Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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


A Most Wanted Man – Thriller – Jul 25
Plot Summary: After a Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, he finds himself wrapped up in the middle of the international war on terror, having to cooperate with German and US intelligence agencies. But could he really secretly be a terrorist himself? This is based on John le Carre’s novel. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Anton Corbijn. Actors Involved: Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Bruhl, and Nina Hoss. Quality Potential: High. Director Anton Corbijn returns with his third feature film: A Most Wanted Man. His first two films were excellent (Control and The American), built on brilliant central performances. Here, Corbijn has a great cast again (including one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances). This should be a very good spy thriller (like most of John le Carre’s work); although, Corbijn’s work does seem to be more slow-burning and character driven than entertainment/action oriented thrillers. The film has performed well on the festival circuit, garnering much praise. This is certainly worth checking out for fans of strong character films. Trailer: Here.


Earth to Echo – Adventure/Sci-Fi – Jul 4
Plot Summary: Much like in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a group of kids help an alien who is trapped on Earth. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Dave Green. Actors Involved: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford, Cassius Willis, and Drake Kemper. Quality Potential: Medium. Earth to Echo looks like a found-footage version of E.T. That said, it actually looks rather good as far as kids’ movies go. It has also played to positive buzz at its advanced screenings. It very well could be a sleeper hit for July. The cast is made up of newcomers, benefiting the found-footage style; meanwhile, director Dave Green makes his feature debut. If you need to take your kids to a film in July, Earth to Echo might be your best bet. Trailer: Here.

Lucy – Action/Sci-Fi – Jul 25
Plot Summary: Lucy, a young woman on vacation in Asia, finds herself the captive of a vicious gang who mean to use her as a drug mule. The tables turn, however, when the drugs that the gang has hidden inside Lucy leak into her body transforming her brain giving her the ability to access a larger portion of her potential. Now, her captors become the victims. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director-producer Luc Besson and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. Actors Involved: Scarlett Johansson, Analeigh Tipton, and Morgan Freeman. Quality Potential: Low. Luc Besson was once one of my favorite directors with films like La Femme Nikita, Leon, and The Fifth Element, but he has since made a series of very disappointing films. I thought that maybe he was returning to form with The Lady, but then his latest film The Family was terrible. Lucy looks potentially very entertaining, but I am skeptical given Besson’s recent misfires. I will still rent it (of course), but there is plenty of better stuff to see this month. Trailer: Here.

Hercules – Action/Adventure – Jul 25
Plot Summary: This is the story of Hercules, the son of Zeus demigod hero who dedicates his life to helping humanity in defeating its greatest threats (usually monsters). His latest challenge is a tyrannical warlord who is terrorizing the Kingdom of Thrace (based on the Steve Moore graphic novel adaptation). Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Brett Ratner and the brilliant cinematographer Dante Spinotti. Actors Involved: Dwayne Johnson, Irina Shayk, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Joseph Fiennes, Rebecca Ferguson, Rufus Sewell, Joe Anderson, and Peter Mullan. Quality Potential: Very low. Hercules will likely be a mindless, spectacle driven action film (though, Dante Spinotti will likely give it a fantastic look). Brett Ratner is a Hollywood director who makes completely unartistic by-the-numbers films that simply exist, typically failing to inspire anything in their viewer – and thus, this is likely to be average at best. That said, The Rock is usually enjoyable to watch in action roles so maybe this is a borderline rental for genre fans. Trailer: Here.


Tammy – Comedy – Jul 4
Plot Summary: Tammy’s life is falling apart. So, she decides to get out of town, hitting the road with her mother Pearl – misadventures to follow. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Ben Falcone, writer Melissa McCarthy, and producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. Actors Involved: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Mark Duplass, Gary Cole, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, and Ben Falcone. Quality Potential: Low. With Tammy, Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy make their feature debut writing and directing. Taking a page from Kristen Wiig and Rashida Jones, McCarthy is writing for herself (theoretically, creating better material for herself given the lack of good female roles in Hollywood historically). But that is just the thing; Tammy sure seems to resemble the same character type she played in her last two films Identity Thief and The Heat. There is nothing that seems new or interesting about this character and comedy. Yet, fans of McCarthy will surely find something worthwhile in the film. For general comedy fans, I think this is a marginal rental. Trailer: Here.

Sex Tape – Comedy – Jul 18
Plot Summary: Married couple Annie and Jay feel like the sexual attraction has waned a bit in their relationship. In order to spice things up, they decide to make a sex tape; however, they unfortunately upload it to the cloud where it can be seen by all their friends and family. In an effort to stop people from seeing the video, they must rush around town destroying every iPad that they gave out recently to their friends and family (as each iPad has access to the sex tape). Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Jake Kasdan. Actors Involved: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe, Jack Black, Randall Park, and Rob Corddry. Quality Potential: Low. To me, it seems as if this exists because someone saw Bad Teacher and thought: we should make another sex-comedy with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel and why not get Jake Kasdan to direct again too (on a side note, Kasdan’s Zero Effect is a fun film). I am a big fan of Segel’s work that he writes for himself. This seems like more of a paycheck project for him while he works on his own next project. All that said, it will probably be funny. It has a good comedic cast and is maybe worth renting. Trailer: Here.

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