Wednesday, January 2, 2013

At the Movies – January 2013 – Part 2: Hollywood Films

Serious Films:

Broken City (Allen Hughes) – Crime Drama/Thriller – Jan 18
Summary: Billy Taggart is a NYC cop who is asked by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler to tail his wife to find out who she is cheating on him with. However, Taggart finds himself immersed in a much bigger scandal. Filmmakers: Director Allen Hughes typically works with his brother Albert. Together they have directed Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, From Hell (which is visually very impressive), and The Book of Eli. This is his first solo feature. He is working with composers Atticus Ross (who scored The Book of Eli for Hughes, and did fantastic work with Trent Reznor scoring The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Leopold Ross, and Claudia Sarne, cinematographer Ben Seresin (Unstoppable), and production designer Tom Duffield (The Kingdom). Cast: The film stars Mark Wahlberg (who is also producing) and Russell Crowe, with Natalie Martinez, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Kyle Chandler, Barry Pepper, Justin Chambers, Alona Tal, James Ransone, and Griffin Dunne in support. Expectations:  Broken City is definitely a contender for best film of the month with Gangster Squad (though, this being the movie graveyard known as January, that is not saying much). The Hughes Brothers’ films are generally entertaining (we shall see how Allen does on his own), but they have never made anything special. The cast is surprisingly good for a crime drama relegated to January. It looks like a decent actiony thriller built inside a crime drama. Not sure it is anything more than a rental, but you could do worse if you need something to see. Trailer: Here.


The Last Stand (Jee-woon Kim) – Action – Jan 18
Summary: Small-town sheriff Ray Owens and his inexperienced officers is the only thing that stands between the leader of a drug cartel, who escaped from a local courthouse, and his freedom once he reaches the Mexican border. Filmmakers: Korean filmmaker Jee-woon Kim makes his Hollywood debut with The Last Stand. He is well known for his action and horror films in Korea (like The Good, the Bad, the Weird and I Saw the Devil). He is working with frequent collaborators composer Mowg and cinematographer Ji-yong Kim, while action specialist production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone is new to his team. Cast: The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, with support from Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro, Forest Whitaker, Genesis Rodriguez, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton, Johnny Knoxville, Zach Gilford, and Luis Guzman. Expectations: The Last Stand marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to starring in action films (following up his appearance in The Expendables 2). Will audiences still want to come to the theatres to see him? This certainly does not have the same nostalgic draw as The Expendables films. Lionsgate is taking a tempered approach, as this is a relatively low budget film, and I suspect they imagine this will do much better business in foreign (and ancillary) markets. Schwarzenegger fans are probably better off just re-watching his classics (like Predator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Total Recall) and waiting to rent this than rushing out to theatres. Trailer: Here.

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters (Tommy Wirkola) – Action Fantasy Horror – Jan 25
Summary: What if Hansel and Gretel grew up to hunt and kill supernatural beings like witches after being held captive by one as children? Now we will finally know the find out. Filmmakers: Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola seems like a good fit for this film. He had a breakthrough hit (of sorts) with his film Dead Snow. He is working with producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (maybe this is supposed to be a comedy too?), composer Atli Orvarsson (The Eagle), cinematographer Michael Bonvillain (Wanderlust), and production designer Stephen Scott (Hellboy II: The Golden Army). Cast: Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton star, with Famke Janssen, Zoe Bell, Peter Stormare, and Thomas Mann in support. Expectations: Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters was delayed by Paramount Pictures from March 2012 to January 2013. Their reason being (very reasonably) that Renner would be a bigger star in 2013 coming off Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Avengers, and The Bourne Legacy than in March 2012, plus January plays better internationally (important for action movies which translate better than comedies and dramas) and Paramount has not had a good performer in January in the last few years (and that will probably not change with this). All that said, however, delays usually do not mean good things for the quality of the movie (again, was this an action comedy and then delayed to be reworked? – It certainly does not look like a comedy in the trailer). Putting a twist on well-known stories sometimes works okay, but usually you end up with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or The Brothers Grimm (both of which look like the direct ancestors of this film). Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters looks like an overly stupid action film, but I will probably still rent it to enjoy its silliness on some level (and hopefully it really is a comedy). Trailer: Here.

Parker (Taylor Hackford) – Crime Thriller – Jan 25
Summary: After professional thief Parker is double-crossed and left for dead by his cohorts, he seeks revenge. His plan is to shanghai them and hijack their latest score. To do this, he must make an unlikely alliance with a woman on the inside, Leslie. Filmmakers: Oscar nominated director (for Ray, he also won an Oscar for a short film he made in the 1970s) Taylor Hackford is no stranger to action films and dramatic thrillers. His best includes Blood In, Blood Out, Dolores Claiborne, and The Devil’s Advocate. He is working with composer David Buckley (The Town), cinematographer J. Michael Muro (Rush Hour 3), and production designer Missy Stewart (A Better Life). Cast: The film stars Jason Statham and co-stars Jennifer Lopez. Nick Nolte, Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins Jr., and Wendell Pierce feature in support. Expectations: Jason Statham is on a breakneck pace of putting out mediocre throwaway action films, and Parker is just his latest (this will be his thirteenth since 2006’s Crank). There is really no reason to see this in theatres unless you love action films and are a big Statham fan. It looks very forgettable. Trailer: Here.

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