Thursday, March 31, 2011

At the Movies – April 2011 – Part 2: Hollywood Films

Romance and Rom-Coms:

Prom (Joe Nussbaum) – Romance – Apr 29
The film is about a group of teens who get ready from their high school prom. Disney seems to be trying to make a fiction film that plays like a documentary with unknown actors trying to tap into the youtube/facebook/twitter culture of today’s youth. It should be interesting to see how this does, both commercially and critically (I suspect not well on either front). Director Joe Nussbaum has a background in making teen films that are not very good and have really no appeal outside their specific demographic (and this looks to be in the same vein). He has a decent crew that fits the genre well with composer Deborah Lurie, cinematographer Byron Shah and production designer Mark White (who did really good work on last year’s Winter’s Bone). The cast is comprised of unknown actors, though Aimee Teegarden is ready to breakout, maybe this will be the film to do it? It looks ok, probably a lot more enticing for teens. Check out the trailer.

Serious Films:

Water for Elephants (Francis Lawrence) – Drama – Apr 22
The film is about a young veterinary student who abandons his studies after his parents are killed. Utilizing his skills, he joins a travelling circus as their vet but finds himself in a dangerous game when he falls for the ringleader’s beautiful wife. Director Francis Lawrence has done some very good work in the past (I Am Legend was good, but I am particularly thinking of his work on the series Kings, which was excellent). This film is different than his past feature work, both tonally and genre wise. He has a very good crew with production designer Jack Fisk (There Will Be Blood), cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Babel) and composer James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight). I am a bit mixed on the cast however. Excellent actors Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, James Frain, Hal Holbrook, and Paul Schneider are featured in supporting roles, but the film stars Robert Pattinson, who I am not sold on yet (the terribleness of Twilight and its sequels having a lot to do with this). Another actor in the lead would make me a lot more interested in this, but maybe this will be his acting breakout performance. The film looks to be a good drama with great aesthetics, and I expect nothing less from the people involved behind the camera. Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

HOP (Tim Hill) – Animation/Comedy – Apr 1
The film is about the Easter Bunny and the man who accidentally injures him, now having to take him into his home. Once there, Fred realizes that the Easter Bunny is just about the worst house-guest in the world. Both will have to learn to grow up and work together in order to save Easter (oh yeah, and Universal Pictures says that the film blends state-of-the-art animation with live action, sort of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so that is probably cool). Director Tim Hill seems like a good choice for an animation/live action crossover film as he made Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties and Alvin and the Chipmunks (both similar animation live action films). He also brings his Alvin and the Chipmunks crew to the film with composer Christopher Lennertz, cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister and production designer Richard Holland (who also did art for Who Framed Roger Rabbit). The film has a good cast with James Marsden and Russell Brand (who is voicing the Easter Bunny) starring and featuring The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco, Hugh Laurie and Elizabeth Perkins in support. It looks like a fun family film (though neither Garfield 2 nor Alvin in the Chipmunks had much appeal for adults). Check out the trailer.

Arthur (Jason Winer) – Comedy – Apr 8
A remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy, the film is about a drunken playboy who has had everything he has every wanted and worked for none of it. When he falls in love with a woman his family does not approve of, he stand to lose his wealthy inheritance if he does not marry the girl his mother has chosen for him (who is not the same as the girl he likes). This film marks director Jason Winer’s feature debut, however he has a strong background in TV comedies (having directed 13 episodes of Modern Family among other things). The film’s crew has a good comedy resume with composer Theodore Shapiro, great D.P. Uta Briesewitz (who also shot a lot of The Wire) and production designer Sarah Knowles. The cast has a lot of comedic potential, as Russell Brand stars (his second film to come out in as many weeks) with supporting players Greta Gerwig (awesome), Jennifer Garner, Helen Mirren (also awesome), Nick Nolte (who can bring the crazy), and Luis Guzman (who certainly has his brilliant comedy moments). The film looks very silly, which can lead to hilarity or terribleness or both. Check out the trailer.

