Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summer Movie Preview (July 2010)

Although the summer movie season has performed below Hollywood’s expectations, July has plenty of potential big hits, including one (“Eclipse”) that technically opens at the end of June. It’s also largely void of sequels, which have proliferated the release schedule in May and June. Still, if some of these films become hits, they would likely launch future sequels.

“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Billy Burke
Directed by David Slade

The continuing adventures of Bella, Edward, Jacob and the rest of the vampires and werewolves populating the world created by author Stephanie Meyer continues in this third installment. The series is unlikely to win over many new fans at this point, but based on its huge box-office numbers from the first and especially the second movie, it hardly needs to. It has a built-in audience that should guarantee a big hit, not to mention a primo release date just before the Fourth of July. (June 30)
Official Web site

“The Last Airbender”
Starring Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Assif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

An adaptation of a popular Nickelodeon cartoon series doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice of projects for Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”), but there’s no doubt the writer-director could really use a hit after a few cinematic flops in recent years. The special effects look to be the real star here, as a youngster realizes he is the last of his kind with the ability to control the four elements, and could bring an end to a century of conflict between four warring nations. (July 1)
Official Web site

“Despicable Me”
Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

An evil supergenius (voiced by Carell) out to steal the moon runs into complications when he comes across three young orphaned girls, who look to him as a potential father. Teasers for this movie began running last year, so a lot of promotion has been put behind it. Adding in some good vocal talent and an original story idea, it would seem the comedy has the ingredients for success. (July 9)
Official Web site

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci
Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Cage, who seems to be present in every movie season, is the star of this latest concoction from Disney, hoping to launch yet another film franchise. He reunites with his “National Treasure” director, portraying a powerful sorcerer who recruits an awkward young man (Baruchel) to defend New York City from his arch-nemesis (Molina). Expect lots of special effects, some comedy, a heaping dose of action and yet another new hairstyle for Cage. (July 14)
Official Web site

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cilian Murphy, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Red-hot from “The Dark Knight,” Nolan is helming a thriller with murky plot details, but a great cast. The trailers have long been promising something visually arresting, but hopefully the script, by Nolan himself, won’t get too convoluted for its own good. DiCaprio stars as a thief who can take ideas from people’s subconscious. But he and his team’s latest job is to pull off the seemingly impossible – planting an idea in someone’s mind. (July 16)
Official Web site

Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andre Braugher
Directed by Philip Noyce

Jolie is back in action mode as CIA agent Evelyn Salt, who goes on the run after being accused by a defector of being a Russian spy. She attempts to clear her name, which only seems to build the case against her. The plot hardly original, with a seemingly good person having to elude the law to prove their innocence. Pacing and at least some semblance of credibility is essential for a movie like this to succeed. (July 23)
Official Web site

“Dinner for Schmucks”
Starring Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Stephanie Szostak, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Jay Roach

Making his second appearance of the month, but first physical one, Carell is a truly odd IRS employee befriended by Tim (Rudd), for the purpose of being brought to a dinner party. But the dinner party, as concocted by Tim’s boss, is a contest where friends and employees attempt to bring the most idiotic person with them. This odd idea for a movie was actually adapted from the 1998 French comedy, “The Dinner Game.” (July 30)
Official Web site

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of June 15)

“Darkman” (R)
Starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake
Directed by Sam Raimi

Although it was hardly a hit when it hit theaters 20 years ago, Sam Raimi’s action-thriller has picked up fans over the years. The film has a bit of a comic book feel to it, with a disfigured avenger looking to right the wrong perpetrated against him, while still trying to recapture the happiness of his former life. Raimi went onto much bigger exploits with a real comic book hero (The “Spider-Man” series), but “Darkman” showed the director ability to mix in action, comedy and violence on a much smaller budget. He’s helped by the inventive camera work by cinematographer Bill Pope and the spirited music score by Danny Elfman. This was also an early peek into Neeson as an action star – something he’s been dabbling in again all these years later.
Grade: B+

Other releases:
“The Book of Eli” (R)
Starring Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Malcolm McDowell, Tom Waits
Directed by Allen and Albert Hughes

“Flash Gordon” (PG)
Starring Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Topol, Ornella Muti, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed
Directed by Mike Hodges

“When in Rome” (PG-13)
Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Will Arnett, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson

“Youth in Revolt” (R)
Starring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Jean Smart, M. Emmett Walsh, Fred Willard, Justin Long, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Miguel Arteta

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of June 8)

“The Illusionist” (PG-13)
Starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell
Directed by Neil Burger

Taking its cue from some of the early days of filmmaking, the look of “The Illusionist” is as much a character as the cast that inhabits its 19th century Vienna setting. It’s a period piece that centers around the magical, perhaps supernatural abilities of a man with the stage name of Eisenheim (Edward Norton). Arriving to town with little fanfare, he quickly captivates and amazes audiences with his superior slight of hand skills.

Among those he impresses is Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), who is frequently in the service of the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell, crafting a perfectly dastardly villain). Soon after, the prince and his fiancee Sophie (Jessica Biel) attend a performance that leads to the young woman being incorporated into Eisenheim’s show. But there’s more here than meets the eye, as the two have a history from their childhood. Their brief friendship and blossoming romance as children is captured in beautifully photographed flashbacks that incorporate old-fashioned storytelling fade-outs.

While the pacing is a bit lax in certain stretches, the presence of the always interesting Norton and Giamatti proves to be the film’s greatest asset. Norton brings a quiet intensity to his role as the enigmatic illusionist, playfully sparring with Giamatti in several of their scenes together, while showing some romantic passion for the woman who has unexpectedly reentered his life. To her credit, Biel easily has her best role to date, and doesn’t disappoint.
Grade: A-

Other releases:
“Caddyshack” (R)
Starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe, Sarah Holcomb
Directed by Harold Ramis

“From Paris with Love” (R)
Starring John Travolta, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kasia Smutniak, Richard Durden
Directed by Pierre Morel

“Shutter Island” (R)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley
Directed by Martin Scorsese