[3 September 2012]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Having already opened in the UK several months ago, the verdict on this film is more or less out… and it’s not very good. Apparently, Mabrouk El Mechri (perhaps best known for the meta Jean Claude Van Damme effort JCVD) delivers yet another standard spy thriller, the presumed plot twists and turns telegraphed in both the billing and the dopey double cross premise. With Bruce Willis cashing a foreign paycheck and Sigourney Weaver supposedly chewing up the scenery, it seems like this is yet another must-miss entry in the dog days of non-summer.
Let’s just call this How the Self-Effacing, Ironic WASP Woman Got Her Groove Back and be done with it, okay? No amount of spent indie cred (the man behind the lens is Todd Louiso, the actor turned auteur who made 2009’s god awful The Marc Pease Experience) or quirky casting can save what seems like another example of advanced shoegazing. Maybe this won’t be another monument to mumblecore, or a comedy sans significant laughs (which Louiso seems to excel at). Whatever the case, look for it limp along until the arthouse grows tired of its whining.
Gay cinema doesn’t get much love in mainstream movie houses, for always complicated reasons. Aside from the obvious lack of tolerance among many in the general movie going demographic, some of the stories fail to universalize their elements to be relatable to all orientations. In this case, an immigrant documentarian falls for a closeted Manhattan lawyer, with the complexities and challenges of their relationship rising above the niche demo fray. Festival buzz has been strong, though one must once again question the commercial viability of such a subject. Here’s hoping it can break out, instead of being singled out.
Bridesmaids proved that girls could do gross out and still maintain their post-feminism “fierceness”. Now comes a decidedly different walk down the same comedic aisle, sort of. Based on a play that predates the Kristen Wiig hit, we get a far raunchier look at the pre-nuptial wedding ‘party’. In this case, three high school friends, attending the marriage of someone they really didn’t like back then, destroy a necessary dress and spend one fateful night trying to get it mended. By all preview accounts, hilarious, blue humor hijinx ensue. Sounds like a solid post-summer entry.
Bradley Cooper is carving out one of the weirdest leading man careers in Hollywood. One minute, he’s enjoying the mindless action antics of The A-Team, the next, he’s knee deep in the hoopla of another slice of Hangover. In between, he tosses in thrillers like Limitless, and this oddball entry. Sprung from Sundance, it’s the first film from actor turned writer/director Brian Klugman and his collaborator, Lee Sternthal (both were responsible for the TRON:Legacy storyline). The film is actually a visualization of the new novel being read by celebrated author Dennis Quaid. Jeremy Irons claims plagiarism, and all bets are off.
All you lovers of the sublime Spanish horror films [REC] and [REC]2, heed this warning: what you are about to see is not another stellar installment in the revisionist zombie epic. Instead, this is a heartfelt, and sometime hilarious, homage to all the movies that inspired Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza to make horror movies in the first place. The results are guaranteed to grate on those who feel invested in the movie’s mythology and want to know more about the religious experiments going on in that sinister apartment building. What we get this time is splatter and surprises
It’s a shame that Richard Gere doesn’t get more critical acclaim for his choices. Since skipping out on his commercial cache way back in the ‘80s, he’s made some very interesting career moves. This may not be one of them, but the idea is still intriguing. The actor plays a Wall Street maverick who suddenly finds himself in deep spit. Naturally, there are untold secrets and close companions with competing interests and agendas. Some have called it a compelling character study. Others have labeled it cinematic junk food. Seems like typical Gere.
Channing Tatum must be riding pretty high right now. In the spring, he saw his co-starring role in the goofy 21 Jump Street reboot score some major box office draw. Then the microbudgeted Magic Mike blew up the summer cineplexes, and the beefcake really raked in the bucks. In one four month span he’s gone from boy toy question mark to wholly bankable Hollywood hunk. Granted, this film is from last year, but with all the buzz building around Tatum, it’s not hard to see why it’s showing up now. By the way, the story centers around a high school reunion.
