Wednesday, December 31, 2014

At the Movies – January 2015 – Part 2: Hollywood Films


Taken 3 – Action Thriller – Jan 9
Plot Summary: Bryan Mills, finally reunited with his family, has his world shattered when his wife is murdered – even worse, he is being set up for the crime. Now, on the run, he evades the police while searching for the true killer to exact revenge and clear his name. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Olivier Megaton and writer-producer Luc Besson. Actors Involved: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Forest Whitaker, and Dougray Scott. Quality Potential: Low. Indeed, this third film in the Taken series features Mills’s daughter again being taken (because original ideas are hard). That aside, Taken 2 director Olivier Megaton returns (he is a frequent collaborator with French action guru Luc Besson), meaning that Taken 3 will probably be no better than Taken 2 (which was far worse than Taken). This is a throwaway, pointless action sequel. Fans of the series can check it out, but otherwise it is probably not a worthwhile theater-going experience. Trailer: Here.

Black Sea – Thriller – Jan 23
Plot Summary: Down on his luck, Captain Robinson takes a shady job to pilot a submarine in search of a submarine rumored to be loaded with gold. To do this, he must work with an unscrupulous backer and crew of ruffians in the depths of the Black Sea. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director Kevin Macdonald. Actors Involved: Jude Law, Jodie Whittaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy, and Tobias Menzies. Quality Potential: Medium. Kevin Macdonald made his feature debut with the well-received The Last King of Scotland after proving to be a talented documentary filmmaker; however, since then, he has struggled with underwhelming dramas (State of Play, The Eagle and How I Live Now). Black Sea looks like a decent thriller, but what makes it interesting is its great cast. Black Sea is probably not a great film (being that it is being released in January), but it may make for an entertaining rental with good performances. Trailer: Here.


The Wedding Ringer – Comedy – Jan 16
Plot Summary: Doug Harris is about to get married. The problem is that he does not have any groomsmen. So, he hires wedding specialist Jimmy Callahan to help. Jimmy puts together a makeshift band of oddballs, but it just might work. Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Jeremy Garelick. Actors Involved: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Olivia Thirlby, and Cloris Leachman. Quality Potential: Low. Kevin Hart had a big 2014 with Ride Along, About Last Night, Think Like a Man Too, and Top Five. He wants to keep the momentum going with two comedies in 2015: this and Get Hard. Writer-director Jeremy Garelick makes his feature debut with The Wedding Ringer. He also wrote The Break-Up. The Wedding Ringer looks kind of funny (a bit like a lower-end version of The Hangover or other wedding comedies like Wedding Crashers), but also like a typical January film (generic and unremarkable). This probably only for Kevin Hart fans. Trailer: Here.

Paddington – Family Comedy – Jan 16
Plot Summary: Paddington Bear comes to London only to find himself lost in the city. Then, he is befriended by a young boy and his family, who take Paddington into their home – hoping that having a bear in the house will not cause too much trouble (but of course he will). Key Filmmakers Involved: Writer-director Paul King and producer David Heyman. Actors Involved: Ben Whishaw (voicing Paddington), Nicole Kidman, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton (also both voicing characters), Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Hugh Bonneville, Peter Capaldi, and Jim Broadbent. Quality Potential: Medium. Paddington is Paul King’s second feature (following up Bunny and the Bull, a film that is likely completely unknown outside the U.K.); however, many will know him for his directorial work on the very funny British comedy series The Mighty Boosh (that features Old Gregg). The cast is quite fantastic and the film has been very well received in Britain, where it opened last November. I am curious if Americans who did not necessarily grow up with Paddington Bear will enjoy the film as much, but it is a very good and funny family film. Trailer: Here.

Mortdecai – Action/Mystery Comedy – Jan 23
Plot Summary: Charles Mortdecai is a famed art dealer. When a famous painting is stolen, he is brought in to find it; however, he has other plans, as the painting may be his link to finding a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold. Key Filmmakers Involved: Director David Koepp, producer Johnny Depp and composer Mark Ronson. Actors Involved: Johnny Depp, Olivia Munn, Aubrey Plaza, Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, and Jeff Goldblum. Quality Potential: Low. David Koepp is better known for writing Hollywood blockbusters (like Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man, War of the Worlds, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) than his directorial work. As a director, he has made five generic films of varying quality but nothing great. Mortdecai looks very silly, filled with pratfalls and buffoonery (it looks like a poor attempt to recapture the magic of a character like Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series). Koepp does have a great cast, however, and this role seems to suggest that Depp (who created the project for himself) is looking to find a new character to build a franchise on. The solid cast makes this film a potential rental, but probably not worthwhile for the theater (given that it looks mediocre). Trailer: Here.

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