Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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


Total Recall (Len Wiseman) – Action Sci-Fi – Aug 3
Summary: Upon visiting Rekall (a company that provides its clients with the illusion of being someone else for vacation purposes), factory worker Douglas Quaid begins to suspect that he is really a spy and a hunted man. He subsequently goes on the run from the police. Filmmakers: Action specialist Len Wiseman is directing. He is best known for his Underworld films (directing the first two, but being involved in all four). He also directed Live Free or Die Hard. More interesting for sci-fi action fans, however, is that the script is co-written by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium). Wiseman is working again with production designer (and special effects technician) Patrick Tatopoulos (I, Robot), as well as composer Harry Gregson-Williams (The Town) and cinematographer Paul Cameron (Man on Fire). Cast: Colin Farrell stars with a great supporting cast including Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke, John Cho, Bokeem Woodbine, and Will Yun Lee. Expectations: While I am not completely convinced that this film is necessary, as Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall still holds up relatively well, I do get the sense from what I have seen that this is completely different tonally. It also looks visually impressive (and different from Mars). I am not a huge fan of Wiseman’s work, as he is just sort of a standard Hollywood action director, but I did enjoy Underworld and Die Hard 4. More so than the director, however, it is the cast that has me eager to see this, especially with supporting work from Cranston and Nighy. For a big sci-fi actioner like this, if you are going to see it might as well see it in theatres and get the full effect. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

The Bourne Legacy (Tony Gilroy) – Action Thriller – Aug 10
Summary: Apparently, there was never just one – as the story centers on another Treadstone operative Aaron Cross. Filmmakers: Writer-director Tony Gilroy wrote the three previous Bourne films, but is making his franchise directorial debut with this installment (though, it is his third film overall). He has a great group working with him including composer James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games), cinematographer Robert Elswit (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and production designer Kevin Thompson (The Adjustment Bureau). Cast: Taking over for Matt Damon (though there are rumors he will return in a subsequent sequel) is Jeremy Renner. Backing him up is a great supporting cast featuring Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, and Corey Stoll. Expectations: Going into this film, there are really two main questions (or concerns): 1) can Renner carry the film in a manner than is on par with Damon? and 2) which Tony Gilroy will show up behind the camera – the director of Michael Clayton (which was nominated for Best Picture) or the director of Duplicity (which to make my point was awful)? In Gilroy’s favor, the film has a fantastic cast; and I think Renner will do a good job in the lead. He has shown he can act (The Hurt Locker) and is action-ready (MI4). Plus, the film looks great – both action packed and dramatically interesting. It should make a good addition to the series. Trailer: Here.

The Expendables 2 (Simon West) – Action – Aug 17
Summary: The Expendables are back together for another mission, but when one of their own is murdered, the mission becomes one of revenge. Filmmakers: Action director Simon West is probably a good fit to take over for Sylvester Stallone (his best known film is probably Con Air). He is working with composer Brian Tyler (who scored the first Expendables), cinematographer Shelly Johnson (Captain America: The First Avenger) and production designer Paul Cross (Luther). Cast: Returning to the cast are Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Charisma Carpenter, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture. New to the cast are Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Nan Yu, and Chuck Norris. Expectations: The Expendables 2 should be bigger, louder and have more explosions – plus it has more (cheesy) action stars form the 80s with bigger roles for Willis and Schwarzenegger and the additions of Van Damme and Norris (if they make a third, may I summit some names: Steven Seagal, Kurt Russell, Mel Gibson, and Wesley Snipes). Will it be better than the first film? I think it will be equally as good, so if you liked the first you will probably like this one. Trailer: Here.

Premium Rush (David Koepp) – Thriller – Aug 24
Summary: Wilee is a NYC bike messenger. It is a crazy adrenaline-pumping, thrill-seeking job, which requires its riders to be able to do lots of jumps, tricks and other cool bike related stuff. So when Wilee comes in possession of an envelope that has the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues him throughout the city, it is no problem – just another day in the life of the typical high risk action-sports NYC bike messenger. Filmmakers: Writer-director David Koepp is best known for writing scripts for many of the biggest Hollywood films, such as: Toy Soldiers, The Shadow, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Snake Eyes, Zathura: A Space Adventure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Angels & Demons. As a writer-director, he is responsible for the gem Secret Window (so yeah, I decided to be snarky on this one – pretty much nothing is better off with Koepp attached as a writer, and certainly not as a director). He is working with composer David Sardy (Zombieland), cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen (Transformers) and production designer Therese DePrez (Black Swan). Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars with Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez and Michael Shannon in support. Expectations: Premium Rush might be entertaining, but I think it is unlikely it will be a good thriller. Gordon-Levitt and Shannon are good enough actors to make for engaging characters, but again Koepp’s writing is just really boring and Hollywood-generic. Plus, from what I have seen, this looks silly. At best, it is a rental for those looking for a mindless Hollywood-style thriller. Trailer: Here.

