[4 September 2012]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Competitive butter sculpting? Surely, we are scrapping the bottom of the churn with this one, right? Well, not so fast. This has the Weinstein seal of approval and it’s directed by She’s Out of My League‘s Jim Field Smith. More importantly, the script placed third on Hollywood’s Blacklist of most popular unproduced screenplays. So there’s hope. Even the cast makes one smile, including Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Rob Corddry, and Olivia Wilde. Still, competitive butter sculpting? Such an odd subject for an ensemble comedy, but we’re keeping an open mind.
On the surface, it sounds like a standard ‘issues’ movie: a pair of reporters decide that a Death Row inmate is probably innocent, and decide to exonerate him in the press (and get some personal publicity along the way). What they run into is a sexy siren who corresponds with the prisoner, and a whole bunch of wonky evidence. But once you see the cast, the setting, and the filmmaker (Precious’ Lee Daniels), you instantly recognize the seedy Southern Gothic twang. This sounds like a sensational potboiler. The response at Cannes was less than enthusiastic.
Tim Burton is an auteur in transition. After the sensational adaptation of Sweeney Todd, he’s been treading water. Sure, Alice in Wonderland was a huge international hit, but his take on the kitschy ‘60s Gothic soap Dark Shadows failed to win over most fans. So it’s interesting that he’s decided to go back to his roots and ‘resurrect’ his 1984 stop motion short subject for a full length animated feature in the same style. The tale surrounds an unusual boy who uses classic Universal cleverness to raise his late dog from the dead. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.
The chorus. The glee club. The swing choir. Who knew that audiences were so interested in the lives, loves, and low notes of high school Broadway wannabes? In this case, we have a stogy all girls a capella group who constantly lose out to the reigning champs - a bunch of boys. Enter Anna Kendrick as Beca, the knowing new gal who wants to shake things up and radicalize their set list. Though based around a non-fiction novel, this sounds a lot like Bring It On with a melody. Perhaps that was the ‘pitch.’
Oh boy, more found footage. At least this time, however, we are spared an entire narrative based around some first person POV and instead follow an author (Ethan Hawke) who discovers a bunch of home movies in the attic of a house known as the sight of an infamous massacre. Apparently, the films show a ghoulish figure who preys on the souls of children. On the plus side, it’s being directed by Scott Derrickson, the man responsible for The Exorcism of Emily Rose. On the negative side, he also handled the unnecessary Day the Earth Stood Still remake.
Liam Neeson signs up for another big payday, and the fanbase is in a froth. For many, this is great, great news. For others, an important creative change could make all the difference. Instead of Pierre District 13 behind the lens, the directing duties have been turned over to one… Olivier Megaton. Aside from never living up to his surname, this filmmaker is responsible for such rotten fare as Hitman, Columbiana, and Transporter 3. Still, as long as he remains a FoB (friend of producer Luc Besson), he’s got a job. Let’s see if he can keep it after this.
With Sinister, we complained about the whole horror as found footage dynamic. Well, here we go again. This time, a weird collection of genre wannabes show up to illustrate their filmmaking flash. The premise has a group of criminals breaking into a house to find a mysterious video tape. From there, we get an anthology approach, each short ‘story’ using the first person POV gimmick. While many still complain about such stunts, the reviews have been uniformly positive. Maybe, like Chronicle, this is one of those anomalies that find the cinematic value in such specious storytelling.
This remains one of the year’s most intriguing entries, right up there with PT Anderson’s The Master and the Wachowskis/Tykwer epic Cloud Atlas. Ben Affleck, whose two for two in the directing department (after Gone Baby Gone and The Town) takes on the true life story of one of the most unusual chapters in US foreign policy. When the Shah of Iran is deposed and hostages are taken, one ragtag group managed to escape and hide. Hoping to get them out safely, a plot is hatched: have them be part of the crew for a fake sci-fi film. Sounds fascinating indeed.
Kevin James as a boxer? In something that is not necessarily a sophomoric, slapstick comedy? We’ll have to wait and see, since this does have all the entertainment earmarks of single IQ, produced by Adam Sandler stupidity. Yet James has proven a worthy box office draw, such slights as Zookeeper, Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Grown Ups proving he can open a film. As long as the material is handled in a somewhat realistic manner, there’s hope. Looking at the names behind the scenes—director Frank Coraci, screenwriters James, Allan Loeb, and Rock Reube—the jury is still out.
A med student drops out to concentrate on her husband’s criminal case when he is sentenced to eight years in prison. According to the rest of the ad copy, she’s ends up on a journey of “self discovery”. Perhaps she will find out that she should have stayed in school. Whatever the case, the pedigree here is promising. The film and its maker, Ava DuVernay, took home the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic Film at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Still, the storyline seems offers as many pitfalls as positives.
