Monday, May 24, 2010

Movie of the Week - Open Range

This week’s movie is Open Range (2003).

The film is about a former gunslinger, Charley Waite, looking for a peaceful life with a cattle hauling outfit. However, the group comes across an overbearing wealthy landowner that forces Charley to take up arms once again to protect his friends and livelihood. The film is one of the best Westerns made in the past decade, and it is a genre that actor, director and producer Kevin Costner has had success in before with Dances with Wolves (not to mention a genre that needs more films to be made in). The film is based on the book by Lauran Paine. The technical aspects of the film fit Costner’s vision well and really create the ambiance of the time period and area of the country. Costner assembled a great crew including: a score from Michael Kamen (one of his last), cinematography from J. Michael Muro (his first job as D.P., and he did wonderful work) and production design from Gae S. Buckley (who also worked on The Book of Eli). The film co-stars Robert Duvall (who is perfect in the role, sort of visiting his Lonesome Dove performance a bit), Annette Bening and Michael Gambon. What makes the film great is Costner’s ability to work in the genre delivering not only a fantastic western but a great film too. The way he uses the camera to show the landscape is superb (in a time when development was ever encroaching on the open spaces and the way of life of the cowboys) and his action sequences are top notch and a highlight of the film. This is a must for fans of the genre. Check out the trailer.

Open Range [DVD]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Movie of the Week - Rounders

This week’s movie is Rounders (1998).

The film is about a young law student and reformed gambler who returns to big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks after him. Highlighted by a wonderful cast full of fantastic and memorable performances, it is a great script from David Levien and Brian Koppelman that makes the film work so well. The writing and John Dahl’s best directing effort really bring the viewer into the world, underbelly, of high stakes poker. The film speaks the language, but is still accessible to those not familiar with poker. Back to the performances, Matt Damon and Edward Norton are both pitch perfect in the film. John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, and Martin Landau provide good supporting work. However, it is John Malkovich’s turn as a Russian mobster/loan shark that is fabulous. What makes the film great is the acting work and the world that the film examines. It was ahead of its time at it release just before the explosion of interest in poker. This is a must see for fans of Damon, Norton and/or Malkovich (or really fans of film in general). Check out the trailer.

Rounders [Blu-ray/DVD]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 (2010) – Review

Iron Man 2 is full of sleek visuals, large action pieces and humor, and yet the film’s narrative is poorly structured – leaving it with noticeable peaks and valleys. Mostly the film works, the cast is great and the technical aspects of the film are generally good – the film is entertaining and most will be quite satisfied. The issues with the film arise from its story and overall structure. The film drags noticeably in parts and seems as if it was pieced together from a series of ideas rather than flowing seamlessly throughout. Thus, the film plays wonderfully in moments – there are a number of memorable lines, performances and scenes – but it is not cohesive. The timeline of the film, while seemingly to take place over a number or days or weeks, is muddled in that logically the events more likely take place over the course of a full year, but there is no sense of the passage of time – everything is immediate yet there are clues that large gaps of time rationally must have passed. The story itself is average, the villain is a bit weak, and his motivation and character not nearly evolved enough to make the viewer care. Another issue with the film is in the characterization of Tony Stark. While Robert Downey Jr. is good again in the role, the film seeks out to dive more into the character, yet for those that have seen the first film the character is well established and thus here in this film he feels more like a caricature of himself than a real person. This leaves the viewer disconnected during moments of character development, because since the character is not real or does not feel real (aside from the film being fictional, of course) the viewer does not have a stake in the outcome, in the journey, and thus the film drags. Sure, the viewer will still enjoy the action and laugh at the humor, but for the film to be great there must be a bond formed between the characters, especially the lead, and the viewers (and this is not asking too much of a blockbuster or comic based film, see Spider-Man 2 or Christopher Nolan’s Batman films for reference). These aspects of the film leave the narrative pacing slow (in a film that is not that long), which hurts the film as a whole. But there is a lot to like here too. The action scenes are big and well constructed (though there does seem to be a lot of casualties of innocents that are not referenced). Jon Favreau does have an eye for fun yet cinematically interesting action, which is nice to see amongst many other films with often overly generic and boring action (the final action scene in the Japanese garden is pretty awesome). The best part of Justin Theroux’s script is the humor. There are a number of very funny scenes and lines throughout, and this humor mixed with the awe of the action saves the film from mediocrity. Like with Iron Man, this sequel is mostly good but again suffered from a poor structure, should Favreau return to helm a third, hopefully he can produce a film that flows well (which is really the hardest thing to do in filmmaking). Technically, the film has many triumphs – the score is not one of them. John Debney’s work tries to hard to be like other superhero films (noticeably like a mix between Batman and Spider-Man), it does not have its own identity, and thus not memorable. It is lost to the background instead of enhancing the film. Matthew Libatique’s lighting was both good and awkward (something I noticed more the second time). The sets were lit very well and the Iron Man costumes looked great too, the use of shadows in many of the action scenes was great (and Scarlett Johansson looked great, so I am sure she appreciated the lighting too). However, some of the actors did not fair as well. Sam Rockwell in the hanger scene looked beyond tan (if you look at his hands they look like they are caked in mud), meaning that Libatique’s use of the white scale in the scene was either a bit off or he intended the characters to look like they had spray on tans. J. Michael Riva did a wonderful job with the production design. The sets were great. The film had an overall slick look to fit with the character of Iron Man, and thus Tony Stark. The visual effects are also top notch in the film. The cast was fun and there were a number of solid performances and great bits too. As stated above, Downey Jr. was good, though his performance was hindered by the story a bit. Don Cheadle is every bit as good as Terrence Howard, bringing a lot of the same feel to the character. Mickey Rourke plays a Russian version of himself and his character is vastly undeveloped. Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson are all good and fitting for their parts (Jackson has a great stare in the film). And, Sam Rockwell is up to his zany goodness. There are also a number of small enjoyable segments featuring John Slattery (always awesome), Favreau, Kate Mara, Leslie Bibb, Clark Gregg, and Garry Shandling. Iron Man 2 is a lot of fun and full of entertaining moments, no doubt, but sadly it is a step below the best blockbusters and superhero films. 7/10

