Monday, August 29, 2011

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

What’s Your Number? (Mark Mylod) – Romantic Comedy – Sep 30
Summary: The film is about a woman who cannot find her one true love. She is told that once you past twenty relationships you will never find true love. Desperate, she decides look back at her last twenty relationships. Filmmakers: Director Mark Mylod has a good background in TV comedies, doing great work on Entourage. However, his last feature The Big White was not great. He is working with rom-com composer Aaron Zigman (The Proposal), very good cinematographer J. Michael Muro (Open Range) and production designer Jon Billington (who worked with Mylod twice before). Cast: It has a great comedic cast with Anna Faris starring and Chris Evans co-starring. The supporting cast is also awesome: Mike Vogel, Aziz Ansari, Martin Freeman, Zachary Quinto, Joel McHale, Thomas Lennon, Andy Samberg, Chris Pratt, Ari Graynor, Anthony Mackie, Ivana Milicevic, and Ed Begley Jr. Expectations: It looks very formulaic (not that is a surprise for this genre). Faris is usually funny and this is jammed with a number of very funny people, so hopefully it can overcome its genre trappings (and the overall downward trend of recent rom-coms) and play as a good comedy. Most of the films coming out this month are serious, so this might do well as alternative programming. Check out the trailer.

Serious Films:

The Debt (John Madden) – Thriller – Aug 31
Summary: The film is about three Mossad secret agents who undertook a difficult mission in 1966, tracking down a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin. Thirty one years later, secrets about the mission start to come to light. Filmmakers: Director John Madden had a huge hit in 1998 with Shakespeare in Love, but his next three films were disappointing. He is looking for a return to form with this.  However, very good filmmaker Matthew Vaughn is producing the film, which he also co-wrote with Jane Goldman (the duo behind Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class). Madden has a great crew with composer Thomas Newman (WALL-E), cinematographer Ben Davis (Kick-Ass) and production designer Jim Clay (Children of Men). Cast: The cast is stellar co-starring Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciran Hinds, Jessica Chastain (a star to watch), Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington. Jesper Christensen features is support. Expectations: The film was originally slated to be released last December, but with the sale of Miramax it was delayed – Focus Features coming in to take over distribution. There are two reasons I think this has great potential: first, the talent behind and in-front of the camera is excellent and second Focus Features generally puts out very good films. It has played well for critics, but more on the mixed side than really positive. Check out the trailer.

Warrior (Gavin O’Conner) – Sports Drama – Sep 9
Summary: The film is about two fighters who are brothers. Both the products of a broken family, each is looking for redemption in their own lives as they enter a big MMA tournament, only to find that they must face each other in the final. Filmmakers: Writer-director Gavin O’Conner had a hit and good film with Miracle, but Pride and Glory (his next film) never lived up to it potential and talent. Warrior feels like a merging of the two.  He is again working with composer Mark Isham and production designer Dan Leigh, both of whom worked on Pride and Glory. Indie D.P. Masanobu Takayanagi is shooting the film. Cast: Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton star, both on the edge of becoming movie stars (Hardy’s ascension is just about guaranteed with Inception last year and The Dark Knight Rises next year). Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte, Noah Emmerich, Kevin Dunn, and (WWE/TNA wrestler) Kurt Angle feature in supporting roles. Expectations: Warrior looks like a good sports drama, though based on the trailer it seems to be structured for optimal sappiness (what sports drama is not though?). There have not been too many good MMA films (Redbelt is only one I can think of), but this certainly has great potential. Check out the trailer.


Straw Dogs (Rod Lurie) – Thriller – Sep 16
Summary: A remake of the 1971 film of the same name, it is about a young couple who move back to the wife’s hometown in the Deep South. Tension begins to build between the locals and the husband, erupting in a conflict that threatens the couple’s welfare. Filmmakers: Writer-director-producer Rod Lurie has a lot of talent, but has been a little hit-or-miss on his first five feature films (my favorites being The Contender and Nothing But the Truth), however his last film is by far his best. Composer Larry Groupe and very good cinematographer Alik Sakharov have both worked with Lurie in before, while production designer Tony Fanning (Brothers) is new to the team. Cast: The cast is a bit mixed for me. I am a big fan of Alexander Skarsgard, who co-stars, but the main two stars Kate Bosworth and James Marsden are a bit iffy. The supporting cast is good, featuring James Woods, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland, Dominic Purcell, Rhys Coiro, and Walton Goggins. Expectations: This just seems like one of the more unnecessary remakes to date – first, Sam Peckinpah’s film is brilliant and second, the leads are not all that great (though I hope to be proved wrong). That said, the trailer does look good. I think this could be a very gripping thriller, and having Skarsgard playing the villain can only be a good thing. Check out the trailer.

Abduction (John Singleton) – Action – Sep 23
Summary: The film is about a teen that sets out to uncover the truth about his past when he sees his baby photo on a missing person’s website. Filmmakers: Director John Singleton entered Hollywood with the breakout hit Boyz n the Hood, now on his ninth film his name still has cinematic value thanks solely to that film (but really, Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning and Four Brothers are his only good movies, that is three for eight). Abduction seems like a step backward (but it is a paying gig, so why knock it). He is working with an odd mix with mostly indie and comedy composer Edward Shearmur (The Winning Season), action D.P. Peter Menzies Jr. (Clash of the Titans) and frequent collaborator production designer Keith Brian Burns. Cast: The film stars Taylor Lautner and co-stars Lily Collins. However, they are surrounded by a ton of talent in supporting roles with Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Sigourney Weaver, Maria Bello, Michael Nyqvist, Dermot Mulroney, and Elisabeth Rohm. Expectations: Basically Abduction is a Hollywood experiment – being: is Taylor Lautner a bankable star outside of Twilight, and will those fans follow him to other genres and films? I suspect this will do okay but not great. Though, the very good supporting cast does make this a little more interesting, but not enough to do anything but maybe make it rentable. Check out the trailer.

Machine Gun Kelly (Marc Forster) – Action/Biography – Sep 23
Summary: The film is based on the true story of Sam Childers, a drug-dealer who changed his life and became a crusader and protector for hundreds of Sudanese children. Filmmakers: After venturing into Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking with Quantum of Solace, Marc Forster is back into a more comfortable place – indie-style with Hollywood stars. He is again working with cinematographer Roberto Schaefer (who shoots almost everything Forster does) and for the first time with Philip Messia (who has worked frequently with Steven Soderbergh). Cast: Gerard Butler stars in the film and has a great supporting group around him with Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, and Madeline Carroll (who I think is another potential star to watch, she just has not yet made a Movies Spotlight piece). Expectations: Really you cannot trust a movie starring Gerard Butler right now given what he has put out recently (The Ugly Truth, Gamer, The Bounty Hunter…yeah, pretty terrible). But Machine Gun Preacher looks different. Maybe I am swayed by it co-starring thee actors I really like. Maybe I think Marc Forster has a great movie in him. Whatever it is, I think this will be a good action drama. Check out the trailer.


Summary: The film is about a guy form the Midwest who follows his dream to follow in his parents’ career stardom and moves to Hollywood to become a porn star. Filmmakers: This is another film from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions and is co-written by Sandler, Allen Covert and star Nick Swardson. Director Tom Brady is a veteran of Happy Madison too, having directed The Hot Chick. Composer Waddy Wachtel (Grandma’s Boy), Michael Barrett (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) and production designer Dina Lipton (Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star) have all also worked within the Happy Madison brand. Cast: Swardson stars and the supporting cast features Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff, Miriam Flynn, Curtis Armstrong, Adam Herschman, Pauly Shore, and Edward Herrmann, and Happy Madison frequents Kevin Nealon, Peter Dante, Covert, and I would not rule out cameos from Sandler and/or Rob Schneider. Expectations: The films that Sandler makes for his friends are very often not as good as Sandler’s own (though Grandma’s Boy is the exception). But going in, you have to know this is not going to be good at all – just really silly and hopefully funny. Test audiences have not liked it much at all leading to it being delayed from March to now. If you love Sandler style humor and his films, maybe this is worth renting, otherwise probably one to miss. Check out the trailer.

I Don’t Know How She Does It (Douglas McGrath) – Comedy/Drama – Sep 16
Summary: The film is about a finance executive who must constantly manage between her roles as family breadwinner, wife and mother. Filmmakers: While Writer-director Douglas McGrath does have a background in comedy, his best film to date is the crime drama Infamous. He is working with a good crew featuring one of my favorite film composers Rachel Portman (Never Let Me Go), cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (The Painted Veil) and production designer Santo Loquasto (who frequently works on Woody Allen’s U.S. films). Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker stars with co-stars Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear and a good supporting group with Christina Hendricks, Busy Philipps, Sarah Shahi, Kelsey Grammer, Jessica Szohr, Olivia Munn, and Seth Meyers. Expectations: I Don’t Know How She Does It looks very run-of-mill, like we have seen this movie before (or something similar). The cast makes it somewhat interesting (not so much SJP, but the supporting players, and I always like Pierce Brosnan), but for me this is a pass (though, like everything, I will probably rent it). Check out the trailer.


Shark Night 3D (David R. Ellis) – Horror – Sep 2
Summary: The film is about a group of teens who spend a weekend on a lake in the Louisiana Gulf – problem is someone released a bunch of man-eating sharks into the lake for kicks. Filmmakers: Stuntman turned director David R. Ellis has made five previous horror films (my favorite being Final Destination 2 and I did not like it). He is working with the cinematographer Gary Capo and production designer Jaymes Hinkle again, as both worked together on Asylum with Ellis and independently on a few of his other films. Cast: The film has an okay cast with Sara Paxton (who looked to be a rising star a few years back, and it has yet to really come together; I was a fan of the remake of The Last House on the Left however, which she co-starred in), Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Alyssa Diaz, and others – plus Donal Logue shows up to add some credibility. Expectations: Any movie that feels the need to put ‘3D’ in the title is clearly not good enough on its own merit and thus needs to stoop to the level of gimmickry, and one that is to some degree ruining cinema (but if 3D keeps the studios alive in the wake of declining DVD sales, it is an evil I can live with). The only reason to see this is if you are a fan of this subgenre of horror, otherwise just skip it. Check out the trailer.

Apollo 18 (Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego) – Sci-Fi – Sep 2
Summary: Ever wondered why the U.S. has never gone back to the moon? Well you are in luck, as the film depicts, through decades-old found footage, the shocking secrets behind NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission. Filmmakers: Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego has a background making horror films in Spain (though, I have not seen any of them). He is working again with his frequent collaborator cinematographer Jose David Montero and horror specialist production designer Andrew Neskoromny (Slither). Cast: The cast is fully made up of unknown actors. Expectations: This has jumped around a lot in the schedule, first it was going to come out last year, then early 2011 then summer then early 2012 and now finally it has been pinned down to September 2nd. It is yet another in the now long line of ‘is it real?’ horror films that have been surfacing – some love them, some do not. The trailer makes it out to be a decent looking sci-fi thriller. Check out the trailer.

Dream House (Jim Sheridan) – Thriller/Mystery – Sep 30
Summary: The film is about a man who moves his family to a new seemingly idyllic house. However, soon the family uncovers that there was a brutal crime committed against the former residents of the house. But, not all is what it seems (and the trailer gives way too much away, watch it at your own peril). Filmmakers: You do not often see very good directors tackle horror genre films (though, this might not exactly be a horror film, but based on the trailer, I am putting it here), and Jim Sheridan is a good director (despite the utter terribleness of Get Rich or Die Tryin’). Sheridan brought some good people with him in the form of composer John Debney (Machete), cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Passion of the Christ) and production designer Carol Spier (who often works with David Cronenberg). Cast: He also has a fabulous cast – the film stars Daniel Craig, co-stars Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts and features Jane Alexander, Sarah Gadon, Elias Koteas, Lynne Griffin, and Marton Csokas. Expectations: Whenever there is a good director paired with a good cast there is potential for a great film. This looks to be a really good mystery (though, again I wish the trailer did not tell me so much, or maybe there is even more twists that the trailer just wets the appetite). Horror and thriller fans, probably at least, want to rent this. Check out the trailer (unless you hate spoilers).

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