The Hangover: Part Two
Opens: May 26th 2011
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifinakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
Director: Todd Phillips
Summary: Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug travel to exotic Thailand for Stu's wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don't always go as planned.
Analysis: It really wasn't until about three months before its release that Warner Brothers realised "The Hangover" was going to be a hit. Test screening response was through the roof, while the trailer had great reaction after premiering at ShoWest and online. About that time they commissioned director Todd Phillips, along with his "Old School" and "Road Trip" scribe Scot Armstrong, to pen a sequel. Yet they still waited to see how the first one went before fully committing to the follow-up.
The wait didn't last long. The $35 million comedy scored a superb $44 million opening weekend and racked up over six times that domestically, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever in the United States. In international markets, where American comedies miss far more often than they hit, it pulled in an astonishing $190 million to deliver a worldwide global total of just under $470 million - a number that films which cost five times as much to make would envy.
No-one could've anticipated the sheer size of its success, and not only were sequel plans given the green light, but dates were quickly locked into place as the cast and Phillips scored better deals with considerable first dollar grosses. Rumors emerged of shooting in Bangkok, talk that was initially dismissed and later confirmed.
Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson are both returning from the original, while Paul Giamatti, Jamie Chung, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton are all set for small roles. However it the was casting of Mel Gibson late last year for a one day shoot as a Bangkok tattoo artist that caused a media storm. Word quickly emerged that the cast and crew were very much against Gibson's involvement in the movie, the revolt vocal enough that Phillips had to withdraw the offer and had Liam Neeson step in to replace Gibson.
As it stands now, the film suffers the obvious disadvantage of being a sequel. Whereas the first movie had little expectation until just before its release, the anticipation level for this is already sky high and so there's a lot of pressure to deliver better and bigger laughs. Yet with comedy surprise hits, rarely have we seen sequels that live up to the quality of the original.
Phillips' track record is strong but not flawless, his post-Hangover comedy "Due Date" this year misfiring with critics and not doing anywhere near the same level of business. I hope we'll be surprised with the quality of this, but until the marketing push begins and the early screening reaction starts flowing, we won't have a good idea either way.
Opens: April 8th 2011
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams
Director: Joe Wright
Summary: A teenage girl is raised and trained by her father, a rogue CIA operative hiding out in the wilds of Finland, to become the perfect assassin. Now she's been sent to kill a ruthless operative with secrets, and in the process uncovers the truth about her own existence.
Analysis: With spy thrillers firmly adopting the 'Bourne' trilogy as their role model in recent years, even James Bond wanted a bit of Matt Damon inside him in his last outing, we're now finally seeing several films hoping to break the genre free of that aesthetic and take it to new places. Some, like the new adaptation of John Le Carre's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", are going the full old school Cold War espionage road. Others however are trying more left field approaches like this film from "Atonement" and "Pride and Prejudice" director Joe Wright.
On paper, the description sounds rather bland and cliche. Yet a few weeks ago came the first trailer which surprised the hell out of everyone. Yes it's a spy thriller, but it's energetic, dark and filled with some fascinating imagery more akin to a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. Talking about the film back in October, Wright says he looked heavily to David Lynch for inspiration and this film allowed him to "play with that surrealist edge of my sensibility".
It's also a very "visceral and impactful" movie, filled with dark character humor and shocking rather than graphic violence. The original script by Seth Lochhead was picked up by Focus Features a little while back and was offered to Wright. He managed to land a stellar cast with "Lovely Bones" star Ronan as the titular girl (she in fact requested Wright be brought onto the project), Australians Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett as the mentor figure and antagonist respectively, and the likes of Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams and Niels Arestrup in key supporting roles.
Shot in Finland, Bavaria, Morocco, and Berlin, Wright says several of his trademark long steadicam shots are included, though none as obvious as his Dunkirk Beach sequence in "Atonement". The Chemical Brothers will be scoring the entire movie to provide a more "modern beat" says Wright, which should make for a unique soundtrack.
Ultimately the question is will the audience respond to it? A few months ago Anton Corbijn's "The American", a skilfully made low-key throwback to the minimalist thrillers of the 70's, met divided critical reaction but still managed a decent $64 million worldwide from a $20 million budget. "Hanna" should go further, the film has made the Black List of best unproduced screenplays twice, while acclaimed directors Danny Boyle and Alfonso Cuaron had previously been attached, giving you an idea of the pedigree that wanted to be a part of this.