He’s considered one of Ireland’s most important playwrights. Film fans have enjoyed his work with the clever crime comedy In Bruges. Now, Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (his short film Six Shooter won an Oscar in 2006) is back with another slice of eccentricity. In this case, the criminal friends of a struggling screenwriter steal the dog of a high profile mobster. Instead of “selling” it back, like they usually do, they become targets for his murderous intentions. With another terrific cast and a keen ear for dialogue, this should be a true October surprise.
Tyler Perry, sans a skirt and his typical urban comedy veneer, is trying to broaden his horizons here, playing the seminal James Patterson detective. Originally, Idris Elba was going to take the role (Morgan Freeman played the character in two previous films—Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls) but had to drop out. Director Rob Cohen hired Perry, and thus the experiment begins. If he can prove his mantle outside Madea, the filmmaking phenom will have a bright future in Tinseltown. If not… well, there’s always the dress.
Brad Pitt as a hitman, trying to uncover the truth about a heist during a high level mob poker game. Sounds like a winner. Yeah, and so did Pitt as a warrior in the now troubled zombie ‘epic’ World War Z. With last year’s one-two punch of Tree of Life and Moneyball, the superstar has his work cut out for him. Luckily, he is reteaming with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford‘s Andrew Dominik. Still, the subgenre seems saturated, and Pitt has a hard time pulling off truly evil characters. Fingers crossed.
When last we left this unfathomably popular franchise, we learned that Katie and her sister Kristi were actually the targets of a familial witch’s coven, resulting in the hauntings that they would experience in their adult lives. Now, this fourth installment, picks up where part two left off, jumping ahead five years and dealing directly with the abduction of baby (now a boy) Hunter. Huh? Well, you have to see the three previous efforts to keep up—that is, if you can stay awake. Still, this promises to be the final film where “all is revealed.” Yeah.
Gerard Butler has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and it’s not for the phenomenal success he’s had at the box office. No, the usually buff actor dropped several pounds to play the mentor to surfing legend Jay Moriarity, and of course, TMZ nation has gone ga-ga. For us, however, the most interesting thing is the fact that two directors are listed on the credits—LA Confidential‘s Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted. Why there was a need for such bifurcated duties is not part of the press materials, so we will have to wait until the release to understand the decision.
Our pick for the film to watch this month (with obvious nods to Affleck’s aforementioned Argo). The trailer looks spectacular, and no one handles fantasy and dystopian future shock better than the minds behind The Matrix. Still, the wild card here is Tykwer, who has yet to fully live up to his Run Lola Run reputation. With an unusually long running time and a lack of studio intervention (Warners is only acting as distributor), the filmmakers have labeled this “the most expensive independent movie ever.” Here’s praying its one of the best as well.
Josh Schwartz is a true TV icon. At 36, he’s already been responsible for The OC, Gossip Girls, and Chuck. Now he sets his sights on the big screen, directing a teen comedy scripted by Colbert Report writer Max Werner. The story has Wren, a high school sweetie, forced to watch her brother on Halloween. She’d rather go to the party thrown by her crush, Aaron. When she does, he baby bro runs off, and our heroine has to spend the rest of the film finding him. Sounds like an updated Adventures in Babysitting. Added bonus points for Johnny Knoxville and Chelsea Handler in the cast.
Let’s get this out on the record, right up front. We don’t like Helen Hunt. Don’t believe she is a good actress. Grit our teeth whenever we have to mention that she has a Best Actress Oscar for As Good As It Gets (she clearly wasn’t…). While she’s worked consistently since then, she’s never recaptured the critical buzz from 15 years ago (yes, it’s been that long). So imagine our shock when her current turn as a sex surrogate who helps a man in an iron lung lose his virginity earns indie acclaim. We will watch her costar John Hawkes in just about anything. The Hunt factor doesn’t help.
Yes, it was six years ago—otherwise known as TWO Hollywood lifetimes—that the original Silent Hill came out. For many, it failed to capture the true spooky spirit of the video game. Now, Michael J. Bassett (of Solomon Kane fame) is on board to write and direct this more “faithful” follow-up. Fast forwarding a few years, we get the story of a young girl (who may or may not be the reincarnation of a previous character) and her father as they try and unravel the mystery of the haunted ghost town ruled by an evil cult.
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Also opening in October: Bel Borba (10/03), The House I Live In (10/05), Atlas Shrugged, Part 2 (10/12), Excuse Me for Living (10/12), Nobody Walks (10/12), When a Wolf Falls In Love with a Sheep (10/12), All Together (10/19), Brooklyn Castle (10/19), The Loneliest Planet (10/19), The Big Wedding (10/26), Starlet (10/26).