Thursday, June 3, 2010

At the Movies – June 2010

Must See in Theatres:

Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich) – Animation – Jun 18th
The film is the third in the Toy Story series (obviously, unless the ‘3’ is a trick or ploy?) and focuses on Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys as they deal with Andy leaving for college and them being dumped in a day-care center. Just like Toy Story 2, the film has some new great characters and voice-actors: Bookworm voiced by Richard Kind, Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear voiced by Ned Beatty, Mr. Pricklepants voiced by Timothy Dalton, Stretch the Octopus voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, Trixie voiced by Kristen Schaal (from Flight of the Conchords), Dolly voiced by Bonnie Hunt, and Ken voiced by Michael Keaton, among others. Along with these new characters, all the favorites return from the series (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack are all back). The director Lee Unkrich makes his solo directorial debut, but he did co-direct the Pixar films Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2, so he has quite a strong background in good storytelling, in addition he worked as an editor on these and other Pixar films. The screenwriter Michael Arndt also has an interesting background, having previously written Little Miss Sunshine. It will be interesting to see how much of his voice finds its way into the story (his mix of sarcasm and depression in comedy – things not often found in films aimed at children, but Pixar does generally have a broader appeal). Pixar has a great track record and this is likely to be another wonderful film from them. Check out the trailer.

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

Get Him to the Greek (Nicholas Stoller) – Comedy – Jun 4th
The film is about a record company intern who must get rock legend, Aldous Snow, to a concert at L.A.’s Greek Theatre. The problem is, Snow is in London and seemingly has no intention of making it to the show – basically it is a wacky road trip comedy. This movie is worth checking out due to who is involved. Director Nicholas Stoller’s last movie was Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was brilliant (of course Jason Segel is not in this, nor did write the script this time, but…) Stroller is filling in for Segel this time writing the script, though based on interviews it sounds like a lot of the film is improvised comedy. Stroller has a good comedy writing background having worked on Judd Apatow’s Undeclared (Apatow is also producing this). Stroller has also brought back Forgetting Sarah Marshall composer Lyle Workman to score the film and hired (awesome) cinematographer Robert Yeoman to shoot it.  The film will also feature a number of music and star cameos (check the credits if you want to be spoiled). The film also has an excellent cast, starring Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, and featuring Rose Byrne, (Mad Men’s) Elisabeth Moss, Aziz Ansari, Colm Meaney, and Sean Combs. The film has the potential to be the best comedy of the summer (or at least in the top three). Check out the trailer.

The A-Team (Joe Carnahan) – Action – Jun 11th
Based on the TV series of the same name, the film is about a group of Iraq War veterans who look to clear their names with the U.S. Military, having been framed. Director Joe Carnahan has made both a silly and outrageous action film in Smoking Aces and a crime drama thriller in Narc, so he has the tools to make a sold action thriller (I just hope it is more Narc than Smoking Aces). Carnahan also worked on the screenplay. Cinematographer Mauro Fiore is shooting the movie, which is a big plus as his last two movies were Avatar and The Kingdom. So the movie is going to have good action and look great. Another plus is that the film is being produced by action veterans Ridley and Tony Scott. The film also boasts a fantastic cast, Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley (from District 9), and Quinto ‘Rampage’ Jackson play the A-Team, while Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson co-star. Original members of the A-Team, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz, also appear in the film (too bad no Mr. T). The film looks to be a good mix of humor and outlandish action (something we come to expect from this type of blockbuster) and should be a fun time at the cinema. Check out the trailer.

Good for Dates:

Killers (Robert Luketic) – Romantic Comedy – Jun 4th
The film is about a vacationing woman who meets the man of her dreams and they swiftly get married; only she does not know about his past. As they settle into their married life, his past suddenly and dangerously comes crashing back into their lives (this logline could really go any number of ways, but here they have rolled rom-com). Katherine Heigl reunites with her The Ugly Truth director, Luketic, for the film (is that a good thing?) and Ashton Kutcher is along for the ride this time and is producing. The movie looks a bit like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, only somewhat different, but the trailer definitely gives the same sort of vibe; although, Luketic has no experience shooting action sequences (but you have to learn sometime). The film has a good crew with Missy Stewart’s production design, Russell Carpenter’s camera and lighting and Rolfe Kent’s score. Along with Heigl and Kutcher, the film features Tom Selleck (which is probably awesome in a Mr. Baseball sort of way), Catherine O’Hara, Alex Borstein, and Rob Riggle. The film will probably be really generic and predictable, but sometimes that is the type of movie people like to see and will be good counter programming to all the action films (oh wait, this has action in it too, never mind). Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

