Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga) – Romance – Mar 11
The film, based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte, is about Jane – a young girl who grows up being emotionally and physically abused by first her aunt and cousins and later her boarding-school’s headmaster (leading to the death of her best childhood friend). Overcoming her hardships, she becomes the governess at Thornfield Hall, where she warms the heart of and falls for its master Mr. Rochester. But she soon discovers that he has a terrible secret. Director Cary Fukunaga seems like a good fit for the project; coming off his 2009 indy hit Sin Nombre. He has an excellent crew on the film with wonderful composer Dario Marianelli, cinematographer Adriano Goldman (who shot his last film) and British TV series production designer Will Hughes-Jones. The cast is also excellent. Mia Wasikowska (one of 2010’s breakout actresses) stars as Jane and Michael Fassbender co-stars as Mr. Rochester. The supporting cast features Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins, and rising star Imogen Poots. The film looks to be a very good period drama (though the story of Jane Eyre has been done so many times, personally I like the 1943 film by Robert Stevenson starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine with cinematography by master craftsman George Barnes). I am interested to see how Fukunaga breathes new life into the story – and he certainly has the cast to make it very compelling as Fassbender is among the best working today and Wasikowska is very good in last year’s The Kids Are All Right (my favorite performance of the film). This has the potential to be the best film of the month. Check out the trailer.

Red Riding Hood (Catherine Hardwicke) – Horror – Mar 11
The film is about a young girl in a medieval village, who falls in love with an orphaned woodcutter, against her parent’s will. However, this is not just a love story as the village is ransacked by a werewolf who could be anyone in the village, even this girl’s love. After being (sort of unceremoniously) booted from the Twilight Series, director Catherine Hardwicke seems to have decided to make another Twilight film, only using the story of Little Red Riding Hood to do it. Hardwicke definitely has the right people to make an aesthetically interesting film with very good composer Brian Reitzell (with indy sensibilities), one of Australia’s best cinematographers Mandy Walker and excellent production designer Thomas E. Sanders. She also has a good cast with star Amanda Seyfried and supporting actors Gary Oldman (solely a good enough reason to at least rent this), Billy Burke, Lukas Haas, Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie, Shiloh Fernandez, and Max Irons. The trailer gives me mixed signals: on one hand it looks to be awesomely atmospheric, aesthetically well done (how could it not be with the crew involved) and featuring what could be Oldman in his typical amazing villainous form, and on the other hand it looks like a super sappy lame Twilight teen-romance want-to-be (not that anything should ever aspire to the sheer awfulness of the of the Twilight films – yeah I am looking particularly at you Eclipse, but at the same time I am probably not the target and intended audience for those or this film). In any case, it looks potentially ok but likely will be bad (but who am I kidding, I am renting this). Check out the trailer.

Serious Films:

Limitless (Neil Burger) – Thriller – Mar 18
The film is about Eddie Morra, a copywriter who is bestowed a top-secret drug which allows its taker to access the full potential of the human brain, enabling Morra to achieve unknown success, but at what cost? Director Neil Burger’s last two films were quite good, both flying a bit under the radar (The Illusionist was maybe the best film of 2006 that no one saw). Thus (for me at least) having a director of Burger’s caliper immediately strikes up a lot of interest in this film. He has a very good principal crew on the film with composers Paul Leonard-Morgan (who does good work on the British series Spooks) and Nico Muhly, Belgian indy cinematographer Jo Willems and excellent production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein (won an Oscar for Amadeus). The film stars Bradley Cooper, who is sort of on the cusp of becoming an A-list star or being relegated and passed over (it seems) and has a wonderful supporting cast with Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel (from Pushing Daisies) and Robert De Niro. Despite a lackluster trailer, the film looks very sleek and interesting. Burger is a very good director and so this should be a very good thriller and yet another candidate for potentially the best film of the month. Check out the trailer.

The Lincoln Lawyer (Brad Furman) – Drama – Mar 18
The film is about a lawyer Mickey Haller, who conducts meetings with his shady high profile clients from the back of his Lincoln town car in Beverly Hills. On Haller’s latest case, he gets in a little too deep when his client, who appeared to be innocent, turns out of be a no good conniving bad guy. Now, Haller must figure a way to do what is right while keeping his practice. Director Brad Furman’s first film was not well received, but this is his first big theatrical release and its success or failure will shape what kind of projects he will have the opportunity to do in the future (a lot of pressure for a drama banking on a strong Matthew McConaughey performance – though he has given a few good ones in the past). Furman has an ok crew with good crime-drama composer Cliff Martinez, cinematographer Lukas Ettlin (also shooting this month’s Battle: Los Angeles) and production designer Charisse Cardenas (who also did his first film). The film stars McConaughey as Haller, and features quite a good group of supporting actors with Josh Lucas, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, John Leguizamo, William H. Macy, Bryan Cranston, and Michael Pena – really elevating the film in terms of anticipation and potential/perceived quality. It looks to be a good crime-thriller (I will probably wait to rent it via Netflix, with so much other stuff to see in theatres this month), which will greatly benefit from and live or die with strong performances from its cast (though, probably can say that about any movie). Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

Rango (Gore Verbinski) – Animation – Mar 4
The film is about a chameleon named Rango, who aspires to be a grand hero (like those in old swashbuckling films). He finds himself in a Western town tormented by bandits, giving him the chance to be the hero he imagined. Director Gore Verbinski, best known for directing the initial Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, is at his best when making big fun hero driven films, and this looks to be right in his wheelhouse. Verbinski is again working with Pirates 2 and 3 composer Hans Zimmer and creature designer Mark ‘Crash’ McCreery is doing his first production design work. The cast has a wonderful group of actors to voice the characters – starring Johnny Depp, with Timothy Olyphant, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, and Ray Winston highlighting the supporting voice-parts. The film looks to be a fun adventure film for kids that should also appeal to adults. The narrative appears to be completely centered on Depp’s performance (which is probably not a bad thing). Production company Nickelodeon Movies has had a number of hits to their name, but never a big-time franchise – this seems like a ploy to find that first big hit (especially releasing it without all the kid-movies and blockbusters of the summer). Check out the trailer.

Take Me Home Tonight (Michael Dowse) – Comedy – Mar 4
The film is about a sort of wandering college grad (not ready to face the ‘real’ world), who decides to go after his dream girl at a wild Labor Day weekend party (during the awesomely nostalgic 1980s – 1988 to be precise). He is backed up by his best friend and twin sister on his mission to finally get the girl, though each of them is affronted by the realities of adulthood causing them to question their current position in life. Comedy director Michael Dowse has indy cred with critical successes (that most people have never heard of, let alone seen) It’s All Gone Pete Tong and the series The Foundation. This film represents his first exposure as a director to the general movie-going population. Dowse has a very well suited crew on the film with songwriter (and prolific 80s producer) Trevor Horn scoring the film, indy D.P. Terry Stacey (shot the comedies Adventureland and American Splendor) and very good production designer William Arnold. The cast also seems very well suited with Topher Grace starring and the very funny Anna Farris and Dan Fogler co-starring. Michael Ian Black, Lucy Punch, Michelle Trachtenberg, Chris Pratt, Teresa Palmer, and Michael Biehn (John Conner’s dad from The Terminator) make up a good supporting cast. Some may think that we have had too many 80s-nostalgia comedies of late (like last year’s Hot Tub Time Machine), but it is such a great time period to look back at and poke fun that I am not ready to claim it as overdone. This has the right cast and director to make for a potentially really funny film. Check out the trailer.

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