Hot & Not at the Box Office
Jeff Boam’s Fall Movie Preview
In 1983, American cinema came home. At least, that was the year it came home to this writer’s house. On one fateful evening, my father brought home a hulking battleship gray console from work. This device seemingly sprung from a future world of flying cars and laser guns. It was called a video cassette player.
It worked like this: Dad fed large cassettes into its innards. You or your brother pressed a giant button marked ‘Play.’ The hocus-pocus machine drew sound and video from magnetic tape. To a 7 year-old boy who didn’t have cable TV channels like HBO, Cinemax, or even – gasp – their red-headed stepchild, Prism, however, it was pure moviegoing magic … only at home.
Granted, there were some minor drawbacks. First, there weren’t many titles available to rent (Forbidden Planet was the inaugural flick selected for home viewing). Second, you had to drive relatively far to find out just how few selections there actually were to rent (Sugarman’s Department Store in Eynon, which was a half hour drive, boasted the closest rental location). But, at the end of the day, you could watch movies … in the comfort of your own home.
Still, despite cinema seemingly coming home through this innovation, the thrill of actual theatrical movegoing never once waned. The summer of 1989 proved a particular standout, what with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Back to the Future II, Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon II, and Batman (this writer’s first home video purchase, by the way) — nearly a decade past this mother of invention’s coming home. Thanks to digital downloads and video streaming, home video viewing has become so easy and common that it’s hard to conceive of a time when movies weren’t available on-the-spot. In fact, it’s changed the way audiences watch movies. This week, Bachelorette opens in Cineplexes, but it’s been available for download on iTunes for the better part of a month. As box office records continue to get broken, however, there’s no denying that the theatrical moviegoing experience is thankfully here to stay. The Fall line-up offers a slew of movies that deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible with hundreds of strangers in the dark.
But you won’t just have to take your reviewer’s word for it. As always, some generous local celebrities piped in with some informed opinions. Going that extra mile, we’ve even labeled the award-baiting films with a “Statuette” and the rest with a “Popcorn Bucket” because this is the time of year when H’wood slows down its blockbuster production and begins ramping up the quality for the long awards season that culminates in the Oscar race. Read on quickly … because, before you know it, these potential gems will have left theaters and be available for rental.
Dredd 3D (9/21)
Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby
In H’wood-speak, a “remake” involves filming a perfectly good movie over again just because studio execs don’t think that moviegoers will watch black and white flicks anymore (Psycho). On the other hand, a “re-imagining” involves an ego-driven younger director remaking an older movie because he or she feels they could do better than the original (The Wicker Man). Lastly, a “reinvention” involves starting from scratch after moviegoers have been burnt out on sequels and spin-offs (Star Trek). In the case of Dredd 3D, however, independent production company DNA Films would’ve been better off disregarding the past. Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 take on Judge Dredd was so universally despised by critics and moviegoers alike that this movie pretty much faces a blank slate in cinemas. In this R-rated sci-fi actioner based on the classic comic book 2000 AD, a cop (Urban) teams with a trainee (Thirlby) to take down a high-rise-dwelling gang that deals a reality-altering drug in Mega-City One, a violent, futuristic metropolis where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner. The Plus: The genre. Comic book movies can bank some huge business at the box office (Exhibit A: The Avengers; Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises have anything to say about it. Also, Urban already had a hand in successfully reconfiguring a franchise (Star Trek). Here, he’s joined by Thirlby (Juno) and Headey (HBO’s Game of Thrones). The Minus: The odds. This particular funny book, however, doesn’t concern a superhero, which seems to bring the bucks. Comic-al flicks The Losers and Jonah Hex never won at the box office … with nary a cape in sight.
The other line:
“Not a Rob Schneider in sight, Karl Urban keeps the helmet on the whole movie (take that, Sly!) as the character should. The Comic Con buzz was huge for the film shot in 3D. Also, Lena Headey from Game of Thrones is the villain MA-MA-YES!” — JW Colwell, PA Live Movie Guy and host of “The Concession Stand” on www.wkadradio.com
“Finally, a movie about the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Dredd Scott case! And in 3D, no less! Wait, that’s not what it’s about? Screw it. I don’t care any more.”— Dave DiRienzo, the Rock 107 Morning Show with DiRienzo & Prospector
“Is this based on the same story as that Stallone Judge Dredd drek from so many years ago? If it is, I guess anything’s an improvement. But I’m still not exactly counting down the days until this opens.” –— Mike Evans, Sights & Sounds columnist, electric city and diamond city
The Master (9/21)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix
A seminal year for film as far as award nominees was 2007. That particular awards season boasted the critically hailed likes of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, Away from Her, Juno, La Vie En Rose, Michael Clayton, Ratatouille and, the eventual winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, No Country for Old Men. Perhaps, the stiffest competition for No Country for Old Men came from There Will be Blood, the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson. Since making his debut with 1996’s Hard Eight, this auteur had received accolades time (Boogie Nights) and time (Magnolia) and time again (Punch-Drunk Love), only to find his greatest critical triumph with There Will be Blood. Now comes his eagerly anticipated follow-up, The Master. In this 1950s-set, R-rated drama, a drifter (Phoenix) becomes the right-hand man to a charismatic intellectual (Hoffman) whose faith-based organization attracts a number of young followers. The Plus: The players. This is a certifiable Oscar magnet. Not only has Anderson been nominated five times — just look at his cast. Hoffman has already won Best Actor for Capote while Phoenix was nominated in the same category for Walk the Line. Co-star Amy Adams has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress three times (Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter) while Laura Dern has also received a nod (Best Actress, Rambling Rose). The Minus: The odds. Some auteurs’ much anticipated follow-ups have proven disappointing in the past (Richard Kelly, who followed up Donnie Darko with Southland Tales and The Box).
