In this volume I explore the sixth film in the "Fast and the Furious" series, a psychedelic English civil war film from the director of "Kill List," Disney's CG animated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" story, a true story crime drama about a wealthy scion getting too involved with wrestling, a darkly comic look at a misogynistic Scottish cop, and the most recent effort from the geniuses at Studio Ghibli.
Opens: May 24th 2013
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans
Director: Justin Lin
Analysis: Who would have thought it? By the fifth entry in a film series, the audience knows what to expect and those in charge aren't keen to shake things up lest they chip away at their fan base. That's why 2011's "Fast Five" came as quite a shock with its fresh and fun approach. The filmmakers essentially dumped the "Point Break"-lite storylines and niche underground street racing elements. Instead, they opted for a wide-appealing action-toned ensemble heist film with an international flavour. They also kept the elements that worked such as the key cast members, the flash cars, and the unintentional undercurrent of machismo meets homoeroticism.
This fifth film's grander locales, the ambitious and more practical set pieces, and some key casting additions all clicked beautifully - resulting in easily the most profitable film of the franchise with $626 million worldwide. It also scored many of the best reviews of the series, revitalising a brand that was seen as tired and over. As a result, both a sixth and seventh film in the series quickly went into development after those involved realised they would need more than one movie to tie up the storylines and characters.
A seventh film is a while off though, plans to shoot it back-to-back dumped shortly after they were first suggested, and "Fast Six" is being developed as its own beast. Story details are scarce, but it is certain that this will revolve around the group of characters from the last one re-assembling for another heist - this time in Europe. Dwayne Johnson's memorably macho Agent Luke Hobbs is also coming back, though the colder climate means we'll miss the light sweaty sheen he seemed to sport throughout F5.
Also back for this outing is Michelle Rodriguez's Letty, seemingly killed in the fourth film and revealed to be alive in the last one. Johnson's character gets a new agent in the form of MMA fighter Gina Carano who impressed with her debut performance this year in "Haywire." There's also "The Raid" actor Joe Taslim as a "cold-blooded killer who fights using martial arts and parkour."
If "Fast Five" lacked in one area it was the villain. While Johnson was a blast, Joaquim de Almeida's Brazilian drug lord and his anonymous henchmen were a bit of a wash. The filmmakers have instead come up with a different angle this time - a rival team attempting to pull off the same robbery. Well-groomed Welshman Luke Evans heads this group, the actor replacing the once linked Jason Statham. Shot in London, Los Angeles, Tenerife and Glasgow - this entry hits Memorial Day weekend and is expected to be one of Summer's box-office juggernauts.
A Field in England
Cast: Julian Barratt, Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith, Peter Ferdinando, Ryan Pope
Director: Ben Wheatley
Analysis: One filmmaker who has outright exploded onto the scene this year is Ben Wheatley. While his 2009 debut film "Down Terrace" scored him plenty of notice, his 2011 hitman drama meets crazy "Wicker Man" cult tale "Kill List" became an acclaimed cult hit by the time it opened internationally earlier this year. Boasting a chilling atmosphere of dread and excellent performances, it is a stunning work that has easily made my 'Best Films of 2012' list.
Wheatley followed that up with the darkly comic "Sightseers" the other month which has already nabbed awards and strong reviews as well. For his 2013 effort, the filmmaker delivers a psychedelic horror yarn set during the English Civil War in the 17th century. The action follows a group of deserters who flee a battle. They soon encounter a treasure-hunting alchemist, and a patch of strange mushrooms - after which things take a turn for the decidedly weird.
Shot in black-and-white and filmed in the space of just two weeks on a field in Surrey, the film is currently in post ahead of a late 2013 release. Despite the dark sounding premise, there will likely be humorous elements as well as Wheatley is employing various British TV comedy talents in supporting roles. Wheatley jokes that "there's quite a lot of penises in it, and quite a lot of muskets." Sounds like plenty of cocks and cocking for everyone - fantastic.
Cast: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan
Director: Jon S. Baird
Analysis: Jon S. Baird ("Cass") adapts "Trainspotting" author Irvine Welsh's controversial "Filth" for the big screen, with actor James McAvoy no doubt relishing the chance to play a bipolar bigoted junkie Edinburgh cop. The character is an utterly despicable prick, a sexually abusive misogynist who would be the absolute worst kind of co-worker. It's an odd leading character, but that's the nature of the surreal black comedy within the book itself - the kind where a tapeworm living inside the main character gets its own monologue.
Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, Eddie Marsan and a ton of other great British actors all pop up for roles in the film which starts out dealing with a murder, and ultimately becomes a complicated storyline about ex-wives and the cop's own past. It's an ambitious film and a highly secretive one which was shot early 2012 and is still awaiting a concrete release date. McAvoy's performance will likely draw high praise, the question is if the rest of the film around him will either be a piece of inspired genius or an eccentric outright failure.
Cast: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave
Director: Bennett Miller
Analysis: "Capote" director Bennett Miller, and that film's scribes E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, re-team for this true crime drama. Steve Carell has been cast as John du Pont, heir to the du Pont chemical fortune and a paranoid schizophrenic who built a wrestling gym called Team Foxcatcher on his Pennsylvania estate so that the U.S. Olympic team could train. In 1996, he shot and killed his close friend, gold medal-winning wrestler David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), at the training centre.
After the murder, du Pont locked himself in his mansion for two days while he negotiated with police on the telephone. A motive for the crime was never established, and du Pont himself died in 2010 in a Pennsylvania prison at the age of 72. Also onboard are Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller as Schultz's brother and wife respectively. Tatum has said that the film is the single most challenging acting role of his career so far.
Currently shooting in Pennsylvania, photos leaked from the set are surprising. While Tatum looks much like he always has, Ruffalo sports an interesting half-bald hairdo. Carell meanwhile has lost a bunch of weight and greyed his hair, becoming almost recognisable in the process. Boasting a stellar supporting cast and Miller's track record, this looks like it could be a potential awards contender next year.
Cast: Katie Coseni, Ali Liebert, Claire Mazerolle, David Patrick Green, Kent Nolan
Director: Laurent Cantet
Analysis: Previously adapted into a 1996 film that marked one of the earliest roles for Angelina Jolie, Joyce Carol Oates’ novel "Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang" follows five young girls who form their own 'gang' celebrating female pride. They start by carrying out what is initially basic pranks and mild vandalism, but it soon escalates to assault, car theft and ultimately kidnapping.
The earlier film made numerous changes to the book including swapping the setting from 1950s upstate New York to the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. The timeline was compressed from years to weeks, the girls come from nicer homes, and the stunts they pull are fairly tame. This version marks "The Class" director Cantet’s English language debut and sticks closer to the source material including keeping the original 50's NYC setting and the darker tone.
The cast are all unknowns, not even the supporting roles are filled out with any familiar names, so it all depends upon a strong script, direction and solid performances. Unfortunately reviews out of Toronto this past Fall were mixed at best. The acting has been slammed as inconsistent, the 143 minute runtime as needlessly excessive, and the tone as forced and inert. Though it has been picked up for distribution in Europe, it's still trying to find a home in the United States.
From Up On Poppy Hill
Opens: March 15th 2013
Cast: Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Ron Howard, Jeff Dunham, Gillian Anderson
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Analysis: Studio Ghibli's latest feature, and the highest-grossing Japanese film of 2011 with a $56 million haul, finally comes to the United States and other western territories in early 2013. Much like "Only Yesterday" or "Ocean Waves," this is a smaller and quieter work from Ghibli with a real world setting and a youth-oriented focus. While this year's 'Arrietty' lovingly wallowed in the rich details of its 'world in miniature,' this one is all about recreating a simpler period in time.
Set in 1963 Yokohama in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics the following year, the story follows a high school girl living in a boarding house. She and a boy who works for the newspaper club decide to clean up the school's dilapidated 'Latin Quarter' clubhouse. Unfortunately the school's chairman intends to demolish the building and they must try to persuade him to change his mind.
Based on a 1980s manga, the helmer is Goro Miyazaki who is the son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki who co-founded the studio. Goro's first directorial effort, "Tales from Earthsea," is generally considered the worst film to have come out of the Japanese animation studio so far. Thankfully 'Poppy Hill' has received a more impressive reception, but the few early non-Japanese publication reviews from film festival screenings are still calling it mid-range Ghibli at best.
