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Like the sainted sigh of relief that comes after another shriek-filled All Hallow’s Eve, November usually means the start of the ‘nominate me’ process for the proposed prestige pictures of 2008. Yet looking over the list below, there’s more commerciality than classicism on display. With the exception of two films on the 14th, everything else looks like it’s aimed directly at the coffers, not the critic’s year end Best Of lists. And who said the reverberations from the writer’s strike would subvert Tinsel Town’s business model as usual approach?



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Quantum of Solace

Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini

(MGM; US theatrical: 14 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 31 Oct 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [14.Nov.2008]
07 November The Main Speaker



Quantum of Solace


When it was announced that relative unknown Daniel Craig was taking over the role of the world’s most famous spy, fans started foaming at the messageboard mouth. One massive hit (Casino Royale) later, and all is quiet on the James Bond front. With Monster Ball‘s Marc Forster behind the lens and a short story by Ian Fleming as an iffy foundation, the only real controversy so far centers on the movie’s slightly clunky title. Audiences can expect more of the same from the revamped 007—more hot tempered confrontations, more pseudo sexist banter, more shirtless moments for everyone’s favorite government agent. It’s been a long time since Bond seemed this relevant—or interesting.





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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Director: Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath
Cast: Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bryceson Holcomb, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen

(DreamWorks Animation; US theatrical: 7 Nov 2008; 2008)

07 November The Main Speaker



Madagascar: Back 2 Africa


After the daring, and quite delightful Kung Fu Panda, it’s a shame to see Dreamworks applying the automatic “success = sequel” formula to this half-baked quasi-comedy. Sure, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock can be very funny, just not voicing anthropomorphized zoo animals. The plot has the New York bound characters from the first film crash landing in their native habitat. Hijinx supposedly ensue. We can expect lots of strangers in a strange land lameness and cross cultural clumsiness from the artless all star creatures. There is so much more to CCI than stunt casting and pop culture riffing. It’s just too bad that the suits who started the trend (with Shrek) have failed to learn this lesson. 





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Repo: The Genetic Opera

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Alexa Vega, Anthony Head, Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, Sarah Brightman

(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 7 Nov 2008; 2008)

07 November The Surrounding Din



Repo: The Genetic Opera


Parlaying his long dormant Saw cred on this peculiar pet project, director Darren Lynn Bousman offers up a song and dance dystopia where plastic surgery disasters demand their own financial repo men. Much bloody bedlam and anarchic arias follow. With Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton, and Texas Chainsaw II‘s Bill Mosley in tow, this all singing surrealism is poised to be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show—misunderstood upon release, revered come time for cult consideration.





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Role Models

Director: David Wain
Cast: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch, Bobb’e J. Thompson

(Universal Pictures; US theatrical: 7 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 23 Jan 2009 (General release); 2008)

Review [7.Nov.2008]
07 November The Surrounding Din



Role Models


In what seems like a return to the worst parts of the ‘80s high concept comedy phase, Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott slum in this humorless, hackneyed Big Brother mentoring mess. On the positive side, everyone’s favorite Superbad supporting player, the fake ID flouncing McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) plays one of the troubled teens. On a less comforting note, The State‘s David Wain is in the director’s chair. His uneven creative catalog suggests something equally problematic and patchy.





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Australia

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandoln Walters, David Gulpilil, David Ngoombujarra, David Wenham, Bryan Brown

(Fox; US theatrical: 26 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 26 Nov 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [12.Mar.2009]
Review [26.Nov.2008]
14 November The Main Speaker



Australia


After fussing over his next possible project (believe it or not, it’s been seven years since Moulin Rouge! ) Aussie madman Baz Luhrmann has decided to pay tribute to the land of his birth. This Giant-sized epic, promoting the pioneer spirit of the former British penal colony has favorite son Hugh Jackman opposite divined daughter Nicole Kidman as World War II era lovers forced to drive cattle across the forbidding Down Under outback. As luck would have it, the nearby town of Darwin is also under attack. So far, a teaser trailer has hinted at the film’s luxuriant scope, and some have suggested that Luhrmann is actually attempting an all encompassing homage to similarly styled movies from the past. The look sure is the same. Here’s hoping the drama is equally dynamic.





