Fall movie preview: December 2011
I think “fall” is a little misleading. It’s winter now. I should say “winter movie preview”. I should, but I won’t. Yeah, I’m a rebel like that.
A Warrior’s Heart
Twilight’s Kellan Lutz and Ashley Greene star in this movie about the healing powers of lacrosse.
And that pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Answers to Nothing
Historically, Dane Cook starring in movies doesn’t go well. Dane Cook starring in dramatic movies has a tendency to end in disaster (see also: Mr. Brooks). Answers to Nothing follows the week in the lives of a bunch of people surrounding a child abduction case. Sounds like a heartwarming holiday tale for the whole family. At least this movie has Zach Gilford (Friday Night Light’s Saracen) going for it.
Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with one of Shakespeare’s densest texts. He also stars at the titular Coriolanus, a Roman general attempting to run for political office. Fiennes is good and everything, but the real surprise is Gerard Butler’s surprisingly restrained work as Coriolanus’ antagonist. Although GERARD BUTLER, OSCAR NOMINEE will not be happening, which is a shame as that would have been hella entertaining.
Opens in New York and LA only for one week Oscar-qualifying run.
Luc Besson returns to serious filmmaking for the first time since 1994’s The Professional (I liked The Fifth Element, too, but let’s not pretend like that was serious filmmaking) with The Lady, the story of pro-democracy Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh, Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and her husband, Michael Aris (David Thewlis, Harry Potter’s Lupin). While Yeoh has been getting good notice for her work on the festival circuit, reviews for the movie are mixed.
Opens in Los Angeles only for its Oscar-qualifying run.
Written, directed by and starring Takeshi Kitano (Kikujiro), Outrage is about warring Yakuza clans. The escalating violence revolves around a betrayal and it’s a very stylish effort from Kitano. He’s one of Japan’s most interesting directors and Outrage has been very well received all over the world. Kitano is currently shooting the sequel.
The Fassbender reteams with his Hunger director, artist Steve McQueen, as Brandon, an urbane Manhattanite struggling with sex addiction. Brandon’s life veers out of his control upon the arrival of his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who has issues of her own. Word has been really good for Shame and everyone involved, particularly The Fassbender, who stands to earn his first Oscar nomination. As sexy as it sounds on paper—The Fassbender starring in a movie about sex and featuring a lot of sex—based off Hunger, I’d say that Shame is likely to be the unsexiest movie about sex ever made. Still, this is one of my must-sees for the month. As good as The Fassbender is, he’s even better when working with McQueen.
I Melt with You
This movie has gotten some of the worst reviews of the year. Pretty much everyone agrees that it’s a pretentious, self-indulgent mess about forty-something white dudes indulging themselves during a vacation at Big Sur. It does star Rob Lowe, though, who is so handsome and unchanged that I’m convinced he’s got a gross rotting portrait of himself stashed in an attic somewhere.
New Year’s Eve
“It’s a disastrously conceived and hellaciously executed soul-sucking shit pile of a movie!”
– Sarah, Cinesnark
There you go, movie publicists. That one’s a freebie.
I know Jonah Hill tops the shit list for a lot of you, but the dude hasn’t worn out his welcome with me (despite being something of a little bitch in real life). And this is the last time we’ll see Fat Jonah in a movie! After this it’s Increasingly Skinny Jonah then we’ll see Wow He Really Lost A Lot Of Weight Jonah and finally we’ll have Someone Stop Him From Doing Any More Blow Before He Disappears Jonah. No, let’s be fair. Jonah Hill wasn’t the one who used the blow diet to lose weight. I do want to talk about how Jonah started losing weight after working with Brad Pitt on Moneyball. What is it about Pitt that makes everyone around him get so damn skinny?
The Sitter looks stupid but funny and will be much-needed comic relief amidst all the Very Serious Award Films of the month.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
A movie made by grown-up adults, for grown-up adults. One of my very favorite of the year.
W.E. is to Madonna’s directing as Swept Away is to Madonna’s acting.
