Thursday, September 6, 2012

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

Serious Films:

The Words (Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal) – Drama – Sep 7
Summary: Rory Jansen, a struggling writer, finds a manuscript seemingly lost in time. It is really good. He decides to publish it as his own. Initially, the novel brings him the success he craved, but as time passes he realizes the true price he must pay for stealing another writer’s work. Filmmakers: Writer-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal make their feature debut with The Words. Previously, they worked on the screen-story for Tron: Legacy. They are working with composer Marcelo Zarvos (The Good Shepherd), talented cinematographer Antonio Calvache (Little Children) and production designer Michele Laliberte (designing her second film, though she has worked in the art department on many films). Cast: The film stars Bradley Cooper (who is still trying to establish himself as a star), and features a good supporting ensemble with Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid (who will probably just ham it up, having given up on acting years ago), J.K. Simmons, John Hannah, Zeljko Ivanek, Ben Barnes, Michael McKean, and Ron Rifkin. Expectations: The Words looks like a good drama, dealing with what is usually the tricky narrative structure of multiple intersecting stories. The cast is also strong enough to make the film a compelling rental. Bradley Cooper is sort of on the cusp this year of either making it as a leading man with this film and (more importantly) Silver Linings Playbook in November or falling back into the B-list. Plus, it has been playing to acclaim in its advanced screenings. Trailer: Here.

End of Watch (David Ayer) – Crime Drama – Sep 21
Summary: Officers Taylor and Zavala make a routine traffic stop. Unbeknownst to them, they are pulling over a member of a notorious LA cartel. The find a small cache of money and firearms and confiscate it, thinking they have made the bust of their careers. However, their world begins to crash down around them when they are marked for death by the cartel. Filmmakers: Writer-director-producer David Ayer is the go-to filmmaker for cop crime dramas. He wrote The Fast and the Furious, Training Day, Dark Blue, S.W.A.T., and directed Harsh Times and Street Kings. He has a very gritty style, which should be even more on display with End of Watch as it is being done as a ‘found-footage’ style film. He is working with composer David Sardy (Zombieland), Russian cinematographer Roman Vasyanov and production designer Devorah Herbert (who also designed Harsh Times). Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star with Anna Kendrick (who is one of the great young actresses right now), America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Frank Grillo, and David Harbour in support. Expectations: Generally, I have enjoyed Ayer’s work (especially Harsh Times and Training Day) and look forward to End of Watch, which also features a good cast. Found-footage films have found their place in mainstream filmmaking, allowing directors to pull their audience in by presenting the material in a very realistic manner. It has worked well for comedy and action this year with Project X and Chronicle. I am interested to see how Ayer uses it to really draw the audience in on this crime drama/thriller. Based on what I have seen, it looks like it will be very engaging (particularly if you like cop centric dramas). Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Summary: Charlie is an introvert freshman who has never really fit in. This life is changed when two seniors, Patrick and Sam, take him under their wing and introduce him to the real world. Filmmakers: Novelists do not often convince Hollywood executives to let them write and direct the film adaptation of their own novel, but that is what Stephen Chbosky did with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. However, he does have a background having created the loved cult series Jericho and writing and directing The Four Corners of Nowhere in 1995 (which no one has seen). Perks is really his commercial feature debut though. He is working with composer Michael Brook (The Fighter), cinematographer Andrew Dunn (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) and production designer Inbal Weinberg (Our Idiot Brother). Cast: Logan Lerman stars with Emma Watson (looking to establish herself outside of the Harry Potter franchise) and Ezra Miller co-starring. Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev, Dylan McDermott, Mae Whitman, Melanie Lynskey, Kate Walsh, Nicholas Braun, Johnny Simmons, Reece Thompson, Julia Garner, and Erin Wilhelmi feature in support. Expectations: From what I have seen, The Perks of Being a Wallflower looks like it is going to be a good coming-of-age high school drama. While we will have to wait and see how Chbosky does as a director, the film has a fantastic young cast – particularly: Lerman, Watson, Dobrev, Simmons, Thompson, and Miller (who was brilliant in We Need to Talk About Kevin). Garner and Wilhelmi are also highly touted new talents. Plus, the film features Paul Rudd who is always wonderful. This has the potential to be the best teen drama of the year that really connects with its audience and a sleeper box office hit (and maybe even be this generation’s The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused or Garden State). Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Wont’ Back Down (Daniel Barnz) – Drama – Sep 28
Summary: Two mothers do whatever it takes to stand up against the bureaucracy to make a change for the better at the failing inner city school their children attend and to make a difference for the future of education. Filmmakers: Writer-director Daniel Barnz is back for his third feature. His debut, Phoebe in Wonderland, was fairly well received, but his second feature, Beastly, is awful. He is working with composer Marcelo Zarvos (who is also scoring this month’s The Words), cinematographer Roman Osin (who did phenomenal work on Pride & Prejudice) and production designer Rusty Smith (who worked with Barnz on Beastly). Cast: The film stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, with Holly Hunter, Ving Rhames, Oscar Isaac, Rosie Perez, Lance Reddick, and Bill Nunn in support. Expectations: Won’t Back Down honestly looks like a Lifetime movie-of-the-week, but with heavy hitting acting talent like Viola Davis (who probably could have/should have won Oscars for The Help and Doubt) and the feel-good inspirational material this sort of feels like it might greatly overachieve (even garnering awards buzz). Education is an important topic, as the public school system in America, especially in poorer areas, is failing to an overly depressing degree, and maybe this film will help to make a change. Trailer: Here.