Pacing issues and awkwardly forced moments seem to be the most common criticisms, but all praise the film's atmosphere and historical period recreation. Also, a run-of-the-mill Ghibli film is still better than 90% of the other animated efforts on the market. The 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami almost stopped the film's production in its tracks, but Miyazaki and his animators pressed on, claiming it was their responsibility to do so. Despite the problems, they met their target date.
Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are producing this North American audio dub which includes such voice talents as Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Ron Howard, Jeff Dunham, Gillian Anderson, Chris Noth, Isabelle Fuhrman, Emily Osment, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Christina Hendricks and Aubrey Plaza amongst others.
Opens: November 27th 2013
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Analysis: They made a fortune off of his "The Little Mermaid," now Disney Pictures is tackling the Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen" in this 3D CG animated musical fantasy-comedy that will open in time for Thanksgiving 2013. Kristen Bell voices the twelfth Disney Princess, Anna the Ice Princess. When Anna is cursed by her estranged sister, the cold-hearted Snow Queen Elsa (Menzel), her only hope of reversing it is to survive a perilous, but thrilling journey across an icy and unforgiving landscape.
Joining her is the rugged, thrill-seeking outdoorsman Kristoff (Groff), his one-antlered reindeer and a hapless snowman. She must conquer the elements and battle an army of frozen sinister warriors if she ever hopes to melt the Queen's frozen heart. All three are expected to sing and speak in their roles, with the original songs provided by Broadway's Robert Lopez ("Avenue Q") and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
The Frozen Ground
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens, Radha Mitchell, 50 Cent
Director: Scott Walker
Analysis: On paper this $27 million thriller has a strong premise. The true story centers on the early 80's investigation of Robert Hansen (Cusack), a respected family man who systematically abducted some two dozen women and flew them into the Alaskan wilderness where he released and then hunted them.
The film will follow the case and the investigations of an Alaskan State Trooper (Cage) who, with the help of one of Hansen's victims who escaped (Hudgens), sets out to bring the man to justice. Shot in and around Anchorage, the stark scenery combined with the fact that this actually happened makes for a compelling tale. Yet newcomer Walker's script has received some mixed reviews.
The casting of the likes of Cage, Hudgens and 50 Cent brings all sorts of baggage, and producer Emmett Furla Films have so far released various disappointing thrillers. Cage's record in this genre of late - "Seeking Justice," "Trespass," and "Stolen" - has been terrible, even with decent casts involved in each. A leaked and then pulled early promo trailer showed good footage, but did the film no favors with some god awful editing. The delay of this from December to an unspecified early 2013 date is also not a good sign, but I hope it will surprise.
Actor John Turturro jumps back into writing & directing with this recently wrapped indie comedy in which he decides to become a professional male prostitute as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend Murray (Woody Allen). With Murray as his "manager," the duo quickly find themselves caught up in this unexpected business. At the same time, they try to keep at bay the suspicions of the Hasidic Jewish community in which they live. Their clientele will include characters played by the impressive likes of Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis and Sharon Stone. Allen reportedly rewrote and edited sections of the script so it'll be interesting to see what kind of tone this will set.
Fellini Black and White
Another film in pre-production to begin shooting very early 2013 for a potential end of year festival run is Henry Bromell‘s indie biopic of legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini. The story is set in Los Angeles in March 1957 and deals with the 48 hours that Fellini went missing right before attending the Oscars where his film "Nights of Cabiria" was nominated. Wagner Moura will play the director, also onboard is Nina Arianda as his wife, William H. Macy as his publicist, Terrence Howard as a jazz musician, Abbie Cornish as the veterinarian Fellini briefly falls for, and Peter Dinklage as the vet's husband.
After a strong debut with his 2007 "cop with tinnitus" thriller "Noise," Australian filmmaker Matthew Saville returns to the big screen for another project centered around a troubled law enforcer. This time out it's Joel Edgerton in the lead as a decorated Sydney police officer who lies about a running a cyclist off the road after having a celebratory drink with his fellow officers. Edgerton penned the script for the project which also stars Tom Wilkinson, Melissa George and Jai Courtney. Having just finished shooting, I'd expect a release in Australia later this year and maybe a festival premiere in the Fall.