Rio (Carlos Saldanha) – Animation – Apr 15
The film is about a domesticated macaw named Blu from a small town in Minnesota. When he is brought to Rio de Janeiro to propagate the dwindling species, he meets the fiercely independent Jewel (who is not overly impressed). The two take flight on an adventure in which Blu finds what it is like to really live as a bird and that he is in love with Jewel. DreamWorks is going to the well a bit with the director and crew, as Carlos Saldanha directed four previous films for their animation department, composer John Powell scored Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon (for which he received an Oscar nod) and art designer  Claude-William Trebutien worked on Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. To give the film more of a local vibe, Brazilian cinematographer Renato Falcao was brought in. The film stars Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg with additional voice work from Leslie Mann, Will.i.Am, Jamie Foxx, Rodrigo Santoro, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, and Tracy Morgan (among others), which is a good mix and features a lot of funny people. It looks to be a good kid’s movie, but not as good as their big hit among kids and adults alike last year: How to Train Your Dragon. Check out the trailer.

Fast Five (Justin Lin) – Action – Apr 29
The film is about the Fast and Furious gang getting back together to pull off one last big job in order to gain their freedom. However, now they have two dangerous men on their trail: a corrupt businessman who wants nothing more than to see them dead and a federal agent who will stop at nothing to bring them down. Director Justin Lin made the last two films in the series (neither particularly good, but he also recently directed the Community episode Modern Warfare which was amazing), seemingly making him the logical choice for this one (though, some fresh directing talent might have been a good idea too). He has a good action crew on the film with composer Brian Tyler, cinematographer Stephen F. Windon (he shot Tokyo Drift) and production designer Peter Wenham (Wenham and Tyler both worked on this year’s Battle: LA). All the cast members (pretty much) from the series are in the film: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, and Ludacris (who was funny in this year’s No Strings Attached), as well as some cool new cast members: Dwayne Johnson (The People’s Champ), Elsa Pataky and Joaquim de Almeida. The film looks a lot like the others in the series. If you liked them, you probably will like this (and vice versa). Check out the trailer. Review.


Insidious (James Wan) – Horror/Thriller – Apr 1
The film is about a family who try desperately to stop spirits from trapping their comatose son in a realm called The Further. Director James Wan has built up quite a reputation in the genre coming off the films Saw and Dead Silence, though this is not supposed to be a gory (on a side note the title makes me think of this speech from Red Faction II… it is awesome). He has a good genre crew on the film with composer Joseph Bishara, cinematographers David M. Brewer & John R. Leonetti and production designer (and special effects vet) Aaron Sims. The cast is very good starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne with Barbara Hersey in support. The film looks really creepy and has done well in its advanced screenings. Check out the trailer.

Scream 4 (Wes Craven) – Horror/Mystery – Apr 15
The film is about Sidney Prescott, ten years removed from the trilogy of murder sprees by the Ghostface Killer, returns to the location of the original murders. She has put herself back together through her writing, but things turn bad when Ghostface comes back once again to torment her, her friends and a new generation of victims. Director Wes Craven is one of the most famous directors of the genre with classics like The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street (all of which have been remade), but he is most known to younger generations for his Scream trilogy (and so I guess it only makes sense for him to go back to the well for an even younger generation while tapping into the nostalgia of those who liked the first three films). On the film he has composer Marco Beltrami, great D.P. Peter Deming (he shot Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell) and production designer (and relative newcomer, though he worked on Craven’s last film) Adam Stockhausen. The film has all the (still breathing) characters back like Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and of course Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). But what is even more exciting is the wonderful group of new faces to the series (click here for a full list) highlighted by Emma Roberts, Alison Brie, Rory Culkin, Kristen Bell, and Anna Paquin. The film good or bad should be very entertaining and hopefully with some good thrills and scares. Check out the trailer. Review.

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