Double Agents: Guy Ritchie Reveals The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Teller), and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, from left to right) ponder how to stop the evil Vinciguerras.
Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), Illya Kuryakin (Armie Teller), and Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill, from left to right) ponder how to stop the evil Vinciguerras.

Pop culture has always been captivated by the Cold War. Back in the day, its backdrop spawned the longest-tenured blockbuster movie franchise ever, the James Bond series. This fascination with spies from the East-West conflict has never ceased, particularly so with Hollywood reenacting television shows and feature films from that era. The latest example is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., once co-creator for the small screen by 007 inventor Ian Fleming and interestingly as well as daringly pitting a U.S. and a Soviet agent on the same side to fight against a multinational terror syndicate. Can director Guy Ritchie’s modern cinematic take on the beloved series bring U.N.C.L.E. back to life?

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Attack of the Nerds: Fanboys Makes a Joyride out of Looking Forward to Star Wars

The Fanboys eagerly await the opening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The Fanboys eagerly await the opening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Remember when, back in 1999, the Star Wars hype was almost as huge, if not even bigger, than this year? After an absence of more than a decade and a half, the saga was about to return with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and expectations were through the roof. Fanboys, a 2009 comedy by director Kyle Newman, feeds to the frenzy of that time. As the title suggests, you might be in for a wild ride if you belong to the eponymous group. Does the film satisfy in that regard, however, and – on top of that – is it also a movie that’s fun to watch for non-Fanboys?

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Broadway The Hard Way: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, or the Psyche of an Actor

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton, front) is always haunted by Birdman.
Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton, front) is always haunted by Birdman.

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu had already been a known commodity in Hollywood circles for a while. His debut feature, Amores Perros, became a fan favorite, while his U.S. projects 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful landed him the star power of Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, or Javier Bardem. With his fifth movie, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance), he has firmly established himself as one of the premier talents behind the camera stateside. The film won four prestigious Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography – but how good is Birdman really?

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Spybreak: Matthew Vaughn Introduces Us to Kingsman: The Secret Service

Harry Hart (Colin Firth, center) introduces 'Eggsy' Unwin (Taron Egerton, left) to Internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, right).
Harry Hart (Colin Firth, center) introduces ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton, left) to Internet billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, right).

Parodies of spy pictures – and the James Bond variation in particular – are a dime a dozen, with a fairly mixed bag of results. The cream of the crop may be the first two Austin Powers movies, International Man Of Mystery and The Spy Who Shagged Me. The low point is arguably a spoof based on Ian Fleming’s first novel, the star-laden 1966 attempt at Casino Royale with Peter Sellers, David Niven, and Woody Allen that needed a whopping five directors to be completed. Now X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass filmmaker Matthew Vaughn has entered the territory and assembled an impressive cast to realize Kingsman: The Secret Service. Is his vision of what a spy movie should look like up to the task?

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Food, Glorious Food: Chef Jon Favreau Goes Back to the Roots

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, back, to the left), his son Percy (Emjay Anthony, front, to the left), and their friend Martin (John Leguizamo, front, to the right) enjoy a good Texas BBQ.
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, back, to the left), his son Percy (Emjay Anthony, front, to the left), and their friend Martin (John Leguizamo, front, to the right) enjoy a good Texas BBQ.

In Hollywood, Jon Favreau has become a household name as the man at the helm of the Iron Man trilogy. While he admittedly did a commendable job as the director of the first two movies from that franchise, he actually started out as an indie comedy filmmaker. Chef, a pet project of his, sees the jack of all trades return to his roots, while prominently involving him in several roles – as the leading man, director, writer, and producer. Does Jon Favreau succeed, as he did with the Iron Man blockbusters, or does carrying that much weight overwhelm even such an über-talented man?

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Tyranny of Souls: James Franco and Seth Rogen Conduct The Interview

CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan, center) briefs television star Dave Skylark (James Franco, left) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen, right).
CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan, center) briefs television star Dave Skylark (James Franco, left) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen, right).

Despite the fact that most comedies involving Seth Rogen have generally been subject to debate, none of them has stirred as big a controversy as The Interview. A political comedy about real-life North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the film has been threatened by the Pyongyang regime for months, leading to Sony Pictures becoming the victim of the ‘Guardians of Peace’ hacker group and causing the studio to pull the movie from the theaters. That we are now able to watch The Interview anyway is owed to Sony doing a U-turn and releasing the comedy online instead.

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The Musical Box: Marion Cotillard Plays Wicked Games in Love Me If You Dare

Julien (Guillaume Canet, left) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, right) can't stay away from playing their dares game.
Julien (Guillaume Canet, left) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, right) can’t stay away from playing their dares game.

Jeux d’enfants by French director Yann Samuell begins as a rather sad version of Amélie but develops a dynamic of its own which leads to catastrophe. The young Julien Janvier (Guillaume Canet), whose mother is on the brink of dying from cancer, meets Sophie Kowalsky (Marion Cotillard), a Polish classmate who is bullied. They become friends und develop a dares game which has only one rule: Whoever gets the musical box must do whatever he is asked.

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Pleasure to Kill: Winona Ryder and Christian Slater Get Rid of the Heathers

Veronica (Winona Ryder, left) and her boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater, right) have grand plans.
Veronica (Winona Ryder, left) and her boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater, right) have grand plans.

Heathers is maybe the first realistic high-school movie and – at the same time – the most sophisticated. Due to its highly intelligent script, this movie has the depth and the wit of a Shakespearean play.