The other line:
“Paul Thomas Anderson is one of our best filmmakers proven by There Will Be Blood and Boogie Nights paired with two of this generation’s best actors — Phoenix and Hoffman plus Amy Adams could equal Oscar! Been on my radar since the scintillating trailers started appearing in June!” — Colwell
“Philip Seymour Hoffman plus Paul Thomas Anderson equals best movie of the fall season. Period!” – Evans
“Watching a Paul Thomas Anderson movie is kind of like being at a grade school dance recital, but with much better dialogue. I know I have to see the movie. I know it’s going to take away a couple hours of my life. I know that no one will be interested to hear that I did see it. Here’s to hoping the movie ends with frogs falling from the sky. It could happen.” — Tom Graham, electric city and diamond city staff writer
“Watch the trailer for this one, and you’ll be intrigued. The setting and subject matter seem interesting and it looks like it’s very well done. Yes, (to the) Master.” — Julie Imel, editor, electric city, diamond city
“I love me some Philip Seymour Hoffman. Add in Paul Thomas Anderson and it could be a movie about a white sheet of paper and I would see it.” — Prospector
Trouble with the Curve (9/21)
Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams
In 2008, Clint Eastwood made rumblings that Gran Torino would serve as his acting swan song. In regards to directing, however, the 82-year-old H’wood legend then went on to direct Hereafter and J. Edgar, his 32nd feature film as director in a career that’s also included Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter, The Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, and Letters from Iwo Jima. When his longtime first assistant director decided to make his directing debut, however, Eastwood felt obliged to come out of acting retirement. In this PG-13-rated drama from Robert Lorenz, Eastwood stars as a aging baseball scout for the Texas Rangers who reluctantly consents to let his estranged daughter (Adams) help him after his eyesight begins failing and a young rival (Justin Timberlake) rears his head. The Plus: The players. Moviegoers loved Eastwood in Gran Torino to the tune of $148 million domestic. Here, he’s joined by some white-hot co-stars including Adams (The Fighter, The Muppets) and Timberlake (The Social Network, Bad Teacher). The Minus: The odds. Gran Torino passed the muster with most critics and audiences alike. If Trouble with the Curve doesn’t open with positive buzz, it could face the same lackluster fate as Eastwood’s last four films as director, Changeling, Invictus, Hereafter, and J. Edgar. Also, his recent grumpy old man shtick at the Republican National Convention nearly made him a laughingstock —definitely not a desired promotional tool.
The other line:
“Clint acting for longtime friend Lorenz for the first time in forever. I love grizzled Gran Torino Clint, not weird talking-to-a-chair-RNC Clint. I hope it’s more Gran Torino.” — Colwell
“Hollywood Mad Libs: (NAME) Clint Eastwood as a (ADJECTIVE) grizzled (PROFESSION) baseball scout whose daughter helps him hold off (SINGER-ACTOR) Justin Timberlake as the game’s best (NOUN) taco. Be honest…except for the misfire with “taco,” a 6-year-old could’ve thought this up.” – DiRienzo
“The trailer makes this one seem like a chick flick, but Eastwood is still kicking ass, too! Plus Amy Adams is just plain yummy — yummy! I’m already in line.” — Evans
“Even before Moneyball stated the obvious (“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball”), baseball greats have been hard to find at the box office. Although it looks like that old guy from Gran Torino is breaking away from the character of the, um, old guy, this doesn’t look like a solid Major League or Bull Durham substitute. There’s no crying in baseball, but by looking at the weepy trailer, Amy Adams never got the message.” — Graham
“Does Clint shoot Timberlake? If so, I’m in.” — Prospector
Hotel Transylvania (9/28)
Voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez
In 2008, the MTV Movie Awards presented “veteran” comedian Adam Sandler with the career-spanning MTV Generation Award. Even by MTV standards, recognizing the 45-year-old “Sandman” for a lifetime of H’wood gigs seemed a bit presumptuous given that such an award usually cues retirement. In the last year alone, this former SNL cast member released two comedies (Jack & Jill, That’s My Boy), which makes Hotel Transylvania his trifecta … not to mention the fact that he’s currently filming Grown Ups 2. In the PG-rated animated comedy Hotel Transylvania, Count Dracula (Sandler) runs a 5-stake resort that caters to monsters like Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Wolfman (Steve Buscemi), and the Invisible Man (David Spade), but things go awry when a commoner (Andy Samberg) checks in and develops eyes for Drac’s 118-year-old daughter (Gomez). The Plus: The players. Even when the critics hate him, Sandler rakes in moviegoers (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Just Go With It, Grown Ups). Here, Gomez (Monte Carlo), James (The Zookeeper), Buscemi (HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), and Spade (CBS’s Rules of Engagement) are lending their pipes to acclaimed animation director Genndy Tartakovsky (Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars). The Minus: The odds. Thanks to Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy, Sandler’s in a bit of a box office slump. Based on the lackluster success of his last animated vehicle (Eight Crazy Nights), the Sandman could very well find himself in a monster mash — not smash.