Happy Feet 2
Opens: November 18th 2011
Cast: Elijah Wood, Pink, Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Hank Azaria
Director: George Miller
Summary: Mumble and Gloria now have a son of their own, Erik, who is struggling to find his own particular talents in the Emperor Penguin world. But new dangers are threatening the penguin nation, and it's going to take everyone working–and dancing–together to save them.
Analysis: With the overvalued dollar causing studios to avoid Australia like the plague, and the seeming lack of sheer competence at some of the most basic administrative levels of the organisations that make up the infrastructure of the local Australian film industry, one can certainly sympathise with filmmaker Dr. George Miller. The most steadfast champion of the local industry there is, he and many highly skilled workers here have struggled to get film productions into the country. Instead they keep hitting brick walls of elitist attitudes and draconian Government restrictions that seem tailor made to keep an industry in check, but instead threaten to cut it off at the knees.
One of the few success stories in recent years of big international productions shooting in Australia is Miller's own "Happy Feet". The 2006 American-Australian computer-animated family film scored strong reviews, $384 million in box-office worldwide, and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. So it came as little surprise that a sequel was commissioned, yet very little is actually known about the sequel at this point beyond the basic casting.
Pink will replace the late Brittany Murphy in the role of Gloria, and will also contribute a song or two for the soundtrack. Elijah Wood is back as Mumble and Robin Williams as Ramon & Lovelace. One interesting new addition will be Matt Damon and Brad Pitt as a pair of tiny krill. Elizabeth Daily, who played the young Mumble in the first film, will be voicing his son Erik in this. No footage or materials from the film have yet emerged, but release dates are already set with the penguins going head-to-head with the next entry in the "Twilight" franchise in November. Good luck.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two
Opens: July 15th 2011
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, John Hurt
Director: David Yates
Summary: Breaking into the Wizarding Bank Gringotts and then Hogwarts itself to destroy two more Horcruxes, our heroic trio find themselves in a final battle with Voldemort and his legions on the grounds of the school. It's a battle not all will survive.
Analysis: While narratively it probably wasn't the wisest course of action, economically the gamble of splitting the final "Harry Potter" story in two has paid off and them some for Warner Bros. Pictures. Though the cost of producing and marketing both "Deathly Hallows" films will altogether come in at over half a billion dollars, the first film has already earned over $900 million in global box-office alone after a little over six weeks in release.
By this time next year, both parts of 'Hallows' are expected to have garnered over a billion dollars each in box-office, and god knows how much more in disc sales and related merchandise. Certainly Warners coffers will be flushed for much of the next decade with the success of this film series. In polls all over the media, no single film of 2011 is more anticipated by people at large than this conclusion to the series.
How the audience and critical reaction will go though is a tad more unpredictable. While the previous six films were criticised by fans for cutting out various key story elements, subplots and characters from the books, the first part of 'Hallows' met the opposite reaction with one of the common complaints being that it dragged and could've easily been cut down.
Others had issues with the splitting of the film. Because it truly is one film split in half, it avoids the standard structures of filmmaking and so there's no real payoff to all the setup. In a way, watching the first part on its own is akin to coming into a season of heavily serialised television and watching the fourth and third last episodes by themselves - unless you'd seen the previous episodes recently you wouldn't have much of a clue as to what's going on, and you're not going to get much in the way of a satisfying conclusion either.
That's where 'Part 2' comes in. As everything comes to an end in grand and spectacular fashion, one can expect the reviews to be glowing. With two-thirds of the book over and done with, the second part almost entirely centers around the battle at Hogwarts once a quick heist at Gringott's at the start is pulled off. There'll no doubt be criticisms of the pace, I'd be shocked if this came in under two-and-a-half hours, but I'm definitely curious to see how it will affect the various opinions and reactions to the first part when it's all complete.
Whatever you think of the series, this is a cultural event. While the appeal of "Twilight" has rarely crossed the gender divide, the "Harry Potter" series has managed to become a cinematic touchstone for many people both young and old. The films themselves may have only reached the true heights of the genre once or twice, but they're also a remarkable achievement that at times don't get the respect they deserve. Whatever your feelings, will you be left out of the biggest movie event of the year?
Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Summary: When an operation goes awry in Dublin, freelance covert operative Mallory Kane finds she has been double crossed. She needs to use all of her skills, tricks and abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those that have betrayed her.
Analysis: Originally titled "Knockout", this marks a change of pace for Soderbergh with a throwback to two of best sub-genres in 70's cinema - exploitation and espionage films. One early review complimented David Holmes' score and called it a strong gritty spy thriller that probably isn't going to win any awards but is "pretty fine" nonetheless, another described it as "if Alfred Hitchock made a Pam Grier movie".