Fill the Void
Israel's official foreign language entry for this year's Oscars, Rama Burshtein’s directorial debut failed to make its way into the final round of voting. Nevertheless the film had a great run of success on the Fall film festival circuit where Sony Pictures Classics acquired it for North American distribution. I expect they'll give this the same treatment they gave to last year's Israeli Oscar nominee "Footnote." The story itself centers on a young Orthodox Hasidic girl whose family is struck by tragedy when her older sister dies in childbirth just as the young girl is about to be married. When her older sister's husband is pressured to remarry, her mother makes a shocking proposal - will the young girl now be forced to raise her nephew as her own?
Short film director Ryan Coogler ventures into features with this indie drama that sports an impressive cast and Forest Whitaker as a producer. Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, Chad Michael Murray, Kevin Durand, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz star in the true story tale of the murder of 22-year old Oscar Grant. Grant was a Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. The film was a success story of the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab program, and so is understandably scheduled to have its world premiere in Park City next month.
Volume A: The ABC's of Death, About Last Night, About Time, Admission, A.C.O.D., Adult World, After Earth, Afternoon Delight, Aftershock, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, All Is Lost, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, The Angriest Man In Brooklyn, Angry Little God, Are We Officially Dating?, As I Lay Dying, Ass Backwards, At Any Price, August: Osage County, Austenland
Volume B: Backmask, Baggage Claim, Bailout: The Age of Greed, Battle of the Year, Beautiful Creatures, Before Midnight, Belle, The Best Offer, Better Living Through Chemistry, Beyond The Hills, Big Sur, The Big Wedding, Black Dog Red Dog, The Black Marks, Bling Ring, Blood Ties, The Brass Teapot, Breathe In, Broken City, Bullet to the Head, The Butler, Byzantium
Volume C: The Call, Can a Song Save Your Life?, The Canyons, Captain Phillips, Carol, Carrie, A Case of You, Cavalry, CBGB, Chavez, Child of God, Chinese Zodiac, Closed Circuit, Closer to the Moon, Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers, C.O.G., The Colony, Come Out and Play, The Company You Keep, The Congress, Concussion, The Counselor, The Coup, The Croods, Crystal Fairy
Volume D: Dallas Buyers Club, Dark Blood, Dark Skies, Dead Man Down, Decoding Annie Parker, The Deep, Delivery Man, Despicable Me 2, Devil’s Knot, The Devil's Rapture, Diana, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His & Hers, Disconnect, Dom Hemingway, Don Jon's Addiction, Dorothy of Oz, The Double, Drift, Drinking Buddies, Driven
Volume E: The East, Eden, Elsa and Fred, Elysium, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, Emperor, Empire State, Empires of the Deep, Ender's Game, The English Teacher, Epic, Errors of the Human Body, Escape From Planet Earth, The Europa Report, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, Everything Will Be Fine, Evil Dead
Volume G: Part 1: Gambit, Gangster Squad, The Gatekeepers, Get a Job, Getaway, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Ginger and Rosa, Girls Against Boys, Girl Most Likely, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Gods Behaving Badly, A Good Day to Die Hard
Volume G: Part 2: Graceland, The Grand Masters, Grand Piano, The Grand Seduction, Grave of the Fireflies, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, The Green Blade Rises, A Green Story, Greetings from Tim Buckley, Growing Up (and Other Lies), Grown Ups 2
Volume H: The Hangover Part III, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, The Heat, Hell and Back, Hell Baby, Her, Hidden, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Homefront, Horns, The Host, The Host 2, How I Live Now, Hummingbird, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunt
Volume I: I Frankenstein, The Identical, Identity Thief, I'm So Excited, In a World, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, In Fear, Inside Llewyn Davis, Insidious Chapter Two, Interior Leather Bar, The Internship, In the Blood, The Invisible Woman, Iron Man 3
Volume J-K: Jack Ryan, Jack the Giant Slayer, Java Heat, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, Jimmy Picard, jOBS, Jurassic Park 3D, Justin and the Knights of Valour, K-11, Kick-Ass 2, Kid Cannabis, Kill Your Darlings, Kiss of the Damned, Kon-Tiki, Knight of Cups