Movie of the Week - Grosse Pointe Blank

This week’s movie is Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

The film is about a hit man who returns to his hometown of Grosse Pointe after disappearing ten years ago, by choice, for his high school reunion. He must also face old friends and the love of his life who he also ditched without a goodbye. The film stars John Cusack (and may be my friend of his performances and films), and Minnie Driver and features Dan Aykroyd (who is amazing in this, Popcorn!), Alan Arkin, Jeremy Piven, and Joan Cusack. The film is a mix between a rom-com and action film (pre-dating all the similar movies coming out in the last few years, and this one is still by far the best). The action is well played for a comedy and the humor is hilarious. What makes this film great is Cusack; he is perfect in the role, which he co-wrote with Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis. He has the perfect mix of all the qualities to bring Martin Blank to life and engage the viewer throughout. The screenplay is fantastic as well and highly quotable. Cusack also hired Joe Strummer from one of his favorite bands, The Clash, to work on the score, and along with a cool score the soundtrack is also filled with gems. Check out the trailer.

Grosse Pointe Blank [DVD]

Friday, May 7, 2010

Robert Downey Jr. – Movies Spotlight – May 2010

Today, Robert Downey Jr. is a huge star. He is known for Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. But he has always been a great actor, from supporting roles in teen comedies in the early 80’s to starring roles by the 90’s to international fame and blockbuster hits by the end of the 00’s. This month he stars in Iron Man 2, touted to be the biggest superhero movie of all-time.

Early Career, the 80’s:

After appearing in a few small films in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Downey Jr. finally got his break when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, and got small roles in John HughesWeird Science and supporting James Spader in Tuff Turf. While he was fired from SNL the next year, as the show was overhauling its cast to avoid cancellation, he had established himself in the business. In 1986, he was considered for Duckie in Pretty in Pink, but lost out on the role, and picked up a part in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. However, it was his role in Less Than Zero, based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, which gave Downey Jr. his breakthrough to bigger and better opportunities. His performance was praised by many critics. Off this new found acclaim, he was cast in Chances Are, Air America opposite Mel Gibson and Soapdish.

Rise to Fame, the 90’s:

In 1992, Downey Jr. had a role of a lifetime as Charles Chaplin in Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin, and he did not disappoint. He is fantastic in the film and garnered an Academy Award nomination (losing to Al Pacino, blind and yelling stuff). Chaplin firmly established him as one of the best young actors in Hollywood. However, he did not choose or end up staring in any very good film through 1995, but did find good supporting work in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and Ian McKellen’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Richard III. In 1996, Downey Jr. had his first drug-related arrest; he claimed that he had been on drugs since he was eight and struggled into 2001 to get clean – he was arrested a number of times and in and out of rehab. His career in the second half of the 90’s was not so great either. His best known films from this period are: Two Girls and a Guy, The Gingerbread Man, U.S. Marshals (you know it is not going well for you when you co-star in the sequel/spin-off to a great movie, The Fugitive, and your movie is awful), and Bowfinger. Chaplin, his first staring role and what should have been only the beginning, ended up being the only good film he had the lead in during the whole decade (pretty sad).