Working from a script by Lem Dobbs ("Dark City," "The Score," "The Limey"), Soderbergh has landed a bunch of major stars in supporting roles here including Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and Mathieu Kassovitz. The lead though isn't a big name in movies, but a famed athlete in her own right - Italian-American mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano who certainly looks the part of an action heroine.
Shot in Ireland earlier this year, a release date has yet to be locked in as there is question over whether Relativity Media will buy back distribution rights from Lionsgate so it can release the film through its new distribution arm. As of last month, Lionsgate says it still plans to release the film.
A Heartbeat Away
Cast: Sebastian Gregory, William Zappa, Tammy McIntosh, Colin Friels, Roy Billing
Director: Gale Edwards
Summary: A young aspiring rock guitarist is forced to become the musical director of the local marching band when his father is hit by a bus just four weeks before a major competition.
Analysis: Hoping to achieve the same success that "Bran Nue Dae" had early last year, this Queensland-produced $8 million Australian comedy/musical boasts a familiar scenario that hopes to draw in local audiences not keen on the limited release art house fare that constitutes most Australian films released locally. Certainly the trailer feels like a hybrid of "Brassed Off" with a teen romance musical about a young geek and the girl way out of his league.
Acclaimed stage director Gale Edwards makes her directorial debut on the feel good film so one would expect the musical numbers to be staged impressively, how she'll do with the rest of the story we'll have to wait and see. Hoyts Distribution will be giving the film a wide release across Australia in March, and its fortunes internationally will probably depend a lot upon how that goes.
Opens: August 12th 2011
Cast: Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Mike Vogel, Allison Janney
Director: Tate Taylor
Summary: Set in the early 1960's, a white college graduate uncomfortable with the current social norms of Mississippi at the time plans a book detailing the life of the various black maids in the area. Her research soon uncovers not just racism but cruelty and criminal action by white society women, some of them even her friends.
Analysis: It took five years of writing and rejects from nearly fifty literary agents, but Kathryn Stockett's debut novel in 2009 was a critical and commercial hit, spending at least a full year on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. When Dreamworks announced that production was to get underway on a film adaptation, a lot of people were very interested in who would be cast and how the adaptation would be done.
The results haven't pleased everyone. Though stocked with a swath of impressive acting talent both younger (Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Chris Lowell, Mike Vogel) and older (Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, Cicely Tyson, Dana Ivey, Leslie Jordan), there's been vocal criticism about the lack of genuine Southern actors in key roles.
There's also a question mark about actor turned filmmaker Tate Taylor. Not only is this only his second film as director after 2008's not well-received "Pretty Ugly People", but it's also a very high profile and demanding assignment which will be scrutinised to an extent most films don't come under. I wish him the best of luck because if this does work out, it'll put him quickly on the map of in-demand directors.
One bit of authenticity is the setting. The film was shot on location in Mississippi this past Summer, the most significant film production to hit the state since the Coens' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" a decade ago. However the town of Greenwood was used to portray 1960s-era Jackson for much of the shoot with only some pickups and external filming in real-life Jackson.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, James Caan, Vera Farmiga, Judy Greer, Peter Stormare
Director: Malcolm Venville
Summary: An unambitious toll collector is wrongly accused of a bank robbery in Buffalo. In prison, he finds a street smart friend and cellmate who becomes his partner in a real heist after they are released.
Analysis: Playing the film festival circuit this Fall, this $12 million self-actualisation comedy follows an apathetic man who finally finds emotional catharsis with the help of a cellmate (Caan) and later a stage actress (Farmiga) who nearly runs him over. An Anton Chekhov play the actress stars in is juxtaposed with the actual heist and the blooming romance.
Moving Pictures, who've generally handled home video titles thus far, made this their first official big title pick-up from Toronto this past year and are planning at least a decent sized theatrical run. Reviews out of the fest called it an enjoyable but low-key comedy that effectively changes expectations at several points in the first half before settling down into a conventional format.
Sacha Gervasi (director of "Anvil! The Story Of Anvil") penned while Malcolm Venville ("44 Inch Chest") directed the film in which Caan's performance in particular looks to be a highlight. Should be fun, but certainly not for everyone.
Cast: Ben Foster, Lubna Azabal, Narek Nersisyan
Director: Braden King
Summary: The story follows an American cartographer who is on assignment to create a new, more accurate satellite survey of Armenia. He soon forms a powerful bond with an Armenian expatriate and art photographer.
Analysis: Documentary filmmaker Braden King ("Dutch Harbor") shot this road trip-meets-romance adventure tale in Armenia back in mid-2009, the first ever American feature film set in that country. Using the diverse beauty of The Caucasus as a character in itself, "HERE" is no doubt going to be one of the most visually arresting indie films of this year and should make a big splash at its World Premiere at Sundance this month.
