‘Everest’ trailer

Oscar nominated director Baltasar Kormakur (2012’s The Deep in the Best Foreign Language Film category) returns to his native Iceland to film most of the scenes from this 1996 true story.  This movie covers the deadly 2-days atop the world’s tallest mountain and stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Josh Brolin (Guardians of the Galaxy), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) and Robin Wright (Netflix’s House of Cards).  Other portions of the movie were filmed in Nepal.  Look for Gyllenhaal to have an exceptional 2015 and be his breakout career year (see: 2014–Chris Pratt).

Whose ready to do some climbing?

Mark your calendars – Everest rolls into theaters on September 18.

Mt. Everest Facts

  • Tallest mountain in the world.
  • Number of people to attempt to climb Mt. Everest: approximately 4,000.
  • Number of people to successfully climb Mt. Everest: 660.
  • Number of people who have died trying to climb Mt. Everest: 142.
  • Height: 29,028 feet, or 5 and a half miles above sea level. This is equivalent to the size of almost 20 Empire State Buildings.
  • Location: part of the Himalaya mountain range; straddles border of Nepal and Tibet.
  • Named for: Sir George Everest, a British surveyor-general of India.
  • Age: approximately 60 million years old.
  • Other names: called “Chomolungma” by Tibetans and Sherpas, which means “Mother Goddess of the Earth.”
  • Countries visible from the summit: Tibet, India, and Nepal.
  • First to climb to summit: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on May 29, 1953.
  • Notable dates:
    1921 — Dalai Lama allows British reconnaissance party to visit Tibet and the northern side of Mt. Everest.
    1924 — British explorers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappear near the summit, along the Northeast Ridge. It is possible that they may have actually been the first to reach the summit, but they never returned.
    1949 — Nepal opens its borders, making access to the mountain’s southern peak possible.
    1953 — Hillary and Norgay reach summit.
    1963 — First Americans reach the summit.
    1989 — First two women, both American, reach the summit.
Other links:
REEL BRIEF’s Films to Watch in 2015
My Rental Recommendations

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Movie Review – ‘MAX’

“Rather than focus squarely on a returning 4-legged war hero and the hundreds of lives he saved, this movie shuns, ignores and places misguided blame at the paws of one of our nation’s most loyal and dedicated military working dogs.”    – REEL BRIEF.com

Max cover

During my twenty-four years of Air Force service, I experienced my share of guarded checkpoints entering military bases and embassies around the world. Over the course of my career I noticed a distinct change in how entry points were manned and operated. More security personnel and the rampant deployment of military working dogs were first used to check inside, around and beneath vehicles. At certain Middle Eastern locations, specific “search pits” were created for all cars and trucks to pull into and get searched more thoroughly.

Although significant strides in equipment and technology have taken place over the years to locate hidden explosives, I always felt better seeing a military working dog greeting everyone approaching a gate into a military base. For this dog lover, it was reassuring to see man’s best friend–wearing his own flak vest–doing a job as important, if not more, than mine.

The film “Max” begins in Afghanistan, where a Belgian Malinois military working dog is leading a small patrol with his U.S. Marine handler. My first up-close encounter with a Belgian Malinois, back in 2010, also took place in Afghanistan. I was running on a treadmill at a small fitness center named for a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in action nearly a decade earlier in that war-torn country. As my jog continued, I noticed the treadmill next to mine start up, followed by the sight of two paws and a blackened nose in my peripheral vision. I glanced over to my right and took a hard look; a Belgian Malinois ran for the next 25 minutes with his special operations handler using another treadmill on the other side of the dog. Yes, even military dogs need to stay in combat form in order to take the fight to the enemy. Needless to say, I was not surprised when the successful Osama bin Laden mission included a military working dog the following year.


