Friday, March 2, 2012

At the Movies – March 2012 – Part 3: This Month’s Best Films

Must-See of the Month:

The Hunger Games (Gary Ross) – Action – Mar 23
Summary: Each year a young boy and girl are chosen from each of the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television. In the latest match, Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is selected, but Katniss volunteers to take her place. Now she must survive to get back to her family. Filmmakers: Writer-director Gary Ross takes on the popular teen novels by Suzanne Collins (who also worked on the screenplay). Ross is an odd choice to take on the material (I think, at least) as he is known for his films Pleasantville and Seabiscuit (which was overly sappy and Hollywoodized to the extent that it was repellant; but I do like Pleasantville). Neither is tonally or stylistically like The Hunger Games. However, he has assembled a good group to work with him: excellent composers T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and James Newton Howard (Green Lantern), cinematographer Tom Stern (all Clint Eastwood’s films since 2002), and production designer Philip Messina (Ocean’s Eleven). Cast: Lionsgate and Ross did a wonderful job casting the lead with Jennifer Lawrence (coming off her Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone). She is joined by a decent supporting cast including: Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Alexander Ludwig, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, and Lenny Kravitz (and a bunch of young newcomers). Expectations: As a big fan of dystopian literature and film, I am very much looking forward to this. I however do have some reservations about Gary Ross directing, as I think he is probably the wrong choice for the project. That said, I have liked everything I have seen so far, and hope to be proved wrong by a good film. Ross will get the drama right and do good character work (which is more important than the action), but we will see how he does with the action, tone and style. It will not be as violent as Battle Royale, but hopefully Ross abandons his glossy style and shoots this to be a little more gritty and authentic. Among dedicated fans to the novels, this has a huge following comparable to the Twilight Saga (though, I expect these films to be much better than those in the Twilight Series). This is the must-see of March because it is both the most anticipated film of the month and looks like it could capture its audience with a little bit of everything (action/drama/romance/comedy/thrills). Trailer: Here. Review.

Worth Checking Out:

Jeff Who Lives at Home (Jay & Mark Duplass) – Comedy – Mar 16 [limited]
Summary: Jeff is a thirty-year old man who still lives with his mom. However when he is sent on an errand to help his brother Pat track down his potentially cheating wife Linda, Jeff might actually grow up. Filmmakers: Writer-directors Jay & Mark Duplass are back for their fourth feature film. Their last film was Cyrus. They are working with producer Jason Reitman (director of Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult), composer Michael Andrews, cinematographer Jas Shelton (both of whom worked on Cyrus), and production designer Chris L. Spellman (Observe and Report). Cast: The film has a great comedic cast with leads Jason Segel and Ed Helms, and Judy Greer, Susan Surandon, Rae Dawn Chong, and Katie Aselton in support. Expectations: I think the Duplass Brothers’ material is very funny and I otherwise liked Cyrus a lot, but their aesthetic style is kind of terrible (a pseudo-documentary style for no reason that goes out of its way to be distracting and poor with awful framing and constant random zooming). I hope this will keep their sense of humor intact but lose the style (as it really did ruin Cyrus). The cast is fantastic for this type of dramedy story. Trailer: Here. Review.

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