Thursday, May 2, 2013

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

Romance and Rom-Coms:

The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann) – Romance Drama – May 10
Plot Summary: Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel: Nick Carraway, a Midwestern war veteran, is drawn in by the opulent lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor Jay Gatsby. Filmmakers: The Great Gatsby is the fifth film from writer-director Baz Luhrmann, who is known for his extravagant productions like Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! He is working again with composer Craig Armstrong and production designer Catherine Martin (who has designed all his films). New to the team is cinematographer Simon Duggan (I, Robot) and Jay-Z is executively producing the film (and overseeing the soundtrack). Cast: Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Carey Mulligan star. Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, and Elizabeth Debicki feature in support. Expectations: While I am not a fan of Luhrmann’s previous work, his adaptation of The Great Gatsby looks wonderful. He has put together a superb cast and visually the film looks striking. Luhrmann has a knack of mixing modern music into period dramas. I did not like it in Moulin Rouge! (though, most do), but based on what I have seen from this film it seems to work very well. I am somewhat skeptical, as I think that this may be a brilliant display of excess without much substance. Even so, I still very much want to see it. Fans of Luhrmann’s work and aesthetically vibrant films should check it out. Trailer: HereReview: Here.


Fast & Furious 6 (Justin Lin) – Action – May 24
Plot Summary: The saga continues – Dom et al. are enlisted by Agent Hobbs to track down Owen Shaw and his vicious gang. However, this mission may have a personal cost, as someone from Dom’s past is working with Shaw (but honestly, does the plot even matter?). Filmmakers: Director Justin Lin is back for his fourth film in the series (and seventh overall – Modern Warfare, an episode of Community, however, is my favorite thing he has directed). He is working again with cinematographer Stephen Windon, while composer Lucas Vidal (The Raven) and production designer Jan Roelfs (Get Him to the Greek) are new to the team. Cast: Returning Fast & Furious cast members: Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris. New to the F&F universe: Shea Whigham, Rita Ora, Joe Taslim, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, and Jason Statham. Expectations: Fast Five was unimaginably good (basically, the fact that it was a fun and entertaining film and not a total waste of everyone’s time was very surprising), reinvigorating the franchise and overhyping the expectations for Fast & Furious 6 profoundly. In all likeliness, Fast Five was an anomaly and Fast & Furious 6 will see the franchise return to its very mediocre roots. That said, it should still be a somewhat fun experience (assuming Lin keeps the pacing quick). Fans of the series and ridiculous action films, this one is for you. Trailer: Here.

Epic (Chris Wedge) – Adventure Fantasy – May 24
Plot Summary: Mary Katherine was just minding her own business when suddenly she finds herself miniaturized to the size of a small bug. At such a small size, she is in a whole new world – a dangerous world, as she is quickly caught up in a battle between opposing forest forces. To survive, she bands together with a gang of rag-tag characters. Filmmakers: Director Chris Wedge previously made Ice Age and Robots (he also produced Rio), none of which are particularly good (unless you are a kid). He is working with composer Danny Elfman (Oz the Great and Powerful), cinematographer Renato Falcao (Ice Age: Continental Drift), and production designers Greg Couch and William Joyce (who is also one of the film’s writers). Cast: The film features voice work from Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Pitbull, Beyonce Knowles, Josh Hutcherson, Judah Friedlander, Colin Farrell, Aziz Ansari, Blake Anderson, Christoph Waltz, and Chris O’Dowd. Expectations: So one day someone woke up and thought: what if Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was animated and a large scale adventure film, and Epic was born (though, sadly without Rick Moranis). Also, is ‘Epic’ the best name they could come up with? What does that say about the creative team behind this project? Nothing good. This looks fairly generic in terms of animated adventure, but kids will probably like it (they like Ice Age and Madagascar, so they will like just about anything). The voice cast has some great people though. Christoph Waltz as the villain can only be great. Fans of broad adventures made for young kids will probably like this (and that is about it). Trailer: Here.

