Tuesday, November 4, 2014

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


Big Hero 6 – Animated Family Action/Comedy – Nov 7
Plot Summary: When a dangerous new villain comes to San Fransokyo, it is up to prodigy Hiro Hamada and his plus-size inflatable robot Baymax to save the day. Hiro also turns to his friends to form an unlikely group of ‘super friends’. They include an adrenaline junkie, a neatnik, a chemistry whiz, and a fanboy. Together they are Big Hero 6. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Don Hall, director Chris Williams, executive producer John Lasseter, and composer Henry Jackman. Voice-Actors Involved: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph, and Damon Wayans Jr. Quality Potential: High. Walt Disney Animation Studios has been on a roll. Their last four films have been Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen (Tangled and Frozen are particularly great). Don Hall and Chris Williams have been big parts of the new Disney animated films, having worked on Bolt, The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh. They have a good voice cast and the film looks very fun. It screened in late October to rave reviews, some even calling it the best yet from Disney’s revitalized animation studio (2008’s Bolt was the studio’s first film). Big Hero 6 is a Marvel property that Disney has decided to produce through its own animation studio. The results seem to be very good. This is a must-see for families. Trailer: Here.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Adventure/Sci-Fi – Nov 21
Plot Summary: Following the events of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Mockingjay – Part 1 finds Katness Everdeen as part of the revolution against the tyranny of the Panem Government. The poorer districts have been moved to revolt by her actions in the games. Yet, she seems to have surprising enemies. Peeta seems to have joined President Snow in opposing the revolution. Katness, however, cannot believe it, and vows to rescue him from the Capital. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Francis Lawrence, writer Danny Strong and composer James Newton Howard. Actors Involved: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Natalie Dormer, Robert Knepper, Michelle Forbes, Willow Shields, and Mahershala Ali. Quality Potential: High/Medium. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is probably the most anticipated film by general movie audiences and will likely be the U.S. Box Office champion of 2014. The film has quite an acting ensemble and it looks massive in scale. The first two movies feel very similar. They are essentially the same movie in many ways (the second has higher stakes, maybe, for the characters – it feels a lot like a typical Hollywood sequel – the same thing, only bigger; but, to its credit, it is an improvement on the first). Mockingjay looks like we will finally see the characters do something interesting, particularly Katness (who never really has to make difficult choices in the first film, it is all superficial or her hand is forced, she is let off the hook dramatically in every interesting situation, and she is sidelined for most of the interesting aspects of the second film, being left out of the revolution-narrative loop). I hope that this film breaks the mold and finally reaches the great adventure/sci-fi potential that the series promises. If nothing else, the trailer tells us that director Francis Lawrence (who also directed Catching Fire) has gone all out in terms of production value. Trailer: Here.


Dumb and Dumber To – Comedy – Nov 14
Plot Summary: Dimwits Harry and Lloyd are back together again twenty years later. They set off to find Harry’s estranged daughter, Penny, so that Harry can get a new kidney from her; however Lloyd has ulterior motives. He is attracted to Penny, after seeing her picture, and hopes to form a love connection. Key Filmmakers Involved: Directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly and musicians Empire of the Sun. Actors Involved: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden, Kathleen Turner, Rachel Melvin, and Rob Riggle. Quality Potential: Low. To some extent, Dumb and Dumber To is the sequel that nobody really wants, but it is coming anyway. Maybe it is just me, as audiences do seem genuinely enthusiastic during the trailer, even though it looks painfully bad. The Farrelly Brothers started their career making funny movies like Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There’s Something About Marry, and Me, Myself & Irene (capitalizing on the newish genre of gross-out comedy/R-rated comedy making a comeback), and then it went downhill from there (although, their remake of Fever Pitch is decent or at least close to the original) or maybe we all just grew up. Dumb and Dumber To very well might turn out to be a very funny film, well worth everyone’s time and money, but I am not holding my breath. I loved Dumb and Dumber when it came out in 1994, but now I could not care less about this needless sequel. Bah Humbug. Trailer: Here.

Horrible Bosses 2 – Comedy – Nov 28
Plot Summary: Dale, Kurt and Nick, fresh off their scheme to get even with their horrible bosses (see what I did there), decide to open their own business. Things do not turn out well, however, when a savvy investor swindles them. Falling back on their own bad ideas, the trio decides to engage in a terribly misguided kidnapping scheme to get even. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Sean Anders. Actors Involved: Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jonathan Banks, and Keegan-Michael Key. Quality Potential: Medium/Low. On one hand, Horrible Bosses 2 does have a fantastic cast, but on the other hand (for some reason) the original writers and director were not brought back in for the sequel. Instead, Sean Anders is in charge. He has done some decent comedy (writing, directing, sometimes both): Sex Drive, She’s Out of My League, Hot Tub Time Machine, and most recently We’re the Millers, but nothing that great. He also directed the regrettable That’s My Boy. It seems like a step backwards, not to mention he is also behind the script for Dumb and Dumber To (so, he has that going for him). My hopes for this are not high, even though I thought Horrible Bosses was funny and like the cast a lot. I hope I am wrong. Trailer: Here.

Penguins of Madagascar – Animated Family Comedy – Nov 28
Plot Summary: Leaving the other characters of the Madagascar series behind, the Penguins go off on their own super spy adventure. They go up against the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, who plots to destroy the world. But, they need help! So, they join forces with the undercover organization The North Wind. Key Filmmakers Involved: Directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith. Voice-Actors Involved: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare, John Malkovich, and Werner Herzog (voicing the villain, which is awesome). Quality Potential: Medium/Low. The Penguins have always been my favorite part of the Madagascar series; they are the funniest characters. It will be interesting to see how they fare, having to fill an entire feature with their antics. Directors Eric Darnell (who also directed the first three Madagascar films) and Simon J. Smith have put together a great voice cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich and Werner Herzog!!!). Dreamworks Animation Studio very well might have something very funny on their hands. Trailer: Here.

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