Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter movie preview (December 2010)

“Black Swan”
Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Whether you like director Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler”) or not, the guy’s certainly willing to go out on a limb. This thriller is set in the world of ballet, involving a pair of dancers competing for coveted roles in “Swan Lake.” Natalie Portman has been getting rave reviews in the festival circuit as the obsessed dancer possibly losing her grip on sanity in pursuit of the highly prestigious spot. (Dec. 3, limited)

“The Tourist”
Starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell, Christian De Sica
Directed by Florian Henckel Von Donersmarck

Big-time star power headlines the tale of an American (Depp) in Italy who becomes intrigued with a mysterious woman (Jolie), who happens to be an Interpol agent. He soon finds himself wrapped up in international intrigue. The thriller certainly has elements of a good Alfred Hitchcock film, and will hopefully make good use of its stars and locale. (Dec. 10)

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
Starring Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton
Directed by Michael Apted

The continuing “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise finds itself with a new studio, but many of the same stars, hoping to recapture the box-office magic of the first installment. The last film, “Prince Caspian,” was a box-office disappointment. In this one, Lucy and Edmund are back in Narnia, travelling on the open seas with their cousin, Eustace, aboard the Dawn Treader, encountering a new adventure. (Dec. 10)

“The Company Men”
Starring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Rosemarie Dewitt, Craig T. Nelson
Directed by John Wells

A strong cast is on hand for John Wells’ (making his directorial debut) movie about corporate downsizing and the effect it has on executives, young and old alike. It primarily centers around Bobby Walker (Affleck, on a recent hot streak) and his search for an identity beyond what he’s done for work and the privileges it gave him. It’s not what you would call feel-good material, but could strike a chord with audiences. (Dec. 10)

“The Fighter”
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Directed by David O. Russell

Reuniting with director Russell for his third film, Wahlberg portrays “Irish” Micky Ward in a true-life story about a down-on-his-luck boxer looking to find success in the ring. He gets support from his once great, but now questionably reliable older brother (Bale) and his strong-willed girlfriend (Adams) to pursue his dream of becoming a champion. Wahlberg has had success in inspirational sports movies before (“Invincible”), but this movie has Oscar aspirations – and just might have the pedigree to pick up some award notices. (Dec. 10, limited)

“Tron: Legacy”
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen
Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Hardly a big hit when first released to theaters in 1982, “Tron” has become a cult favorite in the years since, and now with special effects in a new era, a sequel has been spawned. It sure doesn’t hurt to have a newly-crowned Oscar winner (Bridges) heading up the cast. But you know people will be going for the special effects, first and foremost. (Dec. 17)

“How Do You Know”
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson
Directed by James L. Brooks

Romantic comedies sure do like to use the love triangle as a linchpin for their stories. This one involves a woman (Witherspoon) caught between her current beau, a baseball player (Wilson) and a corporate executive (Rudd). The pairing of Witherspoon with Brooks, both of whom have a great track record in the genre, could bode well for its prospects with audiences. (Dec. 17)

“Little Fockers”
Starring Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand
Directed by Paul Weitz

The third film in what has become an unexpected comedy hit franchise – one of at least two for Stiller – has more domestic hijinks for the Focker and Byrnes families. The busy Owen Wilson joins in the fun, reuniting with his longtime friend and occassional co-star Stiller (“Zoolander”). The pre-Christmas release date should make this comedy a prime target for audiences for the next several weeks. (Dec. 22)

“True Grit”
Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

At first, the thought of remaking what some consider a classic John Wayne movie seems like an ill-advised decision. But the benefit of the doubt has to be given to the Coen brothers, who are sure to give a different spin to the western, but still remain faithful to the genre. Pulling in Bridges (in his second film of the month) is sure to generate Oscar talk. He plays a determined U.S. Marshall looking to track down the killer of a young girl’s father. (Dec. 22)

