In this chapter I look at a remake of a British crime caper classic, a flashy big-budget detective noir about the L.A. mob in the 40's, an acclaimed doco about Israeli intelligence, a more grounded "G.I. Joe" sequel, a coming of age tale set against the Cuban Missile Crisis, a film with Charlie Sheen basically playing himself, a dramedy with a slightly more serious Kristen Wiig, and the fifth film in the "Die Hard" series.
Cast: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci
Director: Michael Hoffman
Analysis: A remake of the classic 1966 crime caper film with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, this new version comes from the pen of the Coen Brothers. Opting not to direct, several helmers were attached in recent years until "The Last Station," "Soapdish," and "Promised Land" director Michael Hoffman was locked down and shooting took place in 2011.
The original starred Caine as a cat burglar who uses the help of a Hong Kong showgirl (MacLaine) to steal a priceless antique from the world's richest man (Herbert Lom), and everything that can go wrong does. This new take replaces them with Firth as a British art curator and Diaz as a Texas rodeo queen who team to sell off a fake Monet painting to England's richest man (Alan Rickman).
Producer Mike Lobell has been trying to get the film made for over a decade. The Coens' script was long considered one of the great unproduced scripts circling Hollywood since it was first penned back in 2003. On the flip side, their last attempt to adapt a classic British caper film was "The Ladykillers" which is often considered the worst film the duo has ever made.
Will this be a repeat? Opening in the UK last month, the film got slammed by critics for having no actual laughs, despite the often puerile jokes. Recurring comments include the leads having no chemistry, half-hearted performances all around, and frequent failed attempts to play out very dated broad farce and screwball comedy to no effect. Already at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, this looks to be dead on arrival.
Opens: January 11th 2013
Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Analysis: An impressively cast ensemble true story crime drama, Fleischer's film follows a secret "off the record" police task force in the 1940s and 50s as they try to keep the east coast mob from moving into Los Angeles. In particular, high-profile gangster Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen (Penn) who was a member of the so-called "Jewish Mafia."
Joining the actor names mentioned above in supporting roles are the likes of Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Troy Garity. Former L.A. cop and novelist Will Beall penned the script which "Zombieland" helmer Fleischer directs. Fleischer says he aims to make an iconic gangster movie that uses the L.A. setting as a key element of the action.
Considering Fleischer's career has been made on mostly action comedies, many were wondering how he would go handling both dramatic and period elements. The first trailers came out and the surprise was mostly about the glossy sheen on display - it's a stylised and flashy piece which plays up the period elements and look - think a more glamorous and less complicated "L.A. Confidential." Fleischer admitted they took some liberties with the true story aspect which is ultimately about the Penn/Brolin face-off for the future of Los Angeles.
Things changed in July though in the wake of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. The key set piece of the movie involved mob goons shooting submachine guns at moviegoers through the screen of Grauman's Chinese Theater. The scene was featured prominently in the trailer, a trailer that was quickly yanked from release. The sequence is crucial to the story though, which caused the studio to call in everyone for a week of reshoots which shifted the setting of the gunfight to L.A.'s Chinatown district.
This pushed the film back from its original early Fall bow to a January release date. Costing a fairly high $75 million, the studio now faces another problem in the form of a media re-examining the influence of violent movies in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. As the first major movie release of the year, this has become an unexpected gamble for the studio. A carefully considered campaign has to be in place as things move forward, and hopefully the film itself will be strong enough that people will consider it on its own merit.
Opens: February 1st 2013
Cast: Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri
Director: Dror Moreh
Analysis: Dror Moreh's acclaimed documentary explores Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service - the domestic counterpart to its more well-known external intelligence branch the Mossad. Inspired by Errol Morris’s Oscar-winning documentary "The Fog of War," which extensively interviewed famed U.S. Defense secretary Robert McNamara, Moreh decided to try something similar and even more ambitious. His goal was to get at least several of the former heads of Shin Bet to appear on camera and discuss their work.
The surprise is that he was able to land six of them to participate, including Yuval Diskin who was in charge of the organisation at the time of the interview. Assembled in a loose chronological order, the film consists of seven segments which cover key events such as the agency's rise to prominence during the Six Day War, the "300 bus" incident, the assassinations of Yahya Ayyash and Yitzhak Rabin, and the peace process in the wake of the Oslo Accords and during the Second Intifada.
Issues of torture, collateral damage and the morality of targeted assassinations are also delved into, and result in some surprisingly personal confessions from these former giants of what remains a highly secretive organisation. It took three years to produce the final film which assembles interview footage, archival footage and CG animated recreations. The result drew unanimous raves from critics at the various film festivals it played at during the Fall. Sony Classics are now giving it a limited theatrical bow in early February.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Opens: March 29th 2013
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson
Director: Jon Chu
Analysis: Stephen Sommers' 2009 franchise launcher "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" was like much of the director's work - overstuffed with characters and ridiculous in the extreme. It was a CG-fuelled kiddie movie of cartoonish violence and sillier performances that bore very little relation to the actual G.I. Joe toy and cartoon franchise. Grossing $300 million worldwide on a costly budget of $175 million, Paramount's announcement of a sequel surprised many.