Madonna brings us this biopic of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII—she also co-wrote the script—and it looks like a mess. A lavishly made mess, but a mess nonetheless. And the revisionist history borders on offensive, given the very intentional glossing-over of Simpson and Edward’s Nazi sympathies. Andrea Riseborough (Made in Dagenham) is getting good notice as Simpson, but Madonna and this movie have earned boos everywhere it’s screened.
Opens in New York and LA only.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Everybody’s favorite alien, Tilda Swinton, stars in Lynne Ramsey’s (Ratcatcher) adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s eponymous novel about the emotional aftermath a mother deals with when her son goes on a high school killing spree. Swinton has been getting rave reviews all year and is a likely Oscar nominee, but I can’t do these kinds of movies. High school shootings are just not something I’m interested in seeing recreated on screen, even if a strong performance by Swinton is involved. At least we have Her Weirdness out and about on the publicity trail in support of this movie.
Opens in New York and LA only for one week Oscar-qualifying run.
I want Charlize Theron to adopt me. Not to be her child or anything, but to be her little sister. In my mind, Charlize is like an older sister who was old enough when you were born to be completely disgusted by your mere existence and who totally ignored you throughout childhood, unless it was to deliver some self-esteem-wrecking bit of bitchery that destroyed all your family holidays growing up. Then, when you finally hit your late teens and think your big sister will come around and be your friend finally, she sleeps with your college boyfriend and tells you how terrible he was in the sack and how you should hold out for something better. Except she says all this in front of all your cousins and aunts and uncles and it’s so mortifying you claim to have bird flu for three years to avoid seeing any of them ever again.
Charlize Theron is an alien* bitch goddess and I love her and she’s heaven. She’s my #1 lady crush right now, helped along by her current career resurgence after taking a break from Hollywood for a couple years. She’s getting super good buzz for Young Adult and a lot of analysts have her locked in for her third Oscar nomination.
Limited release, goes wide December 16.
*Charlize belongs to the alien race that has come to earth to enrich our genes by sharing their superior alien DNA with us (see also: Angelina Jolie). Not to be confused with Everybody’s Favorite Alien, Tilda Swinton, who is the queen of a dying alien race searching for a new home. She’s here to study us so her people can successfully acclimate to Earth but she’s failing to blend in.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked
YOU GO TO HELL! YOU GO TO HELL AND YOU DIE!
I’m not a huge fan of Roman Polanski. Legal drama/creepy sexual proclivities aside, his films have a habit of feeling dated really fast. The only movies of his I’ve really enjoyed are Chinatown and The Pianist, but Carnage looks like something I might dig. It’s adapted from Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage and follows two couples through a meeting as they try to hash out what to do with their children, who got into a fight at school. Basically it looks like one of those living-room dramas where everyone is a hilariously terrible person. Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz star. I’m especially interested in Waltz, as he’s been cashing it in ever since Inglorious Basterds and it will be nice to see him in a role where he isn’t revisiting Colonel Landa.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I quite liked the first Sherlock movie, fueled mostly by the fun chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. Director Guy Ritchie’s stylized take on Holmes’ Victorian London provided some drool-worthy visuals and set pieces and the second entry in the franchise appears to be offering more of the same. It also adds Jared Harris (Mad Men) as Sherlock’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty, and the Original Lisbeth herself, Noomi Rapace, as some kind of fortune teller. Every time I see this trailer I end up transfixed by Rapace’s face. Goddamn, that’s a Face.
