Wednesday, January 4, 2012

At the Movies – January 2012 – Part 2: Hollywood Films

Romance and Rom-Coms:

One for the Money (Julie Anne Robinson) – Romantic Comedy – Jan 27
Summary: The film is about an unemployed and newly-divorced young woman who takes a job at her cousin’s bail-bond business. Her first assignment finds her on the trail of a wanted local cop, who also happens to be a former romantic interest of hers. Filmmakers: Director Julie Anne Robinson has worked extensively in TV (notably on Weeds and Grey’s Anatomy), but made her feature debut with 2010’s Miley Cyrus project The Last Song (which was not well-received). She is working with composer Deborah Lurie (Footloose – the new one), indie cinematographer Jim Whitaker (Thank You for Smoking) and production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone (The Expendables). Cast: The film stars Katherine Heigl (who is also an executive producer) and Jason O’Mara, and features supporting work from John Leguizamo, Daniel Sunjata, Debbie Reynolds, Sherri Shepherd, and Patrick Fischler. Expectations: Romantic comedies starring Heigl have not been too good of late – since starring in Knocked Up, she has made four romantic comedies: 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, Killers, and Life as We Know It (not only are none of them particularly good, none of them are iconic fixtures in the genre, which is a big minus for Heigl as one of the genre’s main stars). Plus, this looks almost the same as the Jennifer Aniston/Gerald Butler rom-com The Bounty Hunter, only with the roles reversed. This is a genre that I really like, especially when done well, but sadly that has not been the case most of the time with recent releases and this looks no different. Trailer: Here.


Contraband (Baltasar Kormakur) – Crime Thriller – Jan 13
Summary: The film is about a retired smuggler who gets pulled back in for one last big job (that does not sound familiar at all). However, things go wrong and he must do whatever it takes to protect his family and get his life back. Filmmakers: Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur is back for his second Hollywood film (but really this is his first to receive wide distribution). His first American feature was the thriller Inhale. He is working with a pretty good group, including: composer Clinton Shorter (District 9), cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (Green Zone) and production designer Tony Fanning (Brothers). Cast: The film stars Mark Wahlberg and is a good vehicle for him. It has a great supporting cast with Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna, J.K. Simmons, and Lukas Haas. Expectations: This surprisingly looks very entertaining; though take that with a grain of salt given that his is being released in January (where films go to die). The cast alone, for me, is a good enough reason to rent this, and I look forward to watching it. Will it be a great action film – probably not – but again it does look very entertaining. Trailer: Here.

Red Tails (Anthony Hemingway) – War – Jan 20
Summary: After being kept on the ground for most of WWII, a crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program is called into action with a very dangerous job – protect the bombers – a vital part in helping to win the war. Filmmakers: Director Anthony Hemingway makes his feature debut, but has done good work as a TV director (on shows like Treme, Community, Fringe and True Blood). He is working with composer Terence Blanchard (Inside Man), TV cinematographer John B. Aronson (American Horror Story) and production designers Michael Carlin (In Bruges) and Nick Palmer. Cast: The ensemble cast features Bryan Cranston, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Michael B. Jordan, and Method Man (among others). Expectations: There are many WWII stories – many have been told already – but this is an interesting and heroic tale of many unsung heroes that where tasked with basically a suicide mission, but again a vital one. Based on what I have seen, this looks to be a good WWII film. Plus, it is being executively produced by George Lucas (a role in which he often does his best work). Trailer: Here.

The Grey (Joe Carnahan) – Action – Jan 27
Summary: A plane crashes in Alaska leaves an oil drilling crew stranded. Now, they must struggle to survive in the wild. Filmmakers: Writer-director Joe Carnahan is coming off a disappointing action film in The A-Team (though it was entertaining), but still has the goodwill of his acclaimed film Narc. He is working with producers Tony and Ridley Scott, composer Marc Streitenfeld (Body of Lies), cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Warrior), and production designer John Willett (The 6th Day). Cast: The film stars Liam Neeson and features support from Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, James Badge Dale, and Joe Anderson. Expectations: Based on the trailer, the film looks like Liam Neeson fighting a pack of wolves in a silly action film – but, it is much more. It has huge scares, gripping tension and a great enemy. It was a favorite at 2011’s BNAT (playing against many other well-received films). This is probably the sleeper hit of the month and maybe even the first quarter of 2012. Trailer: Here.

Man on a Ledge (Asger Leth) – Crime Thriller – Jan 27
Summary: A man threatens to jump off a ledge of a Manhattan hotel as a distraction for his team, who is pulling off the biggest diamond heist ever attempted. Filmmakers: Asger Leth makes his feature debut. He is working with good composer Henry Jackman (Kick-Ass), pioneer of shooting digitally cinematographer Paul Cameron (Collateral) and production designer Alec Hammond (Red). Cast: Sam Worthington stars, and it has a great supporting cast with Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Kyra Sedgwick, Edward Burns, Anthony Mackie, and newcomer Genesis Rodriguez. Expectations: Man on a Ledge looks to be an entertaining thriller. The good cast makes it all the more interesting. The heist aspect of it seems a bit tired, as played in the trailer, but hopefully it will come off fresh in the full film. I look forward to renting it. Trailer: Here.


Underworld Awakening (Mans Marlind & Bjorn Stein) – Action Horror – Jan 20
Summary: The fourth installment of the Underworld franchise sees Selene captured by humans, who have gained the upper hand and are hunting both Lycan and Vampire alike. She escapes to find the world she knew completely changed. Filmmakers: Swedish directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein also made the U.S. released Shelter (though, I think it was straight to video). They are working with a group that specializes on horror/action with producer Len Wiseman (who is also a writer and the originating director of the series), composer Paul Haslinger (scored the other films in the series), cinematographer Scott Kevan (The Losers), and production designer Claude Pare (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Cast: Kate Beckinsale returns as Selene (and really the only reason for fans of the series to be excited about this new installment). There is also supporting work from Charles Dance, India Eisley, Michael Ealy, and Kris Holden-Ried among others. Expectations: As stated above, the only thing between this and a straight to video release is Kate Beckinsale, as none of the other original cast members are returning (though, I would not be surprised to see some of them pop up in small roles). While I enjoyed the original, both sequels have been weak (and I expect the same to be true for this) but maybe this will be more like the first – engaging action, character moments and stylish visuals. Trailer: Here.


  1. Underworld Awakening sad that Scott Speedman wouldn't be returning. Still excited and hope it's as good as the first two. Didn't really like Rise of the Lycans.

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