Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman) – Musical – Jun 15
Summary: Drew and Sherrie come to 1987 Los Angeles set on making their dreams a reality. They meet. It is love-at-first-sight. But, love, as always, must overcome a number of obstacles (and this time with singing). Filmmakers: Choreographer-turned-director Adam Shankman is Hollywood’s go to director for musicals, having made Hairspay and a number of music videos. Justin Theroux is scripting (his third produced screenplay after Tropic Thunder and Iron Man 2), and Shankman is working with cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (Burlesque) and production designer Jon Hutman (Coyote Ugly). Cast: Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough star, with a great ensemble supporting group featuring Tom Cruise, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Will Forte, and Mary J. Blige. Expectations: Being that Adam Shankman has never made a truly great (or really even good) film, I am not overly enthusiastic for this – though I do love 1980s nostalgic ridiculousness. Sure the supporting cast is good, but when was the last time Hollywood made a good commercial musical? 2002’s Chicago? And, the leads are more singer/dancers than actors. Best case scenario, this will be an entertaining rock musical with touchstone nostalgic songs and good performances from Cruise (playing a sort of washed up rock god) and others. Also, I would say that best case scenario achieved, this is still probably only a rental, because it does not look too good. Trailer: Here.

Summary: Earth will be destroyed. It is a given as an asteroid approaches (seemingly Bruce Willis et al. have failed, or was that Robert Duvall and company). Dodge finds himself abandoned when his wife leaves in a panic. So, he decides to take one final road trip in the final days to find his high school sweetheart. Penny, his neighbor, decides to tag along. Filmmakers: Writer-director Lorene Scafaria makes her directorial debut. She wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (this is her second produced screenplay). She is working with composers Jonathan Sadoff (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy) and Rob Simonsen ([500] Days of Summer), cinematographer Tim Orr (Your Highness) and production designer Chris Spellman (Jeff, Who Lives at Home). Cast: Steve Carell stars and Keira Knightley co-stars, with a great supporting cast: Melanie Lynskey, Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt, T.J. Miller, Derek Luke, William Petersen, Rob Corddry, and Rob Huebel. Expectations: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World sounds like a very ambitious and potentially wonderful road trip film. Will the world actually end when the film finishes? I like both Carell and Knightley, and think they will make a compelling onscreen duo capable of comedy and drama, but more so the eccentric mix of bit players should produce many funny scenes. This is my dark horse for the second best film of the month (because, honestly, is anything going to be even close to as good as Prometheus? Probably not). Trailer: Here. Review.

Serious Films:

Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh) – Drama – Jun 29
Summary: Mike is a male stripper who enjoys his lifestyle – dancing, partying and making lots of easy cash. However, when he meets Paige, a girl he likes who is not necessarily comfortable with Mike’s lifestyle, Mike begins to rethink his life. Also, Paige pushes him to want more for himself. Filmmakers: Steven Soderbergh is directing and shooting the film (something he commonly does). Cast: It stars Channing Tatum (who is also a producer on the film), with Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, Matthew McConaughey, and Cody Horn co-starring. Joe Manganiello, Olivia Munn, Riley Keough, and Wendi McLendon-Covey feature in support. Expectations: Magic Mike is essentially about Tatum’s own life prior to his film/commercial career, and thus the realism should be apparent. Soderbergh is also a good choice to direct; he both is very capable of making good films on a small budget and has been on his game lately (I really liked his film Contagion last year). The cast is also good; McConaughey is touted to have a comeback-like performance in this. It definitely has the potential to be one of the better films this month, looking like a good drama (and may even be a good character drama – it is hard to tell how much it will delve into the character of Mike from the trailer). Trailer: Here. Review.

People Like Us (Alex Kurtzman) – Drama – Jun 29 [limited]
Summary: When Sam’s father dies, he is bequeathed his father’s shaving bag. In it he finds $150,000 and a note requesting that Sam give the money to a child (a sister to Sam never knew about) that his father had with another woman. Now, Sam has a dilemma. He is broke and desperately needs the money, but his father wanted him to give it to his half-sister (and meet her and her kid in the process). Filmmakers: This seems like a strange project for producers/writers Alex Kurtzman (also making his feature directorial debut) and Robert Orci, as they typically make/write action and sci-fi projects (Fringe, Transformers, Star Trek to name a few) not family melodramas. They are working with good people in composer A.R. Rahman (127 Hours), cinematographer Salvatore Totino (who shoots most of Ron Howard’s stuff) and production designer Ida Random (No Strings Attached). Cast: The film stars Chris Pine with Elizabeth Banks co-starring. Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, Jon Favreau, Mark Duplass, and Philip Baker Hall make up the supporting players. Expectations: At first glance, this seems very generic and a complete mismatching of material and director (which is made stranger by the fact that the director co-wrote the script), but upon a second glance there is some promise. Chiefly, the cast is good (though not great), and this family drama should play as good counterprogramming to all the blockbusters surrounding it. That said, this is probably still at best a rental. Trailer: Here.


