Thursday, October 3, 2013

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

Serious Films:

Runner Runner (Brad Furman) – Crime Drama/Thriller – Oct 4
Plot Summary: Richie Furst is a poor college student who makes extra cash playing online poker –a game he is really good at – but when he goes bust he believes he was cheated and goes looking for the party responsible. He discovers Ivan Block a sly and shady offshore entrepreneur, who offers him a job. Furst takes it only to find himself in way over his head. Filmmakers: Director Brad Furman had a breakthrough with The Lincoln Lawyer and is looking to capitalize on its critical and commercial success. He is working with composer Christophe Beck (The Muppets), cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Training Day), and production designer Charisse Cardenas (who also designed The Lincoln Lawyer). Cast: The film stars Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, and features Gemma ArtertonAnthony MackieDavid Constabile, and Ben Schwartz in support. Expectations: Runner Runner looks like a very good thriller. It is impressive that through his own directorial efforts, Ben Affleck has also again made himself into one of Hollywood’s great leading men. He looks to be capturing a bit of his iconic Boiler Room performance for this, which is fantastic. This very well could be the best film of the month. Trailer: Here.

The Fifth Estate (Bill Condon) – Drama – Oct 11
Plot Summary: This is a profile of Julian Assange, the man who founded WikiLeaks – an organization that exposes secrets (even Classified Government documents). Filmmakers: Director Bill Condon made a few okay dramas like Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, and Dreamgirls, but then turned his eyes to the terrible franchise films of the Twilight Saga, making Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2 (continuing the trend of making very poor films). Condon is a director who has some talent, but continually makes mediocre films. He is working with composer Carter Burwell (True Grit), cinematographer Tobias Schliessler (Battleship), and production designer Mark Tildesley (Trance). Cast: The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and features a great supporting ensemble with Daniel Bruhl, Carice van Houten, Alicia Vikander, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie, Dan Stevens, Peter Capaldi, David Thewlis, and Mortiz Bleibtreu. Expectations: The Fifth Estate could have been a fantastic film. It certainly has a brilliant cast, but Bill Condon is a director incapable of making something truly great. Thus, this will succeed on the strength of its cast but fail as a narrative feature (which is pretty much what critics are saying from its festival screenings). That said, it is definitely worth renting as again the cast is great and the man/story it profiles is very interesting. It is just disappointing that it was not handled by more capable hands. Trailer: Here.

All Is Lost (J.C. Chandor) – Drama/Thriller – Oct 18
Plot Summary: A man on a solo sailboat journey accidentally collides with a shipping container. Despite his best efforts, he finds himself coping with the very real truth that he may die alone, lost at sea. Filmmakers: Writer-director J.C. Chandor made his feature debut with the financial-meltdown thriller/drama Margin Call. While it did feature some good performances, it was not completely effective as a thriller. All Is Lost is Chandor’s follow-up. He is working with composer Alex Ebert (his first feature), cinematographers Frank DeMarco (he shot Margin Call as well) and Peter Zuccarini (he is an underwater specialist), and production designer John Goldsmith (his first feature). Cast: Robert Redford stars as the sole actor in the film. Expectations: All Is Lost seems like just another version of Open Water or Life of Pi (or a combination of the two). However, the film is primarily about how the man struggles with his own mortality completely alone, so maybe a better comparison might be Cast Away. Critics have praised it as a strong thriller during its festival screenings. It is probably worth checking out. It may even be an outside contender for Best Picture. Trailer: HereReview: Here.


Carrie (Kimberly Pierce) – Horror – Oct 18
Plot Summary: A remake of the 1976 film of the same name (and Stephen King’s first cinematic adaptation), this tells the story of Carrie White, an outcast who is sheltered and abused by her religious mother and tortured and teased by her classmates. At her senior prom, she is pushed too far and she unleashes terror upon her small town. Filmmakers: Director Kimberly Pierce is a very interesting choice for this modern update. She made the transgender drama Boys Don’t Cry that fits many of the same social themes (being an outcast). She also made the intriguing political drama Stop-Loss. She is working with composer Marco Beltrami (World War Z), cinematographer Steve Yedlin (Looper), and production designer Carol Spier (Pacific Rim). Cast: The film stars Chloe Grace Moretz, and features Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, and Alex Russell in support. Expectations: Chloe Grace Moretz is probably a perfect choice to reimagine Carrie; she has all the tools to do a great job with the character. In all likeliness, this should dominate October’s horror box office as it is targeted at two big movie-going audiences: young adults and those who want to see something scary for Halloween. I am not sure if this will be better than Brian ‘the hack’ De Palma’s original, but it looks like it may be equally as good. Trailer: Here.

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