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The Road

Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron

(Dimension Films; US theatrical: 14 Nov 2008; 2008)

Review [25.Nov.2009]
14 November The Main Speaker



The Road


After the unqualified success of No Country for Old Men, elusive author Cormac McCarthy should have expected the success of his latest novel. Thanks to a Pulitzer Prize, and some Oprah aided buzz, The Road became a monster bestseller. Still, translating the harrowing journey of a nameless father and son through a post-apocalyptic nightmare that is the former United States doesn’t sound like guaranteed motion picture product. The hiring of Viggo Mortensen as the male lead showed promise. Bringing The Proposition‘s John Hillcoat on was another genius move. But getting untried playwright Joe Penhall to write the script could be the translation’s undoing.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. The book deserves it.





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The Assassination of a High School President

Director: Brett Simon
Cast: Reece Thompson, Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris, Josh Pais

(Freestyle Releasing; US theatrical: 14 Nov 2008; 2008)

14 November The Surrounding Din



The Assassination of a High School President


With a title that ends up being more provocative than the actual premise (a comic conspiracy at a snooty Catholic School is uncovered), there are a lot of potential pitfalls for the undeniably odd sounding effort. First up is novice feature filmmaker Brett Simon. His untried status actually cost him the job of bringing Juno to the big screen (and that script was pretty much a slam dunk). Second, the storyline seems overly complicated, trying to mimic All the President’s Men via a half-hearted Heathers. In the end, there’s too many cons to suggest a satiric success. 





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Soul Men

Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac, Sharon Leal, Sean Hayes, Isaac Hayes

(MGM; US theatrical: 7 Nov 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [7.Nov.2008]
14 November The Surrounding Din



Soul Men


Until a few months ago, no one had ever heard of this comedy-drama from Undercover Brother helmer Malcolm D. Lee. Then co-stars Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes both died within days of each other. Suddenly, this story of a pair of backup singers putting their 20 years of angry differences aside to reunite for a cross country concert tour has the unexpected tinge of a last act elegy. Some have even forgotten that Samuel L. Jackson is the actual lead. Here’s hoping the film succeeds on its own terms, and not just out of morbid media curiosity.





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Bolt

Director: Chris Williams & Byron Howard
Cast: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell

(The Walt Disney Company; US theatrical: 21 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 13 Feb 2009 (General release); 2008)

Review [21.Nov.2008]
21 November The Main Speaker



Bolt


When Pixar’s John Lasseter took over as guide for the House of Mouse’s animation output, he promised some radical changes and a return to old school Disney values. This movie sure looks like the bi-furcated product of such competing company mindsets. On the one hand is the attention to detail, fine tuned characterization, and sense of cinematic wonder that came from the studio’s traditional pen and ink products. Then there is the blatant catering to computer generated concerns and the everpresent stunt voice casting (Miley Cyrus? There’s a surprise). A lot will be riding on this release. Lasseter replaced original director Chris Sanders when he resisted the changes he suggested. Here’s hoping he was right.





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Twilight

Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz

(Summit Entertainment; US theatrical: 21 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 3 Dec 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [22.Mar.2009]
Review [21.Nov.2008]
21 November The Main Speaker



Twilight


Oh god - get ready. Like a hornier Harry Potter, adolescent girls apparently go ga-ga over the syrupy supernatural series from author Stephenie Meyer, and this adaptation of the first novel in the quadrilogy already promises to be an overhyped ogre come release date. The studios have already inundated critics with cheat sheets, interview material, publicity puffery, and any possible marketing angle they can readily conceive—and all for the teen dream story of a young girl falling in love with a local vampire. Sheesh. There’s a possibility that director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) can deliver the mainstream muggle goods. If so, get ready for another three films of horror as raging hormones.





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The Soloist

Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener

(DreamWorks; US theatrical: 21 Nov 2008; 2008)

Review [12.Aug.2009]
Review [24.Apr.2009]
21 November The Surrounding Din



The Soloist


Nathan Ayers was a musical prodigy that developed schizophrenia during his second year at Julliard. He eventually ended up on the streets, playing his violin for spare change. Jamie Foxx, clearly hoping for a repeat of Ray-sized glory, essays the troubled troubadour. Robert Downey Jr. plays the LA journalist who uncovers Ayers identity, and Catherine Keener plays his editor. Director Joe Wright, who wowed audiences with his adaptation of Atonement, has the credentials to pull this off. Here’s hoping his cast lets him.





