Friday, November 2, 2012

At the Movies – November 2012 – Part 3: Most Anticipated Films

Must-See of the Month:

Skyfall (Sam Mendes) – Action Thriller – Nov 9
Summary: James Bond is back. M’s past comes back to haunt her, testing 007’s loyalty. Now, he must track down and end the threat, no matter the cost. Filmmakers: British auteur Sam Mendes may at first seem like an odd choice to do a Bond film, being that he has never made an action film; but exploring his filmography closer, it is clear that he is a wonderful director (which trumps genre experience) and will make a great film with strong characters and good performances. He is working with a great group as well, including: screenwriter John Logan (nominated for three writing Oscars, and just signed on to write the next two Bond films), composer Thomas Newman (who has scored three previous Mendes films, including great work on American Beauty), cinematographer Roger Deakins (one of the absolute best working D.P.s today), and production designer Dennis Gassner (worked twice with Mendes before, and designer Quantum of Solace). Cast: Daniel Craig is back for his third film (of reportedly five), and is joined by a fantastic supporting group with Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, and Helen McCrory. Expectations: Craig’s first two Bond films had almost opposite reactions. Casino Royale was a critical and commercial success making James Bond a viable brand again (easily being the best Bond film since GoldenEye, and I might argue since Goldfinger), while Quantum of Solace came with a ton of expectation after Casino but was a big disappointment. Thus, when Skyfall was announced, I like most was not overly enthusiastic (but not dismissive either). Then, Mendes was hired to direct, and my interest perked up. Then, Bardem and Fiennes joined the cast, and I have been very excited to see this ever since (it is currently second of the list of films I am most looking forward to in 2012, behind The Hobbit). Having premiered in the U.K. already, the film is playing to universal critical acclaim, completely rejuvenating the franchise again. It quite possibly could be the best Bong film yet (it looks aesthetically brilliant from what I have seen as well). Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Worth Checking Out:

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg) – Biography/History Drama – Nov 9
Summary: As the Civil War continues to ravage and further divide the country, President Abraham Lincoln struggles with the toll it is taking on the people while also fighting to emancipate the slaves in the face of detractors even within his own cabinet. Filmmakers: Director Steven Spielberg might be the perfect auteur to take on the biography of Lincoln, and the story seems to lend itself to his particular brand of nostalgia, dramatic weight and genuine heroism without cynicism (see his films Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan). Spielberg is working with his ‘A-team’ on the film including composer John Williams (Star Wars), cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Munich) and production designer Rick Carter (Jurassic Park). Cast: This is one of 2012’s greatest ensembles. Daniel Day-Lewis stars (Liam Neeson was originally attached) with an incredible supporting cast, including: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Walton Goggins, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sally Field, James Spader, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, David Strathairn, Bruce McGill, David Oyelowo, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson and David Costabile (Gale from Breaking Bad). Expectations:  On paper, Lincoln should rack up Oscar nominations (with Day-Lewis and Lee Jones being favorites in the leading and supporting male categories, respectively). It screened already for critics, and was met with praise. Spielberg is known best for two kinds of films – his entertaining adventure blockbusters and his (almost epic in scope and scale) powerful dramas; this should be among his best in the latter (continuing his fascination with the unfortunate plight of African-Americans in American History, following The Color Purple and Amistad). On a side note, getting back to my ongoing fascination with how there always seem to be two films related to a specific ‘it’ topic to come out in a certain year, in 2012 we have two Lincoln films that could not be more different. This is a completely serious biopic/drama while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a ridiculous throwaway horror action film. Trailer: Here. Review: Here.

Anna Karenina (Joe Wright) – Romance Drama – Nov 16
Summary: An adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel – Anna Karenina is trapped in a loveless marriage to a Russian aristocrat. She risks everything entering into an affair with a man she truly loves, Count Vronsky. Filmmakers: Director Joe Wright is perfectly fitted to adapt Tolstoy’s masterpiece (having made two fantastic romance dramas and three great films in his first four). He is working with his frequent collaborators composer Dario Marianelli (scoring three previous Wright films), cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (shooting two previous Wright films) and production designer Sarah Greenwood (designing all previous Wright films). As a crew that works together a lot, they are one of the best working right now. Tom Stoppard wrote the script (he also wrote Brazil, Empire of the Sun and Shakespeare in Love). Cast: The cast is great. Keira Knightley stars with a wonderful supporting group, including: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen, Emily Watson, Michelle Dockery (who some will know from Downton Abbey), Olivia Williams, Holliday Grainger, Shirley Henderson, Ruth Wilson (who is brilliant in Luther), and Domhnall Gleeson. Expectations: Anna Karenina is the third collaboration between Wright and Knightley. Their first two were both superb: Pride & Prejudice and Atonement (two of my favorite films). Wright is also coming off 2011’s cool action thriller Hanna. The film seems like a perfect third partnership between Wright and Knightley (forth, if you count this Chanel commercial). Plus, Wright has gone very ambitious with the visual and narrative style, presenting it like a stage production. It looks very impressive. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Summary: Pat Solitano, a former teacher, just got out of a mental institution, serving a short stint. Having moved back in with his parents, he looks to reconcile with his ex-wife and get his life back on track. However, things get more complicated when he meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl who also has mental problems. Filmmakers: Writer-director David O. Russell has another film ripe with critical acclaim following The Fighter. He has a knack of getting the best from his actors. He is working with a great group with composer Danny Elfman (Dark Shadows), cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Warrior) and production designer Judy Becker (Shame). Cast: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star with Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker (good to see him back in something), Shea Whigham, Dash Mihok, Jacki Weaver, and John Ortiz in support. Expectations: Silver Linings Playbook is prominently in the conversation for Best Picture and Jennifer Lawrence is the front runner for Best Actress (right now). The film looks like a very good drama with some comedic moments – built on great performances from both the leads and principal supporting players. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik) – Crime Drama/Thriller – Nov 30
Summary: A mob-protected poker game is robbed. Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer, is brought in to investigate on behalf of the mob. Filmmakers: Writer-director Andrew Dominik became one of the most exciting new filmmakers (at least for me) after the release of his brilliant film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Killing Them Softly is his follow-up (and third feature overall). Dominik is working again with production designer Patricia Norris, but with cinematographer Greig Fraser (Let Me In) for the first time. Cast: Brad Pitt stars (and is also producing), while Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn (who is great in Animal Kingdom), James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Garret Dillahunt, Richard Jenkins, Slaine, and Bella Heathcote feature in support. Expectations: Killing Them Softly looks like a great stylized crime drama (reminding me a bit of a Coen Brothers’ film). It has a fantastic cast, and Brad Pitt has been in top form lately (especially in Dominik’s last film). This is a must see for fans of budding potential auteur directors and good crime dramas. I think it is going to be very good indeed. Trailer: HereReview: Here.

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