The Cold Light of Day (Mabrouk El Mechri) – Action Thriller – Sep 7
Summary: Will Shaw, a young successful Wall Street trader, finds his life thrown into peril after his family is kidnapped while on a sailing trip in Spain leaving him to be pursued by the people responsible who are looking for a mysterious briefcase they now believe he has. Filmmakers: Director Mabrouk El Mechri’s last film was the fantastic JCVD (if you are a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan and you have not seen this, you should). He is working with composer Lucas Vidal (The Raven), cinematographer Remi Adefarasin (who did fabulous work shooting The Pacific and Band of Brothers for HBO) and production designer Benjamin Fernandez (Man on Fire). Cast: Henry Cavill (who is looking to become an A-lister) stars, while Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver co-star. Expectations: The Cold Light of Day does not look like much more than a forgettable action thriller, which is too bad, as I did enjoy JCVD (but mostly because Van Damme is brilliant in it and the opening shot is hilariously wonderful). For action fans, maybe this is worth a rental, but for most of us this is probably one to skip. Trailer: Here.

Resident Evil: Retribution (Paul W.S. Anderson) – Action Horror – Sep 14
Summary: Like the other movies, Alice continues her fight against the Umbrella Corporation while having to deal with lots of zombies and other creatures (and yes, this is in 3D). Filmmakers: Writer-director-producer Paul W.S. Anderson is back yet again having directed the first Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Afterlife as well as producing and writing all of the four previous films. He is known for making entertaining action films that lack deeper substance. He is again working with composers tomandandy and cinematographer Glen MacPherson, while production designer Kevin Phipps (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) is new to the team. Cast: Milla Jovovich is back as Alice, as well as many of the actors from the film series – Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr, Kim Coates, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Spencer Locke, Wentworth Miller, James Purefoy, Eric Mabius, Colin Salmon, and Boris Kodjoe. New to the cast is Kevin Durand. Expectations: While I did enjoy the first film in the series and was very much looking forward to the second, the sequels have been lackluster (if not flat out bad) promoting spectacle above character and truly thrilling moments that draw the audience in and really scare them. The film series does not resemble the tone of the video games at all, as it has become completely soulless. Yet, that said, the films still have some charm in their escapist entertainment, and there is some beauty to the grand choreography that goes into the elaborate action set pieces. Retribution, the fifth film, will probably not be that great, but will likely be equally entertaining as the others. Trailer: Here.