The other line:
“Let’s hope Sandler is more animated here then he was in the dead-on-arrival That’s My Boy. This might be the second worst thing to happen to vampires since glitter and sunlight.” — Colwell
“A Halloween movie coming out a month before Halloween! Can’t wait for it to be gone from sight on October 31st.” — DiRienzo
“Cartoon — not interested! Plus this one looks to be at about the same level as other low-rent properties like Happily N’Ever After. Falls under the category of ‘movies I’ll never see’.” — Evans
“I have only seen screenshots of this flick and it looks pretty cool. Adam Sandler is still box office gold, right? Oscar Winners You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Jack and Jill speak for themselves.” – Graham
“This might just be Adam Sandler’s breakout role where he gets to be, oh I don’t know, someone other than the manchild he plays in every single movie he makes. Book me for a night at the Hotel.” — Imel
“Remember the last animated movie with Adam Sandler (8 Crazy Nights)? Yeah, so you know why I will skip this.” — Prospector
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis
Blame 3rd Rock from the Sun. The ’90s NBC sitcom may have introduced Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the world, but the actor then toiled for years before making another H’wood break (Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout). Since then, however, his career (500 Days of Summer, G.I. .Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Inception) has been on somewhat of a Premium Rush, which was also the title of his last starring effort. Now, he’s headlining Looper as a young Bruce Willis … thanks to prosthetics, of course. In this as-yet-unrated sci-fi thriller, director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) presents a future where the mob dispatches targets 30 years into the past to be eliminated by a hired gun, thus closing the loop … only one gun-toting looper (Gordon-Levitt) gets presented with a future version of himself (Willis). The Plus: The players. Here, Gordon-Levitt (50/50, The Dark Knight Rises) and Willis (Red, Expendables 2) join Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement). The Minus: The sell. The trailer’s a visual knockout, but audiences may not be willing to devote the time it takes to wrap their heads around the trippy time travel-gone-bad premise. Granted, presenting a head-scratcher didn’t stop Inception from becoming a hit, but Gordon-Levitt doesn’t exactly have the bankability of Leonardo DiCaprio.
The other line:
“Not going to lie: love me some time travel movies and Rian Johnson is a fresh young director with stories to tell. Add Levitt’s hot from his Gotham tour and Willis — who may be the best action star ever (you read it right) — he always delivers, even in bad movies. Hudson Hawk has its moments, for God’s sake!” — Colwell
“It has the potential to be really cool. But I think it’s going to go the direction of the fifth season of Lost where all the time-travelling just confuses you and doesn’t do a lot for the story.”— DiRienzo
“Ooooo … two solid hours of super-shiny Hollywood gloss. Good premise, I guess. But time travel movies are always riddled with inconsistencies and flawed logic. Just doesn’t look that captivating.” — Evans
“Guns, guns, guns. Bla bla bla. Boring.” — Imel
“Not a big fan of the plot, but I saw the trailer and it sucked me in. Plus, I usually like Bruce Willis. I’m in.” — Prospector
Voices of Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara
Torn from the pages of Detective Comics, Batman saw a stylish and dark reinvention on the big screen by a visionary director. Though most readers first think of Christopher Nolan’s recent blockbusting trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), H’wood made this same claim in 1989 when Tim Burton gave the Caped Crusader a gothic makeover and twice stormed the box office for Warner Brothers (Batman, Batman Returns). Long before he wrote the blueprint for the modern comic book flick, this mind behind Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands began his career as an animator for Disney. When his partially-live action short Frankenweenie failed to wow the powers that be at the Mouse House, however, Burton got his pink slip. Twenty-eight years later, he’s finally gotten the last laugh, turning this short into a feature length stop motion-animated film for — drum roll, please — Walt Disney Studios. In this PG-rated 3D family flick, young Victor (Charlie Tahan) brings his beloved, but departed, dog Sparky back to life as a science experiment, only to encounter unintended and often monstrous consequences. The Plus: The players. Burton (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows) was nominated for Best Animated Feature Oscar for his last ’toon, The Corpse Bride. These days, he’s working with a new guard at Disney, Pixar founder John Lasseter. Here, they’ve called in the H’wood pipes of Ryder (Black Swan), O’Hara (For Your Consideration), Martin Short (Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted), Martin Landau (Ed Wood), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and newcomer Tahan. The Minus: The technology. Stop-motion animation didn’t stop Coraline and ParaNorman from becoming hits, but The Fantastic Mr. Fox wasn’t so lucky. Frankenweenie’s macabre material could make or break its box office reception.
