You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.
With the release of Thor this past weekend, it’s officially the summer movie season. And there are some pretty massive movies on the horizon. But there are also some promising-looking smaller films that I hope won’t get lost in the shuffle. So here’s an in-depth look at the next four months at the cinema.
= Possible awards contender
= Times Like Those pick
= Probable cash cow
= Indie with breakthrough potential
= Looks like a turd
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones
Director: Jodie Foster
Official Synopsis: “An emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life. Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black (Gibson) was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression. No matter what he tries, Walter can’t seem to get himself back on track…until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.”
My Take: Remember when Mel Gibson used to be a draw at the cineplex? Well, now his movies are getting delayed and opening inconspicuously in very limited release. Nonetheless, the premise of The Beaver is bizarrely intriguing, and the trailer was a pleasant surprise. It looks like a heartfelt family indie dramedy, which is widely known to be my favourite type of movie. And between this and Like Crazy, I am suddenly very interested in Anton Yelchin. Oh, right, and there’s that beaver puppet, too. (Limited release; expands May 20)
Jumping the Broom
Starring: Angela Basset, Paula Patton, Julie Bowen, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine
Director: Salim Akil
Official Synopsis: “A collision of worlds when two African-American families from divergent socioeconomic backgrounds get together one weekend in Martha’s Vineyard for a wedding.”
My Take: This might sound bad, but these sorts of comedies with predominantly African-American casts (see also: Tyler Perry films) never get nearly as much attention in Canada as they do in the U.S., so I really don’t know anything about this film. I really thought it had something to do with witches, but apparently not.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes, Guillame Canet
Director: Massy Tadjedin
Official Synopsis: “Set in New York City, Last Night is the story of a married couple that while apart for one night, is confronted by temptation that may decide the fate of their marriage.”
My Take: It seems like this movie has been kicking around forever, which probably isn’t a good sign. It could be taught and suspenseful, or it could be boring, and even though it’ll probably fall into the latter category, I’ll probably still check it out at some point. (Limited release)
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski
Director: Luke Greenfield
Official Synopsis: “Rachel (Goodwin) is a talented attorney at a top New York law firm, a generous and loyal friend, and, unhappily, still single –as her engaged best friend Darcy (Hudson) is constantly reminding her. But after celebrating her 30th birthday, perpetual good girl Rachel unexpectedly ends up in the arms of the guy she’s had a crush on since law school, Dex (Egglesfield)…who just happens to be Darcy’s fiancé. As one thing leads to another in the frantic weeks leading up to Darcy’s wedding, Rachel finds herself in an impossible situation, caught between her treasured friendship with Darcy and the love of her life.”
My Take: The trailers look absolutely wretched, and the movie seems to be filled with whiny, unlikeable people handling situations as poorly as they possibly can. Not even John Krasinski can pique my interest in this one.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Official Synopsis: “At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, Thor is banished to Earth where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.”
My Take: I probably could not have been less interested in the premise, and the trailers didn’t really do anything to change my mind. But Thor is getting pretty good reviews, so I may have to check it out.
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey
Director: Paul Feig
Official Synopsis: “Kristen Wiig leads the cast as Annie, a maid of honor whose life unravels as she leads her best friend, Lillian (Rudolph), and a group of colorful bridesmaids on a wild ride down the road to matrimony. Annie’s life is a mess. But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, Annie bluffs her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals. With one chance to get it perfect, she’ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you’ll go for someone you love.”
My Take: I am so happy to see Kristen Wiig get a lead role. Especially one that looks so good. It’s great that more people finally seem to realizing that women can be funny, too, and it’s great that they gave these ladies an (apparently) good film. I love the whole cast, and I’m definitely hoping to check it out in theatres.
Everything Must Go
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Glenn Howerton, Laura Dern
Director: Dan Rush
Official Synopsis: “Everything Must Go tells the story of Nick (Ferrell) a career salesman whose days of being on top are long gone. The same day Nick gets fired, for falling off the wagon one last time, he returns home to discover his wife has left him, changed the locks on their suburban home and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line – or more properly, on the lawn – reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival.”
