Wednesday, April 2, 2014

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


Draft Day – Sports Drama – Apr 11
Plot Summary: Sonny Weaver Jr. is the general manager of the sorry and struggling Cleveland Browns professional American football franchise. This year, however, he plans to turn it all around by acquiring the number one pick in the NFL Draft. It is make or break time. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director/producer Ivan Reitman. Actors Involved: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Tom Welling, Ellen Burstyn, and Chadwick Boseman. Potential: Draft Day is Ivan Reitman’s seventeenth feature film. I will forever think fondly of him as a filmmakers thanks to Stripes and Ghostbusters, but his recent work has been mostly a series of letdowns (though, I will say that No Strings Attached grew on me and I now think of it as being quite funny and enjoyable). Draft Day looks like a very sappy/clichéd sports drama, but it should still find an audience among sports fans. Field of Dreams is incredibly sappy and clichéd and who does not get choked up watching it? Although, to be fair, I do not think Draft Day will be anywhere near as good or moving as Field of Dreams. I think it will be a throwaway movie that I only want to see because I love sports and sports movies in general (I also enjoy Kevin Costner; he made a number of great films once upon a time). This is probably a miss for anyone who does not also count themselves among lovers of sports and sports movies. And even then, this will probably be disappointing. Trailer: Here.

The Railway Man – Drama – Apr 11
Plot Summary: Based on a true story, Eric Lomax was a victim of WWII’s Death Railway in which Japanese soldiers tortured their British prisoners who refused to aid Japan’s war effort by building a railroad. Years later, he returns to Asia to find the man who tortured him and exact revenge. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Jonathan Teplitzky and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce. Actors Involved: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeremy Irvine, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Potential: On paper, The Railway Man has the makings of a very good drama. Notably, it has a fantastic cast. I have not seen any of director Jonathan Teplitzky’s films, so I cannot speak to his quality as a filmmaker, but with this cast and this subject manner I think it is likely that this will be a good character drama. It is probably worth renting for fans of character dramas (though maybe check Rotten Tomatoes first). It played to mostly positive reviews from critics during its festival screenings. Trailer: Here.


Dom Hemingway – Comedy/ Crime Drama – Apr 2
Plot Summary: Dom Hemingway made his living as a safecracker, but he got busted and spent twelve years in prison for not ratting out his friends. Now he is out and wants to collect what he thinks he is owed (and also reconnect with his daughter). Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer/director Richard Shepard and composer Rolfe Kent. Actors Involved: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, and Demian Bichir. Potential: Richard Shepard’s previous six feature films are all mediocre (though The Hunting Party has a few moments), but he has done some good work on television. I have enjoyed his directing work on Girls, for example. Dom Hemingway looks like a riotously fun film. Not necessarily good, but very fun and entertaining with Jude Law giving a great central performance and good support from Richard E. Grant (playing a character in his wheelhouse). It was released in the UK last year and played to mixed reviews, but more on the positive side of mixed. I will probably rent it, as it looks enjoyable. Trailer: Here.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – Comedy – Apr 4
Plot Summary: Alan Partridge (for those unfamiliar with the British television character) is a famous DJ in Norwich; however, he has fallen on hard times and his radio station has been taken over by a media conglomerate. With new layoffs and restrictions weighing heavily on the employees of the station, the building is taken over by former employee and everyone held hostage. Now, Alan must work with the police to resolve the situation, and also hopefully save his show. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer/producer Steve Coogan, writer/producer Armando Iannucci, and director Declan Lowney. Actors Involved: Steve Coogan and Colm Meaney. Potential: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (as it is called in the UK) has a very good comedy team behind it and the character is one of the most successful among British TV comedies. This is his feature film debut. Coogan is very funny (probably best known from 24 Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, and The Trip – he was also nominated for an Oscar this year co-writing Philomena and is also good in the film) and Armando Iannucci is a fantastically funny writer (with things like In the Loop and Veep). Director Lowney has a good track record with British comedy, especially on TV. Will this film work for those unfamiliar with Alan Partridge and British comedy in general? I do not know, but it is still worth a rental as it looks to be quite funny. Fans of British humor will definitely want to check it out. Trailer: Here.

Cuban Fury – Comedy – Apr 11
Plot Summary: Bruce Garrett was a British salsa dancing prodigy, but that was a long time ago, his career long ruined. Now, he works a boring job like everyone else. Life gets more interesting for Bruce however when his new boss turns out to be an attractive American woman who just happens to be into salsa. In an attempt to win her heart, Bruce stages a comeback. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director James Griffiths and wonderful cinematographer Dick Pope. Actors Involved: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, and Ian McShane. Potential: Cuban Fury stars some great people and that alone might be enough to make it a worthy comedy rental. Director James Griffiths makes his feature directorial debut, but has directed a few TV comedy series. Sadly, the film debuted in the UK last year to very mixed reviews, many called the humor juvenile. But maybe it is still worth a look for big fans of Nick Frost. Trailer: Here.

The Other Woman – Comedy – Apr 25
Plot Summary: A high powered woman in New York thinks she has a monotonous relationship with a man, only to discover that he is married (though, theoretically and probably likely they still could be in a monotonous relationship, no?). Deciding that this is not okay and feeling betrayed, she teams up with his wife to plot revenge upon the man. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Nick Cassavetes. Actors Involved: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Taylor Kinney. Potential: The Other Woman looks kind of funny in a vapid, soulless Hollywood comedy sort of way – the kind of movie you put on and just enjoy for its silliness and mindlessness, engaging with its clichés because you do not want to actually care or think. Plus, you could do worse. Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann will probably make for a decent comedy paring, though I fear this will retreat into becoming as much a romantic comedy as just a buddy revenge comedy. Director Nick Cassavetes has never had the ambition to make anything interesting. This is his eighth feature film (the best of which so far is My Sister’s Keeper, I guess – although, I have never seen it, but I cannot recommend any of his other films I have seen and My Sister’s Keeper has a decent IMDb rating, but mixed reviews). The Other Woman is probably a rental at best, begging to be watched when you just want to enjoy something light and disposable (we all have those moments). Trailer: Here.

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