The other line:
“Burton needs a hit. Alice in Wonderland did great, but wasn’t good, and Dark Shadows wasn’t good and didn’t do great so … ” — Colwell
“At this point, someone needs to do a science experiment to revive Tim Burton’s brilliance. He hasn’t done anything good since Edward Scissorhands and this looks to be the next in a long line of Tim Burton films I’ll watch and want to stab myself in the leg with hedge clippers halfway through.” — DiRienzo
“The trailer is in black and white. Is the movie in black and white? Scores points with me if it is! Hey, if Burton gets one kid interested in classic, universal monster movies, all the effort was worth it.” — Evans
“Finally starring the talented voices of people not named Helena Bonham Carter or Johnny Depp.” — Graham
“They had me at Frankenweenie.” — Imel
“Sorry, but when I hear Frankenweenie, I think porn. So, does this have some weird, oversized green penis in it? Yuck!” — Prospector
Taken 2 (10/5)
Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen
In the immortal words of LL Cool J: Don’t call it a comeback—Liam Neeson’s been here for years. All paraphrasing aside, the North Ireland-born actor never actually fell off of the H’wood radar — he just got relegated to playing supporting gigs as a mentor-type in franchises like Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins and The Chronicles of Narnia series. With the unexpected success of Taken (more than $145 million at the U.S. box office), however, Neeson proved his staying power as leading man. He followed up this smash success with the blockbuster hits The A-Team and The Grey. Now, he’s Taken again. In this PG-13-rated sequel to the 2009 actioner, former CIA operative Brian Mills (Neeson) and his wife (Janssen) are taken hostage by the vindictive father of the kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter (Maggie Grace). The Plus: The players. Moviegoers love seeing Neeson in a man-against-the-elements action role. Despite the critical flogging, Unknown managed to lure audiences just by being marketed like Taken. Here, he’s returning to familiar territory with new director Olivier Megatron (Columbiana) and a reunited cast that includes Janssen (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Grace (Lockout). The Minus: Sophomore slump. Moviegoers may have been burned out on the Neeson-badass-takes-all formula and, despite a slight story change-up, this gratuitous sequel could prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The other line:
“I am loving this phase of Liam Neeson’s career where the film plot synopsis gets very simple. Taken was Liam Neeson destroys France. The Grey was Liam Neeson destroys wolves, and now Taken 2 is where Liam Neeson destroys Istanbul not Constantinople!” — Colwell
“I’d rather spend the time playing two hours worth of Tekken 2 on Playstation.” — DiRienzo
“This is now a f**king franchise?! Really!? Nothing like rewarding mediocrity.” — Evans
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you over and over again over the course of five or six feature length films.” — Graham
“Taken threw me into an unforgettable panic attack that I will never speak of again. Think I’m going to pass on Round II.” — Imel
“Come on? This is the kind of sequel that makes me sick.” — Prospector
Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston
When you win an Oscar for your very first screenwriting effort, the odds are better than even that Lady Luck will also smile on your directing debut, too. This is what actor Ben Affleck found when he stayed behind the camera and gave audiences the critically hailed Gone Baby Gone, a South Boston-set crime-thriller based on the Dennis Lehane novel. Then, Affleck returned to acting in his hugely successful screenwriting/directing follow-up, The Town — on his familiar home turf of Boston, no less. Now comes Argo, which could very well net him another Oscar. In this R-rated drama based on a true story and directed by Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, The Town), a CIA exfiltration specialist (Affleck) leads a fake science-fiction film production crew to Iran to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador (Cranston). The Plus: The players. After years of supporting gigs (Hollywoodland, State of Play), Affleck is back playing lead roles. Audiences, however, will also be hot to catch his white-hot cast that also includes Cranston (AMC’s Breaking Bad), John Goodman (The Artist), Kyle Chandler (Super 8), and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). The Minus: The genre. Reports from the Venice Film Festival, where the film premiered in September, pegged this flick as being surprisingly comedic all around. Based on the serious subject matter, this might not sit well with audiences.
The other line:
“Surviving Christmas and Gigli are a long time ago. Affleck has become one of our best directors and actors with Gone Baby Gone and The Town. I have a good feeling about this amazing true story!”— Colwell
“Hey, real-life Iran, listen to us and stop enriching uranium or we’ll send the real-life Ben Affleck your way to have a special screening of Gigli.” — DiRienzo
“This would be the dumbest plot ever, if it wasn’t based on a true story. Affleck has already proven that he has directing chops. Really looking forward to this.” — Evans
“Not a huge fan of Ben as an actor, but I love him as a director. I’ll probably wait for on demand, but I can picture sitting through this.” — Prospector
Killing Them Softly (10/19)
Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta
Ever since giving a scene-stealing turn as a gigolo in Thelma and Louise, Brad Pitt has seen a steady rise to movie stardom. From blockbusting popcorn flicks (Interview with a Vampire, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Burn After Reading) to critic-pleasing award-winners (Babel, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Tree of Life) to projects with some of cinema’s hottest auteurs (David Fincher, Fight Club; Guy Ritche, Snatch; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds), he’s pretty much done it all in H’wood … oh, and he’s married to Angelina Jolie. Now, he’s reteaming with his The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford director Andrew Dominik on Killing Them Softly. In this R-rated crime thriller, professional enforcer Jackie Coogan (Pitt) investigates a heist that went down at a mob-protected poker game. The Plus: The players. For Killing Them Softly, Pitt (Babel, Moneyball) headlines an amazing cast that also includes Liotta (Smokin’ Aces, Charlie St. Cloud) Richard Jenkins (Let Me In, The Cabin in the Woods), James Galdolfini (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, HBO’s The Sopranos), and Sam Shepard (Fair Game, Safe House). The Minus: The gamble. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was hailed by most critics as one of 2007’s best films (this critic included), but it only made back half of its budget at the domestic box office — a failure by H’wood fiscal standards.
