Monday, June 28, 2010

At the Movies – July 2010

Must See in Theatres:

Inception (Christopher Nolan) – Sci-Fi – Jul 16
The film is about a man whose job it is to steal secrets through dream invasion (and that is all you should know going in, I promise, it is better this way). There are a number of reasons why this is likely to be the best film of the summer and probably the year and therefore the must see of the year – first it is directed by Christopher Nolan, possibly the best working director today. Four of his last five films were Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight – beat that (the fifth, Insomnia is alright, by no means bad, the difference between this film and the others is Nolan did not write it, but still as the director he is responsible). Second the crew is amazing with editor Lee Smith, producer Emma Thomas, composer Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Wally Pfister, production designer Guy Dyas, and a script by Nolan, essentially the same team Nolan used for the last three films (minus Guy Dyas). And third the film has the best cast of any film this year (probably) – Leonardo DiCaprio stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page co-star and it features performances from Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas, Dileep Rao, and Talulah Riley. Nolan seems to get great people to be in his films. Plus, the film is projected to be a best picture nominee at the Oscars. Prepare to have your mind blown – check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

The film is about Bella who, graduating from high school soon, is forced to choose between her love for the vampire Edward and her friendship with the werewolf Jacob – whose clans are mortal enemies – all this while a string of mysterious murders sweeps Seattle. In an attempt by fans and/or studio executives to make the films more appealing to male viewers by increasing the action and grittiness (as young males make up a much bigger demographic of cinema goers historically), director David Slade, coming from a background in action-horror (30 Days of Night) and thrillers (Hard Candy), was brought in to make a more action packed Twilight film for men and women. However, Melissa Rosenberg (despite the fact that the first two films were not too great, she has done fantastic work on Dexter, leading one to wonder if the producers or directors are gumming up the creative works, or maybe the source material just does not translate well – but I think it is the former, even having never read the books) returns for the third time to script the adventure (if you can call it that). Joining Slade are series newcomers: wonderful composer Howard Shore and action production designer Paul D. Austerberry. Javier Aguirresarobe returns for the third time to shoot the film (some of his work in the series has been pretty good). And all the cast is back, well other than Rachelle Lefevre who was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard. Even with Inception, this has a good chance to be the highest grossing film of the month. Hopefully, this will be the best of the series to date (though that would not really be saying much). Check out the trailer.

The Last Airbender (M. Night Shyamalan) – Adventure – Jul 2
Based on the manga series (for which there is also a cartoon series), the film is about the adventures of Aang, the young and sole successor to the long line of Avatars who possess much power. Now faced with this power, he must forget his childhood games and face the serious threat from the Fire nation whose evil grip would enslave the Water, Earth and Air nations (OMG!!!). (Not knowing all too much about this myself, I wonder how many targeted viewers even know what this is or care?) The film is directed by M. Night Shyamalan (the one time golden-boy who only makes awful films now), who tackles source material for the first time, though he did solely adapt it for the cinema with an original story. The other big change for Shyamalan is that this film (as far as we know) is not predicated on the big surprise reveal at the end like all his other films. Shyamalan has assembled a good team to work with him on the film including: production designer Philip Messina, wonderful cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, composer James Newton Howard, and producing partners (and hit-makers) Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (so even if the movie is bad, at least it will look and sound good). The cast is filled with relatively unknowns, save Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire and the excellent Skins series) and Cliff Curtis (Sunshine and Three Kings), though younger viewers will recognize Jackson Rathbone from the Twilight films. (While I may have no faith in Shyamalan) This could be the return to form for the once great director (he made The Sixth Sense after all) or just another in the long line of subpar films he has put out over the last decade. Either way, it looks to be epic and probably will play well among young male viewers. Check out the trailer.

Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) – Animation – Jul 9
The film is about a trio of orphaned girls who are sent to live with a relative – who happens to by a criminal mastermind. The film marks the feature debut for both Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, however Renaud did work in the art/animation department on Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Horton Hears a Who!. Hans Zimmer will compose the score for the film. But it is the cast that makes this the most interesting and potentially awesome animated films of the summer (not made by Pixar). Steve Carell stars, and there are voice performances from Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Ken Jeong, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Jemaine Clement, and Julie Andrews – practically a who’s who of comedy. This is the first film from Illumination Entertainment and it looks to be a good start. The film should be very funny and sweet at the same time. Check out the trailer.