"Zombieland" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the script, "Step Up" series director Jon Chu took over the helm, and the cast underwent a big shake-up with only five actors from the first film - Channing Tatum, Lee Byung-hun, Ray Park, Arnold Vosloo and Jonathan Pryce - reprising their roles here. Instead, both The Rock and Bruce Willis have been enlisted with the latter playing the original Joe himself - General Joe Colton.
What can be seen is something a bit more grounded in reality than the previous film - less about Saharan secret bases and super CG submersibles, and more about straightforward action. The plot is fairly routine - the G.I. Joes are framed as traitors and are all seemingly wiped out. The few that remain must stop Cobra from taking control of nuclear missiles and launching them at various cities. Even so, there's still a goofy appeal here with sequences such as ninjas sword fighting whilst hanging from ropes along the sides of a sheer cliff.
The film made major headlines back in May when, one month before its scheduled release, it was pushed back a whopping nine months. Officially the delay was to both add 3D and boost the international marketing campaign. Unofficially, word was that test screenings for the film did not go so well. Some extensive reshoots were done to work back in Channing Tatum's character who originally died quite early on in the film. Between the time of shooting and the time of release, Tatum's star had soared and he suddenly became a big asset.
It is expected he will now take on a more substantial role in the final product. With a budget hovering at around $185 million, this is a big gamble for Paramount. Ultimately though they did the right thing, giving the film necessary breathing room instead of letting it become a casualty at this year's overcrowded Summer box-office. How the final product will fare we'll have to wait and see, but for now I've considerably more anticipation for this sequel than I had for anything I saw in the lead up to the first film.
Girl Most Likely
Opens: July 19th 2013
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annette Benning, Darren Criss, Matt Dillon, Natasha Lyonne
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Analysis: Many of us suspected it would only be a matter of time before former SNL star Kristen Wiig broke out and made it big - in 2011 she did just that with the success of "Bridesmaids". Now she's been able to translate that success into making this passion project which she's been keen to do for some time. She's also managed to convince Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who helmed HBO's "Cinema Verite," to come onboard and direct it.
Previously titled "Imogene," Wiig plays a modestly successful New York playwright who stages a fake suicide attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately this leads to her being put into the custody of her estranged and gambling-addicted mother (Benning) to try and shake some sense back into her. Thrown into the mix is her outright odd brother (Chris Fitzgerald), a hunky tenant (Darren Criss), and her mom’s new boyfriend who claims to be a CIA agent (Matt Dillon).
Reviews out of Toronto were mixed with a lot of praise for the performances, especially Wiig giving a low-key and subtle take, that overcome the deficiencies of Michelle Morgan's script. Described as sitcom-esque and contrived, with jokes revolving around the differences between New Jersey and New York residents, reactions varied considerably depending upon how the reviewers felt about the actors. All had issues with the story and dramatic turn of the third act, the degree to which they complained though varied considerably.
A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III
Opens: February 8th 2013
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Katheryn Winnick, Patricia Arquette
Director: Roman Coppola
Analysis: It's interesting how timing works out. Ten years ago Roman Coppola's debut film "CQ" opened to solid reviews and little box-office, meaning that it quietly disappeared. Now, back with his second feature, this one is guaranteed not to suffer the same unfair fate. Even with a high profile cast though, the sad fact is that attention is being paid due to its leading man - Charlie Sheen. Not only does this mark his first major onscreen role since leaving "Two and a Half Men" and the subsequent tabloid meltdown, the story seems to mirror aspects of his life.
In 'Swan,' Sheen plays a successful 1970s graphic designer who is irresistible to women. He soon slinks into a spiral of self-doubt and depression after being dumped, and must turn his life around. If it works, this could put Sheen firmly back on the comeback trail. While some frown upon his ego and personality, the man still has a major fan base which will likely come out in force for this. Add in a raft of impressive cameos, even some of the Sheen-haters might take a look as well.
Screened at the Rome Film Festival, reviews were actually pretty good, with plenty of praise for the period recreation and the film's production values. The full on fantasy scenes, infantile and sexualised dreams that the character becomes a part of to escape his despair, sound like fun. Script issues however, namely the lack of both a solid story and the title character's development, were cited as the film's major drawbacks.
Gods Behaving Badly
Cast: Christopher Walken, Alicia Silverstone, Oliver Platt, Sharon Stone, Edie Falco
Director: Marc Turtletaub
Analysis: "Percy Jackson: A Romantic Comedy"? Sounds like it with this film adaptation of Marie Phillips' comedic novel which sets up the premise that the Greek Gods are alive, dysfunctional and living in a brownstone in modern London (which will be changed to New York City for this film). It's there that a young couple (Silverstone and Ebon Moss-Bachrach) encounter them and soon their budding relationship, and the world as we know it, threatens to crumble.