My Take: Will Ferrell has proven to be a capable dramatic actor, and Everything Must Go looks like it could be his meatiest role yet. It got good reviews at TIFF but flew under the radar a bit. And while I don’t think it will be a box office hit, it’s nice to see Ferrell trying new things. (Well, maybe he shouldn’t have tried The Office…) (Limited release)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson, John Carol Lynch, Piper Laurie
Director: Spencer Susser
Official Synopsis: “Loud music. Pornography. Burning **** to the ground. These are a few of Hesher’s favorite things. And they are what Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) brings into the lives of TJ (Brochu) and his father, Paul (Wilson) when he takes up residence in their garage uninvited. Grief-stricken by the loss of TJ’s mother in a car accident, Paul can’t muster the strength to evict the strange squatter, and soon the long-haired, tattooed Hesher becomes a fixture in the household. Like a force of nature, Hesher’s anarchy shakes the family out of their grief and helps them embrace life once more.”
My Take: This is another one that’s been floating around in distribution purgatory for a while (if I remember correctly, it played at last year’s Sundance festival), but I can kind of understand why, based on the trailer. I’m not writing it off yet, but it does look like a…strange film. (Limited release)
Starring: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Lily Collins, Stephen Moyer, Karl Urban, Christopher Plummer
Director: Scott Stewart
Official Synopsis: “Priest, a western-fused post-apocalyptic thriller, is set in an alternate world — one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest (Bettany) from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece (Collins) is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on an obsessive quest to find her before they turn her into one of them.”
My Take: Paul Bettany, what are you doing? I have no idea why he has become some kind of misguided “action” star. That said, I’m slightly curious about Lily Collins’ performance, since I thought that she was pretty good in The Blind Side (and she was one of my Up-and-Coming Actors to Watch last year). Dunno if I can stomach this one, though.
Midnight in Paris
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, Allison Pill, Carla Bruni
Director: Woody Allen
Official Synopsis: “This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It’s about a young man’s great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.”
My Take: Well, at least Woody Allen is consistent with his one-movie-per-year approach to filmmaking. Even if his last two films (Whatever Works and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) made almost zero impact, I’m kind of hopeful that this might be the next Vicky Christina Barcelona. I think the casting of Owen Wilson is kind of inspired, and he might suit Allen’s style surprisingly well. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe it will be a pleasant surprise. (Limited release)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Claflin
Director: Rob Marshall
Official Synopsis: I’m not going to bother. It’s another friggin’ Pirates movie. What do you expect?
My Take: Confession time! I’ve only seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and I didn’t even like it that much. I mean, it was fine, and Johnny Depp was undeniably wonderful, but once was more than enough for me. However, the trailer for this film did draw me in, and I might possibly check it out at some point. It could also (possibly) be worth watching for Sam Claflin, who made my list of up-and-coming actors to watch this year. He recently got cast in one of those Snow White movies that are coming out next year, and he’ll also star in The Seventh Son, which is apparently a big deal.
The Hangover Part II
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
Director: Todd Phillips
Official Synopsis: “In The Hangover Part II, Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis) and Doug (Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don’t always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can’t even be imagined.”
My Take: The Hangover was a fun, unexpected hit that served as a star-making vehicle for its three leads. But do we really need another one? Especially one that looks like a less funny rehashing of the original?
Kung Fu Panda 2
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan, Gary Oldman, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Official Synopsis: “In KUNG FU PANDA 2, Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.”
My Take: Ah, another pointless sequel. How refreshing.
The Tree of Life
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn
Director: Terrence Malick
Official Synopsis: The Tree of Life is the impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950′s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith. Through Malick’s signature imagery, we see how both brute nature and spiritual grace shape not only our lives as individuals and families, but all life.
My Take: Well, judging by how many times I’ve blogged about it already, I think it’s safe to assume that I’m pretty excited for The Tree of Life. I’m not a die-hard Mallick by any means (I’ve actually only seen The New World, and that was when it first came out on DVD, so I found it a bit boring at that age), but the trailer for this movie completely captivated me. I’ve probably watched it a dozen times, and I appreciate the beauty of it every time. It’s like a beautiful little stand-alone piece. Who knows how the movie will work in its entirety, but I’m certainly optimistic. (Limited release)
The thing that I most remember from my prom is not the mediocre food, the ugly dresses, or even the general awkwardness of the whole affair. It is, instead, the part where we all waited to go into the reception hall where the prom was held. Because while most people arrived on time and somewhat inconspicuously in their limos and cars, one large group of students (who I will immaturely refer to as the “popular” people) pulled up in front of the entire graduating class, after everyone else had arrived, in a giant, noisy party bus. They then proceeded to individually exit said bus. Each one got their drunken, wobbly moment to shine. And for some reason, everyone felt obligated to actually give them the satisfaction of watching.
