Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring 2010 Movie Preview, Part II

As Hollywood seems to have an insatiable desire to revisit its past, remakes of past films seem to be a growing trend. Take April’s movie release schedule as an example. With no fewer than three remakes (including one whose original was a mere three years ago), filling up the month, originality isn’t exactly flowing freely. But that doesn’t mean the films will be bad. They just won’t be fresh. The following is a few of the notable releases for the month.

“Clash of the Titans”

Starring Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson
Directed by Louis Leterrier

The seemingly action- and CGI-packed remake of the 1981 movie with Harry Hamlin and Laurence Olivier gets a big-budget (not to mention 3D) treatment. It follows a classic good vs. evil saga involving the son of Zeus and a bunch of gods arguing over the fate of mortals. Despite its cheesiness factor, the original was fairly entertaining. But can the new version make bigger better? (April 2)
Official Web site

“Why Did I Get Married Too”
Starring Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Sharon Leal, Malik Yoba, Richard T. Jones and Tyler Perry
Directed by Tyler Perry

A group of longtime college friends gather in the Bahamas for a reunion, examining their relationships and marriages over the course of a week. This is a sequel to the 2007 film, which featured much of the same cast. (April 2)
Official Web site

“Date Night”
Starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Common and Mark Wahlberg
Directed by Shawn Levy

The stars of TV’s “The Office” (Carell) and “30 Rock” (Fey) team up for the first time as an average couple that get caught up in a case of mistaken identity, leading them to a night of danger and excitement. The film’s concept is certainly not what could be deemed inspired, but the stars should make the action enjoyable. (April 9)
Official Web site

“Death at a Funeral”
Starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Regina Hall, Tracy Morgan, Peter Dinklage, Danny Glover, James Marsden, Luke Wilson
Directed by Neil LaBute

A huge cast filled with familiar faces heads up a movie about about a family gathering at a funeral and all the shocking secrets that get revealed at it. The original film, a British production, was just filmed in 2007 and garnered largely positive reviews. Plus, one of the cast members (Dinklage) is playing the exact same role he played in the original. (April 16)
Official Web site

Starring Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mark Strong and Nicolas Cage
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

A new entry in the burgeoning superhero genre takes a different approach, by following the exploits of a comic book-loving teenager (Johnson), who decides to follow in the footsteps of some his heroes in print and become a superhero himself. His initial success inspires a few others to want to do the same, while also making criminals stand up and take notice. The film, a comic book adaptation, is already starting to pick up positive buzz at film festivals. This has sleeper hit written all over it, with a built-in fanbase that could spawn sequels. (April 16)
Official Web site

“The Back-Up Plan”
Starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Laughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Anthony Anderson and Linda Lavin
Directed by Alan Poul

Having kept a low-profile in recent years after getting married and having twins, Lopez is back headlining a film, starring as a woman who meets someone who just might be Mr. Right. Thing is, she meets him on the very day she’s artificially inseminated, which is typically an awkward thing to bring up on a first date. If nothing else, this story is a new twist in the overworked romantic comedy genre. It will also place the box-office appeal, or lack thereof, of Lopez, front and center. (April 23)
Official Web site

“A Nightmare on Elm Street”
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rodney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz
Directed by Samuel Bayer

Horror fans (and even non-fans, for that matter) should have memories of Wes Craven’s original 1984 creepfest that introduced audiences to Freddy Krueger. With the “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” franchises having been restarted in recent years, it seemed inevitable that “Nightmare” was going to go down the same path eventually. The casting of Haley (“Watchmen,” “Little Children”) as the crafty killer with an endless supply of one-liners was an inspired decision. But whether it can improve on Craven’s original vision remains to be seen. (April 30)
Official Web site

Monday, March 29, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of March 30)

“Collateral” (R)
Starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Javier Bardem, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall
Directed by Michael Mann

Having demonstrated that he has the directing chops to handle action with a little character study on the side in 1995’s great “Heat,” director Michael Mann is equally successful in “Collateral” of finding interesting people working inside and outside the law. Jamie Foxx took advantage of his first real dramatic role (earning an Oscar nomination, to boot) as Max, a cabbie who knows the streets of L.A. like the back of his hand. However, after a chance encounter with an intriguing lawyer (Jada Pinkett Smith), Max’s night becomes an increasingly tense affair as he drives around Vincent (Tom Cruise), a confident, focused and demanding fare. After their first stop reveals what Vincent does for a living, the remainder of the night challenges Max to find a way out of his predicament. Mann primarily films the movie with high definition cameras, providing a visually arresting L.A. as the film’s backdrop. Cruise, who also garnered an Oscar nomination for his performance, provides some layers to his role as a determined contract killer. The film seems to run out of steam a bit by the conclusion, but the ride is worth taking nonetheless.
Grade: A-