The book scored a lot of praise for its comedy - the gods portrayed as seedy, down on their luck has-beens. An impressive cast are set to play the Olympian pantheon including Christopher Walken (Zeus), John Turturro (Hades), Sharon Stone (Aphrodite), Oliver Platt (Apollo), Edie Falco (Artemis), Phylicia Rashad (Demeter), Nelsan Ellis (Dionysus), Gideon Glick (Eros), Henry Zebrowski (Hermes) and Rosie Perez (Persephone).
As a premise it's quite promising, and actually would be better suited for a sitcom rather than a one-off film. The question now is if debut director Marc Turtletaub has the chops to keep the edge and humor or if it will be toned down in order to appeal to more regular rom-com fans. Whatever the case, the film has seen some delays as it was shot in Summer 2011, and then underwent reshoots a few months ago. Independently funded, it's only expected to get a limited release sometime early in 2013.
A Good Day to Die Hard
Opens: February 14th 2013
Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Cole Hauser, Sebastian Koch, Amaury Nolasco
Director: John Moore
Analysis: After twelve years of dormancy, 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard" revived the franchise. The lack of director John McTiernan, lack of Bruce Willis' hair, the toning down of the violence to PG-13 levels, and some CG assisted athleticism gave the film a different feel to those that had come before. Still, the critics liked it, and the worldwide box-office was solid with a $383.5 million haul. Good enough that Fox soon began work on a fifth entry in the series.
With the fourth film introducing us to a now adult Lucy McClane (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), it seemed logical that the fifth one would incorporate John's son Jack as a young adult. At the same time, there was talk that the action would be set outside the United States for the first time, allowing the fish-out-of-water comedy of seeing John McClane living up to the stereotype of the worst kind of tourist - loud, bombastic, arrogant and ignorant of the culture around him.
Lo and behold, the speculation was right with the plot revealed to involve John McClane heading to Moscow to find his wayward son. Turns out Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist by a Russian crime boss. Young Aussie actor Jai Courtney, seen in small roles in Starz' "Spartacus: Blood & Sand" and more recently "Jack Reacher," beat out more well-known names to play the younger McClane.
He's a solid choice, with more concern likely to be focused on the film's writer Skip Woods ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Swordfish") and director John Moore ("Max Payne," "Behind Enemy Lines"). While judgement is still out on the quality, the first trailers certainly impressed with the scale. From scenes of massive destruction including multiple car bomb explosions, to a helicopter gun ship soaring over a cityscape - it all looks quite flash.
Though there's an over reliance on CG, there's also a welcome return of the irreverence of the series that was sorely missed in the last film. In fact, the shot of a villain (Cole Hauser) using a carrot like an orchestra conductor's wand has become something of an internet sensation - go figure. Is this the end? Willis said he'd be open to do a sixth film, but that would be the final outing of John McClane. In the meantime, let's hope 'Good Day' proves as much fun as the other odd-numbered entries in this series.
Get a Job
"Rodger Dodger" and "P.S." director Dylan Kidd has roped in an impressive cast for this comedy about a recent college graduate, his friends, and their attempts to secure employment in Los Angeles. This seems them having to lower their expectations about life as they enter the real world during a recession. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Cranston, Alison Brie, John Cho, Miles Teller, Marcia Gay Harden, John C. McGinley, Nicholas Braun, Jorge Garcia, Brandon T. Jackson and Bruce Davison all star in the film which wrapped a few months ago. No word on a release as yet, but a festival premiere mid-year sounds the likeliest possibility.
No, not a remake of the Steve McQueen classic. Rather, this is a fairly ordinary looking thriller from director Courtney Solomon ("An American Haunting," "Captivity") in which Ethan Hawke plays a burned out race car driver whose wife is kidnapped. His only hope to save her is to follow the orders of the mysterious voice (Jon Voight) who is watching his movements through cameras mounted on the car he's driving. His only ally is a young hacker (Selena Gomez). Warners is essentially dumping the film in theatres at the end of August, and so far there's been nothing shown from it that could generate any real interest.
Ginger and Rosa
"Orlando" director Sally Potter returns to helm this 1960s coming-of-age tale which opened in the UK this past October and hits internationally early in 2013. American Elle Fanning and Australian Alice Englert star as young British teenagers who grow up fast as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms in the background. Things take a morally tricky turn when the underage Rosa falls for Ginger’s writer dad (Alessandro Nivola). An impressive supporting cast play mentor or parental figures here including Annette Bening, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt. Decent, but restrained reviews in the British press praised the two girls. They were more mixed on some of the adults, and many mentioned problems of pacing, self-consciousness and indulgence on Potter's part.
Girls Against Boys
A brutal indie revenge movie in which naïve college student Shae (Danielle Panabaker), preyed on by a number of men, teams up with her bartender co-worker Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) to get revenge. Their graphic murder spree doesn't just include their attackers, but soon any man unlucky enough to cross their path. When Lu’s truly sadistic side starts to emerge, Shae finds herself struggling to survive. Michael Stahl-David ("Cloverfield") is one of the victims in the film which became something of a SXSW favorite back in March for its more psychological character-driven approach than other films of this type. Anchor Bay picked up the film, which is getting a limited bow on February 1st.
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