Wednesday, December 1, 2010

At the Movies – December 2010 – Part 2: Hollywood Films

Romance and Rom-Coms:

How Do You Know (James L. Brooks) – Romantic Comedy – Dec 17th
The film is about Lisa, a former athlete who feels past her prime and unsure what to do with her life or where she fits in among those with ‘normal’ plans. She finds herself in the middle of a love triangle with an old friend, who is in the midst of a personal crisis, and her current boyfriend, a player with the Nationals. Writer-director James L. Brooks makes good films, usually. He has three Oscars and nominated for five more. But his last film, Spanglish was a disappointment.  Brooks has a fantastic crew on the film with composer Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (he shot Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List) and production designer Jeannie Oppewell. The cast is also great with Reese Witherspoon starring, Paul Rudd (who is genius) and Owen Wilson co-starring and Jack Nicholson headlining a supporting cast that also features Andrew Wilson, Kathryn Hahn and Domenick Lombardozzi (from The Wire) to name a few. This film has a lot of potential to not only be the best Rom-Com of 2010 (not so hard a feat, really) but also an Oscar contender (though there is so much good stuff, it is on the outside looking in). Check out the trailer.

Serious Films:

The film is about Frank, an American tourist visiting Italy to get past a recent heartbreak, who gets wrapped up in an escalating series of events after meeting Elise (who seems to be a spy). The discussion of writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck beings with his first (and previous) film The Lives of Others, which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2007 and is among many critics’ lists for best films of the year and decade. Thus, he comes into this project with a ton of expectations. Well, for his first Hollywood film he definitely put together a good crew with great cinematographer John Seale and composer James Newton Howard and good production designer Jon Hutman. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes also worked on the screenplay. He also has two of the biggest A-listers to star – Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. The supporting cast is not too shabby either with Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, and Rufus Sewell. The film looks to be a lot fun – and why not, Jolie is an action star and Depp’s quirkiness brings humor to the film – but should also make for a very good thriller. Check out the trailer.

The Tempest (Julie Taymor) – Comedy – Dec 10th
The film is a reimagining of William Shakespeare’s play by visionary director (of stage and screen) Julie Taymor (the term visionary gets hollowly tossed around a lot in film media and marketing, but like it or hate it Taymor’s work is out there – pushing the boundaries of her work visually). She is working again with her Across the Universe composer Elliot Goldenthal and production designer Mark Friedberg, while working with cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh for the first time. The cast is fairly interesting with Helen Mirren playing the lead (a man in the play) and a great list of supporting players: Russell Brand, Alfred Molina (who is always good), Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, Djimon Hounsou, and Felicity Jones (who got on my actors to watch list with her performance in Cemetery Junction earlier this year). The film will be a visual feast (and I am interested to see how Taymor interprets one of my favorite plays). Check out the trailer.

The Company Men (John Wells) – Drama – Dec 10th
The film is about America and the affect of the recession on three men, trying to survive corporate downsizing. It focuses on the men, their families and their communities. TV writer (ER and The West Wing primarily) John Wells makes his directorial feature debut with this film. And he has a great crew for his first with excellent cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer David J. Bomba. The film co-stars Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper. Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kevin Costner, and (Kings’ wonderful) Eamonn Walker highlight the supporting players in a great cast. The film fits the mood in America well, much like last year’s Up in the Air, and therefore should connect with audiences. The buzz has been positive from the festival circuit, but not quite Oscar caliber. Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

The Warrior’s Way (Sngmoo Lee) – Action – Dec 3rd
The film is about a warrior-assassin, who comes to the American badlands to escape the tyranny of his home country, rescuing the target of his last mission and thus becoming the target himself. Writer-director Sngmoo Lee makes his debut with this film. Very good and often collaborator of Guillermo del Toro composer Javier Navarrete is scoring the film, Woo-hyung Kim is shooting it and Dan Hennah is designing it (he worked in the art department on The Lord of the Rings films). Korean action star Dong-gun Jang takes the lead role while there is supporting work from Kate Bosworth and very good actors Danny Huston and Geoffrey Rush. The film looks ridiculous, but should be entertaining for martial-arts and action fans. Check out the trailer.