The other line:
“Pitt looks amazing and working with director Andrew Dominik again (their last was a criminally undervalued film, by the way) could be Mean Streets-esque…” — Colwell
“Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini in a gangster movie together? After eating some gobba-gool, find the times for the first showing when you get the papers. Get the papers.” — DiRienzo
“Great cast. I like the director’s past work, too. Could be good. Too bad it’s opening against Paranormal Activity 4. I guess I’m going to two movies that night.” — Evans
“Maybe this genre just isn’t my cup of tea, but again, I’m thinking this has been done before. No thanks.” — Imel
“Hey James Galdolfini in a mob related production … no he’s not typecast.” — Prospector
Cloud Atlas (10/26)
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry
So, you say you want a revolution, huh? After making an impressive debut with the 1996 crime thriller Bound, Andy and Larry Wachowski blew the minds of critics and moviegoers alike when The Matrix hit screens in 1999. The mind-bending sci-fi actioner proved revolutionary enough to spawn two lesser-regarded sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions. The trilogy’s follow-up, however, proved a lot less popular with audiences. Speed Racer ended up to be one of 2008’s biggest H’wood flops. Now, however, they’re back with an even trippier piece of sci-fi … oh, and Larry, who reportedly had a sex change, is now being billed as Lana. In this R-rated sci-fi drama based on David Mitchell’s novel, the Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) bring moviegoers the exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another over hundreds of years, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness inspires a revolution. The Plus: The players. Here, double Oscar winner Hanks (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump) and Oscar winner Berry (Monster’s Ball) join Hugh Grant (American Dreamz), Susan Sarandon (That’s My Boy), Hugo Weaving (Captain America: The First Avenger), Jim Sturgess (21), and Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady) also star. The Minus: The gamble. In 2006, director Darren Aronofsky presented another trippy, indulgent, sci-fi, century-spanning mindbender called The Fountain. It divided critics and audiences alike. In a similar vein, the Wachowskis’ 2-hour and 45 minute latest might ask too much of moviegoers.
The other line:
“The Wachowski Siblings and Tom Twyker look to have the most mind bending-actor bending (how many roles do Berry and Hanks have?) film of the fall with a trailer that is at times mesmerizing and confusing all in one. Is it sci-fi? Is it a period piece? It looks interesting, but in our current moviegoing state it may also be too much for far too many filmgoers.” — Colwell
“This seems like it could be something outstanding. The only thing that can ruin it is the Wachowski Brothers.” — DiRienzo
“With an intriguing plotline and two of my favorite actors – Tom Hanks and Halle Berry – I’ll be heading to the theaters for this one.” — Imel
“Check out the trailer for Cloud Atlas. It’s either going to be a masterpiece … or a disaster. No middle ground.” — John Mikulak, filmmaker
“Seems like a whole lot of Butterfly Effect crap going on in this one, so I’ll pass.” — Prospector
Denzel Washington, John Goodman
Robert Zemeckis is an Oscar winner (Forrest Gump) with an audience-friendly resume to beat the band (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, What Lies Beneath), but he’s spent the better part of a decade working with cartoons. Beginning with 2004’s Polar Express, he’s directed A-List stars including Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie and Jim Carrey in motion capture performances for animated flicks like Beowulf and The Christmas Carol. Now, he’s set to make his first live action film since 2002’s Cast Away, with A-Lister Denzel Washington, to boot. In the R-rated drama Flight, an airline pilot (Washington) miraculously saves a 747 flight from crashing, only to have the investigation into the plane’s malfunctions bring to light some troubling facts about his past. The Plus: The players. Zemeckis as director aside, this production couldn’t ask for a better cast than Washington (Safe House), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2), John Goodman (The Artist), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek), and Melissa Leo (The Fighter). The Minus: The material. Just last year, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close failed to become a box office smash or huge award winner despite an A-List cast that included Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Many speculate that the uncomfortable nature of the 9/11-based material kept filmgoers away, a fact that doesn’t bode well for this plane crash drama.