In only a few—way too few–insightful minutes, viewers of “Max” are introduced to war dogs and how they’ve been a vital part of our military history since World War I. The importance of Max, either to our U.S. arsenal or to his military handler, is never fully appreciated by–or vetted for–the audience’s benefit. With several hundred thousand dollars in training and years of experience to learn a special set of skills, Max returns home from the combat zone having to prove himself, and his allegiance, all over once again to doubters.

Max, the single movie character with the broader knowledge and senses to take care of himself and everyone else, unfortunately only gets minimal camera exposure to exhibit his under-appreciated talent. A perfect chance to educate and showcase one of our most respected and feared game-changers on the military battlefield lost upon viewers. Conversely, the movie elects to spotlight one bad apple posing as a U.S. Marine rather than embrace the warrior ethos of man’s best friend and the most cherished relationship in a brother/son’s life.

This movie, despite good intentions, is a missed opportunity in the end. Rather than focus squarely on a returning 4-legged war hero and the hundreds of lives he saved, this movie shuns, ignores and places misguided blame at the paws of one of our nation’s most loyal and dedicated military working dogs. Probably unnoticed by the moviegoers is the growing rift between the public’s perception of military service and the sacrifices made by those downrange–including our military working dog force. Most will lap up this dog story feeling it pays tribute to the K-9 corps while failing to fully understand the force multiplier spectrum these wonderful breeds bring to the fight. Our fight.

Grade: C+

‘MAX’ is rated PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements.  Its running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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Coming Soon: ‘The Gift’ with Jason Bateman

We’ve all come home to find something on our front porch.  Friends dropping a meal off to share.  Maybe a U.S. Postal Service box with more outward signs of destruction than a Michael Bay film.  Or perhaps a note from a creepy high school acquaintance not heard from in 25+ years.  Yeah, lets stay on that last one for just a minute. Well, two minutes and 30 seconds to be more precise.

The Gift is rated R and comes to theaters on August 7th.

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Preview – The Horror Flick ‘Regression’

I’ve enjoyed my share of horror films over the years.  The exceptional ones, like 1408 (review forthcoming), bring a certain freakishness to the screen that’s difficult to accomplish.  Already nervous viewers are a hard bunch to get jumpy and feeling more squeamish.  Directors and producers must try new ways to shock us with fear. Yes, it all starts with the suspenseful music to set the scene until someone either opens a creaky door or peers into that darkened bedroom closet.

My family knows that I can squint my eyes, or partially cover them, with the best of ’em. AMC’s The Walking Dead television series did a superb job in the early seasons of keeping us almost as uncomfortable as Rick & Co., fleeing on foot.  Perhaps, as we enter Season 6 of the popular show, I’m just more used to their tactics and less in awe of slow moving zombies. Arguably the scariest production to be found on your TV set is the freak show American Horror Stories.  My mea culpa…I only could watch the first 2 seasons (of 4).  Too. F******. Scary.

Now comes this horror film, Regression, from accomplished Spanish director Alejandro Fernando Amenabar (2001’s The Others with Nicole Kidman).  Starring Academy Award nominated (for 2014’s Boyhood) Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson (from the Harry Potter franchise) the movie takes place circa 1990.  Watson, AskMen’s winner of the “Top 99 Outstanding Women of 2015″, plays a daughter who accuses her father of an unfathomable crime and seeks the help of one detective Bruce Kenner (played by Hawke).  Throw in a top-notch psychologist probing around characters’ frontal lobes and we’ve got a bona-fide cult classic, batshit crazy storyline.

Roll the tape!

Regression hits theaters nationwide on August 28th.
Be prepared to be scared.  I know that I will be.

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Cleared for takeoff – ‘Top Gun 2′

Top Gun 2

As I reported last September, screenwriter Justin Marks (The Jungle Book, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) was negotiating with Paramount on the script for the sequel to the 1986 mega-blockbuster hit, Top Gun.  Now Collider’s Matt Goldberg is reporting that during an interview with Skydance executives David Ellison (whose company will produce Top Gun 2) and Dana Goldberg earlier today about next week’s release of Terminator Genisys, both men discussed the status of Top Gun 2 and confirmed Tom Cruise–and only Tom Cruise–would play the Naval aviator Maverick.

