Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

Something Borrowed (Luke Greenfield) – Rom-Com – May 6
The film is about best friends Rachel and Darcy. Rachel meets a guy, Dex, who she likes, but she does nothing about it and moves on telling her friend Darcy that she does not like him. So, time passes and now Dex and Darcy are engaged and Rachel realizes that actually she did like him all along (what to do?). Director Luke Greenfield is best known for his work on The Girl Next Door (but also directed the Rob Schneider film The Animal, so there’s that). Greenfield has enlisted a very genre specific crew with composer Alex Wurman (A Lot Like Love), cinematographer Charles Minsky (Pretty Woman) and production designer Jane Mushy (When Harry Met Sally…). Hilary Swank is producing (her first rom-com as a producer). And of course it stars Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin, along with John Krasinski (Jim on The Office) and Colin Egglesfield (who I have actually never heard of…but apparently he was in The Good Guy, which I liked). This looks like your typical run of the mill rom-com, many of which have been quite bad in recent years – but, maybe Goodwin and Krasinski will bring some good to the project, and Greenfield made an entertaining film with The Girl Next Door (though, for a much younger targeted audience than this one, and with a better overall cast). Check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

Thor (Kenneth Branagh) – Action/Adventure – May 6
The film is part of The Avengers Series (which also includes the Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America films culminating in next year’s The Avengers). It is about a powerful and arrogant warrior god who is cast out of Asgard by his father, sent to live amongst mortals on Earth. When the humans he now lives with come into danger, he becomes their defender, seeking redemption. Known for his excellent Shakespearian work, director Kenneth Branagh seems like an odd choice for this big comic book action film. But given the mythology of the character, Branagh may just be the perfect director to helm the film (and based on the early reviews, this seems to be true as it is being called the best of The Avenger Series to date). At first glance, the crew seems like a strange grouping, but upon further inquiries it makes more sense. Composer Patrick Doyle (Hamlet) is a frequent collaborator with Branagh while cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos also shot Branagh’s last film. Production designer Bo Welch (Batman Returns) does eccentric work, making him potentially an inspired choice. The cast Marvel and Branagh assembled is also amazing and a good reason to be excited for this: starring Chris Hemsworth, co-starring Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins, and featuring supporting work from Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, and Rene Russo. The first Iron Man is the standard for The Avengers Series (one that none of the subsequent films have lived up to yet) and Thor looks to be just as good if not better. Check out the trailer. Review.

Bridesmaids (Paul Feig) – Comedy – May 13
The film is about Annie. Broke and single, she tries to bluff her way through the rituals of being the maid of honor for her best friend (basically, it is like a female version of The Hangover). Director Paul Feig is the perfect choice to take on Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig’s script (as he has done wonderful work on The Office, Weeds, Mad Men, Arrested Development, Undeclared, and his own series Freaks and Geeks). Feig has an excellent comedy crew on the film with producer and frequent collaborator Judd Apatow (Knocked Up), composer Michael Andrews (Funny People), cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman (Rushmore), and production designer Jefferson Sage (Paul). The cast is also really great with Wiig starring, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Maya Rudolph, and Wendi McLendon-Covey co-starring, and featuring John Hamm. With a lot of funny people in it, the film looks to be very entertaining and has the potential to be the best comedy of the summer (its main competition being The Hangover II or 30 Minutes of Less, and potentially Horrible Bosses or Friends with Benefits). Check out the trailer. Review.

The fourth in the series, the film is about Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa as they embark on an adventure to find the Fountain of Youth, only one problem – the most feared pirate Blackbeard and his daughter are also after it too. Director Rob Marshall is an interesting choice for the film. Visually, he has an outstanding track record, but has had some narrative hiccups and he has never made an action film (but how different are action films and musicals really, just a lot of choreography in both). While original trilogy director Gore Verbinski is not returning, Marshall (and Disney) has retained series composer (well, he actually only worked on 2 and 3 as a composer, but produced 1’s score) Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and screenwriting duo Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. He also brought his production designer John Myhre onboard (which is a good thing, as Marshall’s film have all had amazing work from that department). Cast wise, Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and a number of supporting characters are back (but no Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley). New to the series are Ian McShane, Penelope Cruz, Roger Allam, Judi Dench, Gemma Ward, Richard Griffiths, Stephen Graham, and Sam Claflin, making for a great overall group (and I especially love the additions of Cruz and McShane). The film looks to be more of the same, but for fans of Jack Sparrow that is not a bad thing. The first and second films were a lot of fun, while the third was just a big mess. Hopefully all involved will not get too hung up on the character of Sparrow and the over-the-top style and long played out jokes that hurt the third film immensely, and rather just let the characters exist in a good story. Check out the trailer. Review.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh) – Family – May 27
The film is about Po and his gang of kung-fu masters as they fight against an old enemy with a new weapon that threatens the very existence of kung-fu. Director Jennifer Yuh makes her feature debut, but directed the Spawn TV series and worked as an animator and story editor on the first Kung Fu Panda. Guillermo del Toro is serving as the project’s executive producer (which is probably good) and composers John Powell and Hans Zimmer are returning to once again do the score. The principal cast of voice actors is back too (refresher of who they are: Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, Seth Rogen, and Lucy Liu), while the sequel adds voice work from Gary Oldman, Michelle Yeoh, Victor Garber, Dennis Haysbert, and of course Jean-Claude Van Damme (but if you are going to get Maximum Van Damage, you need Steven Seagal too right!). The film looks like it is trying to remake the first only bigger, with more jokes and more big action set pieces (basically classic sequel escalation, which often leads to the sequels lacking narrative and content, and thus being worse – and I have a feeling this is going to be true for this film, but I hope I am wrong). (Still though,) it should make for a fun and entertaining family film. Check out the trailer.

Priest (Scott Charles Stewart) – Action – May 13
The film is about priests who fight vampires (we all knew this film was eventually coming). The ruling class has assured the public that the vampire threat has been expunged. However, one priest believes this to be a lie. After vampires kidnap his niece, he now must track her down, and face an old friend turned enemy. It is based on Min-Woo Hyung’s graphic novel of the same name. Director Scott Stewart is working again with star Paul Bettany on his second feature film (they did last year’s Legion together). Stewart comes for a special effects background, and thus they play a big role in his films. Sam Raimi is serving as a producer on the film (which seems to have influenced the choices for key positions in the crew). Composer Christopher Young (who worked on Raimi’s films Spider-Man 3 and Drag Me to Hell), cinematographer Don Burgess (who worked on Raimi’s film Spider-Man) and production designer Richard Bridgland (who is a good choice for the film having done excellent horror work on Resident Evil and Pandorum) make up a good action-horror film crew. The cast is also quite good with Bettany starring (taking a step down the faith ladder, having played an angel is Legion) and supporting work from Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer (who is not playing a vampire to avoid typecasting, or is he), and Christopher Plummer. Advanced screenings have garnered the film mixed buzz. Critically, it looks to be about as good as Legion (maybe a little better), which means that this is probably a pass unless you are a genre fan. Check out the trailer.

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