So when the impeccably coifed teens in Disney’s Prom repeatedly waxed poetic on how prom “brings people together” and how “for one night, it doesn’t matter who you were during for the past four years”, you’ll have to excuse me if I snickered a little. And a good portion of Prom is equally as naive and trite as those baseless pronouncements. But as flawed as the film may be, I still found it enjoyable on some strange level.
The plot of Prom is somehow both overly complicated and mind-numbingly simple. The main character, Nova (because apparently that’s a name now), played by Aimee Teegarden, is the up-tight, overachieving head of the prom committee. And by a string of events that literally make no sense, the school “bad boy”, Jesse (played by a young Johnny Depp Thomas McDonell) is roped into helping her prep the school gymnasium for the social event of the year.
Along the way, a smattering of Nova’s friends get their own underdeveloped storylines about finding dates for the prom, and a couple of charming underclassmen, Lucas and Corey (Nolan Sotillo and Shameless’ Cameron Monghan), put their friendship to the test when one of them pursues a blandly attractive classmate, Simone (Danielle Campbell).
Does this sound familiar? Does it perhaps remind you of 1999′s 10 Things I Hate About You? Well, I would not blame you at all if it did, because they are basically the same movie. Teegarden, McDonell, and Sotillo are all sighs and sass while they do their best Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt impressions, respectively, but none of them achieve anything nearly as lively as the original trio managed to. Teegarden is grating (as she is on Friday Night Lights) thanks to her unrelentingly affected acting style, while the two male leads here are vaguely charming but ultimately forgettable.
The one cast member who stood out to me (and not merely because of his towering stature) was Nicholas Braun. As the charmingly awkward character of Lloyd, Braun (who coincidentally played the Joseph Gordon-Levitt role on the ill-conceived TV update of 10 Thing I Hate About You) has a natural sense of humour that shines through on screen. Lloyd is disconnected from the rest of the characters, and his scenes play out almost like short comedy sketches. In fact, that self-contained comedic character was the one thing in Prom that harkened back to some of the classic 1980′s teen movies. Think of the paperboy in Better Off Dead or Long Duck Dong, the family’s exchange student in Sixteen Candles, and you’ve kind of got Lloyd. Thanks to Braun’s easy charisma and some fairly successful situations that the writers constructed for him, Lloyd was one of the saving graces of Prom.
That’s not to say that the rest of the film is worthless, though, because it’s actually better than I had expected. To start with, I have to give the filmmakers credit for largely avoiding easy pratfalls and gross-out humour. And while yes, there is a lot of truly cheesy dialogue (at one point a character earnestly states, “And now I am in this tree…and you’re beautiful.”), there are also some moments that turn out more charmingly than they have any right to. Lucas and Corey’s unfettered love of rock music strikes a familiar note for any semi-outsider who signed their lives over to music during high school, and the underused character of Rolo (a typical “stoner” character, minus the pot) comes out with some legitimately strange, fascinating, and witty observations (and creates a pretty awesome Facebook profile picture along the way).
Prom builds momentum as it goes, and by the time the kids actually get to the dance, somehow I kind of found myself caring about it all. The movie is clearly aimed at pre-teen girls who are yet to experience their own proms (and thus may not realise how unrealistic everything in the movie is), but it’s kind of a fun ride along the way. Much like the occasion that it’s named after, Prom is a perfectly pleasant experience if you leave your expectations at the door and just go along for the ride.
I don’t love watching trailers for comedy movies, because they often give away a lot of the film’s best jokes (case and point: Due Date). And I kind of get the sense that may be the case with Horrible Bosses, which stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as three dudes with, yes, horrible bosses (played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston).
I really like the three leads, and Sudeikis and Day already proved to have good best-bud chemistry in last year’s underrated Going the Distance. In fact, as much as I like him, Bateman kind of seems like the odd man out in this trio of friends. Even though he’s only about six years older than the other two, somehow Bateman seems much older. However, all actors have funny moments in the trailer, with Day stealing it for me. Farrell also looks hilarious as the balding, bigoted boss of Sudeikis.