DAVID ELLISON: “…Justin Marks is writing the screenplay right now. He has a phenomenal take to really update that world for what fighter pilots in the Navy has turned into today. There is an amazing role for Maverick in the movie and there is no Top Gun without Maverick, and it is going to be Maverick playing Maverick. It is I don’t think what people are going to expect, and we are very, very hopeful that we get to make the movie very soon. But like all things, it all comes down to the script, and Justin is writing as we speak.

Question: You’re gonna do what a lot of sequels have been doing now which is incorporate real use of time from the first one to now.

ELLISON and DANA GOLDBERG: “Absolutely.”


ELLISON: Absolutely, I think this is a movie that should be in 3-D and in IMAX, and again something that you can shoot practically. As everyone knows with Tom, he is 100% going to want to be in those airplanes shooting it practically. When you look at the world of dogfighting, what’s interesting about it is that it’s not a world that exists to the same degree when the original movie came out. This world has not been explored. It is very much a world we live in today where it’s drone technology and fifth generation fighters are really what the United States Navy is calling the last man-made fighter that we’re actually going to produce so it’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today are all fun things that we’re gonna get to dive into in this movie.”

You can read the entire Collider report here.

But from all reports, Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kazanski appears to still enjoy flying with the airlines:

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This Week’s Reader Photo

This week’s photo comes from Tim M., in Tucson, Arizona!   I had the pleasure of sharing a few laughs with Tim this morning and autographing his REEL BRIEF mug!

Tim M.2

If you have a photo of your movie theater experience–or one using the REEL BRIEF.com coffee mug–and want it published on this website, please send it to me at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com for posting.



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**UPDATE** Ron Howard’s Moby Dick Story

***UPDATE 2***

It appears that Ron Howard’s Moby Dick high seas adventure, titled In The Heart of the Sea is still on schedule for an early December release.  The movie postponed its debut, which was going to be back in mid-March, to later in the year to capitalize on making a splash in the theaters and gin up Oscar talk.  I discussed here why studios are crowding the movie calendar in the last quarter of the year.

Benjamin Walker (from 2012’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) will portray Captain George Pollard, Jr. in this true story.  Originally slated to play the ship’s leader was Academy Award-nominated Benedict Cumberbatch, from last year’s The Imitation Game.  But I’m guessing Cumberbatch was scratched from the film after he developed and installed a mathematical machine aboard the ship Essex, that spit out calculated equations to avoid large sperm whales by several nautical miles.

Readers of Moby Dick know that much of In the Heart of the Sea will include being stranded at sea for 3 months. And we thought this guy’s raft plight was bad.  Yikes.  I’m betting that Howard’s film also focuses on the gang’s long-term survival on the island, post-attack.

***UPDATE 1***

Warner Bro. has decided to delay the release of this fish tail tale.  Rather than premiere March 13th, “In The Heart of the Sea” will instead hit theaters on December 11th.  Here’s the official reason from director Ron Howard himself:

“They analyzed the way people are responding to our movie now which is very favorable now that it’s finished, the way people responded to the marketing materials, and they also looked out how the market expanded this last Christmas increasing a wide array of movies,” he said. 

“There was a larger audience. I wanted as many people to see this movie on the big screen as possible and I do feel like it’s more of that fourth quarter, early winter kind of feel in terms of the tone of the movie,” Howard added.

With “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” being released Thanksgiving week this year, I suspect the Ron Howard production is caught between an arrow and stormtrooper.  The Moby Dick story had better hope that the shine wears off quickly for one Katniss (doubtful) and before Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Dec. 18.

Here’s the latest trailer for “In The Heart of the Sea”:


Man the deck!  Moby Dick is coming to theaters

Well, the movie isn’t called “Moby Dick”, but rather “In The Heart of the Sea”.

