Wednesday, February 5, 2014

At the Movies – February 2014 – Part 2: Hollywood Films

Romance and Rom-Coms:

About Last Night (Steve Pink) – Romantic Comedy – Feb 14
Plot Summary: A man and woman meet in a bar, which then becomes sex, which then becomes a relationship. Can this romantic affair stand the test of the real world and the interference of their friends? Filmmakers: Director Steve Pink is probably better known as a writer – co-writing the John Cusack classics Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. But, he has had some success as a comedy director too with the films Accepted and Hot Tub Time Machine (both of which I found funny). He is working with composer Marcus Miller (Good Hair), cinematographer Michael Barrett (Ted), and production designer Jon Gary Steele (Footloose, the remake). Cast: The film stars Kevin Hart (who is in everything this winter), Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant. Christopher McDonald, Joe Lo Truglio, and Paula Patton feature in support. Expectations: How desperate is Hollywood for ideas that remaking a very mediocre 1980s Brat Pack romantic drama (About Last Night…, which is based on a David Mamet play) as a comedy sounded like a good idea? Pretty desperate. But at the same time, this was never going to be a ‘good’ movie anyway. The best we can hope for is something entertaining and hopefully funny. Kevin Hart, regardless of terrible reviews, has been on a role at the box office. Can he keep it going to become 2014’s comedian of the year (he also has Think Like a Man Too and Dance School scheduled for release? Trailer: Here.

Winter’s Tale (Akiva Goldsman) – Romance Fantasy – Feb 14
Plot Summary: Career burglar Peter Lake decides that his next score will be the very lavish Penn estate; however, mid robbery, he runs into Beverly Penn, the heiress of the estate, and surprisingly they hit it off, falling for each other. The problem is that Beverly is sick and soon dies in Peter’s arms. Magically though, Peter has the ability to be reincarnated, finding himself in modern day New York many decades after his death. As he comes to terms with his gift, he makes it his mission to somehow save the woman he loves (does that mean he time travels too?). Filmmakers: Writer-director Akivia Goldsman makes his feature debut with the film as a director – although, he has written many features (winning an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind) and has directed episodes of the TV series Kings and Fringe. He is working with composers Rupert Gregson-Williams (Veep) and Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave), cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (Jack Reacher), and production designer Naomi Shohan (The Lovely Bones). Cast: The film stars Colin Farrell and co-stars Jessica Brown Findlay, Jennifer Connelly, and Russell Crowe (reuniting the stars of A Beautiful Mind, though I do not think they share any scenes). Will Smith, Matt Bomer, Kevin Durand, William Hurt, Lucy Griffiths, Kevin Corrigan, Eva Marie Saint, and Graham Greene feature in support. Expectations: I like the work Akivia Goldsman did on Kings and Fringe (for the most part), and a few of the films he wrote are good (and a few are terrible, but that is not necessarily his fault). That said, Winter’s Tale just looks incredibly cheesy, hokey, sappy, and downright schmaltzy – sickeningly so. It just oozes with vapid Hollywood mawkishness. But maybe I am wrong and it will be an enjoyable romantic fantasy drama… not likely. Trailer: Here.


RoboCop (Jose Padilha) – Sci-Fi Action – Feb 14
Plot Summary: Detroit 2028, OmniCorp has created a robotic force to patrol the world, well except in their home base of America. OmniCorp is desperate to bring their robot guardians to the States, but they need a more human segue to bridge the gap. They get their man in Alex Murphy, a police officer who is critically wounded in the line of duty. To save him, they create a part-man, part-robot police officer. Alex was a good, caring husband and father, but OmniCorp has much more nefarious plans for him. What they did not anticipate however was Alex fighting back against his programming. Filmmakers: Brazilian director Jose Padilha is potentially a fantastic fit for this remake. His Elite Squad films are very good action thrillers. He is working with composer Pedro Bromfman, cinematographer Lula Carvalho (both of whom worked with Padilha on the two Elite Squad films), and great production designer Martin Whist (Cabin in the Woods). Cast: Joel Kinnaman stars with a great supporting group, including: Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Samuel L. Jackson, and Aimee Garcia. Expectations: While fans of the cult classic RoboCop will probably be annoyed that it is being remade, let us be honest with ourselves there is only upside to this remake. If it is great then fans should be pleased (as really the original series is not that good, even RoboCop is a little shaky), and if it is bad then the cult fans still have their original and the rest of us will just move on with our lives. I cannot really tell if the remake is going to be good. The cast and crew give me optimism, but the trailer feels a little generic and boring – probably because I have seen RoboCop many times. In any case, it will probably be somewhat entertaining and a worthwhile rental for genre fans. Trailer: Here.

