Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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


The Good Lie – Drama – Oct 3
Plot Summary: Carrie Davis takes three Sudanese refugees into her home to help them make it in the United States. Basically, this is The Blind Side but without sports. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Philippe Falardeau and producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Actors Involved: Reece Witherspoon and Corey Stoll. Quality Potential: Medium. The Good Lie looks like a feel-good, Oscar-bait type of film, built around a good performance by Reece Witherspoon. She is mounting a big comeback in 2014 starting with The Good Lie and following it up with what looks like the even better character drama Wild and a supporting role in the likely Best Picture nominee Inherent Vice. Witherspoon won an Oscar for her work in Walk the Line but has sort of picked mediocre projects since. It will be nice to see her in good films again (she was also in last year’s very good drama Mud). Director Philippe Falareau is following up his successful French-Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar with his first Hollywood film. Trailer: Here.

The Judge – Drama – Oct 10
Plot Summary: Hank Palmer is a successful big city lawyer who long ago left his small hometown behind; however, he is forced to come home when his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank wants to find out the truth, and in the process maybe reconnect with his estranged family. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director David Dobkin, composer Thomas Newman, and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Actors Involved: Robert Downey Jr., Vera Farmiga, Leighton Meester, Billy Bob Thorton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Robert Duvall. Quality Potential: Medium. The Judge is a change of pace for director David Dobkin who has previously made his living as a director producing comedies (such as Wedding Crashers). Here, he takes on a family drama built around the reconnecting of a father and son – each with a strong personality. The film honestly looks incredibly generic and emotionally clichéd. It debuted on the festival circuit in September playing to a blasé response from critics, but general moviegoers seemed to enjoy it quite a bit – probably because it has a good cast lead by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Trailer: Here.

Men, Women &Children – Dramedy – Oct 24
Plot Summary: In a world where relationships now exist mostly through online interaction, where does that leave us? Sexually frustrated. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Jason Reitman. Actors Involved: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort, Judy Greer, Emma Thompson, Dean Norris, Dennis Haysbert, J.K. Simmons, and Rosemarie DeWitt. Quality Potential: Medium. Jason Reitman’s last film, Labor Day, was a misstep tonally for the director; however, Men, Women & Children looks like a complete return to form (similar to Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult). He has assembled a good cast and the film looks like an interesting probe into the modern world of interaction online – where a person, to some extent, can be whomever they want to be – yet this separation only seems to make one feel even more alone. The film played to good reviews during its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Trailer: Here.


Fury – Action/War Drama – Oct 17
Plot Summary: In 1945, a U.S. Sherman tank crew is sent on a suicide mission behind enemy lines. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director David Ayer and composer Steven Price. Actors Involved: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena, and Jason Isaacs. Quality Potential: Medium. Fury looks to be a very good action/war drama. Writer-director David Ayer excels at shooting gritty and visceral dramas that revolve around their lead characters (though, all the films he has directed to date have been about L.A. police officers, but Ayer is a former military man himself, so this should be a good fit). The film features a good cast and some have even given it Oscar buzz (I personally think that is a bit of an oversell). The one concern is whether the film will more resemble Ayer’s strong dramatic work (Harsh Times and End of Watch) or his weaker action-oriented work (Street Kings and Sabotage)? As someone you loves WWII films, I hope the former is true. Trailer: Here.


Plot Summary: Alexander has always had bad luck and bad days while the rest of his family seems to glide through life on a cloud; however, on one fateful day his bad luck seems to have been transferred to his whole family creating one mega bad day for everyone – but maybe this awful day will bring them closer together as a family? Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Miguel Arteta. Actors Involved: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Bella Thorne, Burn Gorman, Jennifer Coolidge, Kerris Dorsey, Dick Van Dyke, Megan Mullally, Donald Glover, Dylan Minnette, and Ed Oxenbould. Quality Potential: Medium/Low. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day looks like a funny family film and a good vehicle for Steve Carell to continue to make safe, family-oriented comedies. Director Miguel Arteta could bring a fun indie flair to the film, which may make it more adult friendly. He directed the good indie dramedies Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt, and Cedar Rapids. Trailer: Here.

St. Vincent – Dramedy – Oct 24
Plot Summary: A young boy’s life is thrown into chaos when his parents get divorced and he must move with his mother to a new home. Things seem tough, but he meets an unlikely friend in the form of the grumpy old war veteran who lives next door. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Theodore Melfi. Actors Involved: Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, and Terrence Howard. Quality Potential: Medium. St. Vincent looks like a decent, if not generic, older-mentor narrative from first-time feature director Theodore Melfi. He does, however, have a fantastic cast, and the buzz out of the festival circuit is that Bill Murray is brilliant in the film (but, when is he not). I am not sure this is an Oscar hopeful as some have suggested, but as a huge fan of Murray I am excited to see the film all the same. Trailer: Here.


Dracula Untold – Action/Horror – Oct 10
Plot Summary: The untold origin story of Dracula, focusing on the man who would become the monster – or, a feature version of the Francis Ford Coppola Dracula prologue. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Gary Shore and composer Ramin Djawadi. Actors Involved: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Samantha Barks, Zach McGowan, and Charlie Cox. Quality Potential: Low. Dracula Untold could be a fun action/horror film. It has some good actors and people behind the camera involved. Director Gary Shore is making his feature directorial debut. Yet, probability is not of the film’s side. In all likeliness, this will just be another pointless throwaway action film that only appeals to teenage boys and a few genre fans. I have hope (as I like the period horror aesthetic when done right), but the odds are against it. Trailer: Here.

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