Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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


Get on Up – Biography/Music Drama – Aug 1
Plot Summary: This is story of musician James Brown – his rise from poverty to super stardom. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Tate Taylor and excellent composer Thomas Newman. Actors Involved: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Dan Aykroyd, and Craig Robinson. Quality Potential: Medium. Get on Up is a hard film to pin down exactly. Tate Taylor did a great job using his excellent cast in The Help, turning what easily could have been a nauseatingly clichéd, self-righteous, and preachy social drama (as so many tend to be in lesser hands) into something both entertaining and powerful (and only slightly clichéd, thanks to its typical Hollywood style narrative structure). Truly great social dramas are very difficult to make and require a very good cast and a deft directing hand. Get on Up has a decent cast and looks to be a simple biography style narrative, but is sure to have social and political themes as well. Taylor seems to be going for something dramatically ambitious, but there is just this voice in my head that is skeptical: why is this coming out in August; if it was good, really good it would be coming in the fall. This does not feel like a summer movie, and August is known for being the dumping ground for Hollywood’s lesser blockbusters/event films (Guardians of the Galaxy aside). All that said though, it does look like it could be quite good. Trailer: Here.

The Giver – Sci-Fi Drama – Aug 15
Plot Summary: Jonas has grown up in a seemingly perfect community – one without war, pain, suffering, and differences, but also one without choice. He has now come of age and has, like all the others of his age, been assigned a job within the community. He is to work with The Giver, an elderly man who keeps the memories of the old world. As The Giver shares these memories with Jonas, his world becomes illuminated and he begins to question everything. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Phillip Noyce, producer Jeff Bridges, and production designer Ed Verreaux. Actors Involved: Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, Meryl Streep, Jeff Briidgers, and Odeya Rush. Quality Potential: Medium. The Giver was one of my favorite books as a teenager. The film version seems unrecognizable to me (though it has been many years since I read it). It looks a bit like The Giver has been positioned to fit The Hunger Games-like young adult blockbuster model, which is fine; I am just surprised how foreign the film feels/looks based on a book I loved (but honestly have mostly forgotten). Phillip Noyce has it within himself to make strong thrillers (he has done so in the past, notably Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger) and hopefully this will be one of his good ones (as he has made a few mediocre thrillers as well). Jeff Bridges should be great as The Giver and Meryl Streep is generally very good as well. I think this will likely be a decent film – good enough but unremarkable. Trailer: Here.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Action/Adventure – Aug 8
Plot Summary: Four mutant brothers (the title is pretty much self-explanatory) fight to save New York City from the evil Shredder. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Jonathan Liebesman, producer Michael Bay, composer Brian Tyler, and production designer Neil Spisak. Actors Involved: Megan Fox, Johnny Knoxville, Alan Ritchson, William Fichtner, Will Arnett, Noel Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Shalhoub, and Jeremy Howard. Quality Potential: Low. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks like a typical Michael Bay style action film – all entertainment with no substance (which is probably fine for the subject matter – the original films are not that amazing either, despite what my childhood memory may say). Jonathan Liebesman is a decent action director (I quite liked Battle: Los Angeles, but I do realize that I am in the minority, and I have only seen it that one time). The cast of actors and voice actors is reasonably okay. It will be a big dumb action film for kids (with probably more violence than is appropriate for its targeted audience) – did anyone really expect a brilliant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature film to ever come out? That is what the TV series (both the 1987 and 2012 series) are for.  Trailer: Here.

Into the Storm – Action/Thriller – Aug 8
Plot Summary: A massive super storm destroys stuff and is filmed by people with cameras, some of whom are murdered by said storm for their trouble. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Steven Quale and composer Brian Tyler. Actors Involved: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Matt Walsh. Quality Potential: Very Low. Into the Storm looks like Twister only supersized and done in the found-footage style (but not quite as low budget looking). The trailer features a tornado that looks like it is the size of an entire town, completely obliterating an airport – so there is that to look forward to and other such moments of wanton malice. Director Steven Quale also directed the feature film Final Destination 5 so he comes in with strong credentials for making terrible throwaway action thrillers. To me it seems as if someone watched Twister and thought, “Yeah, this is cool and all, but what if the tornados were even bigger and there were like ten of them on-screen at the same time! No one has made a tornado film in a while. Who even remembers Twister! That was like twenty years ago. But wait, we do not have that much money to spend…Do it as a found footage movie! Genius. This is going to be great.” How far off can this really be? Who am I kidding; it is going to be great. Trailer: Here.

The Expendalbles 3 – Action – Aug 15
Plot Summary: Barney Ross and his team murder a bunch more people gleefully. Meanwhile, Conrad Stonebanks, one of the co-founders of the Expendables, has decided that he now hates them and wants to destroy them. They shoot guns at each other, they banter, and other stuff happens. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Patrick Hughes, writer Sylvester Stallone, and composer Brian Tyler (who is apparently scoring every action film this month). Actors Involved: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crewes, Kelsey Grammer, Robert Davi, and Randy Couture. Quality Potential: Low. If you have seen The Expendables and The Expendables 2 then you pretty much know what to expect from The Expendables 3, only slightly crummier. Patrick Hughes is step down from Simon West, who was a step down from Stallone. The Expendables 4 is already in the works. It will never end. Trailer: Here.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Action Crime Thriller – Aug 22
Plot Summary: A few of Sin City’s heroes team up to take down a few of its villains. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Frank Miller and director-composer-cinematographer-editor Robert Rodriguez.  Actors Involved: Eva Green, Juno Temple, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Jaime King, Jamie Chung, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Lady Gaga, Marton Csokas, Jeremy Piven, Dennis Haysbert, Stacy Keach, and Powers Boothe. Quality Potential: Medium. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is Frank Miller’s third directorial feature project. His last, which he directed alone, was the awful yet visually ambitious The Spirit. For this film, however, he is again reteaming with Robert Rodriguez (the pair also made Sin City, which was well received). The film looks to exhibit the same dark pop art style, personifying a comic book on the screen. The cast is quite good and the actors should have some great characters to work with thanks to Miller’s hard-boiled writing. There are not too many good film noir films these days; this very well could be one if it can capture the same magic as its predecessor. Trailer: Here.


Let’s Be Cops – Action Comedy – Aug 15
Plot Summary: It is Halloween. Two friends must decide: dress as ghosts or cops. They choose cops; however, they quickly realize that in their cop costumes everyone seems to assume that they are actually cops. Having a great time, they decide to be fake cops full time. It all seems like fun and games until they get pulled into the real world of gangsters and dirty detectives. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Luke Greenfield and producer Simon Kinberg. Actors Involved: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr., Nina Dobrev, Andy Garcia, James D’Arcy, Rob Riggle, and Jonathan Lajoie. Quality Potential: Medium. Let’s Be Cops looks a lot like another action comedy that already came out this year 22 Jump Street, but I think it looks much funnier. New Girl castmates Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. have great chemistry and play off each other well. Luke Greenfield, as many may remember as the director of The Girl Next Door, directs his first feature screenplay which he co-wrote with Nicholas Thomas. This film, if it does turn out to be as fun as it looks, should play as a nice change of pace to the other Hollywood releases this month. I think it looks hysterically entertaining. Trailer: Here.

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