Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fall Movie Preview (October 2010)

Some films with Oscar aspirations start to pepper the release schedule for October, but are mixed in with some others who most definitely don’t have those kind of hopes. Those releaes will be perfectly happy just making a lot of money.


OCTOBER

“The Social Network”

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara

Directed by David Fincher

Working from a script by Aaron Sorkin (TV’s “The West Wing”), director David Fincher helms the topical tale of the origins of Facebook, and the ensuing legal fight over its ownership. Eisenberg, portraying Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, has been building up a solid resume of films in recent years, and this one might launch him into a lot more starring roles. (Oct. 1)



“Life As We Know It”

Starring Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas

Directed by Greg Berlanti

In this comedy-drama, Heigl and Duhamel play single adults who are forced into parenthood when mutual friends of theirs pass away in an auto accident. The couple leaves behind their infant daughter into their friends’ care. Doesn’t sound like the sunniest scenario for a comedy, but tougher sells have been made by Hollywood. Still, Heigl hasn’t had the best track record in projects over the past couple of years. (Oct. 8)



“Secretariat”

Starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, James Cromwell, Kevin Connelly and Scott Glenn

Directed by Randall Wallace

After the big success of “Seabiscuit” several years ago, it seems remarkable that Hollywood wasn’t all over the story of Secretariat before now. The legendary racehorse is largely considered the greatest non-human athlete of all time. Lane portrays the horse’s owner, while Malkovich is the tempermental trainer. This should be one of the season’s surefire standouts. (Oct. 8)



“Stone”

Starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Francis Conroy

Directed by John Curran

Stars De Niro and Norton reteam in this dramatic thriller, having previously worked together on the entertaining heist picture, “The Score.” Here, De Niro is cast as Jack Mabry, a parole officer who gets wrapped up in the case of Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Norton). The case gets further complicated when Stone’s wife (Jovovich) gets involved. This might not be highbrow entertainment, but there should be some enjoyment in being able to watch two great actors at work together. (Oct. 8)



“Jackass 3D”

Starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius

Directed by Jeff Tremaine

For those who think that 3D is an unnecessary and overused trend in movies right now, prepare yourself for whatever in-your-face antics the fearless wackos of “Jackass” concoct for the third film in the series. If you’ve ever seen any episodes of the TV show or the previous movies, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. And you can be sure that yes, people were harmed in the making of this movie. (Oct. 15)



“Red”

Starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss

Directed by Robert Schwentke

A great cast populates the adaptation of a graphic novel centered around a small group of ex-CIA agents forced back into action after an assassin targets them. Having Willis in an action-comedy is a no-brainer, but it was some inspired casting to get Mirren and Freeman on board as fellow agents. That’s saying nothing about the great Mary-Louise Parker as a federal office clerk roped into the fray. The trailer sells the movie very well. (Oct. 15)



“Hereafter”

Starring Matt Damon, C├ęcile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jenifer Lewis

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Eastwood, who has become quite the prolific director in recent years, obviously hit it off with Damon in last year’s “Invictus,” as the actor returns to star in “Hereafter,” a supernatural-themed drama. He plays a former psychic looking to escape his past, who finds his life intersect with two others living overseas. This would appear to be a bit of a departure for both star and director, and it seems like with every movie of Eastwood’s, Academy Award talk is involved. This will probably be no different. (Oct. 22)



“Saw 3D”

Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes

Directed by Kevin Greutert

They’ve now titled this latest installment of the horror franchise with a 3D designation, so I’ve forgotten how many there have been now. At this point, the producers might have as well, but when Halloween rolls around every year, you can be sure to find another bloody good affair being released. Well, “good” might not be an apt description. But this series has a devoted, if dwindling, fanbase. For those keeping track, a group of victims of the killer, Jigsaw, gather to seek out guidance from a self-help guru. But then strange (and most assuredly, violent) things start to occur. (Oct. 29)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of Sept. 28)

“Iron Man 2” (PG-13)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by Jon Favreau

After the gigantic success of “Iron Man,” there was no doubt a sequel would be quick in the works. And to the film’s credit, the sequel doesn’t play out as a heartless money grab, as many follow-ups to successful movies do. That’s not to say that the second movie in the superhero franchise hits the heights of the very entertaining 2008 release, as it is slightly disappointing. It’s mostly the action scenes that feel a bit of a letdown, particularly by the climatic battle between Iron Man (Downey, still the best part of the series), War Machine (Cheadle, taking over for Terrence Howard) and villain Ivan Vanko (an effectively restrained Mickey Rourke). Still, the actors seemed to enjoy themselves with the dialogue, particularly in exchanges between Downey and Paltrow. The Avengers subplot is a little underdeveloped, but is obviously setting the table for future movies in the Marvel Comics universe. “Iron Man 2” plays a little like a set up for future offerings, but at least shows it still has some life in the legs.