Rock Bottom and Rebirth, the 00’s:

In 2000-2001, Downey Jr.’s drug problems were costing him roles. He was supposed to play Hamlet in Mel Gibson’s stage production in LA, star in America’s Sweethearts and Woody Allen wanted to cast him in Melinda and Melinda – all of which did not happen. However, despite continuing to struggle with his addiction, he had a few great performances in the early part of the decade. Downey Jr., in a small role, is very good in Wonder Boys and practically saved Ally McBeal from being cancelled with his character, Larry Paul, in season four. By 2003, he was ready to start fresh and revive his career clean. He took the lead in the Mel Gibson produced The Singing Detective and co-starred with Halle Berry in Gothika. For The Singing Detective, friend Gibson paid his insurance bond so he could work on the film, while on Gothika producer Joel Silver withheld forty percent of Downey Jr.’s salary until after the film wrapped (apparently, similar clauses are now part of most of his contracts since). With those two film behind him without any issues, he was able to find a number of good roles in smaller or independent films, including: Good Night, and Good Luck., A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, and Charlie Bartlett, all of which were met with critical acclaim. But, it was his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (a personal favorite of mine) that really re-jumpstarted his career and made fans and film executives take notice.

Blockbuster Hero:

Up until 2008, Downey Jr. had never starred in a blockbuster (or even appeared in one for that matter), but that all changed that summer. In May 2008 Iron Man opened to a huge box office, acclaim from fans and critics and made Downey Jr. an international star. Only for him to follow it up with Tropic Thunder, another well received film also featuring a fantastic performance. Not since Chaplin has he really concretely staked his position in Hollywood as one of the elite actors, with his performances in films from 2005-present he has done just that. He is Iron Man, no doubt. And again with Sherlock Holmes, he is Holmes. In both films he is what makes them work, what makes them great. It is wonderful to see that he has turned his life and career around. He has two of the most successful franchises entering into this new decade.

Future Projects:

Along with Iron Man 2, Downey Jr. has Todd Philip’s new comedy Due Date coming in November. The film co-stars Zach Galifianakis and Michelle Monaghan, and features supporting work from Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx and Alan Arkin. It is a road trip film about Downey Jr. hitching a ride with Galifianakis to make it to his child’s birth on time. In 2011 and 2012, he has the sequel to Sherlock Holmes and Joss Whedon’s (YES) The Avengers, which sees Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and others all team up in the same film. There are also plans in work for a third Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr. Box Set (Selected Filography/Career Highlights):

1.) Chaplin (1992) – lead actor* [DVD]
2.) Short Cuts (1993) – supporting actor [DVD]
3.) Natural Born Killers (1994) – supporting actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
4.) Wonder Boys (2000) – supporting actor [DVD]
5.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – lead actor* [Blu-ray/DVD]
6.) Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) – supporting actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
7.) Zodiac (2007) – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
8.) Iron Man (2008) – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
9.) Tropic Thunder – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
10.) Sherlock Holmes – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
*Editors Picks