Various creative labs tied to the Sundance, Cannes and Tribeca Film Institutes have all leant their support to the project despite King not being a narrative storyteller by trade, which made "HERE" as much an explorative movie as anything else. As a result, this is being touted as a multi-platform experience with a triple-screen, hybrid film/concert sister project entitled "HERE [The Story Sleeps]" which premiered in April last year at MoMA and will potentially be making international tours. There's also the impressionistic short video series "Postcards from HERE" available on the film's website.
With the performances largely improvised, King has set out to make the true life locations highly integral to the storyline. The results took the crew on a winding journey from the capital Yerevan down to the towns along the Iranian border and back up into the disputed Nagorno Karabahk region.
He's also done a "series of brief interludes" that weave seamlessly in and out of the film, all shot by various "well-known avant-garde and experimental filmmakers" using their own methods to do short sequences showing "fictional tales of mythical explorers who map the land in fantastic ways". I'm not sure how this will be integrated into the narrative, we'll have to wait for the reviews to get a better idea of how this will all work. For now though, it sounds fascinating.
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, Donna Murphy, John Hawkes, Dagmara Dominczyk
Director: Vera Farmiga
Summary: A frustrated young mother turns to a fundamentalist community for answers. After years of dogma and loss, she must find the courage to ask the questions that will help her reclaim her life.
Analysis: Based on Carolyn S. Briggs' memoir "This Dark World," actress Vera Farmiga ("The Departed," "Up in the Air") makes her directorial debut on this film about how one woman's search for her own spiritual identity led her to become immersed in fundamentalist faith and then to abandon it two decades later. The book itself scored strong reviews, Briggs doesn't pander in her self-judgement about her change from a devoted Christian soldier to a freethinking woman forging her own spiritual path and life.
Using a script by "The Haunting in Connecticut" and "Kalifornia" writer Tim Metcalfe, Farmiga shot the indie film in New York City this past June and was joined by some great character actors like John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone," "Deadwood") and Donna Murphy ("Spider-Man 2," "Star Trek Insurrection"). Its pedigree led to it earning a competition slot at the Sundance Film Festival later this month where it's one of the most anticipated projects in the line-up.
Hobo with a Shotgun
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey
Director: Jason Eisener
Summary: A hobo hops from a train with dreams of a fresh life in a new city, but instead finds himself trapped in an urban hell. When he witnesses a brutal robbery, he realizes the only way to deliver justice is with a shotgun in his hands and two shells in the chamber.
Analysis: While my personal favourite was the 'female guitarist returns from the grave' piece Maiden of Death, it wasn't a huge surprise when the fake film trailer "Hobo with a Shotgun" won an international contest of user-submitted faux film trailers that tied in with Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse".
Now, following on the heels of Rodriguez's own fake trailer "Machete" becoming an actual film, 'Hobo' has been turned into a low-budget feature which was shot in Nova Scotia earlier this year and will have its world premiere at Sundance later this month. Dave Brunt, who played the homeless man in the trailer, is a cop in this one with the one and only Rutger Hauer taking on the part of the bum with a bloody grudge.
There was thought this would go direct-to-disc, but Magnet Releasing is planning a theatrical release, good news considering the good job they did with other films this year like "Centurion" and the well-received "Monsters". The filmmakers have certainly been making good use of online with various clips and behind-the-scenes promotional material getting a lot of coverage across key blogs and social networking sites. Still, the audience for this is fairly limited and it'll be a surprise if reviews from legit critics will be glowing with praise.
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Reaser, Alicia Silverstone
Director: Gavin Wiesen
Summary: George, a lonely and fatalistic teen who's made it all the way to his senior year without ever having done a real day of work, is befriended by Sally, a popular but complicated girl who recognizes in him a kindred spirit.
Analysis: A cute little rom-com marking Gavin Wiesen's directorial debut, the film is set to have its world premiere at Sundance next month. Shot back in April this year in New York City, its inclusion at Park City surprised mainly because there's practically nothing known about it. Yet the festival's selectors obviously liked it enough to allow its inclusion. Certainly the cast is strong as it includes the above named actors along with Sam Robards, Blair Underwood and Rita Wilson.
Opens: April 1st 2011
Cast: Russell Brand, James Marsden, Elizabeth Perkins, Chelsea Handler, Tiffany Espensen
Director: Tim Hill
Summary: Out-of-work slacker Fred O'Hare runs over the Easter Bunny while driving home, and is forced to take him in as he recovers. As Fred struggles with the world's worst house guest, both will learn what it takes to finally grow up, as Fred is pressed to partner with Bunny to save Easter.