Snow White and the Huntsman (Rupert Sanders) – Adventure Fantasy – Jun 1
Summary: We all know this story more or less – there is an Evil Queen who is the most beautiful woman in the kingdom (and she eats the hearts of young women to stay that way), but one day there is a young girl, Snow White, who is destined to become even more beautiful than the Queen. Thus, in a rage, the Queen orders a huntsman to find and kill Snow White, but the huntsman falls for her (how could he not) and joins her rebellion against the Queen. Filmmakers: Director Rupert Saunders makes his debut on this very ambitious film, but he is working with wonderful people including: composer James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games), cinematographer Greig Fraser (Let Me In) and production designer Dominic Watkins (Green Zone). Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron star, with Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Sam Claflin, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Lily Cole, Eddie Marsan, and Bob Hoskins in support. Expectations: Going into 2012, we knew there would be two Snow White films released during the year – this and Mirror Mirror – the latter looked terrible, and was, but Snow White and the Huntsman surprisingly looked interesting. First, the cast is fantastic (especially the supporting players), with dwarves being played by the awesomeness of Ian McShane and Bob Hoskins among others. Second, this looked to be a much different take on the story we all already knew from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Snow White is wielding a sword and wearing armor in this one. And third, the trailer dropped, confirming our highest aspirations for what the film could be, and reminding us that Charlize Theron is a perfect casting decision for the Queen. I am almost shocked how good it looks, and how much I am looking forward to seeing it. However, there is still the consideration that Rupert Saunders has never made a film before, and thus we have nothing to base his skill behind the camera and with the actors on. True, the trailer is great, but I am still hesitant to call this a surefire great film because of Saunders lack of experience. What we do know is that if nothing else, this is going to be visually astounding. Trailer: Here. Review.


That’s My Boy (Sean Anders) – Comedy – Jun 15
Summary: When Donny was a teen he fathered Todd, and then carelessly raised him as a single dad. Donny was a terrible father and Todd bolted on his 18th birthday to forge a new life on his own. Years later, Donny is broke. Todd, however, is about to marry into a wealthy family. Donny sees this as a great opportunity to reinsert himself into Todd’s life. Filmmakers: That’s My Boy is the next in the ever-worsening line of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. This time around, director Sean Anders (who wrote and directed Sex Drive) is helming and working with composer Rupert Gregson-Williams (Jack and Jill), cinematographer Brandon Trost (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) and production designer Aaron Osborne (Wanderlust). Cast: Sandler stars with Andy Samberg, while Leighton Meester co-stars. Vanilla Ice, James Caan, Milo Ventimiglia, Will Forte, Rachel Dratch, Nick Swardson, Ciara, Ana Gasteyer, Eva Amurri Martino, Susan Sarandon, Dan Patrick, and Rex Ryan feature in support. Expectations: There is not much to say really. We all know what to expect from an Adam Sandler film. Only, for those that grew up with Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, his Happy Madison comedies since Little Nicky (other than 50 First Dates, maybe Click, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan cracks me up) have been bad, and seemingly getting worse (for those who saw Jack and Jill), which is disappointing because we loved those comedies when we were in middle school and high school (though, I have a theory that the quality never really changed much, we just grew up). That’s My Boy does not look much better than his usual fare, but Andy Samberg is funny. Trailer: Here.

Ted (Seth MacFarlane) – Comedy – Jun 29
Summary: When John was a child he wished that his teddy bear would come to life and it did. Now as a middle-aged man, he is starting to regret it a little. Filmmakers: Ted is Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show’s creator Seth MacFarlane’s feature debut, both as a writer and director. He is working with a comedy oriented group featuring composer Walter Murphy (who works on MacFarlane’s TV shows), cinematographer Michael Barrett (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and production designer Stephen Linewaver (Role Models). Cast: It stars Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane (voicing the teddy bear) and co-stars Mila Kunis. Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Joel McHale, Jessica Stroup, and Laura Vandervoort have supporting roles. Expectations: The film looks hilarious, basically like Peter from Family Guy as a teddy bear. However, will MacFarlane’s brand of humor play in a feature format and is Ted too similar to Peter? I am inclined to think that this will be a very funny R-rated comedy, and probably among the best of the year. Or, is that just me hoping it is (as a big fan of Family Guy – at least the first few seasons)? Trailer: Here. Review.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Timur Bekmambetov) – Horror Action Thriller – Jun 22
Summary: We all know the story of the 16th President of the United States – honest Abe freed the slaves – but did you know he also hunted and killed vampires? He did. Filmmakers: Director Timur Bekmambetov has made a few good horror films, but is best known for Wanted, making him a good fit for this project. He is working with producer Tim Burton, composer Henry Jackman (also scoring this month’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation), cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (National Treasure), and production designer Francois Audouy, making his debut (though he was the art director on Transformers). Cast: It stars Broadway star Benjamin Walker (a star to watch this summer) with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Jimmi Simpson, and Marton Csokas in support. Expectations: It is hard to predict whether or not this will be good. On one hand, the concept is so out there that it sounds great just on a ‘what!?!?!’ level, plus Bekmambetov is well regarded among many action fans for Wanted, but on the other hand the last Civil War era horror action fantasy was Jonah Hex, and we know how that turned out. It looks like a good action film, and I like the cast. Not sure if I will be seeing it in theatres, but I am certainly renting it. Trailer: Here.

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