The film is the third in The Chronicles of Narnia series. It focuses on Lucy and Edmund as they return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace to meet up with Prince Caspian to embark on a journey on the royal ship The Dawn Treader. Director Michael Apted has made a lot of films and in every genre. He seems like a good fit for this franchise. Apted enlisted very good cinematographer Dante Spinotti, production designer Barry Robison and composer David Arnold (who has done memorable work on Casino Royale and Hot Fuzz). The film stars rising-star Ben Barnes and series regulars Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley. Will Poulter (who made his debut in Son of Ranbow) joins the series. The film will have supporting performances from Tilda Swinton (probably the best part of the series), Liam Neeson, (Legend of the Seeker’s) Bruce Spence, and Simon Pegg (who is replacing Eddie Izzard in his voice-role). The film does not look overly interesting (but, I am not the intended audience). However Prince Caspian was an infinitely better film than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, maybe this will be another step up? Check out the trailer.

TRON: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski) – Action – Dec 17th
The film is the sequel to TRON (though, I imagine most people know that). It is about Sam Flynn, the son of the first film’s star Kevin Flynn. His father disappeared years ago, but one night Sam gets a message to go to his father’s old arcade. Once there, he finds himself transported to the virtual-world that took his father all those years ago. Now, he must fight the Master Control Program. The film is director Joseph Kosinski’s debut. Kosinski has a great crew for the film with cinematographer Claudio Miranda (whose work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was outstanding), former illustrator turned production designer Darren Gilford and the much buzzed about Daft Punk scoring the film. Garrett Hedlund stars, while the film has a really good supporting cast with Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen, (one of the original film’s stars) Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain (who is great in The Tudors), and Beau Garrett. This is undoubtedly the biggest and probably most anticipated film of the month, and well worth seeing in theaters for the visuals (assuming you are seeing this at all). The original does not hold up amazingly well, but for those who have not seen it, check it out, but probably not a must. Check out the trailer.

Yogi Bear (Eric Brevig) – Comedy – Dec 17th
The film is about the shenanigans of Jellystone Park’s most famous bears – Yogi and Boo-Boo. Director Eric Brevig comes from a visual effects background (overly evidenced from his first feature Journey to the Center of the Earth). The film has an ok crew with composer John Debney, cinematographer Peter James and production designer David Sandefur (but does this film really need an excellent crew…). Tom Cavanagh and Anna Faris feature as the film’s live-action stars and Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake and Christine Taylor supply the voice performances. On paper it is a great comedic cast (but I am not holding my breath for comedy gold). I realize this is a movie for kids, but it really does not look too good. Check out the trailer.

Little Fockers (Paul Weitz) – Comedy – Dec 22nd
The film is the third in the series, this time focusing on the Fockers, now with kids and the grandparents coming to visit. Paul Weitz has directed some good films (namely About a Boy) co-directing with his brother Chris and some bad films (specifically the last two films he has made) directing alone. But John Hamburg, who wrote and directed the very funny I Love You, Man, worked on the screenplay, and  Weitz has a very good crew including superb cinematographer Remi Adefarasin, composer Stephen Trask and production designer William Arnold. Everyone from the first two films is back, headlined by Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. Joining the cast are Jessica Alba, Harvey Keitel, Rob Huebel, and Laura Dern. The film looks to be a lot of the same, but that is what the fans want (right?), as the last two were fairly funny films (but I will just rent this one). Check out the trailer.

Gulliver’s Travels (Rob Letterman) – Adventure – Dec 22nd
The film is about Gulliver, a travel writer who takes an assignment in Bermuda. The trip does not go quite as he planned when he finds himself, awaking from a storm, on the island of Liliput – where he towers over its tiny inhabitants (like waking up to find yourself trapped by Playmobil people). Director Rob Letterman makes his live-action debut, and the project seems like a good fit coming off Monsters vs. Aliens. Nicholas Stroller (writer-director of Get Him to the Greek) worked on the script, while Letterman has Hans Zimmer’s protégé of sorts Henry Jackman scoring, David Tattersall shooting (he specializes in action) and Gavin Bocquet designing the film (he has a background in epic sets working with George Lucus). The film stars Jack Black and features Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, T.J. Miller, and (two of my favorites) Emily Blunt and Jason Segel. The film looks to be entertaining, and with all its comedic talent it probably will be. Check out the trailer.

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