Analysis: Illumination Entertainment's second feature is hoping to emulate the success of their first film - this year's "Despicable Me". From a relatively modest $69 million budget, 'Despicable' scored not just strong reviews but around $540 million at the box-office worldwide which made it one of the year's biggest international hits. Unlike that film however, this is a live action film with a CG character, which explains the involvement of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" director Tim Hill.
A specially made teaser trailer had a CG bunny playing drums to the tune of Blur's "Song 2", it was cute but gave no insight into the quality of the film at all. Russell Brand has done his usual arrogant quips in the press, cracking jokes about how he rather than Jesus will now own Easter. Ugh, I'm an atheist and I still want to punch his face in. 'Despicable' and "Horton Hears A Who" scribes Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio penned the script so there's some hope here.
Opens: July 29th 2011
Cast: Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston
Director: Seth Gordon
Summary: Three frustrated friends believe their employers are holding them back from their true potential and so conspire to murder each other's bosses with unexpected and rather calamitous results.
Analysis: A star-studded dark comedy with the potential to be a breakout hit, production on this first began on this back in 2005 at New Line. Since then however its undergone some big changes and in the process became a film a lot of big name stars were linked to at one time or another including the likes of Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeff Bridges.
Ultimately the trio of terrible bosses to be exterminated include Jennifer Aniston as a sexually aggressive dentist, Colin Farrell (with a horrible comb over) as a weaselly scion, and Kevin Spacey as a master manipulator. It's an impressive list, made even more interesting by the inclusion of the likes of Jamie Foxx as the man with the assassination plan, and the likes of Jason Bateman, SNL's Jason Sudeikis and "Always Sunny in Philadelphia" actor Charlie Day as the three friends.
Director Seth Gordon beat out Frank Oz and David Dobkin who were previously in talks to helm the project. While "Four Christmases" may have stunk to high heaven, Gordon still has a lot of love for his debut feature "The King of Kong" and his great job helming key episodes of recent acclaimed comedies like "Community," "Modern Family" and "Parks and Recreation".
Given the right material he can deliver, the material in this case is a script originally from Michael Markowitz which has since been rewritten by rising duo Jonathan M. Goldstein and "Bones" actor John Francis Daley. Test screenings for the film have yielded very positive reaction, in fact Aniston's role is thought to be one that'll become talked about along the lines of Tom Cruise's "Tropic Thunder" role.
The hope is that this keeps the comedy very dark. The premise is a bit "Office Space" meets "Throw Momma from the Train", but it's also ripe for some really subversive and boundary pushing humor. An R-rating is a must, if this is PG-13 it's unlikely to be of much interest to anyone.
Cast: Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-Jae Lee, Yuh-jung Youn, Seo Woo, Ahn Seo-hyeon
Director: Im Sang-soo
Summary: Eun-yi is hired as an upper class family housemaid. But soon enough, master of the house Hoon takes advantage of his social position by slipping into her sheets. Things spiral out of control from there, taking her and the family into dark places that not all may survive.
Analysis: Hollywood isn't the only place that likes the idea of remakes. This darkly comic South Korean erotic thriller, which competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes this past year, is a remake of Kim Ki-young's 1960 film of the same name. While the little seen original is considered one of the great films to come out of the country, this new incarnation hasn't received as rosy a reaction.
Screen called it "smart but shallow", lacking the suspense and "scary weirdness" that made the original so notorious. Instead, helmer Im Sang-soo has opted for a "stylised study of power", exploring the relationships of the extreme upper class. Yet while it may lack the tension of its progenitor, the slick production values and performances have been praised by various critics, while the sexuality is welcomely overt though overly dominated (no pun intended) by power plays and manipulation.
Certainly those who haven't seen the original and thus don't include it as a point of reference will get a lot more out of this tale of a morally bankrupt family of privilege and the naive restaurant dishwasher who becomes a part of it. IFC Films picked the film up for distribution during Cannes and is planning a release sometime in the first half of 2011.
House of My Father
Cast: Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Efren Ramirez, Héctor Jiménez
Director: Matt Piedmont
Summary: Details Unknown.
Analysis: Though "Rudo & Cursi" couldn't match the transcendent magic which made "Y Tu Mama Tambien" such an international success, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna are once again re-teaming for this Spanish-language comedy which is coming together with the help of an unexpected source - Will Ferrell.
