[11 September 2012]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Bill Murray as FDR? While many have praised the casting, we just don’t buy it. One look at his interpretation of the famous four term US president supports our level of fear. Murray just doesn’t seem to pack the import that Roosevelt requires, and worse yet, the narrative is based around the rumored affair between the Commander in Chief and his distant cousin, Margaret Suckley. Add in visiting royalty (the story centers on a visit from King George VI and his Queen) and the man who directed Changing Lanes and Morning Glory and you’ve got one big fat question mark.
Boy this sounds dumb. Gerard Butler plays an ex-athlete who is trying to redeem his questionable past. How? By coaching his son’s soccer team… oh, and hitting on every hot mom who attends the games. Groan. Hasn’t Hollywood hindered this hunk with enough ridiculous RomCom junk? Still, the saving grace here could be director Gabriele Muccino. Responsible for the Will Smith hits The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds, there’s a gentle artistry to his foreign filmmaking vision. Of course, Butler is anything but subtle, and unless the storyline is handled in a deceptively different manner, it looks like more mainstream mediocrity for King Leonidas.
One day, Peter Jackson will get back to making the genre-defying delights that gave him the creative clout to tackle Tolkein. Until then, we have two more years of filled with hype, hope… and the title characters. Considering the massive, worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings, we have nothing but high hopes for this pastoral prequel. The trailer even confirms our greatest expectations. But who wouldn’t want to see Jackson revisit the zombie genre with another Dead Alive, or tackle material like Heavenly Creatures and/or The Frighteners again? This has always been much more to the man than flights of fantasy.
Unless something significant changes between now and the nominations, our money is on Anne Hathaway not only picking up an Oscar nod for her work here, but she’s our bet for taking home the top prize as well. After all, who out there could top a year where she was an integral part of the final installment of a certain billion dollar Batman franchise… and then sings the show-stopping number in one of the biggest musical hits of all time? If she doesn’t win, it means someone else picked up the Award Season wave and rode it right past her. We doubt that will happen.
Already highly touted after winning the major award at Cannes, Michael Haneke (Funny Games, The White Ribbon) appears poised to take home the Foreign Film Oscar as well. With its deceptively simple story of an elderly couple living through the final days of their lives, and two killer performances in the leads, the buzz about this film has been almost nuclear. Few can find fault in its delicate, deliberate narrative, marveling at a man whose so diverse in his subject matter and style. You’ll be hearing a lot about this in the months ahead… and almost all of it will be accolades.
The only woman in the history of the Academy Awards to take home a statue for directing a major motion picture is back and she’s mining familiar Hurt Locker territory as well. This has been a controversial project since it was announced, the US government charged with giving the filmmaker access to classified information in order to help portray the present administration in a more positive light. While the camps have denied this, any movie that deals with the hunting down (and death?) of Osama Bin Laden is bound to stir up trouble. Let’s just hope it’s good as well.
We loved Juan Antonio Bayona’s briliant 2007 thriller The Orphanage. It was the perfect marriage of old school horror with telling touches of Argento and Del Toro. So imagine our surprise when Bayona’s five years in the making follow-up is not a horror film, but a story of survival set against the horrible events of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as a couple who find themselves separated and stranded by the wall of water, there are touches of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter in the trailer. Luckily, it looks like Bayona is going for emotion, not something ethereal.
Tom Cruise was absolutely fabulous in Rock of Ages. His turn as a tired, burned out superstar definitely deserves Oscar consideration. The rest of the movie, not so much. Here, the celebrated Scientologist is back in more familiar commercial territory, taking on a favored fictional character that mirrors many of his most famous onscreen traits. Reacher is a loner, an ex-military police officer who, while living along the skids, maintains a firm moral high ground. This is put to the test when an accused killer asks him to investigate the case. Some fans have taken issue with Cruise’s size, but for many, he’s the right choice.
This sounds a lot like a more serious version of That Thing You Do! , and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even better, The Sopranos’ David Chase is acting as writer, director, and producer here, bringing along James Gandolfini as well. The storyline, sadly, has little to do with the mafia. Instead, it centers around a ‘60s era rock band trying to make it big. Beyond that, we know little else. Since it’s set to open at the New York Film Festival in October, hopefully we’ll get more insight into what the TV titan has in store for Cineplexes.
It calls itself the “sort of” sequel to Knocked Up, and it’s not hard to see why. Absent almost completely from the trailer (and one imagines, the final film itself) are references to the characters played by Seth Rogen and (an ungrateful) Katherine Heigl. Instead, this tale focuses on Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as the marrieds who hit the midlife crisis wall head on. Expanding beyond the original, we get the great Albert Brooks as Rudd’s dithering dad, as well as turns by Jason Segel, John Lithgow, and some up and coming actress known as… Megan Fox? Hopefully, it’s more funny than filthy.
Apparently, redefining the big top experience is not enough for this acclaimed Canadian “circus” act. Now they have to get into the whole unnecessary 3D cinematic experience as well. Apparently, this isn’t just some filmed version of a Cirque Du Soleil experience. Instead, the press material argue that there is an actual “narrative” here, featuring a star crossed couple who must travel through a magical world populated by aerialists, fire breathers, and other three ring regulars, in order to find true love. Whatever. James Cameron’s name is featured heavily in the promotion. He supposedly had something to do with the technological end of the production.
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play a married couple dealing with their spoiled grandchildren. Okay, we can buy that. Even better, when the touchy feely parenting of 2012 doesn’t appear to work, our decidedly old school couple apply some of the lessons learned from their own far stricter youth. One assumes, hijinx ensue. Don’t build your hopes up too high, however. Aside from seeing ‘80s artifacts Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel as part of the five (FIVE! ) person screenwriting team, the director is Andy Fickman, of The Game Plan and You Again fame.
Having gone through crime, blaxsploitation, horror, action, martial arts, and war, it’s time for the master of manipulating movie references, Quentin Tarantino, to add a couple more homages to his hefty resume. This time, he’s tackling two favorites, the spaghetti western and Southern Gothic. His story of a former slave hooking up with a foreign bounty hunter to exact revenge on the man who destroyed his family seems right up the auteur’s alley. With an impeccable cast and QT’s talent for dialogue, this could be the film to beat come end of the year. We can’t wait for opening day.
In one of the greatest bits of stunt casting yet, Seth Rogen plays an inventor who invites his mother along on a cross country trip while be promotes his latest product. And who, pray tell, will said mommy be? Why, none other than the defiant diva herself, Barbra Streisand. It’s the first time she’s starred in a film since her extended cameos as part of the Focker clan. If there is a down side, here, it’s director Anne Fletcher. Looking over her creative canon—Step Up, 27 Dresses, The Proposal—it’s easy to see why.
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Also Opening in December: Deadfall (12/7), Monsters, Inc. in 3D (12/19).