Grade: B



“Babies” (PG)

Directed by Thomas Balmes



“Get Him to the Greek” (R)

Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elizabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney and Sean Combs

Directed by Nicholas Stoller



“The Killer Inside Me” (R)

Starring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman

Directed by Michael Winterbottom



“The Thin Red Line (The Criterian Collection)” (R)

Starring Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Sean Penn

Directed by Terrence Malick


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of Sept. 14)

“Seven” (R)

Starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Roundtree, John C. McGinley and Kevin Spacey

Directed by David Fincher

There have been a lot – and I mean a lot – of serial killer movies that have come out over the years, particularly since 1995, when “Seven” hit theaters. And many of those that have been released over the past 15 years have taken a least a little inspiration from David Fincher’s dark, disturbing and morbidly fascinating thriller. With an excellent cast at his disposal (three have earned Oscars in the years since this release), Fincher showed he’s capable of crafting a visually arresting film that enhances an already strong story by Andrew Kevin Walker. While employing some of the tried and true aspects of a crime drama (the detective on one last case before retirement, the young hotshot partner looking to make his mark), the movie allows the actors some room to explore their characters, particularly Freeman as the world weary Det. Somerset. And it’s one of those rare cop movies that still has something significant to say by its conclusion, as opposed to the cliched car chase and shootout that peppers so many films in the genre.

Grade: A-



“Letters to Juliet” (PG)

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal and Vanessa Redgrave

Directed by Gary Winick



“Jacob’s Ladder” (R)

Starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena and Danny Aiello

Directed by Adrian Lyne



“Just Wright” (PG)

Starring Queen Latifah, Common, Paula Patton

Directed by Sanaa Hamri



“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (PG-13)

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina

Directed by Robert Luketic


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ebert's back 'At the Movies'

Anyone who ever watched the old “At the Movies” shows with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, and later Richard Roeper, after Siskel’s death, should be pleased to know that Ebert will be bringing back a new form of the film criticism show in January 2011 to PBS. Ebert, who has faced a myriad of health issues in recent years that prevented him from returning to the show he helped co-host for so many years, will co-produce “Roger Ebert Presents … At the Movies” along with his wife, Chaz. Ebert will be a regular contributor to the show, but will leave the primary criticism of the new movies in release to Christy Lemire, The Assoicated Press’ film critic and Elvis Mitchell, with National Public Radio, and former film critic at The New York Times.

Below are excerpts from the pilot episode, which provides a good look at the show’s general format. It’s only fitting that the little show that started on PBS and helped make popular TV personalities of Siskel and Ebert would return to its old home. It will be a welcome sight, to be sure.


Monday, September 06, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of Sept. 7)

“Killers” (PG-13)

Starring Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara

Directed by Robert Luketic



“MacGruber” (R)

Starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph and Val Kilmer

Directed by Jorma Taccone



“Solitary Man” (R)

Starring Michael Douglas, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Susan Sarandon and Danny DeVito

Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Movie rewind

Technically, it’s still summer. But let’s face it, with school back in, the weather starting to cool off, and fall festivals starting up, nobody looks at it like that. It’s usually a bit slow at the movies around this time, too. Still, here’s a glance back at a few of the movies that were in theaters in 1995, 2000 and 2005.


1995

“Desperado” (R)

Although technically a sequel to the really low-budget “El Mariachi,” which kickstarted his career, director Robert Rodriguez upped the ante in many ways for “Desperado.” The cast was infused with some star power, including Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas taking over the role of El Mariachi. The action (and subsequent violence) was amped up, along with the a bigger budget to work with. While the film doesn’t quite capture the fun of the next sequel in the series, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” it certainly never bores. Rodriguez, who also wrote and edited the film, shows he has great technical skill behind the camera. However, the story doesn’t quite match the strong visual style on display.

Grade: B



2000

“Nurse Betty” (R)

The dark comedy, “Nurse Betty,” has kind of been a forgotten gem from a decade ago, featuring a very solid cast (Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear) and an original script by John C. Richards and James Flamberg. Zellweger plays the title character, a sweet, but delusional woman who falls into her shaky mental state after witnessing her louse of a husband (Aaron Eckhart) killed by a pair of hitmen (Freeman and Rock). She heads to California to find the star of her favorite soap, believing he is an actual person, not a conceited actor named George McCord (Kinnear). Meanwhile, the hitmen are in pursuit, as the vehicle she took is filled with drugs the two want to return to their employer. The movie has to walk a fine line of dealing with some violent material, while consistently delivering laughs. Thanks to the committed work from Freeman and Zellweger, in particular, who brings a sunny disposition to the dark circumstances her character is surrounded in, the film works.

Grade: B+



2005

“The Brothers Grimm” (PG-13)

Long considered a great visual director with films such as “12 Monkeys,” “The Fisher King” and “Brazil” among his credits, Terry Gilliam’s movies often walk the line between creativity and chaos. Unfortunately, this time out, “The Brothers Grimm” falls closer to the latter. The story’s concept is a clever idea, as brothers Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) are 19th-century con artists who are able to “eliminate” evil spooks and spirits from German villages – for the right price. Never mind the fact that they are also responsible for the hauntings in the first place. The cast is very much game for the proceedings, but the screenplay by Ehren Kruger doesn’t seem to settle on what kind of a movie it should be. The film’s an example where the individual pieces just don’t quite add up to a satisfying whole.

Grade: C+