Horrible Bosses looks like a fairly rote comedy, and I’m a little bit confused by the storyline (doesn’t murder seem a bit extreme, even for this kind of movie?), but I imagine the cast will help boost the quality. Bateman is a funny and capable of some pretty good acting (while The Switch was mediocre, I thought Bateman was surprisingly good in the film’s more emotional moments), and I’ll probably watch any movie that he’s in. There’s no way this can be worse than Couples Retreat, at least.
I’d heard vaguely about Another Earth coming out of Sundance, but it seems like its lack of starpower prevented any massive buzz. But after watching the recently released trailer, I have to say, I am very interested.
Another Earth tells the story an alternate reality where a duplicate planet earth exists. The main character is Rhoda (Brit Marling), an ambitious MIT student, who (by the looks of the trailer) considers visiting this other planet. Marling looks absolutely gorgeous and very ethereal here, and she seems like an interesting actress. Fans of Lost will also recognize William Mathoper, who played the creepy “Other”, Ethan, on that show.
Visually, this film looks stunning. Story-wise, it brought two other films to mind. Melancholia, which is Lars Von Trier’s anticipated upcoming film, also explores the idea of other planets possibly threatening earth. Atmospherically, the two movies even seem kind of similar. I also thought of Rabbit Hole, which I watched recently. The whole “alternate reality” idea was only a small part of Rabbit Hole, but it brought up some very interesting ideas. It looks like Another Earth is exploring those ideas.
I’m not usually a huge sci-fi fan, but so far I am curious about the sci-fi films that 2011 has to offer. As well as Another Earth and Melancholia, there is also Take Shelter (which we’re yet to see a trailer for, but got strong reviews at Sundance), which stars the always unconventional Michael Shannon as a father living through some kind of apocalyptic storm.
Another Earth will get a limited release on July 22.
Elizabeth Olsen was one of the breakout stars of this year’s Sundance festival, and this trailer for her upcoming film, Martha Marcy May Marlene, hit the internet today.
In the film, Olsen plays a young woman fleeing an abusive cult, whose leader is played by John Hawkes. She has difficulty distinguishing between dreams and actual memories, and I like how the trailer plays on the hazy, muddled headspace that she’s in.
This looks like an all-around intriguing film, but I am the most excited to see John Hawkes’ performance here. He was absolutely fantastic in Winter’s Bone, I thought. His character in that film, Teardrop, was one of the most morally ambiguous characters I’ve seen in a long time. Even as you learn that Teardrop’s intentions may not be as dark as they initially seem, Hawkes is still a very sinister onscreen presence. And though he seems to play a more traditional villain in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Hawkes looks equally as deep and magnetic. He’s cornered the market on sinister backwoods dudes in indie films recently, and it’s a type of role that I love for him.
Olsen also looks quite good here, and the whole film seems to have a tense, suspenseful vibe. I guess comparisons to Winter’s Bone are inevitable since both are Sundance favourites that feature young female protagonists in poor American circumstances attempting to deal with John Hawkes. There are definitely differences, too, though, and I am intrigued by Martha/Marcy May’s relationship with who I am assuming is her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her sister’s boyfriend/husband (the always delightful Hugh Dancy). I am now very excited for this one.
Martha Marcy May Marlene is scheduled for limited release on October 7.
After the flood of Oscar-approved movies at the end of the year, the first couple months of each year are notoriously slow for movies. But now that we’re a third of the way through 2011, there have been some pretty interesting releases. Yes, January and February were filled with the usual mainstream dreck, but also a couple of indies that got lost in the shuffle. And through March and April, we saw a mix of a few quality blockbusters and unique smaller films. As always, there have been box office flops and surprise hits. First, here’s a look at the 10 highest grossing films of the year so far (ranked by U.S. box office results):
- Rango – $120m
- Hop – $105.6m
- Rio – $102.8m
- Just Go With It – $102.8m
- The Green Hornet – $98.8m
- Gnomeo and Juliet – $98.8m
- Fast Five – $98.6m
- Battle: Los Angeles – $82.8m
- Limitless – $76.3m
- Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – $73m
Now, the big player there aside from cartoons is the new release Fast Five, which made almost as much in its first weekend as The Green Hornet did during its entire run. Meanwhile other more “cerebral” wide releases, such as The Adjustment Bureau and Source Code turned in solid but not spectacular box office results.
Here’s a look (in poster form!) at what seem like the most interesting offerings of 2011, so far. I’ve seen a couple of them, and the rest are all on my to-watch list.