Monday, August 30, 2010

At the Movies – September 2010

Must See in Theatres:

Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek) – Drama/Thriller – Sep 15 [limited]
The film is about three friends – Ruth, Kathy and Tommy. As children, they grew up in an almost utopian environment at an English boarding school. However, as they grow into adulthood they find themselves not only discovering new emerging feelings but also the harrowing truth that awaits them. It is based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel. Music video director Mark Romanek finally returns to feature films (his last being 2001’s One Hour Photo) after being attached to many projects that just never happened. This material is seemingly a perfect fit for the style of Romanek; and with a script from Alex Garland (wrote 28 Days Later… and Sunshine), this film is set to be a very good drama-thriller. Romanek has also assembled a good crew, one that augments both Romanek’s style and the tone of the piece, featuring production designer Mark Digby, composer Rachel Portman and cinematographer Adam Kimmel. The film also features a fantastic young cast with academy award nominees Cary Mulligan and Keira Knightley (whose work in this is being touted as worthy of a nod for the 2011 Oscars) and Andrew Garfield (the new Spider-Man, and 2010 breakout actor). Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins co-star in supporting roles. Never Let Me Go has all the ingredients to be an amazing film – check out the trailer.

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

The American (Anton Corbijn) – Drama – Sep 1
The film is about a seasoned assassin, Jack, who heads to Italy to escape his life and hide in the shadows – but budding relationships in his hideaway may leave him too exposed. Very talented director Anton Corbijn, also from a music video background, looks to have another critical success with this film, coming off of the highly praised Control. Corbijn has a good crew with him on the film with a screenplay based on Martin Booth’s novel by Rowan Joffe, a score from famous German rocker Herbert Gronemeyer, cinematography by Martin Ruhe (who also shot Control), and production design from Mark Digby (who got himself on two of the potential top three films, critically, this month). The main selling point for the film for audience members not familiar with Corbijn or Control is star and producer George Clooney, as the rest of the cast is unknown to US viewers. The American should blend action and drama well and have a thriller feel to it producing what will likely be a very good film – check out the trailer.

The Town (Ben Affleck) – Crime – Sep 17
The film is about a bank robber, Doug MacRay, who on an earlier heist took a hostage, a bank manager named Claire, but something different happened on that job. MacRay fell in love with his hostage, though she never saw his face. Now, he has a problem – he wants to court her despite the misgivings of his partner Jem and the fact that the FBI is after him and questioning this girl, his hostage. He must find a way to plan his next robbery, evade the FBI and address his feelings for Claire. Director Ben Affleck has a new challenge for his second feature – he is directing, producing and starring (and for those who see the name Ban Affleck and immediately think of his less than stellar films he has starred in or did not know he directs, rent Gone Baby Gone, his first directorial effort, and suddenly you will be excited to see this film too), and he co-wrote the screenplay based on Chuck Hogan’s novel with writing partner Aaron Stockard (the two also co-wrote Gone Baby Gone). Affleck has brought back Gone Baby Gone production designer Sharon Seymour and composer Harry Gregson-Williams to work on the film, while adding master cinematographer Robert Elswit to shoot it and composer David Buckley to also contribute to the score. The film boasts an excellent supporting cast with Jeremy Renner (hot off The Hurt Locker), Rebecca Hall, Chris Cooper, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Titus Welliver, and Jon Hamm (from the wonderful show Mad Men). The Town is a crime-drama at heart, but mixes in some romance and thriller aspects as well. It will surely be a very entertaining and engaging film – check out the trailer.

Good for Dates:

Heartbreaker (Pascal Chaumeil) – Romantic Comedy – Sep 10 [LA/NY]
The French film is about the talents of Alex Lippi. He and his sister run a business designed to break-up and destroy relationships, and Alex is the best. They are hired by a rich man to stop his daughter from getting married. The problem is that they only have a week, so Alex must work fast and pull out all the stops. TV director Pascal Chaumeil makes his feature debut with this film. He started on TV doing crime dramas but his last two shows were comedies, so he has experience in the genre. Joining him are composer Klaus Badelt (probably best known for scoring the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie), superb cinematographer Thierry Arbogast (a frequent collaborator of Luc Besson, it will be interesting to see his work on this and how it varies from his usual sci-fi or action thriller genre work) and relative newcomer production designer Herve Gallet. Romain Duris stars, making the film much more interesting as he usually does fabulous work (and is the reason this film is getting a US release). Vanessa Paradis and The Walking Dead’s star Andrew Lincoln co-star (among others). Heartbreaker should be a very funny film and Duris is perfect for the role of a man who destroys relationships by inserting himself – check out the trailer.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Woody Allen) – Romantic Comedy – Sep 22 [LA/NY]
The film is about a pair of married couples – Alfie and Helena and their daughter Sally and her husband Ron. Trouble starts when Alfie leaves Helena to pursue a younger woman under the guise of lost youth. Helena looses all rationality and starts to solely follow the advice of a questionable fortune teller. Sally develops a crush on a gallery owner, as uneasiness brews in her marriage, while her husband has a crush on a mysterious woman he sees through a nearby window. For the film, writer-director Woody Allen returns to England, where he made one of his best films of late – Match Point (and I also really liked Scoop; Cassandra’s Dream was decent too). Allen is working with cinematography legend Vilmos Zsigmond and production designer Jim Clay, both of whom have worked with Allen on previous films. The score, as usual, will be provided by found music selected by Allen. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Naomi Watts, and Josh Brolin, while principal supporting characters are played by Antonio BanderasFreida Pinto, Lucy Punch, and Roger Ashton-Griffiths. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is being compared to Vicky Cristina Barcelona by critics, though without quite the same allure –check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

Machete (Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez) – Action – Sep 3
The film is about an ex-Federale, simply known as Machete, who after being betrayed by the organization that hired him plots brutal revenge against his former boss (and why wouldn’t he – he is Machete). Writer-director Robert Rodriguez caters his film (the non-kids films at least) to his specific audience and this is certainly no different. Co-director Ethan Maniquis worked with Rodriguez as an editor in the past. The film is produced by Rodriguez and often partner in crime Quentin Tarantino. Known for shooting, cutting, directing and doing pretty much everything else himself, Rodriguez decided this time to hire action-movie composer John Debney, cinematographer Jimmy Lindsey (worked with Rodriguez many times in the past as a camera operator) and production designer Christopher Stull (who also worked with Rodriguez in the past in the art department; it is cool to see a director giving an opportunity for more responsibility to many of his frequent collaborators). The film stars Danny Trejo and as a great supporting cast including Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, and Michelle Rodriguez. There are also a bunch of famous stars that pop-up here and there throughout. Machete is not a film for everyone, but fans of Rodriguez are very excited to see Trejo go on a rampage with Rodriguez’s highly stylized violence – check out the trailer.

The film is about Alice and her continuous fight against both the Umbrella Corporation and legions of undead, victims of Umbrella Corp’s virus, as she tries to find a safe-haven for the dwindling number of uninfected survivors. Writer-director and producer Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the director’s chair in the series, having done the first, though he has had a creative say throughout, as he wrote and produced all four. Hopefully, Anderson directing can return the series to the caliber of the first film, as the last two were not very good at all. Composer tomandandy, cinematographer Glen MacPherson and Arvinder Grewal make up a decent action-movie crew (tomandandy in particular has been doing some really good work of late). However, it is the cast that makes this an interesting addition to the action genre. Lead by series star Milla Jovovich, the cast features female action stars Ali Larter, Spencer Locke and Sienna Guillory, as well as Kim Coates, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Boris Kodjoe, and Wentworth Miller. Resident Evil: Afterlife is the next in the ever pointless masquerade of 3-D films; however it was shot with the same cameras as James Cameron’s Avatar, so at least it will not just be terrible tacked-on 3-D. This action-horror film should be fun, but likely and ultimately just as unfulfilling as the last two in the series – check out the trailer.

The Virginity Hit (Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland) – Comedy – Sep 10
The film is about four guys and their experience documenting one of their friend’s journey as he tries to lose his virginity, which leads them places they never expected and tests their friendship. Co-directors Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland shot the film as a pseudo documentary; similar to another film they wrote The Last Exorcism. Backing them up are comedy veterans Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who are producing the film. The film’s cast is made up of relative unknowns keeping with the illusion, be its perceived, that the film is real. The Virginity Hit looks pretty funny and should make for a good Netflix rental, but it probably will struggle to generate too much box office business – check out the trailer.

