Film

Part Three: November 2009

Finally, it's time for the main courses, the big dishes that may leave a lasting impact come end of the year entertainment evaluations. Sure, there's some junk food included for the less mature mindset; a second helping of romantic vampire dross and an over the top world ending banquet that may just be more appealing to audiences than some of the high class cooking present.

Films That Should Satisfy
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Film: A Christmas Carol

Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes. Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn

MPAA rating: PG-13

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/c/christmascarolposter.jpg

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6 November
A Christmas Carol

Let's hope they finally get this right. Dickens' deliberate attack on class structures in Victorian England is often lost in the feel good sentiments of the holiday season, as if Christmas was the main reason for the story, and not Scrooge's inherent evil and skinflint ill will toward all mankind. About the closest anyone ever came to bringing the complicated tale to life successfully was the 1970 musical starring Albert Finney. It at least got the dark tone and cryptic commentary right. Now comes Jim Carrey doing his second-tier Peter Sellers routine, playing several characters in Robert Zemeckis' latest motion capture CG stunt. Granted, Beowulf was beefy fun and The Polar Express highlighted what the format could do visually, if not realistically. Still, the jury remains out on how successful this will be. The closer they stay to Dickens, the better. That may not make for a successful yuletide treat, however.

A Christmas Carol

 
Director: Grant Heslov

Film: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Cast: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/m/menstaregoatsposter.jpg

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6 November
The Men Who Stare at Goats

Someone once said that a crappy title makes a good movie have to work twice as hard. No matter how successful you are at selling an audience on your story, they will always come back and wonder why the Hell you named your movie so. Luckily, director Grant Heslov has Jon Ronson's nonfiction book to blame for the clunky moniker. And with a cast that includes George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor, and Jeff Bridges, he's got more than enough acting ammunition to cause selective name amnesia. Besides, the label tells the entire story - McGregor is a journalist who stumbles upon Clooney, who turns out to be a long running member of a government program to develop the "psychic powers" in our spies. This includes staring at goats to kill them. Now it makes perfect sense, right?

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Films That May Leave You Starving
Director: Richard Curtis

Film: Pirate Radio

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Sturridge, Tom Wisdom, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Talulah Riley

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/p/pirateradioposter.jpg

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6 November
Pirate Radio

Talk about getting bounced around and retrofitted. This film started out as a genial UK comedy entitled The Boat that Rocked. It was completed in the Summer of 2008 and set for release around Christmas time. Then the date got pushed back. Then the film was retitled. Then another release was scheduled. Now, the Richard Curtis ensemble piece about the ship known as Radio Rock and its crew of ramshackle disc jockeys (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Frost, and Chris O'Dowd, among others) battling the English government finally hits these shores -- albeit in a short, leaner version. Apparently, mixed reviews from overseas have cause American distributors to balk, demanding Curtis trim even more footage from his already hampered film. With inconsistent support like this, one can only imagine the uneven, unexceptional results to come. Here's hoping we're wrong.

Pirate Radio

 
Director: Richard Kelly

Film: The Box

Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/t/theboxposter.jpg

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6 November
The Box

Comic-Con attendees were livid when star Cameron Diaz inadvertently gave away some major spoilers about Richard Kelly's update of the classic Richard Matheson short story. The set-up finds our female lead and her husband receiving a special box with a large button on the top. When they push it, they earn $1 million. However, along with the money, somewhere in the world, someone dies. Thus sets up an intriguing moral dilemma that the mind behind Donnie Darko must now somehow expand into a 90 minute movie. After the horrible letdown that was his post-apocalyptic mindbender, Southland Tales, he really needs a hit. And those in attendance indicate that the studio wasn't too upset over the actress's reveal. Perhaps this means the film works outside of the secret. If so, it bodes well for Kelly's future as an A-list filmmaker in an industry that's about ready to write him off.

The Box

 
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Film: The Fourth Kind

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/t/thefourthkindposter.jpg

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6 November
The Fourth Kind

The trailer keeps playing up the "based on a true story and confirmed evidence" angle of this alien abduction story, actual videotape footage of the psychological sessions highlighting the harrowing nature of the tale. Seems that the citizens of Nome, Alaska report more interaction with extraterrestrials (and missing persons) than any other part of the world. Their stories of contact have been researched by Dr. Abigail Tyler (played by Milla Jovovich) who starts to see patterns in their accounts. As the preview seems to suggest, she too becomes a victim of these unwelcome visitors. Writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi may have a difficult time making this all work. Even with an early '70s set-up for the story, many will look at this glorified SyFy Channel hokum and cry foul. As subjects for modern day thrillers go, it's very Me Decade.

The Fourth Kind

The Ala Carte Menu
Director: Lee Daniels

Film: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Cast: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Lenny Kravitz

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/p/preciousposter.jpg

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6 November
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Advance word is that this is very, very strong stuff indeed. The story of an overweight, illiterate, African American teenager traumatized by sexual abuse (from dad) and physical/mental abuse (from mom) sounds like the stuff of intense, off-putting drama. But said reviews have also indicated a real sense of hope and dignity throughout this stunning urban exercise. Even better, critics have complimented comic turned serious actress Mo'Nique, musicians Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, as well as newcomer Gabourey Sidibe as the title character. With the power of Tyler Perry and Oprah behind this release, as well as the underserved demographic that typically clamors for something real and relevant, this has all the makings of a strong Fall sleeper. No wonder both Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company claimed the rights to release this film. You always want to be on the correct side of a potential winner.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire








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