Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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

Must-See of the Month:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher) – Mystery Thriller – Dec 21
Summary: Part one of the Millennium Trilogy, the film is about a journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who is hired to investigate the disappearance and likely murder of a young woman who has been missing for over forty years. He is aided by a young computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Filmmakers: While many do not think this needed an English language remake, director David Fincher immediately makes it relevant and highly anticipated (as he is one of the best working today, and will bring something different to the film – much like Let Me In versus Let the Right One In). He is working with the same crew from his last film The Social Network: composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, editor Angus Wall, and production designer Donald Graham Burt. Cast: Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara star, while Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer, Embeth Davidtz, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Yorick van Wageningen, and Alan Dale feature in support. Expectations: The role of Lisbeth Salander was maybe the most coveted role for young actresses in Hollywood, and yet relative unknown Rooney Mara won it – likely because she was fantastic in her small role in Fincher’s The Social Network (it also shows off Fincher’s power and respect in Hollywood talking MGM and Sony into Mara). Noomi Rapace is very good in the Swedish Trilogy, and thus Mara has a lot to live up to (but I think she will, having a breakthrough performance; has there ever been another character to give two actors their breakthrough?). Fincher directing alone makes this a must-see and probably even the film of the month, but the great cast does not hurt either. It will certainly have awards seasons implications. The trailers have been brilliant, so expectations are very high. Trailer: Here. Review.

Worth Checking Out:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson) – Spy Thriller – Dec 9
Summary: The film is about semi-retired espionage veteran George Smiley, who is called back into service to find a Soviet agent within MI6. Filmmakers: Director Tomas Alfredson became a hot international commodity after the critical praise of his film Let the Right One In – this is his first Hollywood (or the British equivalent) film. John le Carre (writer of the novel for which the film is based) and multiple Oscar nominee Peter Morgan are producing, and Alfredson has a good group with Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias (The Constant Gardener), cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (who shot Let the Right One In for him) and production designer Maria Djurkovic (The Hours). Cast: This has maybe the best cast of any film this year. It stars Gary Oldman and also features work from Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Stephen Graham, Simon McBurney, and Christian McKay. Expectations: At the beginning of the year based on the filmmakers and cast, I thought this would be among the five best films of the year, and with what I have seen and the critical response, I think that could still be true. Oldman is being called a potential Best Actor Oscar nominee and the film should have entries in other categories as well. If the film does well, there are sequels in the novel series that could be adapted with Oldman returning (which would be awesome). For me, this is the film I am most looking forward to seeing in December (but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very close second). Trailer: Here. Review.

Carnage (Roman Polanski) – Dramedy – Dec 16
Summary: The film is about two sets of parents who meet to discuss an altercation at school involving their sons. Filmmakers: Writer-director Roman Polanski is one of the great filmmakers in cinema history, and thereby each of his films comes with the potential to be great (though, he is a bit hit or miss). He is working with (the hardest working man in movies) composer Alexandre Desplat (The Ides of March) and frequent collaborators cinematographer Pawel Edelman and production designer Dean Tavoularis. Cast: The film has a great cast with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly. Expectations: Critics have praised the film for the most part and it should have awards season implications, especially for the actors, but those who have seen both the film and the play by Yasmina Reza for which it is based have found the play to be better. Polanski’s best work as a director has not been with comedy, making this an odd choice for him but many critics are placing it with his best films (The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, and Repulsion). I look forward to the great performances from a top-notch cast, and to see things degrade and go haywire. Trailer: Here. Review.

We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe) – Drama – Dec 23
Summary: The film is about a father who moves his young family to Southern California to take over the operation of a small countryside struggling zoo. Filmmakers: Writer-director Cameron Crowe (finally) returns to feature films after six years (his last feature was Elizabethtown).  He is working with very good cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Babel) and frequent collaborator production designer Clay Griffith. Cast: The cast is wonderful with Matt Damon starring, Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church co-starring and supporting work from Elle Fanning, Carla Gallo, Patrick Fugit, Stephanie Szostak, John Michael Higgins, and Angus Macfadyen (The Bruce). Expectations: We Bought a Zoo will probably be good for the sole reason that Crowe is a great writer of dialog and he has a great cast on the film (I am probably most excited for relative newcomer Fanning after her stellar work in Super 8 and Somewhere). The fact that it is coming out on Christmas and is not rated R means that 20th Century Fox is hoping to promote it as a family feel good movie (mainly geared towards adults). Will it be an Oscar contender? Maybe, but probably not – though, I think it looks like it should be a good drama with some patented Crowe dialog (see the Jerry Maguire speech Damon gives in the trailer), humor, and a fantastic found-music score. Trailer: Here.

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