More and more, it looks like early Spring and Fall are the times for distributors to try out new cinematic voices. Take writer/director/actor (How I Met Your Mother) Josh Radnor. His feature film debut, Happythankyoumoreplease, got some decided festival love. Now his latest repeats his past preoccupations, again dealing with confused post-college characters trying to make sense of their lives. In this case, a 30-something recruiter who finds himself drawn to a just post-adolescent student. Naturally, he grows more and more nostalgic for his days as an undergrad. With Richard Jenkins as the retiring professor who inspires the set-up.
This is it. This is September’s gift to worn out cinephiles everywhere. While critics have been specific that this film has very little to do with L. Ron Hubbard and his hokum known as Scientology, the parallels are hard to ignore. So, supposedly, are the performances. As usual, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has shrouded his storyline in secrecy, giving away limited details in the engaging and enigmatic trailers. Early press has been practically hyperbolic. Of course, the big question is this? Does Anderson have any real commercial clout? Will his auteur aesthetic draw crowds? We will have to wait and see.
How funny that Paul THOMAS Anderson’s new epic opens the same day as the latest from barrel bottom scraper (and haphazard “namesake”) Paul W.S. Anderson. Convinced he must continue to give his wife, Milla Jovivich, as many mindless over the top action movie options as possible, we again find ourselves dealing with the Umbrella Corporation, the still slightly amnesiatic Alice, and a bunch of returning players. Apparently, the ticket sales internationally keep mandating that more of these lame zombie stomps be made. Imagine the look on someone’s face when they make the mistake of going into the wrong “Paul Anderson” film.
Hey Nick Cage… where have you been? By this time in any given year, you should already have appeared in at least five films. In 2011, you were in four. So far, in 2012, you’ve only darkened disinterested fans with your goofy Ghost Rider sequel. This sounds more up your anything for a paycheck alley. In fact, it sounds like a far more serious take on the recent Dax Shepard flop, Hit and Run. Cage is a thief, recently released from prison, who finds himself the target of a kidnap plot. His daughter is taken by his ex-partner, who is demanding the loot that he thinks Cage still has. Cue the explosions.
Fall is often the dumping ground for documentaries. This isn’t meant as a slam, but as a sign that Awards Season is just around the corner. In this case, we have an offering from 2011 just making the meaningful film society rounds. As the editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue when they were dictating the fashion sense of an entire planet, we are introduced to Vreeland and her forward thinking approach to couture and lifestyle. It may seem like an EPK (there’s an accompanying book being released) but it’s really more of a heartfelt celebration.
At the time, Sylvester Stallone seemed like the perfect choice to play the beloved British comic book character (whose stories have been around since 1977). When fans saw the mess that was made of their favorite future shock law enforcement official, it seemed to signal the end of the line for this particular cult character. Now Karl Urban is taking over as the title tyrant, a man who is judge, jury, and executioner all in one. Fans are hoping that this take on the material stays truer to the original. With Danny Boyle collaborator Alex Garland handling the script, there’s hope.
Judging by the trailer, we apparently have the story of two seasoned LA street cops who stumble upon a “secret” so devastating and damning that the Mexican drug cartels will stop at nothing to see these two silenced… permanently. The resulting narrative has lots of showdowns with guns—both legal and illegal—blazing. Writer/director David Ayer made his name with this kind of stuff, earning kudos for crafting the Denzel vehicle Training Day as well as the Cali cop thriller Street Kings. Everything is in place for something kinetic and exciting. Let’s hope Ayer can pull it off.
Now that she has indie cred, Oscar accolades, and massive commercial success (as Katniss Everdeen in the hugely popular Hunger Games franchise), what more could actress Jennifer Lawrence want? Well, chances are, she’d like another chance at rejecting her agent’s advice to take this particular spook show script. With a story by U-571 and Surrogate‘s Jonathan Mostow and direction by British unknown Mark Tonderai, we are left wondering if this will be another PG-13 piffle, or as some prescreening viewers have claimed, an intriguing tale poorly sold by its fright flick inspired trailer. Who knows.