NALA films and Ferrell's Gary Sanchez Productions are producing the film which "will adopt the style of dramatic Mexican ‘telenovela' soap, and will have English subtitles" according to a press release. There was also a joke about Ferrell's involvement being because of a 'closed-door settlement' in regards to a lawsuit by Sanchez himself, trouble is there is no Gary Sanchez (he's a fake name Ferrell came up with).
Matt Piedmont, best known for his directorial work on the Funny or Die website, is helming the film from a script by "The Ladies Man" and former SNL writer Andrew Steele. The project was apparently shot back in October with Ferrell in the lead, Bernal as a family friend and Luna as Ferrell's brother. No word on a release date yet or what in the world the final product will turn out to be like, so we'll probably have to wait for a trailer later in the year.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Cast: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Johnny Yong Bosch, Bob Gunton, Dean Norris
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Summary: A career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a nine-year-old boy.
Analysis: Shot in Mexico in April, filming had just been completed when all hell broke loose in the tabloids and news over the Mel Gibson phone recordings. As a result, 'Summer' joined Gibson-starrer "The Beaver" in release limbo with a big question mark tattooed onto their foreheads in regards to if they would ever see the light of day.
'Beaver' lucked out with Summit Entertainment already so invested in the film they have to release it, and so are giving that movie a limited bow in late March. Its fortunes will likely have a big impact on when or even if this will get a domestic theatrical release, or ultimately whether it'll just be quietly dumped onto video at a later date. A Vanity Fair poll taken back in late August said only 20 percent of respondents were "less likely" to see a Gibson picture in the wake of the media coverage.
As of November, the film is still being finished and will be shown shortly to potential distributors in the United States. As the film was produced by Gibson's own Icon Productions, it will distribute the film itself in key markets like the UK and Australia, and has already sold the film onto various European distributors who will apparently open the film later this year.
This also marks the third writing effort for the actor/filmmaker after "The Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto", but he didn't direct this time as frequent assistant director Adrian Grunberg ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," "Edge of Darkness," "Jarhead") made his debut as a full director on this. Hopefully whatever happens with this won't affect his fortunes or future.
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law
Director: Martin Scorsese
Summary: A 12-year-old orphan, clock-keeper and thief lives in the walls of a Paris train station in 1930. His survival depends upon his anonymity, but he soon becomes embroiled in mystery involving a stolen key, a treasured notebook, and an enigmatic mechanical man.
Analysis: One of the things I admire about Martin Scorsese is the versatility. As much as he often works with the same actors and will always come back to the American gangster genre which he's become synonymous with, from film to film he will shake up his palette. This has seen him stretch his wings into pure genre thrillers, documentaries, costume dramas and historical biopics.
Following on from last year's dark psychological period thriller "Shutter Island", Scorsese has opted for something at the complete opposite end of the spectrum - a family fantasy adventure. Not only is it his first 3D film, but it's a kind of film that he's certainly never come even close to tackling before which should hopefully make the results refreshing.
"Gladiator" scribe John Logan has penned this adaptation of the Brian Selznick's bestseller "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" which Scorsese shot in London and Paris during the second half of last year. For the titular role he cast wide-eyed 13-year-old British actor Asa Butterfield, probably best known for his roles on film in "Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang" and "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" and on TV as a young Mordred in BBC's "Merlin".
Joining him in the female lead role is rising actress Chloë Moretz ("Kick Ass," "Let Me In"), while the adult supporting cast is truly astonishing - Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Richard Griffiths, Helen McCrory, Frances de la Tour and Michael Stuhlbarg amongst others. One name not expected to appear though is Leonardo DiCaprio, marking Scorsese's first narrative feature in nine years that hasn't starred the actor.
Cinematic pioneer Georges Méliès is not just an inspiration but a key character in the project, and Scorsese tells The Guardian that the automaton in the story is essentially a metaphor for cinema itself - "how people express themselves using the technology emotionally and psychologically. It's the connection between the people, and the thing that's missing – how it supplies what's missing."
Those who think Scorsese is merely taking it easy on 'Hugo' should think again. The filmmaker has always been a huge fan of the cinematic form in and of itself, never afraid to experiment with it or push it in directions the audience may not want to go. With a=the film set at a turning point in movie history and adopting a technology that has the possibility of changing the very nature of movies and how they're seen, I think we'll definitely get something special here.
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence
Cast: Cast Unknown
Director: Tom Six
Summary: A follow-up to the recent gross-out indie horror about an insane German doctor surgically attaching three people mouth-to-anus to create a 'human centipede'.
Analysis: Tom Six's low-budget Dutch horror film "The Human Centipede: First Sequence" had a lot of talk surrounding it during festivals in late 2009 and won several best film awards at Horror Film Festivals across the globe. That was enough for it to be picked up for theatrical distribution by IFC Films earlier this year.
