidekick catalyst to a character with dreams and passions of her own, driven by her own sense of urgency (and agency). Cruz’s arc is as fulfilling as McQueen’s, and both get an emotional turbo boost by the fact that their journeys are inextricably bound.

Indeed, the film’s final stretch proves to be much more of a payoff than I was anticipating, especially when the race takes an unexpectedly meaningful turn. McQueen discovers how he can retire on his own terms, and in a way that is magnanimously selfless.

Cars 3 could be a fitting, satisfying end to a series that briefly lost its way, but it could just as easily be a set up for a Next Gen upgrade reboot that would be more welcome than I’d have previously believed.

Regardless, even for a sequel that was made primarily for Disney’s corporate coughers than it was to meet any fan demand, it’s heartening to see Pixar invest its soul once again into the story that it’s telling. No wonder the film ended up working so well; that soul ended up being at the heart of Lightning McQueen’s story, too.

Oh, Bother With This Sentimental First Trailer For GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (VIDEO/IMAGES)

Finding the Hundred Acre Wood?

That’s definitely the vibe here in the first trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin, the story of how the son of A.A. Milne inspired the author to imagine and write the tales of Winnie-the-Pooh.

From director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn, Woman In Gold), this definitely takes the warm-hearted approach of Finding Neverland, which told how J.M. Barrie‘s “Peter Pan” came to be.

Starring Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Milne, Will Tilston as Milne’s son Christopher Robin, Margot Robbie as Mrs. Milne, and Kelly Macdonald as the Nanny (and Narrator, too, it seems), Goodbye Christopher Robin opens in the U.S. on November 10, 2017.

Don’t forget the tissues.

Click on any picture for larger image gallery.

Trailer For BRIGSBY BEAR Teases Strange, Dystopian Dramedy From SNL’s Kyle Mooney (VIDEO/IMAGES)

Of the current cast on Saturday Night Live, Kyle Mooney has the strangest sense of humor.

Now with frequent SNL video short director Dave McCary, Mooney gives us Brigsby Bear, a movie he scripted and stars in about a young adult named James who’s been raised in captivity. Told by his parents (who are really his kidnappers) that the global population has been wiped out, he’s been raised on a children’s TV show that his fake parents (Mark Hamill and Micheala Watkins) have produced solely for him.

Nominated for Cannes’ Golden Camera and Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize, this indie effort co-stars Claire Danes, Beck Bennett, and Greg Kenner.

Brigsby Bear opens in limited release on July 28, 2017.

Click on any photo for a larger image gallery.

This Bull Is A Lover, Not A Fighter, In New FERDINAND Trailer & Character Profiles (VIDEO/IMAGES)

This is the taming, not the running, of the bull.

Based on an old children’s story about a bull who prefers flowers to fighting, Ferdinand is the latest animated feature from Blue Sky Studios (the Ice Age, Rio, and Peanuts movies). 20th Century Fox has released its latest trailer (above) for the family-friendly film, along with an image gallery (below) that matches each character to its real-life voice.

Ferdinand will go head-to-head with Star Wars: The Last Jedi when both open on December 15, 2017.

Click on any picture for larger image gallery.

New Book “Movies Are Prayers”, By Filmspotting Co-Host, Explores How Movies Emerge From Spiritual Longing (VIDEOS/LINK)

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“Even the howl of the atheist is directed at the God they don’t acknowledge.”

This sentiment reflects the expansive thesis set by Josh Larsen, author of the new book “Movies Are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings.”

Larsen, co-host of Filmspotting (one of the most popular movie podcasts for over a decade), does not examine “Christian movies” or Faith-based cinema. Instead, the editor and film critic for ThinkChristian looks at the totality of cinema – from Hollywood classics to contemporary hits to all kinds of films in-between – to see how yearnings for God are expressed in the movies:

  • “Movies can be many things: escapist experiences, historical artifacts, business ventures, and artistic expressions, to name a few. I’d like to suggest that they can also be prayers.”

His suggestion? Spiritual depth is so innate that it is inevitably expressed in art, including movies, even when a filmmaker doesn’t consciously intend to do so. The root of authentic artistic expression emerges from the spirit.

The book, published by InterVarsity Press, is available now in bookstores and online (Amazon link here).

To hear more from Larsen about what his new book explores, watch the videos below. To read his latest film reviews, visit Larsen On Film.

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Trailer For OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE Teases 21-Minute Holiday Theatrical Event (VIDEO/IMAGE)

It looks like Disney just put its very own ABC network on ice.

Expanding far beyond the traditional run time of 5-plus minutes that most pre-feature animated shorts abide, the 21-minute featurette Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will play before Pixar’s big holiday release Coco in theaters worldwide.

The length of this Frozen mini-sequel, which is essentially a half-hour of television minus the commercials, is a clear giveaway that Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was originally planned to be a holiday TV special, particularly given its Christmas-y setting. No doubt it will become an annual TV tradition in the future, but in 2017 this Olaf-centric narrative will play exclusively in movie theaters.

For many, this special event will be an even bigger draw to the movie theater than the new Pixar movie that will follow it.

Adjust your box office estimates to bookoo; this is going to make a ton of money. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and Coco will be the go-to Thanksgiving double-feature when it debuts on November 22, 2017.

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