The other line:
“Robert Zemeckis returns to live action filmmaking with what looks like a sharp plane crash thriller. Good to have you back, sir, but does the plane have a flux capacitor?” — Colwell
“I can never get excited over a Robert Zemekis film. Although not as inept as Michael Bay, the guy just makes movies for the masses. Or maybe I’m still holding that grudge from when Forrest Gump won Best Picture instead of Pulp Fiction. Probably pass.” — Evans
“The pilot saves the day; so what if he was drunk? Drunken people save the day all the time. It’s called liquid courage.” — Graham
“No disrespect to Denzel Washington, a great actor, but I’ll pass on this one. We need more original plots.” — Imel
“Wow, John Goodman has two movies coming out this fall … although I’m only a fan of his voice work. Is this animated?” — Prospector
Daniel Day-Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
In H’wood, it takes a special filmmaker who can teeter between popcorn blockbusters and award-baiting fare. Legendary director Steven Spielberg seems to have perfected the art. In 1984, he gave filmgoers twin offerings of Indiana Jones and the Temple Doom and The Color Purple. In 1993, dinosaur popcorn blockbuster Jurassic Park broke box office records and holocaust drama Schindler’s List swept the Oscars. In 1997, audiences got the hit sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the historic slavery drama Amistad. In 2005, he brought us both the Tom Cruise sci-fi adventure War of the Worlds and the Israeli revenge drama Munich. Last year saw the release of family film The Adventures of Tin Tin and war drama War Horse. Now, Spielberg is set to release his long-gestating personal project Lincoln as he preps his adaptation of sci-fi thriller Robopocalypse for release in 2013. First comes this PG-13-rated bio pic based on Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin and adapted by Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Munich), in which director Spielberg presents the 16th president in his final years, from leading a divided nation during the Civil War to suffering through his personal demons. The Plus: The legend. If you look through the list above, you’ll see that most of Spielberg’s award winners were also successful at the box office, which speaks much for Lincoln’s box office prospects. Just to cinch the Oscar gold, he’s cast Day-Lewis (There Will be Blood), Gordon-Levitt (50/50), Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs), Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), Jackie Earle Haley (Dark Shadows), Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-Man), James Spader (NBC’s The Office), and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone). The Minus: The odds. Spielberg has been attached to this project since the book was even published in 2005, yet there have been so many delays that one H’wood star (Liam Neeson) and one screenwriter (playwright Paul Webb) have already come and gone from the project, which begs the question: If Lincoln is such a sure thing come Oscar time, what’s been the hold-up?
The other line:
“The award pedigree is immense and that poster of Lewis in full makeup like the side of a penny smells Oscariffic to me!” — Colwell
“I’ve said for years that Tommy Lee Jones would make a great Thaddeus Stevens.” — DiRienzo
“So this is the biopic without the vampire hunting, right? I’ll check this flick out too just so I can see which one was more historically accurate.” — Evans
“I’m just glad Honest Abe isn’t fighting vampires in this one.”— Prospector
Daniel Craig, Judi Dench
With Casino Royale, superspy 007 was reinvented for the post-9/11 era with bone-crunching realism. Universally lauded by both critics and filmgoers, the film made audiences quite aware that this was not your father’s Bond franchise, laden with cheesy villains (Jaws, Moonraker), even cheesier gadgets (invisible car, Die Another Day), and the cheesiest vixens (Denise Richards as nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones, The World is Not Enough). Though not as popular with critics, follow-up Quantum of Solace proved to be the most successful Bond film of all time so far as box office goes. So, how does this franchise up the ante on this, the 50th anniversary of the release of Dr. No, the first official 007 flick? In a word: Skyfall. In this as-yet-unrated spy thriller from director Sam Mendes (The Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road), MI6 agent James Bond (Craig) finds that all loyalty to his superior (Dench) is put to the test after her past comes back to haunt her and all of British Intelligence comes under attack. The Plus: The legend. For this, the 23rd film in cinema’s second most successful franchise ever (behind Harry Potter, mind you), longtime producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson brought in Oscar-winning director Mendes (American Beauty). Returning 007 Craig (Cowboys & Aliens) headlines a stellar cast that includes Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Ralph Fiennes (the Harry Potter franchise), Ben Whishaw (Layer Cake), Albert Finney (The Bourne Ultimatum), and Naomie Harris (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). The Minus: The expectation. There are a lot of cooks with their hands in this dish (John Logan, Peter Morgan, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade all had a hand in writing the script at one time or another), which is never a good sign. This doesn’t speak well for the story, which, like Quantum of Solace, is not based on Ian Fleming’s famous Bond novels.
The other line:
“Although Daniel Craig will not be ordering vodka martinis shaken not stirred, and instead will be drinking Heineken, Sam Mendes takes the Bond films back to their Connery heyday instead of Bourneish. Plus, I love the young Q. Javier Bardem brings being a Bond villain back into vogue. We end up with one of the best action films of the year.” — Colwell
“Bring on Bond!” — DiRienzo
“Bond is always a good time, and Daniel Craig is the best damn Bond since the master, Mr. Connery, himself. Can’t miss it.” — Evans
“I’ve been bored with Bond since Roger Moore stepped into the franchise. Just saying.” — Prospector
Anna Karenina (11/16)
Keira Knightley, Jude Law
Like Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood, director Joe Wright’s Atonement also holds a place in 2007, one of world cinema’s seminal years. The Soloist aside, he has wowed high-brow audiences time (Pride and Prejudice) and time again (Hanna). In his latest, an R-rated adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna (Knightley) questions her marriage to a nobleman (Law) after meeting a young count (Aaron Johnson) as the fabric of Russia changes around them. The Plus: The players. Here, Wright is working for the third time with Knightley (the Pirates of Caribbean franchise, Seeking a Friend For the End of the World), whose castmates include Law (Contagion, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), Johnson (Kick-Ass, Savages), Kelly Macdonald (Brave, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), Olivia Williams (An Education, Ghost Writer), and Matthew MacFadyen (Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers). The Minus: The odds. The film’s pedigree aside, Wright is setting the epic sweeping details of Tolstoy’s novel in a single static theater. Though the trailer hints at some awe-striking production design and location filming, this sticking point might turn off many prospective filmgoers.