Marmaduke (Tom Dey) – Comedy – Jun 4th
The family film is about a suburban family that moves to a new neighborhood with their Great Dane, who seems to wreak havoc obliviously (basically it is like the producers saw Marley & Me and thought, hmmm, where can we get a film like that, saw the Marmaduke comic and poof, this film was made, it even has Owen Wilson in it). The film’s strength is in its live-action and voice cast, as it is pretty solid. Judy Greer, Lee Pace and William H. Macy star in the film, while Emma Stone, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kiefer Sutherland, Sam Elliot, Steve Coogan, George Lopez, and Stacy Ferguson voice characters, and Owen Wilson voices the main character. Director Tom Dey has a fairly good background in comedy, though this seems to be the lightest of his four films. Hopefully a good cast will carry the film and make it enjoyable. Check out the trailer.

Splice (Vincenzo Natali) – Horror – Jun 4th
The film is about two young ambitious yet rebellious scientists who defy legal and ethical borders and experiment splicing human and animal DNA resulting in a new organism. Director Vincenzo Natali comes from a background of small sci-fi thrillers so this is right in his wheelhouse (so to speak). The film stars Adrien Brody (the first of his two ‘What is he doing in this’ films of the summer, the other being Predators) and Sarah Polley. Natali has a good team working with him on the film: cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata, who should elevate the visual style and aesthetics of the film, production designer Todd Cherniawsky, who has a strong background in set design, and producers Joel Silver and Guillermo del Toro, both of whom bring their own set of skills. The film also tested well among viewers at screenings. The film should be a strong entry in the horror/thriller genre for the summer based on the production team. Check out the trailer.

The Karate Kid (Harald Zwart) – Action – Jun 11th
The remake of the 1984 film is about a single mother and her son who move to China for a new work opportunity. The son is teased and picked on in school and thus embraces kung fu first as a way to fit in and survive, but later as a meaningful part of his life taught to him by a master in the art (essentially it is the same as the original movie). Director Harald Zwart does not have the best track record as a director, thus this film will have to live on its performances and story. It is screenwriter Christopher Murphy’s first produced script, so his success as a writer has yet to be determined. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Jackie Chan (is anyone really surprised by this…did not think so) and Jaden Smith. The good part about Smith starring in this, his parents Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are producing and they have brought fantastic composer James Horner, cinematographer Roger Pratt and production designer Francois Seguin to the project (if only they could have hired a good director too) and Jackie Chan brought in one of his great stunt chorographers Gang Wu. Maybe all these great technical people can elevate the film. For many this is just another film (remake) that just did not need to be made (revisited), but it should serve as a decent kid’s film. Check out the trailer.

Jonah Hex (Jimmy Hayward) – Action – Jun 18th
Based on the comic, the film is about a bounty hunter, who has one foot in the grave and one in the world of the living giving him supernatural abilities, that the U.S. military makes a deal with: his freedom if he can stop a terrorist bent on unleashing Hell on Earth. The directing-writing collaboration on this film is an odd one. Director Jimmy Hayward has his background solely in animation (Pixar films as an animator, and directed Horton Hears a Who! for Fox Animation – all films aimed at younger viewers), while screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor specialize in absurdist overly crude action films (aka Crank). It will be interesting to see how this collaboration plays out. However, the good news is that Hayward definitely has a good visual eye (which is always a great bonus in film). The film has a good production team with producer Akiva Goldsman who has a strong background in sci-fi and action thrillers, composer John Powell who is know for his work on Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films and cinematographer Mitchell Amudsen who shot Transformers and other big action pictures. The highlight of this film however is the cast and the fact that it is a western action thriller (there really are not enough westerns these days). The cast boasts a very strong supporting cast with John Malkovich, Will Arnet, Michael Fassbender, Thomas Lennon, Michael Shannon (everyone should see his performance in Revolutionary Road), and Lance Reddick (from The Wire). There has also been a lot made about Megan Fox co-starring as a prostitute. Josh Brolin stars as Johan Hex and is a good choice to carry the film and, as seen in No Country for Old Men, is quite good in the western genre. The film should be interesting to say the least (be it good or bad) based on all involved. Check out the trailer.