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Money for Nothing: Martin Scorsese Makes Leonardo DiCaprio The Wolf Of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, right) may be the Wolf of Wall Street - but at home, 'pussy runs the show' in the shape of his wife Naomi (Margot Robbie, left).
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio, right) may be the Wolf of Wall Street – but at home, ‘pussy runs the show’ in the shape of his wife Naomi (Margot Robbie, left).

After some rather unconventional career choices lately, Martin Scorsese has finally returned to the world he knows best – that of the real-life gangsters transported to the big screen. For The Wolf Of Wall Street, he has also brought back his favorite actor of the last decade and a half, Leonardo DiCaprio. This time, however, the seasoned director and his disciple haven’t taken on the challenge to deal with some of the lowlifes from their previous collaborations. The protagonists of The Wolf Of Wall Street are New York stockbrokers that actually existed and chiseled millions out of unsuspecting, mostly working-class victims. With Martin Scorsese back in his element at last, will he be able deliver another masterpiece?

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The Golden Mile: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & Edgar Wright Celebrate The World’s End

Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), Gary King (Simon Pegg), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman, from left to right) don't believe their own eyes.
Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan), Gary King (Simon Pegg), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman, from left to right) don’t believe their own eyes.

Acting duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have worked together on and off the screen ever since the British late 1990s cult sitcom Spaced. With the zombie spoof Shaun Of The Dead, comedians the two and their director friend from the same show, Edgar Wright, entered the film landscape with a bang in 2004. Three years later, the threesome came back with the utterly brilliant police comedy Hot Fuzz. Now, about a decade after their first movie success, the trio returns for more with The World’s End. One big question remains: Will it be more of the same, in a good sense, or have their tricks suddenly become old in the meantime?

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Alyona (Valeria Lanskaya) has just received a call from the future.

Future Management: Funny and Romantic Disaster Control in The New Year Calling Plan

Alyona (Valeria Lanskaya) has just received a call from the future.
Alyona (Valeria Lanskaya) has just received a call from the future.

New Year’s is an entirely different beast in Russia than in most other countries. For historical reasons, it’s basically Christmas and the rest of the holiday season rolled into one. The turn of the year is what Russians celebrate big time, and it’s also when they receive their gifts. That is why every December romantic, often fantastic films about the magic of New Year enter the movie theaters of the former Soviet Union. The New Year Calling Plan is a 2008 representative of the genre, a modern Russian equivalent of Back To The Future meets romance that practically hasn’t drawn any attention outside the country since it was released.

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Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson, left) and Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn, right) pursue their Mountain View dream.

Google is Your Friend: Shawn Levy’s The Internship, Or a Commercial of a Different Kind

Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson, left) and Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn, right) pursue their Mountain View dream.
Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson, left) and Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn, right) pursue their Mountain View dream.

‘Frat Pack’ members Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have been partners in crime on several comedy projects in the past, most notably as the genuinely funny womanizing Wedding Crashers. So on paper, their latest collaboration, The Internship, directed by Shawn Levy and co-penned by Jared Stern and no other than Vaughn himself, sounds like a great idea – especially when you factor in appearances by John Goodman, Max Minghella, Rose Byrne, and Will Ferrell. In theory, the star-laden $58 million film looks very promising, but what about in practice?

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A Little Bit of Finger: Chicken and Other Assorted Goodies in The Bone Man

Brenner (Josef Hader, right) and his new lover Birgit (Birgit Minichmayr, left).

Austrian films have been the secret stars of the German-speaking landscape in recent years, not just because of the eccentric Michael Haneke and his Oscar-winning drama Amour. In artistic terms, many of these usually indie pictures have outperformed the more expensive productions from the bigger neighboring country. Lately, one of the mainstays of Austrian cinema has been the Brenner comedy mysteries by director Wolfgang Murnberger. Based on the novels by bestselling author Wolf Haas, these movies impress with their quirky mixture of grotesque crimes and typical Austrian humor. As the third installment of the series, The Bone Man has been one of the most successful movies made in the Alpine Republic. In other parts of the world, however, the film has largely flown under the radar.

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Screaming in Digital: Pixar Takes Us to College in Monsters University

Monsters University
Sulley and Mike chase a fraternity mascot.

Ever since John Lasseter’s Toy Story in 1995, the Disney-owned Pixar Studios have been leading the charge when it comes to computer-generated animation movies. Like the parent company, however, the CGI pioneers have been struggling in recent years – hitting rock bottom with head honcho Lasseter’s Cars 2 in 2011. Despite Brave winning the Oscar as Best Animated Feature Film in February, the studio’s latest releases wowed neither critics nor audiences. Now Pixar has brought back some favorites from 2003’s crowd-pleaser Monsters, Inc. with the hope of returning to former glory. Will Dan Scanlon’s $270-million prequel Monsters University do the trick?

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School’s Out: John Hughes’s Cool Way to Skip Classes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara, left), Cameron Fry (Alan Ruck, center), and Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, right) enjoy their day off.

When John Hughes died of a heart attack at age 59 in 2009, the filmmaking world lost one of its true greats in the comedy realm. His biggest box-office smashes as a writer have been family movies in the 1990s, such as Home Alone and 101 Dalmatians. Earlier, however, John Hughes had already pulled off a string of beloved comedies as a director in the 1980s. The Breakfast Club comes to mind. So do Plains, Trains & Automobiles and Uncle Buck with another late great, John Candy. John Hughes is also known for coming up with the scripts for the popular National Lampoon’s series starring Chevy Chase. Yet the finest moment of his career is arguably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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