Thursday, May 3, 2012

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

Summary: The chronicles of five couples as they prepare to birth children into our modern world. Filmmakers: Director Kirk Jones has made three previous films, all decent (my personal favorite is Everybody’s Fine), but has never made a great film. He does have a strong command of infusing drama with comedic and lighter moments, which makes him a good fit for this project (which is probably going to play more as a comedy than drama, but will certainly have both dramatic and comedic beats). He is working with composer Mark Mothersbaugh (21 Jump Street), cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet (City of Ember) and production designer Andrew Laws (I Love You, Man). Cast: The film is packed full of celebrities, comedians and good actors (you decide who is which): Elizabeth Banks, Brooklyn Decker, Genesis Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez, Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kendrick, Rodrigo Santoro, Chace Crawford, Joe Manganiello, Chris Rock, Rebel Wilson, Megan Mullally, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Morrison, Ben Falcone, and Rob Huebel. Expectations: What to Expect When You’re Expecting is 2012’s He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), Valentine’s Day (2010) and New Year’s Eve (2011), just minus Garry Marshall (who also had nothing to do with the first one, probably why it is the best of the three), which means we can expect something incredibly sappy, tame and somewhat enjoyable involving multiple interweaving narratives all focused around a common theme, in this case being pregnant. I think Kirk Jones will eliminate some of the sappiness and present more realistic and richer characters (which were very much lacking in the other films, especially the holiday ones). I am also willing to rent this because I do like the work of Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick and Chris Rock (who put himself back into our collective consciousness killing it at the 2012 Oscars). Trailer: Here.


Battleship (Peter Berg) – Action Sci-Fi – May 18
Summary: While participating in naval war games, a fleet inexplicably comes across an alien force bent on destroying the world. The alien ship creates a force field around itself, which is impenetrable. Thus, it is up to the few ships also within the force field, who are without communication or radar (you know, they have to use their weapons blind sort of like the game), to destroy the alien ship and save the world (don’t worry about how ridiculous this premise is, just accept it and bask in the glory). Filmmakers: Director Peter Berg has made a number of entertaining action films among his six previous features (my favorite being The Kingdom), though nothing quite of this scale. He is working with an action specializing group with composer Steve Jablonsky (Transformers), cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler (who shot Hancock and The Rundown for Berg) and production designer Neil Spisak (who also worked on Hancock, but it better known for working on the Spider-Man trilogy). Cast: The film stars Taylor Kitsch, and features Liam Neeson, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, and Jesse Plemons (making for a mini Friday Night Lights reunion) in support. Expectations: Battleship essentially looks like another Transformers film – mindless, loud and wholly built around spectacle over content and characters. Basically, this is perfect for cinemagoers who just want a big summer blockbuster that is all thrills, bells and whistles. For me, I will probably just Netflix it. Trailer: Here.

Men in Black III (Barry Sonnenfeld) – Action Comedy Sci-Fi – May 25
Summary: When Agent K suddenly ceases to exist in the present, Agent J must time travel back to the 1960s, the origin of the MIB, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend. Filmmakers: Director Barry Sonnenfeld (who started his career as a great cinematographer; he shot the Coen Brothers’ first three films for example) has never made a great film, mostly dabbling in broad comedies. But, his Men in Black movies have been well receive commercially, so he is back in the director’s chair after taking a six year break from features to finish the trilogy. He is, howver, working with a brilliant group with executive producer Steven Spielberg, composer Danny Elfman (scored the previous two MIBs), cinematographer Bill Pope (who is one of the best action D.P.s; he shot The Matrix, Spider-Man 2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and production designer Bo Welch (Thor). Cast: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return, while Josh Brolin, Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, and Michael Stuhlbarg are new to the trilogy. Expectations: While I found Men in Black to be a decently enjoyable sci-fi action comedy, number two was fairly terrible, and I thought that I would probably never see another Barry Sonnenfeld or MIB film again, but I am to be proved wrong on both accounts (as I did in fact see RV, but who knows why). Will Smith’s wonderful charisma in the trailer for MIB III and the overall quality of the cast have roped me back into giving this a rental (I know better than to committing to seeing it in the theatre). If it is equal to part one, then we should have a very fun cinematic experience. If it is equal to two or worse, then I promise I will not see MIB IV, should one ever exist (yes Columbia Pictures, that is a threat). Trailer: Here.


The Dictator (Larry Charles) – Comedy – May 18
Summary: General Aladeen is the lovable oppressive dictator of a Middle Eastern country. However, during a visit to America, he is kidnapped and his beard is removed (making him apparently unrecognizable to the world). Now, he must learn to survive in New York City without the power and privilege he had grown accustom to.  Filmmakers: Director Larry Charles and writer/star Sacha Baron Cohen are back together for their third collaboration. Charles is working with composer Erran Baron Cohen (who also scored Borat and Bruno), cinematographer Lawrence Sher (The Hangover Part II) and production designer Victor Kempster (Charlie Wilson’s War). Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen stars and Anna Faris co-stars, with Megan Fox, Ben Kingsley, J.B. Smoove, B.J. Novak, Kevin Corrigan, and John C. Reilly in support (or making cameos). Expectations: The success of Borat and Bruno came from the wonderful comedy garnered through awkward and uncomfortable moments that Cohen created interacting with real people not in on the joke (or production). It is not entirely clear if there is an aspect of this or not in The Dictator, as the trailer alludes to it being a comedy device employed in the film. But, for the most part, this is a scripted comedy. While the first trailer laid out a shallow series of jokes intended to offend people, it did not look like a very good film. However, the second trailer, focusing more on the character journey, presents what could be a good and funny comedy, with jokes that will offend people. Trailer: Here.

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