“Blue Valentine”
Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Ben Shenkman
Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Although most of the publicity this intense drama has received centers around its unwarranted NC-17 rating, Gosling and Williams (as a young couple falling into and out of love) have picked up quite a bit of favorable notice from film critics and audiences in its journey on the film festival circuit during the course of the year. Whether the movie can get a wide release with the unpopular rating (currently under appeal by its releasing studio) remains to be seen. (Dec. 31)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of Nov. 16)

“Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” (PG)
Starring the voices of James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate, Katt Williams, Bette Midler, Neil Patrick Harris
Directed by Steve Bencich

“A Christmas Carol” (PG)
Starring the voices of Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright Penn, Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

“The Kids Are All Right” (R)
Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

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

“Lottery Ticket” (PG-13)
Starring Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Keith David, Charlie Murphy and Ice Cube
Directed by Erik White

“Modern Times” (G)
Starring Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman
Directed by Charlie Chaplin

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fall Movie Preview (November 2010)

As November rolls around, the holiday season does as well, with a significant increase in family-oriented films hitting theaters. But more serious, award-seeking fare will also be coming.


Starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross and Brad Pitt
Directed by Tom McGrath

An animated adventure featuring a superhero seemed a no-brainer, thus the latest release from Dreamworks Animation, with what the studio surely hopes will launch a new franchise. That, in turn, could replace the “Shrek” series, which has (supposedly) concluded. Big names (Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Brad Pitt) headline the vocal talent, focusing on a villain who takes over on the role of a hero after the hugely popular Metro Man decides to retire. Grabbing an early November release slot, the movie should have much of the family-focused audience to itself leading into Thanksgiving. (Nov. 5)

“Due Date”
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis
Directed by Todd Phillips

Coming off his red-hot summer smash of 2009, “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips brings in one of his stars from that film, Zach Galifianakis, and pairs him with just plain red-hot actor Robert Downey Jr. There’s pretty much no genre that Downey can’t excel in, and a road trip comedy featuring an odd couple pairing seems like a gold mine for laughs. If it’s anywhere close to as good as its trailer, Downey and Phillips should have another big hit on their hands. (Nov. 5)

“127 Hours”
Starring James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Directed by Danny Boyle

“Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle follows up his Oscar-winning hit film with a true-life harrowing tale of survival. Mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a supremely confident young man who has a lot of time to reflect on his life after becoming trapped under a boulder while exploring canyons in Utah. The movie has been a hit on the festival circuit, much like “Slumdog” was before it picked up a head of steam with critics and audiences, eventually leading to a bunch of awards. Time will tell if this release will follow a similar path. (Nov. 5)

“Morning Glory”
Starring Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum
Directed by Roger Michell

A young successful television producer (Rachel McAdams) is given the unenviable task of helping to turn around a struggling morning show staffed by feuding anchors (Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford). The cast is certainly appealing, but will need a good story to go along with it to become a hit in a very competitive field. (Nov. 10)

Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
Directed by Tony Scott

Frequent collaborators Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott team up for their sixth film together, including the second straight thriller involving a train. This time, Washington is a train conductor looking to head off a potential disaster, as a runaway freight train carrying toxic chemicals makes its way towards a town. He gets help from a young engineer (played by “Star Trek” star Chris Pine) in a desperate race against time. There’s certainly a sense of the familiar here, but its hard to discount the dependability of Washington, who’s coming off one of the biggest hits of his career (“The Book of Eli”). (Nov. 12)

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I”
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman
Directed by David Yates

This release marks the build up for the big finish of the hugely popular franchise, breaking up the final book into two parts. Part two comes out next summer, but this installment will set the table, with audiences likely to come out in droves. This was originally set to come out in 3D, but the difficulty in converting it to the format led to the studio scrapping the plan. (Nov. 19)

“Love and Other Drugs”
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht
Directed by Edward Zwick

A free-spirited beauty (Anne Hathaway) and a salesman (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the pharmaceutical industry find themselves unexpectedly falling in love in this romantic comedy. The leads are no doubt an attractive pairing, but can they bring something new to what has clearly become an overused genre? (Nov. 24)