Look, I love the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” reality TV series as much as anyone.  And just like you, after about the 3rd crab ring gets pulled on deck, I want beg for danger and fights to break out amongst the crew.  Or that “rogue wave” to catch the skipper and greenhorns off-guard.  Anything.  Just don’t give me that worthless damn crab count and total weight BS tally between the Bering Sea vessels. I. Don’t. Care.  All I want is action.  Like this….


Now we’re talking.  This film has it all…

– A Mad Captain (Ahab) ?  Check. (Sorry Capt. Keith Colburn–even this guy’s got you beat)

– Total chaos and peril at sea?  Check.

– Academy Award-winning Director?  Check.

– Survival on an island?  Check.

– A Brendan Gleeson (“Calvary”) film?  Check.

– A true story?  Check.

– Cannibalism?  Check.

OK, I’m down with this film.  “In The Heart of the Sea” is rated PG-13 opens in theaters on March 13th December 11 (updated).

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‘Magic Mike’ written by 8 year olds

This week on The Tonight Show, host Jimmy Fallon, and his guest Channing Tatum, played “Kid Theater”–where eight year old kids wrote scenes for what they thought a movie called Magic Mike would be about.

Whoa, these kids are creative. And funny.  Check them out…

Here’s more on Magic Mike XXL (including the movie’s trailer–NSFW).  The movie hits runways theaters next Wednesday.

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Preview – James Bond’s ‘SPECTRE’

Since its official trailer’s release back in April, new information on the 24th Bond movie, SPECTRE, has come out.

We’ve learned the film’s opening sequence will take place in Mexico City, during Mexico’s celebration of the “Day of the Dead” festival.  Here’s a sneak peek behind-the-scenes of how the movie magic took place during filming this past March…

Just after filming wrapped in Mexico City, star Daniel Craig (James Bond) headed to New York to get minor surgery performed on his strained knee that he suffered during a fight scene filmed earlier in the year.  Due to Craig’s on-set injury, coupled with a vehicle accident involving 3 production crew members (with one member seriously injured), SPECTRE filming was delayed for several weeks.  However, with the movie now in final editing for its November 6th premiere, SPECTRE is looking strong.  Very strong.

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 19: Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci on set for new bond film 'Spectre' on February 19, 2015 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Robino Salvatore/GC Images)

ROME, ITALY – FEBRUARY 19: Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci on set for new bond film ‘Spectre’ on February 19, 2015 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Robino Salvatore/GC Images)

A recap: This Bond film marks the debut of the oldest Bond girl to date – Monica Bellucci (a young 50 years old), who plays the widow of a man killed by 007.  In typical Bond fashion, this movie has rolled “Action!” all over the world – from Mexico to Austria to Morocco.
Director Sam Mendes (from Skyfall) is making his second Bond film and will have many plot connections and tie-ins to that last movie.  SPECTRE’s villain is played by two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained), who was born in Vienna, Austria. Joining forces with Waltz is Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, an assassin and high-ranking SPECTRE member. Oscar winning actor Ralph Fiennes (in last year’s Academy Award winning The Grand Budapest Hotel) is recast as Bond’s boss, Gareth Mallory or “M” for short, the head of the super-secret MI6 agency.
Bond girl
Bond girl Bellucci. Monica Bellucci.
More background on SPECTRE can be found at the following links:
First-Look at Filming in Austria
The latest SPECTRE trailer
The next 007 Bond film announced
Bond24 Announcement
Why Spectre, or rather SPECTRE?

SPECTRE is set for wide release on November 6.

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Reader Photos!

This week’s submitted photo comes from Grace M., originally from Louisville, Kentucky, now living in Arizona!


Thanks G for all your support to REEL BRIEF!  Looking great sporting our newest 20 oz mugs!

If you have a photo of you or your friends enjoying the movie theater experience–or having coffee in one of our mugs–shoot your pic to me at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com for posting.


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