AIDS isn’t the death sentence it was two decades ago. Today, many people both successful and silent are living with the disease and making definitive steps to see it eradicated in our current lifetime. Director David France focuses his damning documentary on the faces of actual activists, those involved in ACT UP, as well as TAG (Treatment Action Group). Given unbelievable access to private camcorder footage from the earliest days of the epidemic, he showcases the heroes who fought to get the issue recognized, as well as those who’s intolerance lead to at least two decades of unnecessary death.
Clint Eastwood stars as an aging baseball scout with failing vision. Amy Adams is the daughter determined to help him through one more stint exploring prospects for the Atlanta Braves. With John Goodman as Eastwood’s boss and friend and Justin Timberlake as a rival who has eyes for Ms. Adams, we seem set for anything from an in-depth character study to a schmaltz, maudlin dramedy. You can never really tell with Eastwood. Here’s hoping there are no empty chairs in his lagging line of sight. Just saying.
Wow! Someone must really have faith in author Stephen Chbosky and his epistolary novel (read: in letter form). Not only was he hired to adapt the book into a screenplay, but he was then handed the directing reins as well. Granted, his resume does include the script for the movie version of Rent, as well as a stint in TV with Jericho. Still, to put so much belief in someone whose yet to make a significant mark in the Hollywood hit factory shows one of two things: the brilliance of the coming-of-age story Chbosky wants to tell, or the lack of vision from those writing the checks.
Let’s see if you can follow this: way back in 1912, Louis Pergaud wrote a novel called La Guerre des boutons. Five decades later, it became a film by Yves Robert. Then, in 1994, an English language version was made. Now, in 2011, there are two more competing entries in the adaptation race. This is the one set during the Nazi Occupation, for your information. In all cases, the anti-war allegory has competing bands of children “fighting” for certain battle “souvenirs” (shoelaces, buttons, etc.). Naturally, things quickly turn violent, thus the meaning and the message.
Another documentary, this time focusing on the faces and personalities visiting at Highland Hospital, a safety-net organization in Oakland, California… and, of course, the current uninsured state of most patients is what takes up the running time. Started as a social media project by filmmaker Peter Nicks, there is a decidedly Sicko feel to the final result, a movie made out of anger and angst, directed at a problem that many recognize but few want to actually address. Since it is an “ongoing” endeavor, one imagines the final product changing with the times… and the tales.
Stunt casting? Yes. Second grade storytelling? Apparently. A supposedly novel take on otherwise familiar family film material? Well, as long as you haven’t seen ParaNorman... maybe? Anyway, voiced by Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz, Cee Lo Green, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon and David Spade, we have a weird amalgamation of horror and humor, as the great monsters of legend come to a far away spa to escape the normal people. When one of them shows up as well, hijinx apparently ensue. The trailer looks telling enough. Here’s hoping ace in the hole Genndy Tartakovsky (The Clone Wars) can do something novel with this.
Rian Johnson is perhaps the most popular film geek auteur you’ve probably never heard of. His first film, Brick, made many 2005 Best of Lists with its mixture of hardboiled noir (and language) and coming-of-age narrative. The Brothers Bloom, on the other hand, is usually listed as the filmmaker’s “almost” sophomore slump. Looper has had its issues (mostly thanks to the Chinese government), but overall, the sci-fi fanbase seems high on this story of future assassins. When one of the title characters faces himself at an older age (yes, time travel is involved), we wind up with a clever crime thriller.
Just what you’d expect from the guy who brought us the unnecessary Beauty and the Beast update, Beastly—an issues movie. The cause the story centers around is a failing inner city school and the teacher/parent combo convinced they can take on the entrenched bureaucracy… and win. Of course, said salaried villains won’t back down without a fight. Neither will those screaming for change. Featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola David, Ving Rhames, and Holly Hunter, there’s quite a cast here. Let’s just hope that cinematic novice Daniel Barnz goes for something more significant, and less mawkish.
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Also opening in September: Girl Model (9/7), Las Acacias (9/7), Toys in the Attic (9/7), Finding Nemo 3D (9/14), Bangkok Revenge (9/14), Barfi! (9/14), Backwards (9/21), Heroine (9/21), Bringing Up Bobby (9/28), Starbuck (9/28), Vulgaria (9/28).