Other releases:
“Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (PG)
Starring Zachary Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee, and the voices of Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney
Directed by Betty Thomas

“The Baader Meinhof Complex” (R)
Starring Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Johanna Wokalek, Nadja Uhl, Stipe Erceg
Directed by Uli Edel

“An Education” (PG-13)
Starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson
Directed by Lone Scherfig

“The Killer” (R)
Starring Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Chu Kong
Directed by John Woo

“Sherlock Holmes” (PG-13)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
Directed by Guy Ritchie

Monday, March 22, 2010

What's New In Blu? (Week of March 23)

“The Blind Side” (PG-13)
Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron and Kathy Bates
Directed by John Lee Hancock

Showing the same knack for a true sports-oriented story well told that he did with 2002’s “The Rookie,” director John Lee Hancock crafted another hit with the Oscar-nominated film that focuses on Michael Oher and his adoptive family, the Tuohys. The story in and of itself is pretty compelling, with the physically gifted Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) having hopped around the foster care system, only to find himself taken in by an upper-class Tennessee family, headed up by a take-no-bull woman, Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock, in an Oscar-winning performance). Their love and support of him leads him to football, where he eventually dominates as an offensive lineman and becomes a highly recruited college prospect. The movie was smartly promoted as a Sandra Bullock showcase, and her acting is the real engine for the story. It’s easily her meatiest role yet, and her best performance. The film kind of skims over the more recent years, but does manage to weave in some actual footage of the family at the 2009 NFL draft, where Oher was a first-round pick.
Grade: B+

Other releases:
“The African Queen” (NR)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull
Directed by John Huston

“Brothers” (R)
Starring Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard, Clifton Collins Jr. and Mare Winningham
Directed by Jim Sheridan

“Days of Heaven” (PG)
Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz
Directed by Terrence Malick

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” (PG)
Starring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson
Directed by Wes Anderson

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” (R)
Starring George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Robert Patrick
Directed by Grant Heslov

“Red Cliff” (R)
Starring Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Chung Lin
Directed by John Woo

“Toy Story” (G)
Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenburger, Annie Potts
Directed by John Lasseter

“Toy Story 2” (G)
Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenburger, Annie Potts
Directed by John Lasseter

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lost Boy no more

OK, you might be thinking initially that I’m just getting clued in that actor Corey Haim is dead. But oh no, I knew. I just wanted to kind of sit back, watch and listen to some of the reaction in the days following his death last week of an apparent accidental drug overdose. (Yes, Corey Feldman, I used the overdose word. I’m sorry. But come on dude, you know people are going to go there.)

Well, now that the poor guy is dead and buried back home in Toronto, it seemed like as good a time as any to comment. There’s a lot of sadness in a story such as this, but hardly anything too surprising. Drugs among the Hollywood community and the struggles that entertainers have with them are about as old as the entertainment industry itself, it would seem. At times like this, there always seems to be the friends that show up on TV to say that (enter name here) seemed like he/she was in a good place and was starting to turn their life around. So they can’t understand what happened.

Perhaps that was the case here with Haim. No one will ever really know for sure, which is another sad facet to his story. By all accounts, he was barely making ends meet and staying with his mom, who is battling cancer. Acting work wasn’t exactly pouring in, at least not in any projects that you or I would have heard of. A glance at his filmography on will give you an idea of what his work has been over the past two decades. I’m a big-time movie buff, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you anything about the vast majority of them. Several of them over that period were co-starring Feldman, his longtime friend, with whom he seemed to share a bizarre love-hate relationship. Most of them looked god-awful just by their description, but I did manage to see a trailer to “Dream A Little Dream 2.” What’s that, you ask? Well, it just happens to be the sequel to the duo’s cinematic classic from 1989 that was the 137th during the late ‘80s to focus on the body switching concept. And yes, I’ll admit to having seen it. One of them (let’s face it, it doesn’t matter which one) switches bodies with Jason Robards (and is now an older person in a young person’s body). OK, it’s Feldman and he does an unusual amount of Michael Jackson imitating in it. I know he and Jackson were friends and all, but still ...