Predators (Nimrod Antal) – Action – Jul 9
This film is about a group of elite warriors who are transported to an alien planet so that they can be hunted by Predators (aka, The Most Dangerous Game – Predators edition). (Really the first question to ask about this film is did we really need a new Predator movie, if no: move on to the next film, if yes: continue) It is the third Hollywood film by director Nimrod Antal and is produced by Robert Rodriguez. The crew includes: gifted cinematographer Gyula Pados, first time production designer Caylah Eddleblute, but she worked in the art department on many previous Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino films, and Iron Man 2 composer John Debney (not my favorite). Headlining the cast are two very unlikely action stars Adrien Brody and Topher Grace – neither really brings to mind ‘elite warrior’, especially when compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers. But, the cast is nicely rounded off by Danny Trejo, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, and Walton Goggins (from The Shield). It is not like the Predator franchise as a whole has a high bar to live up to or anything, but still this does not look to be a great new addition, but it could surprise (at least me) and be a lot of fun, thrilling and make for a good summer film. Check out the trailer.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Jon Turteltaub) – Adventure – Jul 16
Based on Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s poem Der Zauberlehrling (or for many of us, the scene from Fantasia), the film is about a master sorcerer who recruits a seemingly everyday shlub to help him defend New York City from his arch-nemesis. The film is directed by Jon Turteltaub and reunites him with his National Treasure star, Nicholas Cage, for the third time. Initially, seeing Cage’s name in the credits would have been groan worthy, but after his great performance in Kick-Ass earlier in the year, maybe he can bring the same magic to this. Along with Cage, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci and Jay Baruchel star – making it a fairly solid cast (Cage and Baruchel should have some good moments sparring, and Molina does make a good villain). The crew features a decent D.P. and composer and an excellent production designer in Naomi Shohan, which is vital for a film like this to work well. The film will probably not be great or even good, but it should be a lot of fun and entertaining. Check out the trailer.

Salt (Phillip Noyce) – Action – Jul 23
The film is about a CIA officer who is accused of being a Russian spy by a defector and must now go on the run. Directed by action-thriller specialist Phillip Noyce and written by genre pro Kurt Wimmer, the film has a good pedigree to be a fine summer action packed thrill ride (just to get the summer blockbuster lingo out of the way). To go along with the action heavy-hitters, James Newton Howard (worked on The Dark Knight) is composing, Robert Elswit, a fantastic cinematographer, is shooting and J.J. Abrams’s production designer Scott Chambliss is making the sets look cool. Following the actioner motif, the film stars Angelina Jolie, but for the two principal supporting roles Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor were cast, not really action stars themselves, though they have been in films with action, they do however add a lot of acting talent to the film (especially Ejiofor, one of the best working today). Originally the film was written for Tom Cruise, but he backed out and the script was reworked for Jolie. All parts together, the film looks to have a lot of potential, though the trailer is a bit generic. There is too much action talent here for the film to not make for an entertaining genre piece for fans. Check out the trailer.

Dinner for Schmucks (Jay Roach) – Comedy – Jul 30
Based on the French film The Dinner Game, this is about an executive trying to get a promotion who must find the craziest, most goofy dinner guest he can to bring to his company’s annual dinner competition – his career may depend on it. The only real comedy comedy of the month, the film is directed by genre veteran Jay Roach, who did the Austin Powers trilogy, the first two Meet the Parents films and the very good Recount. Roach enlisted skilled cinematographer Jim Denault and production designer Michael Corenblith to make the film visually interesting. But really, what matters here is who is in it – and this one has some great comic talent including: Kristen Schaal (The Flight of the Conchords), David Walliams (Little Britain), Andrea Savage (Step Brothers), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), and Jemaine Clement (also The Flight of the Conchords) in support, while comedy geniuses Steve Carell and Paul Rudd start. Lucy Punch, Bruce Greenwood and Ron Livingston (awesome) also co-star. So much comedy in one place, it is hard to imagine this not being funny. If there is one blemish on the film, it is the fact that the principal screenplay was turned in by David Guion and Michael Handelman, whose last script was The Ex, which was awful. But with director/producer Roach leading the way and all the talent in front of the camera, this will likely turn out well. Check out the trailer.