Yet critical reviews for the film dismissed it, calling it a disgusting film that had some inventive moments but otherwise was slow and generally didn't go anywhere. Despite its premise, the film itself implied rather than showed its explicit medical imagery.
Of course it was always the first of a two film saga the filmmaker had planned. Six has said the first one was to get audiences both familiar with and desensitized to the concept of a 'human centipede'. The sequel will now take that concept to the extreme - the imagery will be much more graphic and disturbing, the new centipede will be twelve people long.
Despite having already been shot in London, casting details of anyone involved have yet to be released. An early teaser trailer focuses entirely on Tom Six himself describing what we'll see and introducing 'Martin', someone whose face is hidden by a cardboard box. It's rumoured that he may be the less aesthetically pleasing separated conjoined twin of Dr. Heiter.
No release dates other than a general 2011 one have been set for the film, I'd expect a festival run though sometime in the Fall with the reviews coming out of those likely to be a key piece of the film's marketing campaign.
The Hungry Rabbit Jumps
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Harold Perrineau
Director: Roger Donaldson
Summary: When his wife is the victim of a brutal crime, a man subsequently becomes entangled with an underground vigilante organization in an effort to get revenge. He soon finds himself in too far over his head.
Analysis: Coming off "The Bank Job", one of my personal favourite films of 2008 and amongst its more critically well-received entries, Australian director Roger Donaldson ("The Recruit," "Species," "Thirteen Days") helms this $30 million thriller which sounds like it'll hopefully explore the downside of a genre that has seen a resurgence in popularity lately - the vigilante movie. Revenge thrillers have become very tedious and often avoid the truly dark costs that come with seeking one's own form of justice.
Reviews of Robert Tannen's script however paint this as something more along conspiracy thriller lines - with a secret society having dealt with his wife's attacker, they now require a favour from Cage's character which puts him in the position of either acquiescing, fleeing or attempting to expose them. It sounds like direct-to-video nonsense, but the story is apparently a fun little surface-level diversion with strong pacing that was good enough to make the Blacklist.
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor, Sullivan Stapleton, Callan Mulvey
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Summary: A European mercenary is hired by a biotech firm to search for the fabled Thylacine in the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness. Posing as a naturalist, he moves into a remote house on the edge of the Central Plateau area with a strange local family to carry out his task.
Analysis: The demise of the Tasmanian Tiger is one of the grimmest blights on the modern day conservation record. Hunted to extinction early last century, hundreds of unconfirmed sightings of these really quite beautiful looking marsupial predators have emerged in the decades since but none of them have been conclusive. Back in the 80's billionaire Ted Turner offered a $100,000 reward for evidence of the creature's continued existence, while others have offered over a million for it being captured alive - none have been able to claim it.
Now comes a psychological thriller film adaptation of Julia Leigh's first novel from 1999 which scored some varied reaction upon its release. With the island portrayed as a rundown rural hinterland and practically every Tasmanian character in the novel as staunch anti-environmental rednecks, it comes as no surprise that people from that Australian state found it rather insulting.
Others didn't like the central conceit of the novel, that the titular man known only as 'M' (called 'Martin' in the film) doesn't undergo some 'back to nature' emotional epiphany or redemption for his obviously troubled past - instead he remains a distant figure, a hard-boiled agent efficient at his job who can pull off the veneer of the everyman with chilling ease, even during his 'surrogate father figure' act with the family's two children as their real father has disappeared and their mother lies in a drug-induced stupor.
This $6.3 million film adaptation began shooting on location in Tasmania in November under the helm of Daniel Nettheim. Nettheim directed the 1999 Aussie indie rom-com "Angst", a film on which I was an extra funnily enough (you can see the back of my head for all of a fraction of a second in one shot), and has since gone on to direct a lot of impressive local television series including "Spirited," "Rush," "All Saints," "White Collar Blue" and "The Secret Life of Us". He's also surrounded by some strong talent including cinematographer Bob Humphreys ("Somersault," "Triangle"), producer Vincent Sheehan ("Animal Kingdom") and scribe Alice Addison ("The Silence").
Few films have used Tasmania as a locale, the most famous being the award-winning "The Tale of Ruby Rose" along with recent horrendous horror film "Dying Breed", and the more impressive period tales "The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce" and "Van Diemen's Land". Yet "The Hunter" has the potential to break through in a way those earlier films didn't thanks to the help of an impressive cast, source material which was taught in many Australian schools, and some strong distribution and production companies backing it.