Dredd 3D (Pete Travis) – Action Sci-Fi Thriller – Sep 21
Summary: Judge Dredd is a cop, in a violent futuristic society, who is also entrusted with the roles of judge, jury and executioner (tagline!). He teams up with a young trainee to take down a gang pushing the reality-altering drug SLO-MO (which, incidentally, makes the taker’s perspective of life slow down immensely, allowing for tons of slow-motion 3D antics on the part of the filmmakers). Filmmakers: Director Pete Travis’s past feature work is not overly impressive, as his two previous films are the average Vantage Point and Endgame. However, he did also direct the very good miniseries The Jury. Writer-producer Alex Garland, though, is a perfect fit for the film, having also penned 28 Days Later…, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go. In addition to Garland, Travis is working with producer Andrew Macdonald (friend and longtime partner of Danny Boyle and Garland) composer Paul Leonard-Morgan (Limitless),one of  the best digital photographers (and pioneer) right now Anthony Dod Mantle (127 Hours) and production designer Mark Digby (Slumdog Millionaire). Cast: Karl Urban stars with Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey co-starring. Expectations: While Pete Travis has not yet given us a great film, he is working with a phenomenal team (Danny Boyle’s team) which at the minimum should give the film a great aesthetic and feel. Also, there are rumors that Travis was fired from the film due to creative issues and that Garland worked on the final cut. Dredd 3D is the remake of the awful Judge Dredd that none of us knew we needed or even wanted, but it received acclaim from fans after its screening at Comic-Con in San Diego earlier this year. The film is being called violent, gritty and dark by critics, which for the most part enjoyed it. From what I have seen, the film looks like an action thriller comprised of brutality and visual beauty set against a grim dystopia. I am actually looking forward to seeing it (something I never thought could be possible after the sheer horridness of Sylvester Stallone’s version – court’s adjourned). Trailer: Here.


Hotel Transylvania (Genndy Tartakovsky) – Comedy – Sep 28
Summary: Dracula, wanting a place of peace and quiet for his monster buddies, created and operates a high-end resort in Transylvania. There he lives, happily, with his daughter Mavis. However, as Mavis comes of age, she wants to see what else there is in the world, which is only made worse by a human coming across the resort and falling for Mavis. Filmmakers: Animator Genndy Tartakovsky makes his feature directorial debut with this film, though he has directed many episodes of our favorite animated shows (things like Star Wars: Clone Wars, Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, and The Powerpuff Girls). He is working with composer Mark Mothersbaugh (Rushmore) and production designer Marcelo Vignali. Cast: The film features voice-acting from Adam Sandler (who is also executively producing), Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, David Spade, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz, Molly Shannon, and CeeLo Green. Expectations: Hotel Transylvania is essentially an Adam Sandler movie – as it stars him and all his friends (plus Selena Gomez so kids will recognize at least one person’s name in the credits) as well as being written by longtime collaborator Robert Smigel, and as we all know Sandler does not make good movies anymore (unless he is working with Judd Apatow). That said, this does look marginally funny and could be an okay film to share with your kids (especially if, like me, you still find Sandler funny, even though you know the jokes are bad – I may even have just talked myself into renting this). Trailer: Here.


Summary: Elissa and her mother move to a new town, taking up residence next to a house in which a young girl murdered her parents. However, Elissa still meets and befriends the girl’s brother Ryan who still lives there. But, things are far from over, as Elissa soon learns. Filmmakers: Director Mark Tonderai has his first feature to be distributed, as his first film, Hush, went straight to video. He is working with composer Theo Green (who also scored Hush), cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak (The Bang Bang Club) and production designer Lisa Soper (The Day). Cast: The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, with Elisabeth Shue and Max Thieriot co-starring. Expectations: In all likeliness, House at the End of the Street does not see distribution (being purchased by Rogue Pictures) if not for the huge success of The Hunger Games, and thereby Jennifer Lawrence’s swift ascension onto the A-list. It looks like a fairly generic thriller, but Lawrence is one of the great young actresses right now and could elevate it. At best though, this is probably a rental. Trailer: Here.

No comments:

Post a Comment