Charlie St. Cloud (Burr Steers) – Drama – Jul 30
The film is about a young man so overwhelmed with grief at the death of his younger brother that he takes a caretaker job at the cemetery his brother is buried. The good part is the film is directed by Burr Steers who made Igby Goes Down, the bad news is he also made 17 Again, and that was his latest and it also starred Zac Efron (so 2 to 1 negative…). Joining Efron (aka, I took this movie in a bid to be a serious actor) in this (seemingly depressing) film is Amada Crew, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger, and Donal Logue, not really a cast that screams ‘see this film’. The film’s primary crew is also an odd bunch to be working together with mostly rom-com composer Rolfe Kent, indy cinematographer Enrique Chediak and action production designer Ida Random. But hey, maybe it will all work out. Burr Steers has made a very good film in the past, and has done good work on TV. It is also a little strange that Universal is releasing this during the summer, maybe they think it is good counter blockbuster programming, or they see Zac Efron and see dollars signs regardless of the project. Check out the trailer.

Art-House Watch:

Love Ranch (Taylor Hackford) – Drama – Jul 2
The film is about a married couple who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada. The director of Ray is back, Taylor Hackford, and he’s brought Joe Pesci out of retirement and Helen Mirren with him to make this film. Additionally, the film features performances from Bryan Craston, Scout Taylor-Compton, Gina Gershon, Ling Bai, M.C. Gainey, Taryn Manning, Rick Gomez, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta (all in all a good group, especially Cranston – p.s. go watch Breaking Bad). The cast and logline alone make this worth seeing at some point, be it in the cinema or at home. Check out the trailer.

The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko) – Drama – Jul 9 [limited]
The film is about a family with two lesbian mothers each inseminated by the same donor sperm producing a girl and a boy. Now grown up, both kids seek to get to know their donor father, much to the dismay of their mothers. The film is a performance driven piece by Lisa Cholodenko, much like her last feature. She also co-wrote the script. Being that the film lives and breathes with its characters, the cast is important – and this film has a great one. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play the mothers, Mia Wasikowska (a projected breakout actor for 2010) and Josh Hutcherson the kids and Mark Ruffalo the dad (well done casting). The crew behind the camera is not great in name, but has done good work, while the score will feature original music by Carter Burwell, among others. The film was a little polarizing in its festival tour, but most viewers seem to love it. Check out the trailer.

Get Low (Aaron Schneider) – Drama – Jul 30 [limited]
The film is about a mysterious Tennessee hermit who had a funeral party for himself while he was still alive in the 1930s. Aaron Schneider’s feature film debut is a mix of folk-tale and real-life legend combining elements of comedy and drama. To help him out on his first film he has enlisted Oscar-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and gifted TV cinematographer David Boyd (he worked on Firefly, Deadwood and Friday Night Lights). Schneider also put together quite a good cast with Robert Duvall staring and Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, Gerald McRaney, and Bill Cobbs supporting. The film has garnered lots of positive buzz through its festival tour and Duvall is being considered an early contender for a best acting Oscar. Check out the trailer.

Twelve (Joel Schumacher) – Drama – Jul 30 [limited]
The film is about a young drug dealer whose high-rolling life is destroyed in the wake of his cousin’s murder, as his best friend is suspected of committing the crime. The film is directed by Joel Schumacher (yup, the same dude that brought you the myriad of awful films – yet he sneaks in a decent one here and there like Falling Down and Veronica Guerin) and features work by a fairly low-budget crew, aside for a score from Harry Gregson-Williams (maybe they saved all the money to pay Kiefer Sutherland to give his voice to the film but not really be in it…again). Starring Chace Crawford, the film has a decent supporting cast (and also 50 Cent) including: Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin and Ellen Barkin. The film got fairly positive buzz out of Sundance (but maybe that was relative to the other films in the Schumacher catalogue) and should make for decent counter summer cinema going. Check out the trailer.

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