Thursday, August 4, 2011

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

One Day (Lone Scherfig) – Romance – Aug 19
Summary: The film is about Dexter and Em, who spend their college graduation night together and develop a deep love affair. They are then shown on each subsequent year on the same date to see how their lives have progressed – sometimes they are together and sometimes not – but their story is one of love across time (and that is not the cheesiest thing I have ever written…Or maybe it is, who is keeping score?). Filmmakers: Danish director Lone Scherfig is coming off maybe her best work with An Education, looking to have another Oscar-type hit. She is working with a very good European crew including composer Rachel Portman (whose work on Never Let Me Go was beautiful and among my favorite scores of last year), cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (The Proposition) and production designer Mark Tildesley (who has done fabulous work for Danny Boyle in the past). Cast: The film stars Anne Hathaway (but really, we are all just waiting for The Dark Knight Rises) and Jim Sturgess and features supporting work from Patricia Clarkson, Romola Garai, and Jodie Whittaker. Expectations: The combo of Hathaway and Sturgess just seems like someone pulled the lever on the Hollywood machine that matches approximately aged good-looking stars and their names popped out. This feels like just another run-of-the-mill gimmick romance drama, but hopefully I am wrong and it will rise above. Check out the trailer.

Serious Films:

The Help (Tate Taylor) – Drama – Aug 10
Summary: The film (based on the popular book by Kathryn Stockett) is about Skeeter, a college graduate who gets a job writing for a newspaper. She decides to write a piece about her southern hometown’s unspoken code of rules and behavior, interviewing three women that work in the employ of local households. Filmmakers: Writer-director Tate Taylor makes his feature directorial debut and is working with producer Chris Columbus (Home Alone), very good composer Thomas Newman (The Adjustment Bureau), cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt (Closer), and production designer Mark Ricker (Conviction). Cast: It has a great cast with Emma Stone starring and supporting work from Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Mike Vogel, Mary Steenburgen, Allison Janney, Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, and Octavia Spencer. Expectations: Emma Stone is building up quite a resume for herself (with Easy A, Zombieland, Superbad, Crazy, Stupid, Love. and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man). The film looks to be good based on strong performances throughout its cast. And while it takes place in the 1960s, it addresses relevant issues even today (sadly), and has the potential to be a moving and powerful piece. Check out the trailer.


Summary: (This needs to addressed first, because it is silly: the original tile was ‘Rise of the Apes’, which is far superior and actually makes sense, but test audiences, who classically ruin cinema and yet misguided Hollywood studio people put so much stock in them, anyway, test audiences were confused and thus we have ‘of the Planet’ added so test audiences know it is part of the Planet of the Apes franchise…Yeah, I know) the film is about the origin story of how the apes took over Earth beginning with experiments in genetic engineering intelligence on apes in San Francisco (the best part about prequels is that we all already know how it turns out going in, but you can say that about most Hollywood movies, so I guess it does not really matter).  Filmmakers: Newcomer director Rupert Wyatt had a moderately received hit in the U.K. with The Escapist and somehow parlayed that into getting the job on this film. It will be interesting to see how he handles a big film. He is working with some good people though, with composer Patrick Doyle (Thor), awesome cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (The Lovely Bones) and production designer Claude Pare (Barney’s Version). Cast: He also has a good cast with James Franco and Andy Serkis starring and additional work from Tom Felton, Brian Cox, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tyler Labine, David Hewlett, and David Oyelowo. Expectations: There is pretty much no pressure on this film to be good. It could be terrible and still be considerably better than the last installment in the series (Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes). Though, Fox probably wants a hit, yet placing the film in August does maybe raise some questions. The trailer is decent and it looks entertaining. Plus, WETA did the visual effects (the studio behind Lord of the Rings). Check out the trailer.

Conan the Barbarian (Marcus Nispel) – Adventure – Aug 19
Summary: A remake of the 1982 film of the same name, it is about Conan the Cimmerian on a quest to seek revenge on the murderer of his father and slaughterer of his village. Filmmakers: Director Marcus Nispel is probably a good choice to make this film (one that comes with low expectations, really, and he did make the completely ridiculous Pathfinder which is in the same genre), as he will probably get the tone and action right (and that is all that matters for the intended audience, at least I imagine no one actually expects this to be good or anything more than mindless entertainment). The principal crew is essentially a B-movie crew with composer Tyler Bates (who is an A-movie composer working often with Zack Snyder), cinematographer Thomas Kloss (who mostly works on music videos) and production designer Chris August (who does B-movie action). Cast: The cast features newcomer Jason Momoa in the lead and supporting work from Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Said Taghmaoui, and Ron Perlman. Expectations: For this film to be a success (in terms of its potential) all it really needs is good action set pieces and some semblance of a plot. Will I see this in theatres? No. Will I rent this? Yes. Even when a film is fundamentally bad or on the low scale of good, if it is entertaining and action packed, I can forgive a lot and enjoy (somewhat) watching it. This is all I can expect from this film. Check out the trailer.