The Adventures of TinTin: Secret of the Unicorn
The mo-cap monsters have come for our souls. The day of reckoning is here. Do not look directly into their dead, hollow eyes, for that is how they rob you of your very being. Once captivated by a mo-cap monster you will be lost to a nightmare hellscape where everyone has gummy faces and empty eyes and no amount of visual effects can cover up the inherent creepiness of photo-realistic animation. Nothing can save you from the uncanny valley!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I’m not as bent out of shape about this movie as everyone else is. Given the success of the books, and the arthouse success of the Swedish films, it was inevitable that an English language version would be made so I was resigned to it all along. In such cases—when a remake that isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary gets made—all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best. From the looks of the trailer and the compiled early-release footage from the film, it looks like director David Fincher has crafted something interesting to watch. I already super love the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score (they won an Oscar for their Social Network score), and Rooney Mara looks like she’s taking Lisbeth in a willowier, more vulnerable direction than Noomi Rapace did. Which, given how powerful Rapace’s original performance was, going in a totally different direction is the best thing Mara could do. I’m willing to like the English-language remake of Dragon Tattoo.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise continues his sad descent into complete toolery with the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Yes, he’s very fit and he can swing off buildings, but he comes off as trying SO HARD that it’s kind of off-putting. Especially next to the effortless Jeremy Renner who, even in ten second increments, completely upstages Cruise. You know, Renner is a wee guy, too, and at forty he’s also past the first blush of his youth, yet he comes off as so much more cool and effortless than Cruise. Aww, poor Maverick. He’s lost that loving feeling.
A Prophet’s breakout star, Tahir Rahim, stars in this period drama about an Arabian prince with divided loyalties on the cusp of the Arab oil boom in the early 20th century. I’ve got this one stashed in my Netflix queue already—I want to see it, but I don’t feel a burning urge to get to it right away. Mark Strong and Freida Pinto* also star.
*Pinto is another of those aliens here to enrich our gene pool.
In the Land of Blood and Honey
Angelina Jolie makes her directorial debut, working off a script she also wrote (and, according to Brad, just HAD TO SHARE). There will be sharks in the water with this one, looking for Jolie to fail, but the trailer honestly looks pretty strong. The story revolves around lovers, one Serb, one Muslim Bosnian, during the onset of the Bosnian war in the 1990’s. It’s a tough subject matter and Jolie resisted the urge to people the project with her Hollywood friends, instead going for an Eastern European cast no one in the US will recognize (well, maybe some will recognize Rade Serbedzija). The movie is also in the Bosnian-Serb dialect with subtitles—Jolie did not make this easy on herself. A lot of people are going to want her to fail, but I’m always up for more talented female filmmakers with strong voices and interesting points of view. I just hope Blood and Honey doesn’t end up being preachy.
German director/documentarian Wim Wenders (Land of Plenty, Buena Vista Social Club) brought together dancers from the Tanztheater Wuppertal to make this tribute to the choreographer, Pina Bausch. You don’t necessarily have to be into dance to enjoy Pina, but it certainly helps. Intercut with the dance sequences are reflections from the dancers about Bausch, and Wenders uses 3D in a way that is considerably more interesting than its usual application. I wasn’t transported by it like many others have been, but it is a very pretty, dynamic dance film and a worthwhile tribute to a great choreographer.
New York and LA only.
We Bought a Zoo
Cameron Crowe needs to stop making movies about families in crisis after a death (see also: Elizabethtown) and go back to making movies about rock and roll. I can never hate on Crowe too much as he gave us Lloyd Dobler and Say Anything—and makes a big rebound with the documentary Pearl Jam 20—but first Elizabethtown and now Zoo seem to be indulging his worst traits as a filmmaker. The intentions in Zoo are good and the cast (Matt Damon, Elle Fanning, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones) works well together, but this is a bloated carcass of a movie. It’s not nearly as horrible as Elizabethtown, but that’s down to Damon being capable of carrying a film where Orlando Bloom folded under the weight of his leading-man responsibilities. Zoo might make a decent film for a family to see over the holidays, especially if you’ve got kids, as there’s nothing objectionable in it and its purpose is to vomit sunshine and glitter at you constantly, but unless you’re towing children behind you, you can feel okay about skipping this.