The other line:
“The only English period drama I can stomach right now is Downtown Abbey. And Keira Knightley, as much as I love you, you’re no Lady Mary.” — DiRienzo
“I like me a good costume drama and period piece. And Joe Wright knows how to do them right … or is it ‘wright’?” — Evans
“This seems like one of those smart, artsy flicks. I’m not smart or artsy enough to understand such things. Maybe my wife will talk me into it.” — Prospector
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (11/16)
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson
Four vampire-themed young adult books by Stephenie Meyer have not just inspired any movie series, they have spawned a marketing juggernaut. In fact, the movie franchise has proved so successful that Summit Entertainment has taken a cue from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, splitting this adaptation of the last Twilight book into two separate movies (Breaking Dawn — Part 1 raked in more than $705 million worldwide). Even Meyers’ latest novel, The Host, is being adapted into a movie by director Andrew Niccol for release in 2012 … but first comes Breaking Dawn – Part 2. In this PG-13-rated conclusion to the Twilight Saga, Edward (Pattinson) and his newly-turned bloodsucker wife Bella (Stewart) gather vampire clans to confront a violent vampire inquisition from the Volturi after false word spreads about their daughter. The Plus: The brand. This franchise has proven unstoppable at the box office. Twilight stars Stewart (The Runaways), Pattinson (Water for Elephants), Lautner (Valentine’s Day), Anna Kendrick (50/50), and Ashley Greene (The Possession) are all returning for direction under Bill Condon (Dreamgirls). The Minus: The scuttlebutt. Stewart, who has been linked romantically with Pattinson since the franchise first began, recently had a public dalliance with her Snow White & the Huntsmen director, Rupert Sanders. Such an affront to loyal Twi-Hards, ardent fans of the books and movies who comprise this flick’s core demographic, could cause a commercial backlash.
The other line:
“The glitter vampire saga comes to an end as does the Pattinson-Stewart pairing. Sure to be the craziest press junket ever, will the Twi-hards forgive her? How do you say ‘awkward’ in Teen speak?” — Colwell
“This is it? No more sparkling vampires and wussy werewolves? We’re done. Right, kids? You can all go home now. Good. Now get out of my damn yard! And take your friggin’ Hunger Games with ya!” — Evans
“There is only one saga. A Jedi craves not these things.” — Graham
“I’ll admit that I have seen the first two. My wife is a big fan so I am sure I’ll have to sit through this one. Maybe I’ll sneak my iPad in and watch the digital copy of The Simpsons Movie that I keep on it.” — Prospector
Life of Pi (11/21)
Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan
Long before Memento director Christopher Nolan re-invented Batman for the post-9/11 world (The Dark Knight) and Henry V helmer Kenneth Branagh rolled cameras on Thor, Marvel Studios banked on another edgy indie director to bring a popular comic book character to life. With such critical favorites as Sense and Sensibility, Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon under his belt, Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee might have seemed like an unlikely choice to bring The Hulk to the big screen in 2003, but the gamble ended up netting $245 million on a $137 million budget. Though the flick ultimately proved less than popular with critics and audience polls, Lee’s career never missed a beat. Brokeback Mountain won him an Oscar for Best Director just two years later. Now comes his latest, Life of Pi. In this as-yet-unrated adaptation of novelist Yann Martel’s beloved adventure, Lee brings filmgoers the story of an Indian boy named Pi (Sharma), a zookeeper’s son who finds himself in the company of a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck sets them adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The Plus: The material. Kudos to Lee, who’s using a mix of live action and CGI to generate the animals, for taking on the material. Martel’s celebrated award-winning novel has passed through many directors’ hands since the book’s publication in 2001 (M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Curon, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet have all been connected at one time or another). The Minus: The risk. This being said, there remains the potential for the long-thought-inadaptable novel to disappoint readers, filmgoers, and critics alike.
The other line:
“Ang Lee attempts to film the unfilmmable with this adaptation of a book about a boy and a Bengal tiger trying to coexist on a lifeboat. The visuals are said to be off the charts and 10 minutes shown to theater owners sparked “ooohs” and “ahhs.” Still, it’s a hard sell.” — Colwell
“Isn’t this the Jungle Book? Will there be singing?” — DiRienzo
“I usually don’t like animal movies. Unless, of course, those animals are ripping humans to shreds and generally wreaking havoc in some small corner of our civilization. But Ang Lee hasn’t let me down yet. I’m there.” — Evans
“Finally, a movie about math. I hope it runs 3.14159265359 hours.” — Prospector
Red Dawn (11/21)
Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson
Perhaps, you haven’t gotten the memo. H’wood is officially out of new ideas. With remakes of everything from Carrie to Robocop to Oldboy to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the books for the near future (or at least before the Mayan Calendar ends in 2012), it certainly looks like everything old is new again in Tinsel Town. Of course, in rare instances, some projects have one-upped the original (Oceans Eleven, The Departed, True Grit) … but then there’s Red Dawn. The John Milius-directed forebear boasted young soon-to-be stars like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and Jennifer Grey, but opened to mixed reviews despite some decent box office. In the PG-13-rated remake of this violent ’80s action hit, a group of teenagers (Hemsworth, Hutcherson) band together to save their town from invading North Korean soldiers. The Plus: The players. With Thor and The Avengers under his belt, Hemsworth is likewise a star on the rise, as is his co-star Hutcherson (The Hunger Games). Together with Josh Peck (The Wackness), Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), Adrianne Palicki (Legion), and Conor “Son of Tom” Cruise, they could see an even greater success than the original if the material improves upon the blueprint. The Minus: The delay. Since going into production in 2009, this movie has been shelved for two years due to MGM’s bankruptcy, which doesn’t necessarily speak poorly of the quality … though the fact that the producers changed the villains (who were Russian in the original) from Chinese to North Koreans in that time says a helluva lot.
