Thursday, October 4, 2012

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

Serious Films:

Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski) – Sci-Fi Drama Mystery – Oct 26
Summary: The epic is about how actions of individuals impact the lives of others across time. Filmmakers: Writer-directors Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis have made films that are loved among many fans (Tykwer’s Run Lola Run and the Wachowskis’ The Matrix), but those films were primarily made in the late 1990s, with their recent work being subpar. Thus, this film is sort of a comeback project for the directors. They are working with composers Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tykwer (making up the band Pale 3, composing for most of Tykwer’s films but also outside work like One Hour Photo), cinematographers Frank Griebe (Run Lola Run) and John Toll (Braveheart) and production designers Hugh Bateup (art director of The Matrix Trilogy) and Uli Hanisch (worked on Tykwer’s recent films) – making up a big crew for a massive film. Cast: The ensemble features Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, Xun Zhou, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy, and Doona Bae. Expectations: Cloud Atlas looks highly ambitious and visually amazing. The thing about highly ambitious art is that it often does not work and even more often is very polarizing. However, if it does work, it is usually something of brilliance. Critics are mixed on whether this film works or not after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival – almost split on whether it is a good or bad film. However, there is no denying the potential this has to be one of the great films of the year (and maybe the decade). Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Chasing Mavericks (Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson) – Sports Drama – Oct 26
Summary: Mythic Mavericks surf break, some of the biggest and most dangerous waves on Earth, nest a mere miles from Santa Cruz, the home of Jay Moriarty. Jay has to go in on these waves. So, he befriends local legend Frosty Hesson with the hope he will train him. Filmmakers: The directing team of Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson (both talented in their own right – Apted directing Coal Miner’s Daughter and Hanson L.A. Confidential) seems unlikely, but they share credit as Hanson left production due to health reason and Apted finished the final three weeks of shooting. They worked with composer Chad Fischer (Garden State), cinematographers Oliver Euclid and Bill Pope (who is maybe the best action D.P. right now, he shot The Matrix and Spider-Man 2 for example) and production designer Ida Random (No Strings Attached). Cast: Newcomer Jonny Weston stars with support from co-star Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, and Leven Rambin (who you might recognize from The Hunger Games as Glimmer). Expectations: Sports dramas are often very formulaic and clichéd. But, this has a pair of very good directors behind the camera which should elevate it. I think this is probably worth renting for fans of sports dramas. Trailer: Here.


Taken 2 (Olivier Megaton) – Thriller – Oct 5
Summary: Former CIA agent Bryan Mills is on vacation in Istanbul with his wife and daughter. Four years ago, he killed a number of men rescuing his daughter from kidnappers. Now, the father of one of those men he killed is out for revenge. Filmmakers: Writer and producer of Taken Luc Besson is back in those roles, however this time he has chosen director Olivier Megaton from his stable to helm the film. Megaton directed other action films for Besson: Transporter 3 and Colombiana (neither is very good, putting it lightly). Megaton is working again with composer Nathaniel Mechaly and cinematographer Romain Lacourbas, as well as newcomer production designer Sebastien Inizan. Cast: Returning are stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. New to the series is Rade Serbedzija. Expectations: Taken 2 is probably an unnecessary vehicle with the purpose of capitalizing on the success of the original. That said, it does look really good. I like that Grace gets to be in on the action this time (based on the trailer), and Istanbul is a beautiful city and should make for a fabulous backdrop. Fans of Taken are going to like this one too (as it essentially looks like the same thing). Trailer: Here.