Volume L: Part 1: Labor Day, The Last Days On Mars, The Last Exorcism: Part II, The Last Stand, Last Vegas, Laurence Anyways, Leo the Lion, Leviathan, Le Weekend, Libertador, The Lifeguard, Like Someone in Love, The Little Mermaid 3D, The Loft
Volume L: Part 2: London Project, The Lone Ranger, Lone Survivor, The Longest Week, Long Time Gone, A Long Way Down, The Look of Love, The Lords of Salem, Lore, Love and Honor, Love is All You Need, Lovelace, Lowlife, Lullaby, Luv
Volume M: Part 1: Machete Kills, Magic Magic, Malavita, Mama, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Maniac, Man of Steel, Man of Tai Chi, The Man Who Sold the World, A Many Splintered Thing, Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box, Mary Mother Of Christ, May in the Summer, McCanick, Meet Me In Montenegro, Milo
Volume M: Part 2: Mindscape, Mobius, Mockingbird, Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist, Monsters University, The Monuments Men, Mood Indigo, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, A Most Wanted Man, Mother of George, Movie 43, Mr. Morgan’s Last Love, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Much Ado About Nothing, Mud, Mystery Road
Volume N: Nebraska, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Night Moves, Nina, No, No One Lives, No Place on Earth, Non-Stop, Northern Soul, Not Safe for Work, Now You See Me, The Numbers Station, Nymphomaniac
Volume O-P: Part 1: Oblivion, Oculus, Odd Thomas, Oldboy, Olympus Has Fallen, One Direction Concert Movie, One Square Mile, Only God Forgives, Only Lovers Left Alive, Open Windows, Out of the Furnace, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Pacific Rim, Pain and Gain, The Paradise Trilogy, Paranoia, Parker, Parkland, Passion, The Past, The Patience Stone
Volume P: Part 2: Pawn, Pawn Shop Chronicles, Penthouse North, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Phantom, The Physician, Pieta, The Place Beyond The Pines, Planes, Plastic Jesus, The Playroom, Plush, Post Tenebras Lux, Prince Avalanche, Prisoners, The Prophet, The Purge
Volume Q-R: The Quiet Ones, The Railway Man, The Rambler, Random, Reality, RED 2, Red Light Winter, Red Machine, Red Wing, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Reykjavik, R.I.P.D., Riddick, The Rover, Runner Runner, Rush
Volume S: Part 1: S-V/H/S, The Sacrament, Safe Haven, Saving Mr. Banks, Scary Movie 5, The Scribbler, The Sea, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Serena, The Seventh Son, Side Effects, Sightseers, Simon Killer, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, A Single Shot, Small Apartments, Small Time, The Smurfs 2
Volume S: Part 2: Snitch, Snowpiercer, Someone Marry Barry, Something in the Air, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Space Warriors, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, Starbuck, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars: Episode II & III 3D, Still Life, Stoker, Stories We Tell, Sweetwater, Syrup
Volume T: Part 1: Tar, Tarzan 3D, A Teacher, Thanks for Sharing, Therese Desqueyroux, Therese, They Came Together, They Die by Dawn, Third Person, This Is The End, Thor: The Dark World, A Thousand Times Good Night, Three Days To Kill, Three Worlds, The To Do List, Tom a la ferme, The Tomb, Tomorrow You're Gone
Volume T: Part 2: To The Wonder, Too Late, Touchy Feely, Toy’s House, Tracks, Trance, The Trials of Cate McCall, Trust Me, Turbo, Twelve Years A Slave, Twenty Feet From Stardom, Twice Born, Two Night Stand, The Two Faces of January, Two Mothers, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Tyler Perry Presents: We The Peeples
Volume U-W: Part 1: Under the Skin, Unforgiven, Untitled David O. Russell Project, Untitled Nicole Holofcener Project, Untitled Terrence Malick Film, Upstream Color, Venus in Fur, Very Good Girls, Virtually Heroes, Wadjda, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, War Witch, Warm Bodies, The Way Way Back, We Are What We Are, We're the Millers, Welcome to the Jungle, Welcome to the Punch, What Maisie Knew
Volume W: Part 2-Z: White Bird in a Blizzard, White House Down, The Wilderness of James, Winter Rose, Winter's Tale, Wish You Well, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Wolverine, Wolves, Words with Gods, World War Z, The World's End, You Are Here, You Can't Win, You're Next, You're Not You, The Young and Prodigious Spivet, The Zero Theorem