Thursday, April 5, 2012

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

The Lucky One (Scott Hicks) – Romance Drama – Apr 20
Summary: Logan Thibault, a Marine serving in Iraq, finds a picture of an unknown woman. After finishing his third tour, he returns to the States to find the woman he believes was his good luck charm. Filmmakers: Yes, this is yet another romantic drama based on a Nicholas Sparks novel (and while most love The Notebook, my favorite is Dear John). Director Scott Hicks started off his career with the very good film Shine, but has yet to recapture the magic (though, by the same token, he has also not made a bad film yet either). He is working with cinematographer Alar Kivilo (A Simple Plan), production designer Barbara Ling (Falling Down) and composers Mark Isham (Warrior) and Hal Lindes (The Boys Are Back). Cast: It stars (Playmobile-man looking) Zac Efron and newcomer Taylor Schilling. Blythe Danner features in support. Expectations: Sure it looks sappy and generic, but maybe Hicks will bring the right amount of subtlety, character moments and romantic candor to breathe new life into the genre (or at least Sparks’s take on the genre). For me, this is a maybe-rental depending on the reviews, but for those that like watching budding stars this is a good chance to see Schilling (who could be 2012’s breakout actress with roles in Ben Affleck’s Argo and David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook slated for release this Fall and Winter respectively). Trailer: Here.


Lockout (James Mather & Stephen St. Leger) – Action – Apr 13
Summary: Snow is a man trained to be a dangerous weapon for the U.S. Government, but when he is wrongly convicted of espionage he is sent to prison for life. However, when the President’s daughter is taken hostage while visiting an outer space prison, Snow is offered his freedom if he can rescue her. Filmmakers: This is the debut feature film from the directing tandem of James Mather (who is also the film’s cinematographer) and Stephen St. Leger. It is also the debut feature for production designer Romek Delmata (who used to work as a storyboard artist). But really, this is yet another action film from writer-producer Luc Besson. Cast: Guy Pearce stars with Maggie Grace (her second Besson film after Taken), Peter Stormare and Lennie James in support. Expectations: Luc Besson’s action films vary in quality, but are usually entertaining. The concept of rescuing a hostage from space prison could translate into some great visual imagery, as well as some innovative action set pieces. If I had to guess, I would say that this will probably be on the lower end of Besson’s produced action movies. Though, it is probably worth checking out for fans of ridiculous action. Trailer: Here.

Safe (Boaz Yakin) – Action Crime Thriller – Apr 27
Summary: When a young Chinese girl is kidnapped by Triads, retired elite agent Luke Wright takes on the mission of both rescuing the girl and using a safe combination she has cracked to take down the Russian Mob, corrupt NYC cops and the Triads. Filmmakers: Writer-director Boaz Yakin has directed five previous films (two are good: Fresh and Remember the Titans, and two are well-known: Remember the Titans and Uptown Girls). He is working with a good group including composer Mark Mothersbaugh (21 Jump Street), cinematographer Stefan Czapsky (Batman Returns) and production designer Joseph C. Nemec III (Termination 2: Judgment Day). Cast: Jason Statham stars with Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdinck), Anson Mount, James Hong, Robert John Burke, Reggie Lee, and newcomer Catherine Chan in support. Expectations: Anytime Jason Statham is the star of a film, it becomes a Jason Statham pseudo-martial arts movie, or some variation on The Transporter. And that is fine, as many of his films are entertaining. However, this is probably nothing more than a rental. Trailer: Here.


Summary: All the characters of American Pie return to East Great Falls, Michigan for their high school reunion (forget that the math is wrong, unless they randomly decided that their 12th/13th reunion was the big one and not their 10th). Filmmakers: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the writers behind the Harold & Kumar series, take on the fourth theatrical American Pie (eighth overall) for their second directing gig (and they also wrote it). American Pie’s original creative team of directors Paul and Chris Weitz and writer Adam Herz are producing. Hurwitz and Schlossberg are working with composer Lyle Workman (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), cinematographer Daryn Okada (Mean Girls) and production designer William Arnold (Crazy, Stupid, Love). Cast: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Shannon Elizabeth, and Chris Owen all return. New to the cast are Dania Ramirez, Katrina Bowden, Jay Harrington, and Neil Patrick Harris. Expectations: This is probably one of the more pointless films to be released in 2012 – I am not even sure fans of the original American Pie care about this. However, as a rental, this might be entertaining. I suspect that Universal Pictures is more interested in attracting new fans (aka current teenage moviegoers) to the franchise than recapturing the youth of those of us who saw the original in 1999 (though, there is some of that too – and it is kind of cool that everyone is coming back, not that most of them have anything near as high profile going on). Trailer: Here.


The Raven (James McTeigue) – Thriller – Apr 27
Summary: Famous author Edgar Allen Poe teams with a young Baltimore detective after a killer starts using Poe’s stories as inspiration for his murders. Filmmakers: Remember when director James McTeigue (the first AD on The Matrix) made his debut with V for Vendetta and we all thought he was going to be something special? Yeah, me too. Then Ninja Assassin happened and sort of dashed our expectations. Maybe The Raven will recapture all the good things about V for Vendetta (or maybe it was just that story’s great source material). He is working with composer Lucas Vidal, cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann and production designer Roger Ford (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). Cast: The film stars John Cusack, Luke Evans and Alice Eve. Brendan Gleeson and Kevin McNally feature in support. Expectations: While this is an exposure film for rising stars Luke Evans and Alice Eve, John Cusack needs this to both be a hit and be good, as he has not made a really good film since 2000’s High Fidelity. Cusack was one of my favorite actors during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, but he has just made a string of forgettable movies over the last decade and change. The good news for him, this has played well in advanced screenings (not amazingly well, but well given the plot synopsis). It sort of feels like this should be a companion piece with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Right? I am hesitantly optimistic about this (at least, I look forward to watching it via Netflix). Trailer: Here.

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