All right, back to my discussion of Haim. The point is, the guy hasn’t made a good movie since “The Lost Boys,” which was a legitimately entertaining movie. Still is, for that matter. Sure, some of that had to do with the strong overall cast (Dianne Wiest, Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Edward Herrman, and heck I’ll even give Jami Gertz and Feldman credit for being good in it). But in the film, Haim showed he had the potential for a decent career, displaying some good comic timing and just the right combination of heroism and fear.
He was also good as a geeky teenager in “Lucas,” which also featured Charlie Sheen and Winona Ryder.
Some might be saying, “Wait a minute, he was also good in ‘The Goonies.’ But you’d be wrong, as that was Feldman among the young actors starring in that entertaining ‘80s flick. Haim actually auditioned for the same role that Feldman ended up getting and would star with another “Goonie” cast member, Kerri Green, in “Lucas” the very next year. (How’s that for some useless information?)

After the miserably unfunny and stupid “License to Drive,” which I remember at the time tastelessly had a running gag with a seriously drunk driver in the film, roles in mainstream movies dried up and Haim essentially disappeared from Hollywood’s (and audience) radars. Then, lo and behold, he and Feldman pop up in 2007 on A&E’s reality TV show, “The Two Coreys,” which I will label as one of the worst guilty pleasures I’d have to admit to seeing. I watched most of the episodes, actually, as I saw their friendship as something like a train wreck. It’s something you shouldn’t want to look at, but you can’t help it.

The premise seemed to focus on Haim returning to L.A. to recharge his listless movie career, and reconnecting with Feldman (who was happily married at the time; his wife filed for divorce last fall and is seeing sole custody of their son). The show lasted two seasons (which is probably longer than most would have put money on) and the two even went to couple’s counseling in a few episodes (I’m talking the Coreys, not Feldman and his wife). But like all good things, the show came to an end when it was canceled in 2008, with the Coreys all but fading back into obscurity.

It seems unfortunate and definitely sad that the by far the biggest news that Corey Haim has made since his late ‘80s heyday is pretty much the last news he’ll ever make.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's New In Blu? (Week of March 16)

Here’s a rundown on some of the new Blu-ray releases coming out for the week of March 16.
“Did You Hear About the Morgans?” (PG-13)
Starring Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elizabeth Moss, Michael Kelly, Wilford Brimley
Directed by Marc Lawrence

“The Fourth Kind” (PG-13)
Starring Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Elias Koteas
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi

“Ninja Assassin” (R)
Starring Rain, Naomie Harris
Directed by James McTeigue

“The Princess and the Frog” (PG)
Starring the voices of Anka Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (PG-13)
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning
Directed by Chris Weitz

Monday, March 08, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of March 9)

“Up in the Air” (R)
Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride
Directed by Jason Reitman

George Clooney has built a solid career on playing confident men, who border on the edge of cocky at times. His latest lead role, as Ryan Bingham, a veritable one-man corporate downsizer, fits comfortably into that list of characters. But naturally, his character’s confidence, even his very way of life, is challenged in “Up in the Air,” a well-crafted comedy-drama from director Jason Reitman (who adapted the screenplay with Sheldon Turner, based on the book of the same name). The current economic times we live in provides an undercurrent of truth to the film’s journey of a man who fires people for a living. He’s aided along the way by a young, new employee (Anna Kendrick) and a potential budding love interest (Vera Farmiga) he crosses paths with on the road. The acting is uniformly great across the board (Clooney, Kendrick and Farmiga all deservedly earned Oscar nominations for their performances) and Reitman, in just his third film (“Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno” are his other two), is crafting quite an impressive start to a career.
Grade: A-

Other releases:
“Capitalism: A Love Story” (R)
Starring Michael Moore
Directed by Michael Moore

“Old Dogs” (PG)
Starring John Travolta, Robin Williams, Kelly Preston, Seth Green, Ella Bleu Travolta, Lori Laughlin and Matt Dillon
Directed by Walt Becker

“Planet 51” (PG)
Starring the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biel, Justin Long, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott and John Cleese
Directed by Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad and Marcos Martinez

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (R)
Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz
Directed by Lee Daniels

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

What's New In Blu? (Week of March 2)

“2012” (PG-13)
Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover
Directed by Roland Emmerich

“Gentlemen Broncos” (PG-13)
Starring Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Jennifer Coolidge, Mike White, Sam Rockwell
Directed by Jared Hess

“The Neverending Story” (PG)
Starring Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

“Ponyo” (G)
Starring the voices of Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

“Where the Wild Things Are” (PG)
Starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo
Directed by Spike Jonze