Sunday, November 09, 2008

Holiday Movie Preview (Part 2)

The movie release schedule looks to be packed as the year ends, with lots of options vying for your money. This following list doesn’t even cover it all, as there are that many movies set to unspool in theaters in December, particularly at Christmastime.

Starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones
Directed by Ron Howard

Based on the play by Peter Morgan, this film dramatizes the series of post-Watergate interviews conducted with Richard Nixon by TV talk show host David Frost. Langella and Sheen both reprise their roles from the stage production, with Oscar-winner Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) as director. This movie would seem custom made for awards, at least in the acting categories. (Dec. 5, limited)
Official Web site

Starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis
Directed by John Patrick Shanley

Can I say ditto from the prior entry? “Doubt” is also based on a play (a Pulitzer Prize winner, no less) and looks to feature a lot of acting standouts. A priest (Hoffman) is accused of abusing a young boy and must defend himself against the suspicions of a Catholic school principal (Streep). Director Shanley was also the writer of the Broadway play, so he certainly knows the material. (Dec. 12, limited)
Official Web site

“The Day the Earth Stood Still”
Starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates
Directed by Scott Derrickson

Reeves is back in familiar sci-fi territory, starring as Klaatu, an alien messenger sent to warn Earth of its potentially eminent demise, much to the skepticism and chagrin of its citizens. Could do big box office, but seems to be a remake of the classic 1951 film that no one was seeking. (Dec. 12)
Official Web site

“Seven Pounds”
Starring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy
Directed by Gabriele Muccino

Reteaming with his “The Pursuit of Happyness” director, Smith stars as a suicidal man who finds himself involved in changing lives of several people he befriends. The story is largely being kept quiet, but Smith seems to be box office gold with pretty much anything. (Dec. 19)
Official Web site

“Yes Man”
Starring Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Sasha
Alexander, Danny Masterson, Terence Stamp
Directed by Peyton Reed

It seems like it’s been a long time since Carrey has starred in a big budget comedy (2003’s “Bruce Almighty” would have been the last), but the trailer would seem to indicate he’s in a comfort zone here. Carrying a movie on his shoulders is nothing new, and this is one of the few outright comedies coming out this month, which bodes well for the movie’s prospects. (Dec. 19)
Official Web site

“Marley and Me”
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Haley Bennett, Alan Arkin, Eric Dane
Directed by David Frankel

Aniston and Wilson were romantically linked (which has since ended, evidently) during the filming of this movie, based on the best-selling book about a family and their lovable, yet constantly misbehaving dog. Should be an ideal holiday draw for families. (Dec. 25)
Official Web site

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond
Directed by David Fincher

Adapted from the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, “Benjamin Button” is the remarkable tale of a man (Pitt) who is aging backwards and obviously has to deal with life in a different way. A unique movie such as this could be something magical or a disaster. The early word and trailer indicates the former. This marks the third (and most ambitious) collaboration for Pitt and Fincher (“Se7en,” “Fight Club”) (Dec. 25)
Official Web site

Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson
Directed by Brian Singer

This project about the plan of a group of German colonels to assassinate Adolf Hitler during World War II is based on actual events and has had a troubled journey to the screen. Numerous changes to the release date have occured, but there is a curiosity factor here to see if Cruise and director Singer (“The Usual Suspects”) can pull this risky film off. (Dec. 26)
Official Web site

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Holiday Movie Preview 2008 (Part 1)

Apologies for the long delay in updates. Was a busy October that honestly wasn't filled with much movie watching. Hard to believe, I know. But here's the holiday movie preview below, which hopefully will go a little ways to letting you know about some of the big end-of-year releases coming soon to a theater near you.

As Halloween has passed and the holiday season is beginning in earnest, Hollywood will be rolling out its big end of year films. Some will be big money earners, while others will be contending for various awards. A select few will have a chance to do both. The following is a rundown of some of November’s notable films. Release dates are subject to change, as usual.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”
Starring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith
Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

A follow-up to the 2005 hit animated film, the gang of animals are attempting to get back to their former home in New York City, only to find themselves stranded in Africa. The first film’s success was a bit of a surprise, but with an ideal pre-Thanksgiving release date, this sequel would seem to have hit written all over it. (Nov. 7)
Official Web site

“Role Models”
Starring Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson
Directed by David Wain

A pair of immature salesmen (Rudd and Scott) are forced to participate in a court-ordered Big Brother program with troubled youths. This R-rated comedy comes from the makers of the former cult MTV show, “The State.” (Nov. 7)
Official Web site

“Quantum of Solace”
Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench
Directed by Marc Forster

Never mind the puzzling title, Craig proved more than worthy to fill the shoes of 007, with “Casino Royale” a hugely popular relaunch of the franchise. This sequel’s story picks up right where the previous film left off, with Bond in a rather sour mood and seeking revenge. (Nov. 14)
Official Web site

Starring the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton
Directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams

Well, what do you know? Another animated talking animal movie, with this one featuring Travolta voicing the title character, a showbiz dog who gets separated from his home and family. He must find his way back with the help of some new friends. Doesn’t this storyline sound overly familiar? (Nov. 21)
Official Web site

Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

This adaptation of the very popular book series by Stephenie Meyers is what the filmmakers hope is the beginning of an equally popular film franchise. The movie, about a budding romance between a couple of teens – one of whom happens to be a vampire – was moved up from its December release date after the latest “Harry Potter” film was pushed back to 2009. (Nov. 21)
Official Web site

“Four Christmases”
Starring Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight
Directed by Seth Gordon

As Christmas approaches, you can count on holiday-themed romantic comedies, and this year is no exception. Vaughn and Witherspoon play a married couple forced to endure the holiday with their divorced parents’ four families. Expect lots of stressed out family interaction, probably just like many of our holiday gatherings. (Nov. 26)
Official Web site

Starring Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Bruce Spence, Bryan Brown
Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Pre-World War II Austrailia is the setting for this drama that will likely feature a lot of romance and prove to be the best kind of free advertising a country’s tourist bureau could have. Kidman reunites with her “Moulin Rouge” director as an English aristocrat who inherits property that is protected by a tough rancher (Jackman). (Nov. 26)
Official Web site

Starring Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Diego Luna, Alison Pill
Directed by Gus Van Sant

After spending the last few years making lower-profile and little seen films (“Elephant,” “Paranoid Park”), Van Sant directs what might be his most notable since “Good Will Hunting.” To be sure, Penn will be a strong contender come Oscar time, as he portrays the real-life Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco activist who builds up a huge following in his bid to serve in public office during the 1970s. While this true story likely has a narrow appeal, the solid cast could help. (Nov. 26, limited)
Official Web site