The other line:
“Judging from the trailer, this remake of the blood, guts and patriotism crowd pleaser from the ’80s that launched the careers of Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen has no blood, no guts, and no patriotism. It just looks bland.” — Colwell
“Didn’t see the first one. Not going to see this one.” — DiRienzo
“I’ll say it now in a public forum. The original sucked! It was a dumb premise with a poor execution in 1984. It was not a classic. It was a piece of crap, and you can’t polish a turd! Back then it was the Soviet Union knocking on our door. Now we’re supposed to believe that North Korea is invading us? Aren’t most of those people starving? So where do their troops land first — Burger King or Dunkin’ Donuts? Who the f*ck asked for this?” — Evans
“A remake of Red Dawn? Geez, no wonder the rest of the world hates us.” — Tom Flannery, playwright/musician
“This movie remake upsets me. I grew up with the original film and it is through the 1984 masterpiece (featuring the likes of Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey) that I learned to fear and respect the Soviets. I would relentlessly train day and night just in case I was called upon to defend Lackawanna County from a Russian invasion. Now the bad guys are North Korean? Please.” — Graham
“’Just say no to remakes. Sorry – I couldn’t resist.” — Imel
“OK, you lost me at ‘invading North Korean soldiers.’ No, actually you lost me at ‘remake of ’80s action hit.’ You just know this is gonna be so lame.” — Mikulak
“I hope they improve upon this generally panned crappy ’80s flick. Wait, the original was a success! Oh, then I am sure this remake will be true to it like 21 Jump Street was to its ’80s counterpart. I do hope they make this one more violent.” — Prospector
Also, please keep your peepers peeled for:
In the R-rated drama Arbitage, Richard Gere plays a New York hedge fund magnate who must confront the limits of his own duplicity as his empire starts to crumble (9/14); in the PG-rated animated classic Finding Nemo 3D, the loveable little clownfish gets lost from his father (voice of Albert Brooks) again … nope, wait, Pixar’s just releasing it in Three Dimensions (9/14); in this PG-13-rated adaptation of novelist Stephen Chbosky’s drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower (9/14), shy and unpopular Charlie (Logan Lerman) finds acceptance among a group of similar introverts (Emma Watson, Ezra Miller); in the R-rated Resident Evil: Retribution (9/14), Alice (Milla Jovovich) must fight her way out of the Umbrella Corporation’s most clandestine operation to hunt down those responsible for the zombie outbreak that’s put mankind on the brink of oblivion; reformed master thief Nicolas Cage has one day to come up with $10 million or his daughter’s a goner in the R-rated action-thriller Stolen (9/14); Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are LAPD officers patrolling South Central’s most dangerous gang-infested streets in the R-rated crime-thriller End of Watch (9/21); Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence is look for a brand-new start in a small town, but a relationship with the reclusive Ryan (Max Thierlot) leads her into PG-13-rated terror in House at the End of the Street (9/21); two determined mothers just Won’t Back Down (9/28) … which means they’ll stop at nothing — not even a PG-rating — to transform their children’s failing inner-city school; director Lee Daniels (Precious) brings us the story of a directionless young man (Zac Efron) helps his reporter brother (John Cusack) investigate the possible wrongful conviction of a man on death row (Matthew McConaughey) and falls for the convict’s girlfriend (Nicole Kidman) in the R-rated The Paperboy (10/5); Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, and Rebel Wilson help their acoustic group climb to the top of the cut-throat world of college a-cappella in the PG-13-rated comedy Pitch Perfect (10/5); a true crime novelist looking for his next bestseller (Ethan Hawke) moves his family into the house that served as the setting for a horrific murder in the R-rated horror flick Sinister (10/5); in the as-yet-unrated comedy Here Comes the Boom (10/12), Kevin James plays a biology teacher who moonlights as a mixed martial artist to save his school’s music program; in the R-rated gangster comedy Seven Psychopaths (10/12), writer/director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) presents the story of a group of oddball LA friends (Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken) who kidnap the Shih Tzu of a deadly crime boss (Woody Harrelson); Tyler Perry trades in Madea’s dressing gown for the loafers of Alex Cross (10/19), a homicide investigator/psychologist trying to take down a cage fighter-turned-serial killer (Matthew Fox); Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Robin Williams, and Topher Grace try to survive the weekend of shenanigans of The Big Wedding (10/26); a girl plagued by nightmares and the disappearance of her father comes face to face with the demonic world threatening her in the R-rated video game adaptation Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (10/26); Wu-Tang Clan member RZA makes his directorial debut with the help of actors of Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe in the R-rated martial arts actioner The Man with the Iron Fists (11/2); in the animated Rise of the Guardians (11/21), childhood legends Santa Claus (voice of Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Jack Frost (Chris Pine), and Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) take on an evil boogeyman (Jude Law); and Bradley Cooper plays a depressed individual struggling with family the likes of Robert De Niro and romance the likes of Jennifer Lawrence in the dramedy The Silver Linings Playbook (11/21), the latest from director David O. Russell (The Fighter).
— jeff boam