Frankenweenie (Tim Burton) – Family Comedy – Oct 5
Summary: Victor’s dog Sparky has died, but that is not going to stop him. He constructs a machine to bring him back to life. But, as with everything, there are unintended consequences. Filmmakers: Remaking his own short, director Tim Burton is behind the camera working with frequent collaborators screenwriter John August (Dark Shadows), composer Danny Elfman (Batman) and production designer Rick Heinrichs (Sleepy Hollow), while cinematographer Peter Sorg makes his debut. Cast: The film features voice-acting from Martin Landau, Christopher Lee, Martin Short, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder. Expectations: Tim Burton’s best venture into stop-motion animation is The Nightmare Before Christmas (directed by Henry Selick). His other animated films are among his lesser work. Frankenweenie also feels sort of disappointing because Burton is one of the more visionary directors (or at least he was) and now he seems to be content in just rehashing the same old stuff again (especially aesthetically). His recent work has also been subpar to his best (and I really gave Dark Shadows a chance). Thus, this is probably a rental at best (unless your kids really want to see it in theatres). Trailer: Here.

Pitch Perfect (Jason Moore) – Music Comedy – Oct 5
Summary: Beca is a freshman at Barden University, just trying to blend in and get through school. However, she is courted by her roommate to join the all-female singing group The Bellas as they take on their campus rivals (an all-male group). Beca is hesitant at first, but is eventually worn down and joins, finding that she not only enjoys singing but also has something to add to the group. Filmmakers: Director Jason Moore makes his feature debut, having directed televisions dramas (like Everwood and Dawson’s Creek) in the past. He is also an acclaimed Broadway director. He is working with composers Christophe Beck (The Muppets) and Mark Kilian and cinematographer Julio Macat (Wedding Crashers). Cast: Anna Kendrick stars with Elizabeth Banks (who is also producing), Rebel Wilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, and John Michael Higgins in support. Expectations: At first glance, Pitch Perfect looks a lot like season three of Glee (which also brings to mind the brilliant episode of Community poking fun at Glee – Regional Holiday Music). Yet, there is something more here. Watching the trailer, I feel strangely compelled to see it. Maybe it is the film’s sneakily great cast – actors like Anna Kendrick (one of the great young stars right now), Rebel Wilson, Chris Mintz-Plasse, Adam DeVine (who some will know from Workaholics), and Anna Camp. Maybe it is my love of musicals (even when they become banal like Glee has, which I still watch). Whatever it is, I actually am looking forward to seeing this when I rent it, as it looks like a fun mix of comedy and music. Trailer: Here.

Butter (Jim Field Smith) – Comedy – Oct 5
Summary: In a small town in Iowa, nothing is bigger than butter carving. Laura Pickler dominates the event at each year’s annual contest. However, this year, a young adopted girl, Destiny, might just rival her. Filmmakers: Jim Field Smith is back for his second feature, following up the decent comedy She’s Out of My League. He also directed the second season of Episodes. He is working with composer Mateo Messina (Juno), cinematographer Jim Denault (worked with Smith on She’s Out of My League) and production designer Tony Fanning (Youth in Revolt). Cast: It stars Yara Shahidi and co-stars Jennifer Garner (also producing), while boasting a great comedic supporting group with Phyllis Smith, Rob Corddry, Ty Burrell, Kristen Schaal, Alicia Silverstone, Ashley Greene, Hugh Jackman, and Olivia Wilde. Expectations: Butter does have a great cast and a seemingly fun quirky premise, but the fact that it has been delayed multiple times makes me think that it is probably not very good. Test audiences would tend to agree with buzz being on the low end of mixed. Still, this might be worth renting for fans of comedies. Trailer: Here.

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh) – Crime Comedy – Oct 12
Summary: Oddball petty criminals/grifters get wrapped up in a caper far out of their depth after they kidnap the wrong Shih Tzu. Filmmakers: Writer-director Martin McDonagh made one of the best films (that hardly anyone saw) of 2008 with In Bruges. He is back with his second feature (much to everyone’s excitement). He is working with a fantastic group: composer Carter Burwell (who scores most of the Coen Brothers’ films), cinematographer Ben Davis (Kick-Ass) and production designer David Wasco (Inglourious Basterds). Cast: The ensemble stars Colin Farrell, Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Olga Kurylenko, Zeljko Ivanek, Tom Waits, Kevin Corrigan, and Gabourey Sidibe. Expectations: I liked In Bruges a lot and this seems to be perfectly cast, but there is something off in the trailer that makes me hesitant to think that this will be great. It honestly only looks okay. I hope to be pleasantly surprised and proved wrong. Critics have been positive, seeing the film early, but not overly so. That said, even if you miss this in theatres, it is probably well worth adding to your rental queue (along with In Bruges). Trailer: Here.