After Earth (M. Night Shyamalan) – Action/Adventure Sci-Fi – May 31
Plot Summary: Taking place 1,000 years after humanity left Earth, a crash leaves Kitai Raige and his injured father Cypher stranded on a now untamed and dangerous Earth. Their only chance of survival rests with Kitai being able to signal for help, but to do that he must venture into the wild. Filmmakers: Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan once seemed to have a bright career after his mainstream debut The Sixth Sense, but he has since destroyed all that goodwill with the sheer terribleness of his latest films (pretty much everything since, but particularly The Happening and The Last Airbender). He is working with frequent collaborator composer James Newton Howard, as well as cinematographer Peter Suschitzky (who shots David Cronenberg’s films) and production designer Thomas E. Sanders (Saving private Ryan). Cast: Real life father and son Will Smith (who also wrote the story and is producing the film) and Jaden Smith star, with Isabelle Fuhrman, Zoe Kravitz, Kristofer Hivju, Sophie Okonedo, and David Denman in support. Expectations: After Earth is kind of hard to call. On one hand, M. Night Shyamalan has negative goodwill – his name is not on the poster nor in the trailer – and for good reason: his films have been awful for a long time now. But on the other hand, the film kind of looks good, which is completely due to Will Smith’s great speech in the trailer. I tend to think that the film will probably end up just being okay (entertaining but nothing special, and lost in a month that boasts great blockbusters like Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness). If this is another Shyamalan film built on a stupid twist ending, will there be a massive groan and slight chuckle by the audience: ‘You got me Shyamalan. I thought maybe you changed (assuming I even knew you directed this going in). But you got my money again. That is your real trick ending! I keep coming back and I don’t know why.’ Trailer: Here.

Now You See Me (Louis Leterrier) – Thriller – May 31
Plot Summary: A team of illusionists pull off a series of bank heists during their performances, rewarding the audience with the money, is tracked by FBI and Interpol agents who are baffled by the case. But, are the heists just a decoy for something even bigger? Filmmakers: Director Louis Leterrier is known for making action films like The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, and Clash of the Titans (none of them being very good). Now You See Me will have action beats as well, but looks more like a heist thriller (maybe the change in genre will produce better results for Leterrier like it did with Danny the Dog, which has a lot more character drama – it is his best film). He is working with composer Brian Tyler (The Expendables 2), cinematographers Mitchell Amundsen (who shot Transporter 2 for Leterrier) and Larry Fong (Super 8), production designer Peter Wenham (21 Jump Street), and producers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Cast: The ensemble features Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Melanie Laurent, Michael Kelly, Elias Koteas, and Common. Expectations: Now You See Me looks like it will be a very entertaining heist thriller, and has a fantastic cast. That said, it is hard to trust that it will be anything more than a throwaway semi-blockbuster. It almost feels like the film’s producers wanted to make a Christopher Nolan film, but decided to save money and hired Leterrier to direct (insuring that it would be most likely entertaining but not especially good). And yet, I still kind of want to see it. The cast and the strong trailer are effectively selling the film to me. Fans of heist films may want to check it out. Trailer: Here.


The Hangover Part III (Todd Phillips) – Comedy – May 24
Plot Summary: The Wolfpack hits the road to find Mr. Chow after Doug is kidnapped and held as collateral – the kidnappers wanting Chow and thinking The Wolfpack is their best bet to find him. Hijinks ensue. Filmmakers: This is Todd Phillips’s eighth film, but really he has only made two good comedies (Old School and The HangoverRoad Trip does have its moments as well). He is working with cinematographer Lawrence Sher (who shot the other two films in the series too) and production designer Maher Ahmad (Gangster Squad). Cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jamie Chung, and Jeffrey Tambor all return, while Melissa McCarthy and John Goodman join the franchise. Expectations: The question on everyone’s mind is what made The Hangover great and The Hangover Part II terrible – and which will The Hangover Part III most resemble? Well, The Hangover was written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, while Part II was written by Phillips, Craig Mazin (responsible for awful films like Superhero Movie), and Scot Armstrong (who co-wrote most of Phillips’s early films like Road Trip and Old School). The writers of Part 2 are bad - case closed, right? That is an easy answer, and if you accept that then Part III is going to be terrible too as it is written by Mazin and Phillips. But, Lucas and Moore have not really produced anything else on the same level of The Hangover since. What is more likely is that all involved in The Hangover just had a good time with the material, but when Phillips and the actors returned for Part II they just recycled the same gags again and it fell flat. Phillips is apparently upset that everyone thinks Part II is bad, and to change things up the plot of Part III is different (no hangover, no bachelor party, and so on – but they do return to Vegas). Personally, I think Part III will likely be closer to Part II than The Hangover. Fans of Part II will probably like this one too. Trailer: Here.

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