Grown Ups (Dennis Dugan) – Comedy – Jun 25th
The film is about five high school friends who reunite over the fourth of July holiday weekend. Everything about the film seems to have nostalgia for 90s’ comedies. It is directed by comedy veteran Dennis Dugan who made the films Problem Child, Happy Gilmore, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Big Daddy over the decade, co-written by Fred Wolf who wrote Black Sheep and Dirty Work over the decade, along with working on SNL and stars Adam Sandler (who also co-wrote the film), Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Kevin James (who does not fit the 90s’ nostalgia, but I imagine this would be Chris Farley if he were still living). These actors were all (minus James) at the top of their game and fame in the 90s’ making most of the best comedies of the decade (The Wedding Singer, CB4, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Tommy Boy, at least they were good at the time). Joining these comedic legends is a very good cast including Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Steve Buscemi, Mari Bello, Jamie Chung, Tim Meadows (The Ladies Man), and Norm MacDonald (awesome, he really needs to be in more stuff). The cast alone is a good enough reason to see this. It is hard to imagine this film not being funny and entertaining, especially for fans of the actors’ many 90’s comedies. Check out the trailer.

Knight and Day (James Mangold) – Action – Jun 25th
The film is an action-comedy about a secret agent who goes on a blind date with an unlucky-in-love woman and ends up pulling her into an adventure around the world to protect the key to an infinite power source, but not all is what it seems. The first thought about this movie, based on the two main actors and action spy type movie that it is, is ‘blah, not another one of these movies with these people’. And in most cases this would probably be a sound observation, but here there are a few things to like, even in a action-comedy spy movie starring Tom Cruise (though, remember that Mission: Impossible III was pretty great) and Cameron Diaz. First, it has a good director – James Mangold’s last two films were the very entertaining 3:10 to Yuma and the strong performance based Walk the Line. There is a strong production team backing Mangold up, including: composer John Powell (also scoring this month’s Johan Hex), talented cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (who shot Mangold’s last to pictures) and production designer Andrew Menzies (who worked in the art department on Avatar, Munich and X-Men). Plus, the supporting cast is pretty good too with Paul Dano, Maggie Grace, Viola Davis, and Peter Sarsgaard. The movie at the very least should a fun exciting time (the trailer makes it out to look as much) and while probably in the same cinematic vein as The A-Team (and likely not as good or as fun) it should turn out to be better than the ‘blah’ people expect it to be. Check out the trailer.

Art-House Watch:

Ondine (Neil Jordan) – Drama – Jun 4th (limited)
The film (aka, darker independent Irish Splash) is about an Irish fisherman who discovers a young woman in his fishing net and believes that she might be a mermaid (cause that is the first rational thought that comes to mind). The film is by veteran writer-director Neil Jordan (who generally makes quality work, highlighted by The Crying Game, though I always liked High Spirits, but mainly because of Peter O’Toole in the film and the silliness of it all). The film stars Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Dervla Kirwan, and newcomer Alison Barry. The film should also look great with Christopher Doyle shooting it (he is known as Kar Wai Wong’s D.P.) and production design by Anna Rackard who does good work in the locale. It looks to be a nice Irish fairytale and it did well in the UK and was nominated and won a number of Irish Film and Television Awards. Check out the trailer.

I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino) – Drama – Jun 18th (limited)
The Italian film is about a tragic love story set against the turn of the millennium in Milan. It chronicles the fall of the haute bourgeoisie due to the forces of passion and unconditional love. The film is touted as a tour de force performance by actress Tilda Swinton and has received international recognition. The film looks to be a visceral experience of passion, color and emotion, director Guadagnino talking full advantage of having cinematographer Yorick Le Saux and production designer Francesca Balestra Di Mottola (who trained under Aline Bonetto on A Very Long Engagement, talk about learning from the best with that film’s production team and director) on the picture. Check out the trailer.

Cyrus (Jay & Mark Duplass) – Comedy – Jun 18th (limited)
The film is about a recently divorced man who meets the woman of his dreams, only then he met her son who still lives at home. The film has received a lot of indy recognition (film version of street cred) due to cult comedy directing brothers Jay & Mark Duplass writing and directing the film (their better known films, which are still not that well know, are Baghead and The Puffy Chair). The film also did well among fans and critics at Sundance and the SXSW film festivals. It stars John C. Reilly (first you shake it then you bake it), Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and Catherine Keener (not a bad cast at all, some might it even call it a great cast for the project). Reilly and Hill’s work together is likely to be hysterical. Oddly, however, the film’s producer is Michael Costigan, who works mainly with Ridley Scott, but has ventured into comedy before with Smart People. The film is supposed to be a riot. Check out the trailer.

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