Pompeii (Paul W.S. Anderson) – Disaster Action – Feb 21
Plot Summary: Milo is a slave turned gladiator who is in love with Cassia, a young woman who is betrothed to a corrupt Senator. Milo is already facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles to be with the one he loves, and then Mount Vesuvius erupts. Milo must now fight to save Cassia as the city of Pompeii falls into ruin around him. Filmmakers: Paul W.S. Anderson makes action films that are just mindless with over-the-top visuals, but they are also usually entertaining. Easy to watch spectacle driven films (things like Mortal Kombat, the Resident Evil series, and The Three Musketeers – that while not great, I did find very entertaining). He is working with composer Clinton Shorter (2 Guns), cinematographer Glen MacPherson (a frequent collaborator), and production designer Paul D. Austerberry (also a frequent collaborator). Randomly, screenwriter Julian Fellowes is one of the credited writers on the film, presumably when it was a much different movie than it is now. Cast: Kit Harington stars and Emily Browning co-stars, while Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, and Kiefer Sutherland feature in support. Expectations: Fun fact, this is technically a foreign film, as it is a Constantin Film Produktion production – a German production house that Paul W.S. Anderson frequently works with. Anyway, Pompeii is going to be a big fun mess, as Anderson combines the disaster epic with the period epic to make a massive action thriller epic. Is it going to be good? Critically, I think the answer is no, but it will probably be very entertaining as a piece of escapist spectacle. Trailer: Here.

3 Days to Kill (McG) – Action Thriller – Feb 21
Plot Summary: Ethan Runner is a dying spy looking to reassess his priorities, having pushed his family away to keep them safe. He wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter before it is too late; however, when he is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for doing one more job, Ethan must figure out how to both make time for his daughter and accomplish his mission. Filmmakers: Director McG is a filmmaker who has cultivated a style that comprises over-stylized action sequences with a light, fun tone with films like Charlie’s Angels and This Means War (both fairly terrible movies). He also directed the very disappointing Terminator Salvation. In many ways, McG is the embodiment of the hack Hollywood director who makes soulless films aimed at appealing to the masses, void of any real artistic expression of merit (okay, maybe that is a bit harsh, but still his films are never good). He is working with composer Guillaume Roussel, cinematographer Thierry Arbogast (who shot Luc Besson’s great 1990s films), and production designers Jeremy Cassells (House M.D.) and Sebastien Inizan (Taken 2). Cast: Kevin Costner stars with support from Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, and Connie Nielsen. Expectations: 3 Days to Kill feels like a loose attempt to create a new Taken-like film, but with McG behind the camera the best anyone can hope for is a vaguely entertaining action thriller that succeeds thanks to its cast. It will probably be a lesser, lighter version of a ‘Taken’ movie. Kevin Costner seems to be really looking to reemerge as an A-list star (recapturing his status – he was a good leading man in the 1980s/1990s with many great films). He was good in Man of Steel last summer, and in 2014 he has Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (which was generic but enjoyable), this film, Draft Day (which looks like a good sports drama, something he excels at), McFarland, and Black and White – very busy (I wonder if it will pay-off). Trailer: Here.

Non-Stop (Jaume Collet-Serra) – Mystery Action Thriller – Feb 28
Plot Summary: Bill Marks is an air marshal aboard a transatlantic flight. Everything seems calm and normal until he receives a mysterious text claiming that a passenger will be killed every few minutes until the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account. Marks begins to investigate, only to find that he is being set up and the account is in his name. Now, he must find the killer among a plane full of ordinary-looking passengers and crew, while those around him begin to question whether he might be the killer himself. Filmmakers: Director Jaume Collet-Serra reunites with star Liam Neeson for another mystery action thriller, following up Unknown, which was decently enjoyable. Collet-Serra is also working with composer John Ottman and cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano again, while production designer Alec Hammond (Sleepy Hollow) is new to the team. Cast: Liam Neeson stars with a surprisingly great supporting cast featuring Lupita Nyong’o, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Anson Mount, Corey Stoll, Bar Paly, and Scoot McNairy. Expectations: Speaking of Taken (see above, 3 Days to Kill), it is hard to separate Liam Neeson from that franchise. When I see the trailer for Non-Stop all I can think is Taken on a plane, even though narratively that does not seem the case at all. Instead, this looks to be a twist driven action thriller with all the characters trapped in a small space. Yes, this has been done many times, but of all the action movies in February this looks the most promising. I may even see it in theaters. Trailer: Here.


The Lego Movie (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller) – Animated Action Comedy – Feb 7
Plot Summary: Emmet Brickowoski is just an ordinary Lego man, nothing extraordinary about him at all. His whole life suddenly changes when he is mistaken as the MasterBuilder – the only one who can stop Lord Business from destroying the Lego world by gluing it together. To do this, Emmet must rediscover the power of imagination, with the help of a few friends. Filmmakers: The directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller has proved themselves to be good comedy filmmakers. Both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street are very funny. They are a perfect fit for The Lego Movie. They are working with again with composer Mark Mothersbaugh and cinematographer Barry Peterson, while animation/vfx experts cinematographer Pablo Paisted and production designer Grant Freckelton join the team to help with the stop-motion aspect of the film. Cast: The voice cast is pretty great. Chris Pratt voices Emmet, while Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Anthony Daniels, Charlie Day, Will Ferrell, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, Jake Johnson, Liam Neeson, Shaquille O’Neal, Nick Offerman, Cobie Smulders, Jorma Taccone, Channing Tatum, and Billy Dee Williams lend their voices as well in support. Expectations: The Lego Movie looks really funny, and fantastically imaginative with a bunch of recognizable characters showing up (like Batman!). This very well could be the best movie of the month and a kids’ movie that will probably be a blast for the parents too. It also has a fun lead in song: Everything is Awesome by Lonely Island and Tegan and Sara. I think this is definitely a worthwhile rental for comedy fans. Trailer: Here.

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