Colombiana (Olivier Megaton) – Action – Aug 26
Summary: The film is about a young woman, Cataleya, who becomes an assassin after her parents are murdered in front of her as a child in Bogota, looking to avenge their deaths. Filmmakers: While this is directed by Olivier Megaton, it is for all intents and purposes a Luc Besson film (as he is writing, producing and the director and crew are in his stable, for example Megaton directed Transporter 3). Nathaniel Mechaly (Taken) is scoring, Romain Lacourbas (making his feature debut) is shooting and Patrick Durand (also worked on Transporter 3) is designing the film. Cast: It stars Zoe Saldana (and was created as a vehicle for her) and features Cliff Curtis, Michael Vartan and Jordi Molla. Expectations: Luc Besson’s action films are generally good (stuff like: Taken, Kiss of the Dragon, From Paris with Love, Danny the Dog, and The Transporter), or at the very least entertaining. And, Zoe Saldana seems like a good choice to feature in his brand of film (coming off good action work in Star Trek, Avatar and especially for this film The Losers). Like Conan the Barbarian, I am probably not going to see this one in theatres, but it should make for an entertaining rental. Check out the trailer.


The Change-Up (David Dobkin) – Comedy – Aug 5
Summary: The film is about two friends, one married with kids and the other a single guy, who switch bodies (and comedy ensues apparently). Filmmakers: Director David Dobkin looked to be an A-list comedy director coming off Wedding Crashers in 2005, but his follow up was the poorly received both critically (though I liked it) and commercially Fred Claus in 2007. He is certainly hoping for a hit with The Change-Up. He has a good crew on the film with composer John Debney (No Strings Attached), cinematographer Eric Edwards (Knocked Up) and production designer Barry Robison (who he did Wedding Crashers with). Cast: The film stars Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman (who have seemingly maybe oversaturated the market as we just saw Reynolds in Green Lantern and Bateman in Horrible Bosses, both in starring roles). The supporting cast is great with Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin. Expectations: Even though this plot device (switching bodies) has been done ad nauseam (we are all looking at you Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore), this still looks like it will probably be funny and entertaining.  It also helps that it has an R rating. If Bateman and Reynolds make a good onscreen team, this will probably turn out to be good (thanks, John Madden), plus Mann and Arkin are always great in support. Check out the trailer.


Final Destination 5 (Steve Quale) – Thriller – Aug 12
Summary: The film is about survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse (who were supposed to die) who now must escape Death any way they can – even trading a life for a life. Filmmakers:  Director Steve Quale makes his feature debut, but he did direct the second unit on Avatar. He has a decent crew with action composer Brian Tyler (Fast Five), cinematographer Brian Pearson (Drive Angry 3D) and production designer David Sandefur (Repo Men). Cast: The film stars Nicholas D’Agosto and also features P.J. Byrne, Emma Bell, David Koechner, and Courtney B. Vance. Expectations: As the fifth film in the franchise, we all know what to expect going in – elaborate death sequences. But with the rise (of the awful and terrible 99% of the time technology) 3D, series fans can experience the crazy deaths in a whole new way (a sentence that was probably taken out of the film’s promotional materials). The fourth film in the series (The Final Destination, promising to be the last one might guess from the title) was fairly terrible. This looks to be an improvement, but really none of the films have been really that good (Final Destination being far and away the best). Check out the trailer.

Fright Night (Craig Gillespie) – Horror Comedy – Aug 19
Summary: A remake of the 1985 cult classic, the film is about a teenager in Las Vegas who suspects one of his neighbors is a vampire. Filmmakers: Director Craig Gillespie is an interesting choice to tackle the film as he has a decent comedy and drama (Lars and the Real Girls and United State of Tara) background, but no previous work in horror. However, with a screenplay by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Marti Noxon, the film will hopefully capture both the horror and comedy aspects of the original. The principal crew is also very good with composer Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and production designer Richard Bridgland (Unknown). Cast: The cast is also made up of a great group of actors with Anton Yelchin starring and supporting work from Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin), Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, and Dave Franco. Expectations: The trailer looks good. The cast is awesome. Yelchin and Poots are ready to be breakout stars. Tennant is well known in the U.K. for Doctor Who, and hopefully this will get him more film work in the States. I also think Gillespie and Noxon will make a good team. This certainly has the best potential of the films not already listed to be the film of the month. Check out the trailer. Review.

Summary: The film (also a remake) is about a young girl who is sent to live with her father. She discovers, however, that there are creatures living in this new house that want to capture her and make her one of their own. Filmmakers: The first thing you need to know about this film is that it is produced and written by Guillermo del Toro (too bad he is not directing too). Director Troy Nixey is making his feature debut, working with composers Marco Beltrami (Scream 4) and Buck Sanders (The Hurt Locker), cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (The Proposal) and production designer Roger Ford (Peter Pan). Cast: The film stars Bailee Madison who has been good in her previous supporting roles and features supporting work from Guy Piece, Katie Holmes, Alan Dale, and Jack Thompson. Expectations: Knowing that del Toro is involved, one can expect great creature designs and an overall wonderful aesthetic and tonal feel and look. However, it does have a big red flag, as it was made by Disney but they dumped it not wanting to spend more money marketing it, and thus it was delayed by a year (never a good sign) as it looked for a new distributor. At the same time though, the film looks pretty scary (which is a good sign). Check out the trailer.

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