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.

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