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Losers (2010) – Review

The Losers is a highly entertaining film. Its mix of action and comedy harkens it back to the great action/comedies of the 80’s (like Die Hard, only this was PG-13), chalked full of offbeat villains, outlandish sequences of stylized action, wonderful banter, and a ragtag group (each with his/her own skill set) of mercenaries. The film plays a bit like an homage to action/comedies as the narrative certainly is cognizant of the expectations of the genre, but the movie is still deeply influenced and rooted stylistically in the world of graphic novels. The visual style used is referential to that of comic books as well. The biggest strength of the film is its screenplay, and more to the points its dialog. Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt did an excellent job translating the characters to film and creating great slick funny exchanges between them and great scenes for them. The film is also visually dynamic in that it makes a point to have interesting shot composition whenever possible. However, while the film looks and plays in a sleek cool manner, it is a bit shallow (but is it really supposed to be more than it is?). The narrative and characters have little depth and are mostly one note, but this does not detract from the film’s overall enjoyment. The film does not try to be more than it is, a fun action film, and nor should it (but do not expect to see any Oscar nods). At the end of the film the viewer will have chuckled and laughed at the odd set of characters throughout, been engaged by the well done scenes of action and espionage and surely left with a smile on their face (at least those viewers who are fans of the genre, oh and make sure to stay through the beginning part of the credits). Director Sylvain White did a good job with the film (and it was a big step up from the types of films he had made previously) – he captured the action with a good eye for charismatic visuals (cinematographer Scott Kevan can take a lot of credit for this as well, his lighting in a number of scenes was very good, especially the fight in the hotel on fire), and was able to let the actors feel comfortable with each other to allow the comedy to feel organic and thus work (which again can also be attributed as well to the great script). John Ottman’s music was very fitting and enhanced the overall experience. The production design by Aaron Osborne was also very good (having not read the book, I am not sure how much was pulled visually, but in any case), the sets fit the narrative and chiefly the atmosphere of the piece. The cast as a whole was perfect in the film, in the context of the type of movie it was. Columbus Short had a breakthrough performance, as did Chris Evans – they were both very funny. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (not playing a ghost) and Idris Elba both play off each other well and completely personify their characters. Zoe Saldana (who continues to be great in her movies) plays a badass utterly – she has the swagger down pat. And finally, Jason Patric is just bizarre, and yet fantastic and memorable. The film is just right for those looking for an enthralling time at the theatre, as The Losers will charm, gratify and delight. 7/10

Monday, May 3, 2010

At the Movies – May 2010

Must See in Theatres:

Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau) – Action – May 7th
The next installment of the Iron Man series finds Tony Stark, having revealed his dual life as Iron Man to the world, in a struggle to maintain control over his technology, as he is under pressure from the government, media and general public to share his tech. He also is faced with new villains and demons within. Favreau returns to the director’s chair but with a new scribe, Justin Theroux – fresh off his writing work on Tropic Thunder.  Also new to the team is composer John Debney, who worked on a few previous Favreau films. However, cinematographer Matthew Libatique and production designer J. Michael Riva return for part two, bringing with them the same look and style to the visuals as the first. The film has an excellent cast, with many familiar faces and characters returning (unless your name is Terrence Howard, then your character is back, but Marvel got Don Cheadle to play him this time, and he gets his own Iron Man suit too), and some new ones, highlighted by: Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke. The first film really connected with audiences through its mixture of sleek and exhilarating action and comedy, set against a world that seems (somewhat) plausible and socially relevant. Favreau looks to capture the same magic again, only the film is going to be bigger and better (at least that is what we are lead to believe). But really, it all comes down to Robert Downey Jr., who like with Sherlock Holmes made a structurally flawed first film work through his career reviving/stardom remaking performance – again he made the film work. If he is as good in two, then it should be just as fun and exciting an experience as the first (though, I am still skeptical of Favreau’s directorial abilities). Check out the trailer.

Worth Checking Out (if not in theatres then at home):

Robin Hood (Ridley Scott) – Adventure – May 14th
Another retelling of the classic Robin Hood tale, this film focuses on the traditional story of Robin returning from the Third Crusade to find England overrun by corruption and taxation. He has no choice but to fight back. Originally, the film was to take a different approach with the Sheriff of Nottingham as the hero, torn between the wrongs of a corrupt king (Prince John) and the anarchy of Robin the outlaw (the negative connotation, as he is an outlaw still when he is portrayed heroically). But, Ridley Scott abandoned this approach during casting and ordered rewrites. The revised script is by Brian Helgeland (who also wrote the previously released Green Zone and the still to come Salt) and based on his background, should mean that the film has a number of good action sequences. Scott also brought frequent collaborators John Mathieson, Marc Streitenfeld and Arthur Max to the film, so it should look, sound and feel like most of Scott’s recent work, which is a good thing (Body of Lies, American Gangster, both solid). The movie is also the fifth collaboration between Scott and Russell Crowe, most of which have been quite good (forgetting A Good Year). Along with Crowe, the cast is great – Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt, Mark Strong, and Danny Huston highlight the credits. The movie will likely feature Scott’s mixture of action and drama and should produce both an entertaining and good film. Check out the trailer.

Good for Dates:

Letters to Juliet (Gary Winick) – Romance – May 14th
The film is about an American girl who, on vacation in Italy, finds an unanswered ‘letter to Juliet’, which is one of thousands of letters left at the fictional lover’s Verona courtyard, and decides to go on a quest to find the lovers in the letter and reconnect them. Director Winick is a veteran of romantic comedies (and romanticized comedies), directing last year’s Bride Wars. The film stars Amanda Seyfried (who stars in her second not only romantic genre film of the year but also film about writing letters – see Dear John for reference), Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave, and Christopher Egan (who is good in the excellent Kings), making up a pretty good cast. The film looks to be lighthearted fun with romantic feel-good overtones, which is perfect for those looking for that type of film. Check out the trailer.

Just Wright (Sanaa Hamri) – Romance – May 14th
The film is a romantic sports comedy (the sports angle was presumably put in for guys?) about a physical therapist who falls for an NBA star she is helping to recover from a career-threatening injury. Why Fox Searchlight is releasing this the same weekend as Letters to Juliet, the only other rom-com of the month, is beyond me, unless they assume that the demographic that this appeals to is mostly separate to the Amanda Seyfried film (and they are probably right). The first red flag (at least for me) is the director Hamri, whose previous work includes The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (an awful film, and I liked the first one). The second (and this may also be personal to me) is Common’s involvement (how I wish he were working on a new album instead of films like this).  The film also stars Queen Latifah and features supporting performances from Paula Patton, Pam Grier and Laz Alonso. On the plus though, it does feature a number of NBA cameos including: Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Like many films in the genre, we all know what will happen before seeing a frame, but the movie will likely still be entertaining and enjoyable (on some level). Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

Shrek Forever After (Mike Mitchell) – Animation – May 21st
The fourth in the Shrek franchise finds Shrek bored with his life and wanting to be more like an ordinary ogre. He makes a pact with the fiendish Rumpelstiltskin to change things up, but is tricked and his world is turned upside down.  He must now regain his love, friends and restore his world (and it is all in 3-D!!!, wait are we past that yet?). Directing the film is Mike Mitchell, known for Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, who hopefully will be able to give the series some new comedic life. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, and Eddie Murphy all return (and for the money to work ratio, why would they not), while John Hamm, Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch, and Kristen Schaal join the cast – all in all a solid group of voice actors and comedians. While there is a lot of talent on this film, there was also a lot on Shrek the Third too, and that was far below the original in terms of quality. Hopefully, with the new director, this can recapture some of the magic of the first Shrek, while being inventive and funny enough to make its own way too (but I am not holding my breath). Check out the trailer.

MacGruber (Jorma Taccone) – Comedy – May 21st
The film, a spoof on the TV series MacGuyver, is about an ex-special operative who is called back into action to take down his nemesis, a dangerous enemy set on destroying Washington, D.C., with a nuclear weapon. The film is based on the SNL character created by Will Forte. The director, Jorma Taccone, is a writer on SNL with Forte and the film’s third screenwriter John Solomon, and is part of Lonely Island with Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer. Along with Forte, the film also stars Ryan Phillippe (the straight man), Kristen Wiig (SNL standout) and Val Kilmer (who can be completely zany and awesome, sometimes, see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for reference). While the film will be completely ridiculous and silly, that is the point, and those looking for this type of comedy should enjoy the film, as it received positive reviews at its premier at the SXSW Film Festival. Check out the trailer.

Sex and the City 2 (Michael Patrick King) – Comedy – May 27th
The next installment of the TV/film series finds the NYC quartet enjoying life and off on vacation to Dubai, where each must come to grips with where they are in their lives. The film is once again directed and written by series creator Michael Patrick King and features all the principal characters from the series in some capacity. The film features cameos and supporting roles from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Penelope Cruz, Alice Eve, and Liza Minnelli. There is a rumor that this film has outsold all other summer movies so far in presale tickets, so make sure if you are going opening night, you have tickets before getting to the cinema. The film is likely to be just like the last, tonally, stylistically and structurally, and that is just what the fans want. Check out the trailer.

Based on the video game, the Disney movie ment to be their new Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is about an adventurous prince who teams up with a rival princess to stop an angry ruler from unleashing a massive sandstorm that could destroy the world (I am sure it is cooler than it sounds). Can this be the first movie to break the video game adaptation curse (as almost all movies based on games have been awful)? Disney certainly hopes so (I mean who really thought Pirates would turn out as well as they did, for the most part), and they have unlisted Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire helmer, Mike Newell, to take on the first (presumably of a few, given this does well). The film has a fairly solid bunch of actors in it – Jake Gyllenhaal stars, Ben Kingsley plays the villain, and Alfred Molina and Gemma Arterton (whose part sort of resembles the role she had in Clash of the Titans, more overly epic exposition to come?). Working with Newell is production designer Wolf Kroger, who has done big set pieces before (his sets on Enemy at the Gates are awesome), composer Harry Gregson-Williams, who did good (epic) work on Kingdom of Heaven (and has scored some of the Metal Gear Solid video games), and cinematographer  John Seale, who has shot big set pieces in the past like The English Patient. The screen story is by the creator of the game, but the rest of the writing team leaves something to be desired. But hopefully, Newell can craft an engaging enough narrative to play between the action set pieces to make the film flow. All in all, the cast and crew working on this should garner a fun and entertain product (though I suspect it will not be quite as good as the first two Pirates movies). Check out the trailer.

Survival of the Dead (George A. Romero) – Horror – May 28th
A ‘B’ horror movie about the residents on an island off the coast of North America who must simultaneously fight a zombie epidemic while trying to preserve their un-dead relatives and loved ones as they look for a cure (an odd concept to say the least). The film is the next in the long line of Zombie films from George A. Romero and is really just made for particular fans of the films, as there are no known actors or high profile production crew members on the film. For fans, you know what you are going to get with Romero. Check out the trailer.

Art-House Watch:

Mother and Child (Rodrigo Garcia) – Drama – May 7th [Limited]
The film is about three women, and how each of their lives is affected by adoption in some way. Director Rodrigo Garcia has an impressive resume, having worked as a writer on Six Feet Under and having developed the HBO series In Treatment. Shooting the film is cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet, who also worked on In Treatment. The film stars Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington, and features Samuel L. Jackson, Carla Gallo and David Morse in supporting roles. The film is likely to be typical indy fair, but may garner award mentions for Bening. Check out the trailer.

Casino Jack and the United State of Money (Alex Gibney) – Documentary – May 7th [LA/NY]
The documentary is about an investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies. There is also a feature film on the topic in the works staring Kevin Spacey called Casino Jack. Director Alex Gibney also did Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (which was excellent) and Taxi to the Dark Side, so this should be an interesting piece. Check out the trailer.

Holy Rollers (Kevin Asch) – Drama – May 21st [LA/NY]
The film is about a young man from Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community who is lured into becoming an Ecstasy dealer by a pal with ties to an Israel drug cartel. It is the feature debut for director Kevin Asch. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg and  co-stars hip hop artist Q-Tip, The Hangover’s Justin Bartha and Fringe’s Ari Graynor (among others). Based on the trailer, the film looks to be an interesting look at how money, corruption, sex, and the lifestyle that springs from being around those things (with a negative connotation) effects even someone unexpected. Check out the trailer.

Micmacs (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) – Comedy – May 28th [Limited]
The film is about an odd man and his odd friends that come up with an intricate and original plan to destroy two big weapons manufacturers. Director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, known for his quirky films (most famously Amelie), is back with French comedian Dany Boon in tow for a film that looks to resemble his earlier work, like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Sadly, Audrey Tautou and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (my favorite dp), collaborators on Jeunet’s last two films, are not part of the production, but production designer Aline Bonetto, editor Herve Schneid and writing partner Guillaume Laurant are back, and the also very talented Tetsuo Nagata shot the film.  Jeunet is one of the (if not the) best directors working today, his creative eye and imagination fill his films with wonder, and hopefully this will be no different. Check out the trailer.

Movie of the Week - The Squid and the Whale

This week’s movie is The Squid and the Whale (2005).

The film is about two young boys dealing with their parents’ divorce. The film takes place in Brooklyn in the 1980’s and is based on the childhood experience of director Noah Baumbach and his brother. The film was produced by Wes Anderson and has the same wit and feel to it as his films, but also feels separate as Baumbach’s piece and voice. Contributing to the Wes Anderson feel is the use of his D.P. Robert Yeoman. Anne Ross (who worked on Lost in Translation) does a great job with her production design to set the mood and environment for the characters. The film stars a great Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Laura Linney, Jeff Daniels (who is brilliant in it), and William Baldwin and Anna Paquin in supporting roles. What makes the film great is the dialog that Baumbach gives his characters – their banter is hilarious and witty – and the situations that the characters find themselves in, they feel both absurd and very real simultaneously. Check out the trailer.