Tuesday, July 3, 2012

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

Serious Films:

Savages (Oliver Stone) – Crime Thriller – Jul 7
Summary: Pot growers Ben and Chon have a good life, business and shared girlfriend they both love and who loves them – it is all working out. But, everything falls apart when she is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. Now they must go to extremes to get her back. Filmmakers: It seems like every time director Oliver Stone has a new film everyone is quick to call it his comeback picture, as he is known for the great films Platoon, Wall Street, JFK (my favorite), and Natural Born Killers but has not really made another to the level of those films in almost two decades. He is working with relative newcomers composer Adam Peters and production designer Tomas Voth and excellent action cinematographer Daniel Mindel (John Carter). Cast: Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson star with Blake Lively co-starring. John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch, Benicio Del Toro, Joel David Moore, Shea Whigham, and Demian Bichir feature in support. Expectations: Savages has the potential to be a very fun and entertaining action-thriller, and Oliver Stone could use a commercial and critic hit. Based on the trailer, I am looking forward to seeing it as a good summer film. It is probably worth checking out for action oriented thriller fans (let us just hope Stone does not bog the narrative down in preachy border/war-on-drugs politics and just allows it to be a fun film). Trailer: HereReview: Here.


The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb) – Adventure – Jul 3
Summary: Rebooting the Spider-Man franchise, the new Peter Parker has a new origin story. Peter sets out to find out what happened to his parents causing them to disappear when he was young. His search leads him to his father’s former partner Dr. Curt Connors. Meanwhile, he develops a relationship with his first love Gwen Stacy, whose father the chief of police hurts his alter ego down. Filmmakers: Director Marc Webb, coming off (500) Days of the Summer, seemed like an odd choice for Sony to task with revamping their flagship franchise, but picking good filmmakers (and potentially blooming auteurs) with less experience over Hollywood action/adventure veterans to helm big franchise movies has paid off in the past commercially and critically (Tim BurtonBatman, Christopher NolanBatman Begins, Peter JacksonThe Lord of the Rings, Sam RaimiSpider-Man, Matthew VaughnX-Men: First Class, Bryan SingerX-Men, Alfonso CuaronPrisoner of Azkaban, Joss WhedonThe Avengers, and probably Sam Mendes - Skyfall). Webb is working with great composer James Horner (Avatar), cinematographer John Schwartzman (Armageddon) and production designer J. Michael Riva (Spider-Man 3). Cast: Webb also has a fantastic group of actors as well with Andrew Garfield starring and Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans co-starring. Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, Campbell Scott, and Embeth Davidtz feature in support. Expectations: When The Amazing Spider-Man was announced, I was really disappointed that Sony was not going to give Raimi his Spider-Man 4 (especially since Sony had essentially taken Spider-Man 3 creatively away from Raimi during shooting and ruined it to some extent). Spider-Man 2 is still my favorite superhero/comic book film to date, and I really like what Raimi did with the character of Peter Parker. Though, while I did enjoy Spider-Man 3, ‘dark’ Peter was a bit too campy and silly. All that said, The Amazing Spider-Man became something I have been looking forward to since the casting of Garfield and Stone (both among the best young actors right now). Most know Garfield from The Social Network, but he is also wonderful in Never Let Me Go, Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 and Boy A. Early reviews point to their acting and chemistry as the best part of the film, and with Webb directing I am not surprised, as it seemed logical that he would take a more relationship and character oriented approach (than action and special effects over everything – the typical Hollywood way). I think this will be on par with Raimi’s first in the series, but not as good as Spider-Man 2 (and probably not close). And, as much as I would have liked to have seen Raimi’s fourth film, a good Spider-Man film by a new director is better than none at all. Trailer: HereReview: Here.


The Watch (Akiva Schaffer) – Sci-Fi Action Comedy – Jul 27
Summary:  A group of suburban dads get together a form a neighborhood watch group, not so much to keep the neighborhood safe but more so to goof off and get out of day-to-day family events that have become mundane. However, when aliens invade Earth, they must step up and defend their homes. Filmmakers: Creatively, the film has a good team with Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer directing his second feature (his first is the very funny, under-seen Hot Rod) and a script from Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan (Superbad, Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet). Schaffer is working with a good genre specific group including composer Christophe Beck (The Muppets), cinematographer Barry Peterson (21 Jump Street) and production designer Doug Meerdink (Cedar Rapids). Cast: The film stars Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Richard Ayoade. Rosemarie DeWitt, Billy Crudup, R. Lee Ermey, Will Forte, and Jorma Taccone populate the supporting cast. Expectations: Schaffer directed most of the Lonely Island videos and did a great job with Hot Rod – The Watch could be his breakthrough as a comedy director if it does well. While it looks like a tamer suburban version of Attack the Block, it is R-rated so there is at least potential for things to get more out of hand (crude comedy, language and violence) than if it were PG-13, which should be beneficial given the intended audience. The cast has a lot of comedic talent (though, Ben Stiller seems like he gave up years ago, just taking paychecks for terrible sequels to tired franchises). However, it will be most Americans’ first experience of Richard Ayoade (who is wonderful in The IT Crowd), who may very well steal the movie. I think Fox is hoping The Watch will play like 21 Jump Street did earlier in the year (but with a sci-fi twist) as a really fun and entertaining R-rated action comedy. Trailer: Here.

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