Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Flicks Flashforward - "2011 Oscar Hopefuls"

December is a big month for movies looking for Oscar glory. To increase their chances, a number of films are released in a limited amount of theaters and then slowly expanded out throughout the month.  Since the release date will vary nationally, this entire first edition of the "Flicks Flashforward" will be just about those movies.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella & Phillip Baker Hall
Directed by Andrew Jarecki for distribution by Magnolia Pictures

The Plot: Based on one of the most notorious unsolved mysteries of New York City, the movie recounts the story of a real estate mogul (Gosling), who was suspected but never charged with the murder of his wife (Dunst).
The Final Word: Gosling and Dunst still remain on the fringes of the A-list, namely because of their continued turns in these art-house independent films. Both have proven they can handle mainstream roles, but this is the genre where they thrive.

Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis,
Barbara Hershey & Winona Ryder
Directed by Darren Aronofsky for distribution by Fox Searchlight

The Plot: Two ballerinas (Portman & Kunis) vie for the lead spot in the New York City ballet’s production of "Swan Lake," only to find themselves spiraling out of control as a result.
The Final Word: Darren Aronofsky is known for dark edgy style and this drama will no doubt have plenty of both.  It will also have a lot of awards buzz, at least for the film’s leads Portman and Kunis. While Aronofsky is one of the most talented young directors on the scene, he’s always been shut out of the Academy Awards.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel
John Doman & Maryann Plunkett.
Directed by Derek Cianfrance for distribution by The Weinstein Company


The Plot: After seeing their marriage begin to fall apart (Gosling & Williams), a young couple use one night to relieve the romance in hope of saving their relationship.
The Final Word: Told as a combination of flashbacks and present time, the movie is being billed as an honest look at one relationship. Although the movie is being looked at more closely because of its surprising NC-17 rating, which is especially puzzling given the lack of violence or nudity that is usually associated with that box-office killing label.  Knowing the Weinstein Company, they will find a way to get the rating lowered and in the end that attention could actually draw in viewers.

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly Preston & Jon Lovitz.
Directed by George Hickenlooper for distribution by ATO Pictures.

The Plot: The rise and fall of one-time Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abarmoff (Spacey) is spotlighted in this new drama.
The Final Word: The Abramoff scandal was one that was literally begging to be told on the big screen and two time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey will definitely do the film justice.  Unfortunately the film’s release will be marked by a somber note as the film’s director George Hickenlooper just recently and unexpectedly passed away.

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund & Leighton Meester.
Directed by Shana Feste for distribution by Screen Gems (Sony)

The Plot: A rising singer/songwriter (Hedlund) teams up with a fallen country star (Paltrow) fresh out of rehab, for a cross country tour, but begin to have problems when old demons start to surface courtesy of her husband/manager (McGraw) and the beauty queen turned singer that serves as their opening act (Meester).
The Final Word: Aside from the “Iron Man” movies, Gwyneth Paltrow has shied away from the limelight in recent years to raise her family. Now the Academy Award winning actress returns to the big screen in a movie that will remind audiences that not only can she act, but she can sing!

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo & Jack McGee
Directed by David O. Russell for distribution by Paramount Pictures

The Plot: The true story of “Irish” Mickey Ward, a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts who rose to fame after a rocky early career.
The Final Word: Traditionally boxing movies do extremely well during the awards season and Wahlberg has become an early odds on favorite to win big. Bale and Adams who play Wahlberg’s volatile brother and love interest (respectively) are also picking up early buzz which could land Paramount’s tentpole a TKO on Oscar night.

Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Man & Rodrigo Santoro
Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa for distribution by Roadside Attractions

The Plot: A married man (Carrey) emerges from a severe car accident with a realization that he’s going to live life to the fullest, which prompts him to come out to wife, become a con-man and eventually pursue a relationship with a man (McGregor) after he’s jailed.
The Final Word: Hollywood has tried to kill this movie a number of different ways and every time it keeps pushing its way back to the forefront. