Monday, August 29, 2011

At the Movies – September 2011 – Part 3: This Month’s Best Films

Must See of the Month:

Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn) – Crime Drama – Sep 16
Summary: The film is about a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a wheelman. After a heist goes wrong, he discovers that there is a contract out on his head. Filmmakers: Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn is known for very atmospheric and intense films (Valhalla Rising is a good example). Drive as a crime drama with an action aspect to it is a slight change of pace for him, which should be interesting. He has an odd mixture of collaborators working with him including crime drama genre composer (mostly) Cliff Martinez (Traffic), cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (who shoots all Bryan Singer’s films) and indie production designer Beth Mickle(Kind of a Funny Story). Cast: The cast is very good in its own right, but especially fitting for the genre with Ryan Gosling starring and supporting work from Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks. Expectations: When I first heard about this project, having recently seen Valhalla Rising (and having loved parts and found others not to work, but certainly found Refn to be a fantastic filmmaker), I was very interested to see how Refn would fare making more of a Hollywood (or at least indie Hollywood) style narrative – and in particular one in this genre. Then I saw the trailer, and probably like everyone else who has seen it, I was blown away. It looks incredible (like top five remaining films of the year incredible – it reminds me of Bullitt). That said, this is easily the film I am most excited to see this month – but it is not just me. Drive was an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival and is one of the highest rated films from this year’s festival circuit. Check out the trailer. Review.

Worth Checking Out:

Contagion (Steven Soderbergh) – Thriller – Sep 9
Summary: The film is about an outbreak of a deadly disease and the team of doctors tasked with saving the human race from annihilation.  Filmmakers: Director Steven Soderbergh has been a bit uneven (at least for me) with his recent films, some good and some terrible. But when he is on, he is a very good filmmaker, especially when directing dramas. He has never really made a thriller, so I am interested to see how this turns out. He is shooting the film himself and working with frequent collaborator composer Cliff Martinez (Solaris and is also scoring this month’s Drive) and production designer Howard Cummings (The Usual Suspects). Cast: Contagion’s cast is almost too good for the film to be bad with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, and Elliot Gould. Expectations: Honestly, I when I first heard about this film I was weary – not another Outbreak I thought, I mean how many of these films can they make. But having Soderbergh involved gives it the potential to be great and the cast kept me from dismissing it. The trailer is also quite engaging. I think it looks like a good thriller (be it one we have probably seen before, but good nonetheless). Check out the trailer. Review.

Moneyball (Bennett Miller) – Sports Drama – Sep 23
Summary: The film is about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane – the man who changed baseball. Using advanced statistics and computer analysis to pick his players, enabling him to build competitive teams on a budget. Filmmakers: Excellent director Bennett Miller is back for his second feature (his first was the Oscar winner Capote). He is again working with composer Mychael Danna and two of the best in their respective fields cinematographer Wally Pfister (who shoots Chris Nolan’s films) and production designer Jess Gonchor (who designs the Coen Brothers’ films). Plus, the script is by Steven Zaillian (American Gangster) and brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network). Cast: It has a wonderful cast too with Brad Pitt starring and Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, and Kathryn Morris supporting. Expectations: I love sports dramas, especially baseball dramas, so maybe I am bias right off the bat, but Moneyball has the right director, crew and cast to be an Oscar contender. It looks to be very good based on the trailer. Bennett Miller made one of the ten best films of 2005 (which was a very strong year), thus Moneyball comes with a lot of anticipation and expectation. Check out the trailer. Review.

50/50 (Jonathan Levine) – Drama – Sep 30
Summary: Loosely based on the life of the film’s writer Will Reiser, it is about a 27-year-old who is diagnosed with cancer, and his struggle to beat the disease. The film also looks at how his loved ones deal with the news. Filmmakers:  Indie director Jonathan Levine made a name for himself among the indie film crowd with his first two films All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and The Wackness. 50/50 looks to be more of a Hollywood style film, but if is as good as it looks it should serve as a springboard. He has a great crew with one of my favorite composers Michael Giacchino (Let Me In), cinematographer Terry Stacey (Adventureland) and production designer Annie Spitz (who got her first job as a production designer on The Wackness). Cast:  The cast has a great mix of some of the most talented young actors in Hollywood with Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick co-starring and Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston and Philip Baker Hall featuring in support. Expectations: It is difficult to make the kind of R-rated comedy that producer and co-star Rogen usually makes when you throw in cancer (just look at Funny People, which I think is underrated, but it did not play well for general movie-goers). However, there is enough talent, both dramatically and comedically to make this work. It looks to be both very funny and dramatically engaging. Check out the trailer. Review.

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