The Darkest Hour
Emile “Horrid Twat” Hirsch stars in this Moscow-set thriller about aliens using our own power grid to take over the world and crush us like the ants we are (Dear Mother Alien Swinton: Please show mercy). Nothing else about this movie matters. Releasing a movie like this at Christmas might work out for Tom Cruise, but for this cast (which unfortunately includes the charming Olivia Thirlby), it’s a death sentence. I’m not seeing it, you’re not seeing it, no one is seeing it. Just see Attack the Block instead.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
*Imaginary meeting in Paramount’s distribution department*
Sales rep: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is almost done, but it won’t be ready in time for a pre-Thanksgiving release.
Distribution exec: What? But it’s about 9/11 and it’s the tenth anniversary of 9/11! We NEED that movie to come out this year!
Marketing rep: We’re not really selling it as “the 9/11 movie” are we? I mean, it’s made by Stephen Daldry and it’s Jonathan Safran Foer’s book. And Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are in it, and people are already talking about Max von Sydow as a feel-good Oscar pick, and Thomas Horn is so precocious and cute. There’s so much more than 9/11…
Sales rep: I guess we can put a rush on Daldry to get it done.
Distribution exec: Yes, do that. Do whatever it takes regardless of any other issues. Just get it out this year!
Marketing rep: The window to release it so narrow, though.
Distribution exec: It’s Tom Hanks. Everyone loves Tom Hanks. Put it out on Christmas day.
Marketing rep: You want me to sell a movie about a kid whose dad dies in 9/11 as a family film for Christmas?
Distribution exec: Now you’re getting it!
Marketing rep: *weeps into hands*
Writer/director Dee Rees makes her feature film debut with Pariah, and by all accounts, it’s a helluva coming out party (no pun intended). Pariah is the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye, Half Nelson), a teenager struggling to reconcile her sexual identity with that of her personas as daughter, friend, lover, and budding adult. Kim Wayans completely abandons her “shitty Wayans movies” roots in her turn as Alike’s judgmental mother, Audrey. Pariah has been getting crazy amazing reviews and Rees just took the Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham Awards.
Steven Spielberg brings us the tale of two young friends in war-torn Europe, during World War I. When the war comes to England, Albert and Joey are wrenched apart and Albert finds himself on a dangerous mission across Europe to find and reunite with Joey. The two will struggle against the odds and defy any who get in their way in order to be together again. It’s an epic story of love, loyalty and courage between a man and his…horse.
I’m sorry—I know War Horse is already receiving crazy accolades and it looks gorgeous, but c’mon with that advertising. Replace the horse with a person and you have a classic war time romance.
I’m actually not sure that this is when Albert Nobbs is having its LA/NYC Oscar-qualifying run. I’ve seen it listed as December 21 and 28 and also not listed at all. So since there’s a mystery I am completely unwilling to unravel, we’re leaving it on December 28. It opens in January to general audiences, though. Anywho, this is Glenn Close’s cross-dressing movie in which she plays a woman in 19th century Ireland who masquerades as a man to work as a butler. Close’s performance has been getting strong reviews but the movie itself isn’t getting the same positive notice. Mia Wasikowska and that beautiful English boy who keeps knocking up his creepily older girlfriend, Aaron Johnson, also star.
The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep makes a bid for her nine millionth Oscar nomination as Margaret Thatcher, the steely English prime minister from the 1980’s. I love Meryl and I know she occupies a pretty well sacrosanct position in pop culture, but um…this looks like a lot of try, right? Kind of…cartoony, even. Remember when Hilary Swank made that bit of award bait, Amelia? It’s not that Swank sucked as Amelia Earheart, it’s that the movie around her was so obvious and awful that it didn’t matter whether or not she did a good job—the movie sucked. I’m thinking that The Iron Lady = Amelia.
New York and LA only.
Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi has been getting rave reviews for A Separation all year. The story follows a husband and wife, Nader and Simin, who are separated because Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to leave Iran but Nader (Peyman Mooadi) wants to stay because of his ailing father. When Simin leaves Nader, he hires Razieh (Sareh Bayet) as a caretaker and things unravel from there. A Separation is supposed to be really good but it comes with a strong depression warning. Because it’s really, really depressing.