Easy A (Will Gluck) – Comedy – Sep 17
The film is about Olive, a good student who never did anything wild, who decides that to increase both her social and financial standing she will pretend to sleep with nerdy guys from her school, only the plan does not go quite as well as she thought. Director Will Gluck’s first feature film, Fired Up!, was very funny and worked surprising well for its subject matter and intended audience, thus this should be no different (aka, though it is a teen comedy with no illusions of expected quality, it should be funny and stand out above the rest this year). TV composer Brad Segal, cinematographer Michael Grady and production designer Marcia Hinds make up the principal crew. Gluck is using Grady and Hinds again for his next film Friends with Benefits, so their work must have been good on this. The good young cast features lead Emma Stone, and supporting players Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Cam Gigandet, Alyson Michalka, and Dan Byrd. Gluck was also was able to bring together a great group of experienced actors to supplement the supporting cast, including – Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Stanley Tucci, and Fred Armisen. Easy A will be funny and should make for a good Netflix rental – check out the trailer.

Devil (Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle) – Horror – Sep 17
The film is about a group of people trapped in an elevator that realize that one of them is the devil (but which one!!!). M. Night Shyamalan seems to only direct terrible films (considering the last few), so for his latest story he decided to produce and hire the brothers, Drew and John Erick Dowdle, behind Quarantine to direct.  He also hired cinematographer Tak Fujimoto to shoot the film, having worked with him on a number of past films. The cast, while not made up of the most known actors, is fairly good with Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novakovic, Geoffrey Arend, Bokeem Woodbine, and Jenny O’Hara starring, and supporting work from Chris Messina, Matt Craven, Jacob Vargas, and Caroline Dhavernas (shameless Wonderfalls plug, but hey it is a great show, oh and she stars in it). Devil is being touted as a return to form for Shyamalan, as it is a good horror film with twists that support the narrative and add to the enjoyment (funny that he is not directing to have an actual good film) – check out the trailer.

The film is about Gordon Gekko, a disgraced financial maestro who is finally getting out of prison, and Jacob Moore, a young trader engaged to Gekko’s daughter. Gekko returns to the financial world to find that things have changed – now it is encouraged to do the types of things that he went to jail for, he must decide if he wants to return to his devious ways or lead a better life. Meanwhile, Moore must decide if the life of a trader is what he really wants. Oliver Stone revisits Wall Street with this film to comment on the recent and on-going financial meltdown. It will be interesting it see how Gekko, a character obsessed by greed and wealth, will act in the environment that led to the huge financial/real estate bubble. Stone needs a hit, as his last really good film was made in the 90’s. He has enlisted composer Craig Armstrong, very good cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and production designer Kristi Zea to aid in his vision for the world and tone of the film. Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen reprise their roles from the first film, while Stone has put together a great new group of actors – Shia LaBeouf (though, I think some of us are somewhat tired of him, Indy 4 was the killer for me), Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach, and Frank Langella. That is one thing about Stone that is true whether the film is good or bad – he is always able to assemble an interesting group of actors. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should be enjoyable, with some critics calling it even better than the original – check out the trailer.

You Again (Andy Fickman) – Comedy – Sep 24
The film is about a young woman, Marni, who realizes that her brother is about to marry her high school nemesis, Joanna, a girl that used to bully her. Now, Marni is on a mission to expose Joanna’s true colors and break-up the wedding. Director Andy Fickman does not have the best track record with his films – making really broad commercial uninteresting emotionally un-engaging family fair. And this looks to be no different. He has a good, not great principal crew with production designer Craig Stearns, cinematographer David Hennings and composer Nathan Wang. Star Kristen Bell’s involvement is both good and bad – she is awesome, but has an awful leading-role film-credit list (add another to the list with this, she was so good in Veronica Mars and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it is just too bad she cannot get better leading roles in film). The supporting cast does make this a little more interesting though as it features Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman, Betty White (who seems to be the hottest comic property right now), Kristin Chenoweth, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The cast is good enough to almost make You Again seem like it might be good (sure it will be somewhat funny, the cast is too good for it not to be, but a good movie… no way) – check out the trailer (and you will see why).