Hit and Run (David Palmer & Dax Shepard) – Action Comedy – Aug 24
Summary: Charlie Bronson is hiding out in witness protection, formally being the getaway driver. However, when his girlfriend needs his help to get to LA, Charlie must avoid both the feds and his old gang as he races across the country. Filmmakers: The team of David Palmer and Dax Shepard return for their second feature film (their first was the B-movie Brother’s Justice), with Shepard writing the script and starring. They are working with an indie film crew including cinematographer Bradley Stonesifer (God Bless America), production designer Emily Bloom and composers Robert Mervak and Julian Wass. Cast: In addition to Shepard, the cast features a decent supporting group with David Koechner, Ryan Hansen, Bradley Cooper, Kristin Chenoweth, Joy Bryant, Beau Bridges, Tom Arnold, and Kristen Bell. Expectations: While I do not think Hit and Run will be a good film, it does look fun and entertaining on some level. The cast has some funny people in it, and being that it is an action comedy there is certainly the potential for it to be an enjoyable rental. I have not seen Shepard and Palmer’s first film, but based on its IMDB rating I can assume it is not very good. This seems like it will be better. Action comedy fans may consider renting this. Trailer: Here.


The Campaign (Jay Roach) – Comedy – Aug 10
Summary: Cam Brady is a reigning congressman in North Carolina, cruising to electoral victory after victory running unopposed. That is all about to change when two local CEOs want to oust him and put up a rival candidate (one that is pliable to their will): the inexperienced and seemingly clueless and ill-suited Marty Huggins. Filmmakers: Director Jay Roach seems like a great fit for the material, as he has a good background in comedy (directing films like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Meet the Parents) and arguably an even better background in political drama (directing Recount and Game Change). He is working with producer Adam McKay (Will Ferrell’s partner as a producer writer and director), composer Theodore Shapiro (The Big Year), cinematographer Jim Denault (Game Change), and production designer Michael Corenblith (Frost/Nixon). Cast: Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star with Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Brian Cox, John Lithgow, and Dan Aykroyd in support. Expectations: The Campaign does look funny, but I think I am just burnt out on both Ferrell and Galifianakis, especially since they are both basically just rehashing their same shtick yet again for this. I will rent it, but in 2012 I do not think I am anywhere near as enthusiastic for this as I would have been in 2005. That said, the supporting cast might bring about just as many laughs as the stars (I am thinking about Lithgow in Orange County and Aykroyd in Grosse Pointe Blank). Trailer: Here.


ParaNorman (Chris Butler & Sam Fell) – Family Horror – Aug 17
Summary: Norman is a misunderstood boy, who has the remarkable ability to talk with the dead. This comes in handy when a centuries-old curse threatens his town unearthing ghosts, ghouls and zombies. He and a group of friends must work together to save the day. Filmmakers: Writer-director Chris Butler makes his debut (but he did work as a storyboard artist on Coraline and Corpse Bride – this utilizing the same animation style, perfected by Henry Selick), while Sam Fell has directed a few British stop-motion films (like Flushed Away). They are working with composer Jon Brion (Step Brothers), cinematographer Tristan Oliver (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and production designer Nelson Lowry (also worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox). Cast: The voice cast is very good with Kodi Smit-McPhee starring and supporting work from Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman, Casey Affleck, Bernard Hill, and Jeff Garlin. Expectations: First off, why is Focus Features releasing this in August and not in October for Halloween? I do not get it – this really feels like a Halloween film. Anyway, that aside, this looks good and should serve as great counterprogramming to all the action films this month. Plus, it is really the only kid friendly film (that actually looks good). With Brave not being amazing, best animated film of the year is very much still up in the air and this certainly has a good shot at it. Trailer: Here.

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