The Complete Notable Films of 2011 Guide
Part One: 5 Days of August, 11-11-11, 13 Assassins, 30 Minutes or Less, Abduction, The Adjustment Bureau, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Albert Nobbs, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Amigo, Anonymous, Apollo 18, The Apparition, Arthur, Arthur Christmas, Atlas Shrugged: Part One, Bad Teacher, Barney's Version, Battle: Los Angeles, Beastly
Part Two: The Beaver, Beginners, Bel Ami, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, The Big Year, Black Gold, Blackthorn, The Black Tulip, Blitz, Born to Be a Star, The Borrower Arrietty, Bridesmaids, Brighton Rock, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Caesar: Rise of the Apes, Captain America: The First Avenger, Cars 2
Part Three: Catch .44, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Cedar Rapids, Ceremony, Certified Copy, Chalet Girl, The Change-Up, Clean Skin, The Cold Light of Day, Cold Weather, Colombiana, Conan the Barbarian, The Conspirator, Contagion, The Convincer, Coriolanus, Courageous, Cowboys and Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, The Cup
Part Four: Damsels in Distress, A Dangerous Method, The Darkest Hour, The Debt, The Deep Blue Sea, The Descendants, The Details, The Devil's Double, Dibbuk Box, The Dilemma, Dolphin Tale 3D, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House, Drive, Drive Angry 3D, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, The Eagle, Even the Rain, Every Day, Everything Must Go, The Eye of the Storm
Part Five: The Factory, Fast Five, The Fields, Final Destination 5, Flypaper, Footloose, Friends with Benefits, Friends with Kids, Fright Night, From Prada to Nada, The Future, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gnomeo and Juliet 3D, Goon, The Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Griff the Invisible, The Guard, Guns Girls and Gambling, Hall Pass
Part Six: The Hangover: Part Two, Hanna, Happy Feet 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two, Haywire, A Heartbeat Away, The Help, Henry's Crime, HERE, Higher Ground, Hobo with a Shotgun, Homework, Hop, Horrible Bosses, The Housemaid, House of My Father, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Hugo Cabret, The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, The Hunter
Part Seven: I Am Number Four, I Melt With You, The Ides of March, Immortals, The Impossible, In A Better World, Incendies, The Innkeepers, Insidious, Intruders, In Your Hands, Ironclad, Jack and Diane, Jack and Jill, Jane Eyre, Jeff Who Lives At Home, Johnny English Reborn, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Jumping the Broom, Just Go With It, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Part Eight: Kaboom, The Killer Elite, Killer Joe, Kill The Irishman, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Lady, Larry Crowne, Last Night, The Ledge, Life in a Day, Like Crazy, Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, Little Birds, A Little Bit of Heaven, Little White Lies, Live With It, London Boulevard, The Loneliest Planet, Love and Bruises, The Lucky One
Part Nine: Machine Gun Preacher, Mad Bastards, Man on a Ledge, The Man with the Iron Fist, Margin Call, Mars Needs Moms!, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Mechanic, Meek's Cutoff, Melancholia, Midnight in Paris, The Mill and the Cross, Miral, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Moneyball, The Monk, Monte Carlo, Mother's Day, Movie 43, Mr. Popper's Penguins, The Muppets
Part Ten: My Idiot Brother, My Week with Marilyn, Neds, New Year's Eve, No Strings Attached, Now, Of Gods and Men, On the Road, One Day, One for the Money, Oranges and Sunshine, The Other Woman, Paranormal Activity 3, Passion Play, Paul, Peace Love and Misunderstanding, Peep World, Perfect Sense, Piranha 3DD, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Priest, Project X
Part Eleven: Prom, Puss in Boots, Rampart, Rango, The Raven, Real Steel, Red Dawn, Red Dog, Red Riding Hood, Red State, Red Tails, Restless, Retreat, Rio, Route Irish, The Rum Diary, Safe, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Salvation Boulevard, Say Nothing
Part Twelve: Scream 4, A Serbian Film, Serge Gainsbourg: A Life Heroic, Shame, Shaolin, Shark Night 3D, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Shelter, The Silent House, The Sitter, The Skin That I Inhabit, Sleeping Beauty, The Smurfs, Snabba Cash, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Snowtown, Soldiers of Fortune, Something Borrowed, Son of No One, Soul Surfer
Part Thirteen: Source Code, Space Battleship Yamato, Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World, Straw Dogs, Submarine, Sucker Punch, Super, Super 8, Take Shelter, Take This Waltz, Ten Year, There Be Dragons, The Thing, The Three Musketeers, This Means War, This Must Be The Place, Thor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tower Heist