The film is about Soren, a young barn owl, who is kidnapped by the evil owls of St. Aggie’s, where they brainwashed their captives to be soldiers. Soren and his friends are able to escape to the island Ga’Hoole. There, they decide to join the wise noble owls would fight to stop the fiendish owls of St. Aggie’s. This seems like an odd film for director Zach Snyder’s next project, as it is nothing like his previous three films, not mention that the format and source material do not lend themselves to Snyder’s style of filmmaking. Australian composer David Hirschfelder will provide the sonic emotional backbone to the film. Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, and David Wenham make up the talented voice cast. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole looks well made, has a good voice cast and Zach Snyder has the capability to tell a good story (if he does not get too wrapped up in his own style) – and yet for some reason is completely uninteresting. Maybe it is having owls as the characters, but it is probably because it is just another of the same. While it is an original property, it seems completely overdone and tired as a film story – check out the trailer.

Buried (Rodrigo Cortes) – Thriller – Sep 24 [limited]
The film is about Paul, a US contractor working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis, he finds himself buried in a coffin with only a cell phone and lighter (the tag line is: 170,000 SQ miles of desert. 90 minutes of Oxygen. No way out.). Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes makes is stateside feature debut with the film featuring work from countrymen composer Victor Reyes and cinematographer Eduard Grau. Ryan Reynolds stars in the film, a challenging role since he is in a coffin almost the whole time. Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis and Erik Palladino co-star (Palladino is really good in Over There, check it out).  The film got a lot of buzz out of the San Diego Comic-Con and Sundance. The film is adored by critics who like thrillers. Buried is the must see thriller of the fall – check out the trailer.

Art-House Watch:

The Winning Season (James C. Strouse) – Comedy/Sports – Sep 3 [LA/NY]
The film is about a has-been coach, Bill, who is given a second chance to right his life when he is offered a chance to coach his local high school’s girls basketball team. Writer-director James C. Strouse’s first two scripts were a little too depressing and slow (he directed the second, Grace Is Gone). Hopefully, he can make a more engaging and entertaining comedy, as his dramas literally drain the viewer. Strouse’s aesthetic style looks really indy (the typical way a lot of independent films look, aka not glossy) and this looks no different as he has indy crew production designer Stephen Beatrice and cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco. The cast is really good with the very funny Sam Rockwell and Rob Corddry and young actresses ready to breakout Emma Roberts and Rooney Mara (who with roles in Fincher films The Social Network and a lead in the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has already got her breakout roles). Knowing Strouse, The Winning Season with play more like a Dramady than a comedy, but either way it looks to be quite good – check out the trailer.

I’m Still Here (Casey Affleck) – Documentary – Sep 10 [limited]
The film is about Joaquin Phoenix freaking out, quitting movies and becoming a rapper – is it real or is it all one big performance art piece? First-time director Casey Affleck and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka document the transformation. Interestingly, Phoenix is a producer on the film, but he has no new film roles in the works – so the question remains – is this serious or not? Either way, the film should be very entertaining, if Phoenix’s interview on David Letterman is any indication (video here). The documentary will feature a number of Phoenix’s rap performances. I’m Still Here is going to be funny, maybe sad, maybe innovative, but certainly captivating – check out the trailer.  

Jack Goes Boating (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – Drama – Sep 17 [limited]
The film is about a limo driver, Jack, who goes on a blind date, provoking a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and charm focusing on two NYC working-class couples. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this film, eliciting the help of indy cinematographer W. Mott Hupfel III. Hoffman has put together a good cast with himself, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, and Daphne Rubin-Vega. Hoffman, as an actor, is known for his very good character work, so it is no surprise that his first feature as a director would be character centric rather than about a happening. The film has been a huge success among critics, but will have a harder time garnering support from average film-goers. Jack Goes Boating should be a good character piece with Oscar potential for its actors – check out the trailer.    

Waiting for ‘Superman’ (Davis Guggenheim) – Documentary – Sep 24
The film is about the crumbling public education system in America – leave no child behind is failing. It was once one of the best in the world, now it is a disgrace. Documentary and fiction filmmaker Davis Guggenheim tries to bring the issue to the masses with his new film, as he did with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Talented composer Christophe Beck scores the film. Waiting for ‘Superman’ addresses an issue that needs to be brought to light for the average American and hopefully the film can help a system that so desperately needs it – check out the trailer.

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