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Transporter 3

Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, François Berléand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbé

(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 26 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 5 Dec 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [14.Apr.2009]
Review [26.Nov.2008]
28 November The Main Speaker



Transporter 3


It’s clear by now—Jason Statham has a concrete career death wish. Every time it looks like he will finally shed his musky, man of any action movie image (The Bank Job), he returns to the ADD addled genre that apparently keeps him well paid and underfed (does the man have ANY body fat whatsoever?). Following the failure of Paul W.S. Anderson’s underrated Death Race, the brawny Brit returns to the franchise that made him an unintended international icon. That sound you just heard is the collection yawn from an unimpressed, “been there, done that” fanbase—and if they aren’t happy, this series seems DOA.





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Four Christmases

Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Kristin Chenoweth

(New Line Cinema; US theatrical: 26 Nov 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 26 Nov 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [26.Nov.2008]
28 November The Surrounding Din



Four Christmases


Warner Brothers has poured a lot of star power into this otherwise unknown comedy quantity. It features four Oscar winners—Reese Witherspoon, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek, and Robert Duvall—and adds in a couple of country music superstars (Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam) for good measure. And we loved Seth Gordon’s last film, the fascinating documentary The King of Kong. Still, it’s hard to get a handle on a holiday film that sees a young couple competing for the affection of their divorced and remarried families (hence the title trouble).





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Nothing Like the Holidays

Director: Alfredo De Villa
Cast: Freddy Rodríguez, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, Jay Hernandez, Luis Guzmán, John Leguizamo, Melonie Diaz, Vanessa Ferlito, Debra Messing

(Overture Films; US theatrical: 12 Dec 2008 (General release); 2008)

Review [14.Dec.2008]
28 November The Surrounding Din



Nothing Like the Holidays


After changing its name from Humbolt Park (the setting for this ethnic tearjerker), Overture Films has been rather silent about this John Leguizamo led tale of a troubled Puerto Rican family and what very well may be their last Christmas together. Director Alfredo De Villa definitely understands the narrative terrain. His entire indie career has been forged via stories of individuals—minority or otherwise—and their life on the edge of social acceptance. We will just have to wait and see.



Since deciding to employ his underdeveloped muse muscles over five years ago, Bill has been a significant staff member and writer for three of the Web's most influential websites: DVD Talk, DVD Verdict and, of course, PopMatters. He also has expanded his own web presence with Bill Gibron.com a place where he further explores creative options. It is here where you can learn of his love of Swindon's own XTC, skim a few chapters of his terrifying tome in the making, The Big Book of Evil, and hear samples from the cassette albums he created in his college music studio, The Scream Room.


Tagged as: alexa vega | alfred molina | anthony head | ashley greene | australia | ben stiller | bernie mac | bill moseley | bobb'e j. thompson | bolt | brandoln walters | bruce willis | bryan brown | bryceson holcomb | byron howard | catherine keener | charlize theron | chris rock | chris williams | christopher mintz-plasse | daniel craig | david gulpilil | david ngoombujarra | david schwimmer | david wenham | debra messing | elizabeth banks | elizabeth peña | elizabeth reaser | four christmases | françois berléand | freddy rodríguez | gemma arterton | giancarlo giannini | hugh jackman | isaac hayes | jackson rathbone | jada pinkett smith | jamie foxx | jane lynch | jason statham | jay hernandez | jeffrey wright | jeroen krabbé | john leguizamo | john travolta | jon favreau | josh pais | judi dench | kathryn morris | kellan lutz | kristen stewart | kristin chenoweth | luis guzmán | madagascar: escape 2 africa | malcolm mcdowell | mark walton | mary steenburgen | mathieu amalric | melonie diaz | michael rapaport | miley cyrus | mischa barton | natalya rudakova | nicole kidman | nikki reed | olga kurylenko | paris hilton | paul rudd | paul sorvino | peter facinelli | quantum of solace | reece thompson | reese witherspoon | repo: the genetic opera | robert downey jr. | robert duvall | robert knepper | robert pattinson | role models | sacha baron cohen | samuel l. jackson | sarah brightman | sean hayes | seann william scott | sharon leal | susie essman | the road | the soloist | transporter 3 | twilight | vanessa ferlito | viggo mortensen | vince vaughn
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