Here Comes the Boom (Frank Coraci) – Action Comedy – Oct 12
Summary: The economy is bad. This causes a bankrupted school to cut all extra-curricular activities. However, dedicated biology teacher Scott Voss has a plan to raise the money to save these programs. He will win money as a mixed-martial arts fighter. Filmmakers: Remember those classic Adam Sandler movies you use to love? The director of this, Frank Coraci, directed some of those: The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy (and more recently Click). He also directed Zookeeper (his first collaboration with Kevin James). He is working with composer Rupert Gregson-Williams (scored Zookeeper as well), cinematographer Phil Meheux (shot Around the World in 80 Days for Coraci) and production designer Perry Andelin Blake (frequent collaborator). Cast: In addition to co-writing and producing, Kevin James stars (because Sandler passed) with Salma Hayek, Reggie Lee, and Henry Winkler in support. Expectations: Happy Madison Productions’ feature films have not been good at all lately (the last five were: Just Go with It, which is probably by far the best of the bunch, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Zookeeper, Jack and Jill, and That’s My Boy) so I do not have much optimism for Here Comes the Boom. Really, you would be better off just renting Warrior or watching it on Netflix streaming to get your MMA fix (or the underrated Redbelt). Trailer: Here.

Fun Size (Josh Schwartz) – Comedy – Oct 26
Summary: Wren likes a guy. He is throwing a massive Halloween party – the perfect chance for her to get to know him better. That is all thrown up in the air however, when she gets stuck watching her strange little brother. What can she do? Apparently, the answer to that is to lose him while tick-or-treating and spend the night on an adventure to find him. Filmmakers: Josh Schwartz is making his directorial debut with this film. However, he is a well-known TV writer/producer having created The OC, Chuck and Gossip Girl. He is working with cinematographer Yaron Orbach (Our Idiot Brother) and production designer Mark White (Winter’s Bone). Cast: Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice makes her broader debut as the lead in this (though, it is a Nickelodeon production, making me think there is no way it will be rated R, which is probably too bad). Jane Levy, Thomas Mann, Johnny Knoxville, Kerri Kenney, Chelsea Handler, Riki Lindhome, and Ana Gasteyer feature in support. Expectations: Fun Size seems like a mix of an out-of-control party movie (like Project X from earlier in the year) and a nostalgic 1980s style suburban adventure film (like Adventures in Babysitting or its crappier modern update The Sitter) – probably a 20/80 mix. As a fan of both Adventures of Babysitting and Project X, I am looking forward to renting this as it looks like a fun and entertaining comedy. Trailer: Here.


Sinister (Scott Derrickson) – Horror Thriller – Oct 5
Summary: Ellison is a true-crime novelist. His latest fascination comes in his research into finding out why the family who previously lived in his house was murdered. The deeper he digs the more he comes to realize that he is dealing with a supernatural entity, putting his family in danger. Filmmakers: This is the third feature from writer-director Scott Derrickson. He had a horror hit in 2005 with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but his second film was the ill-conceived remake The Day the Earth Stood Still. But, he is back to horror now, working with composer Christopher Young (who did the awesome score to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell), cinematographer Chris Norr and production designer David Brisbin (work on Derrickson’s past two features as well). Cast: The film stars Ethan Hawke. Vincent D’Onofrio, James Ransone and Fred Thompson are in support. Expectations: Sinister looks like it might actually be a very scary thriller (for once). The advanced screenings have yielded positive buzz. This might be the scary movie to see for Halloween. Trailer: Here

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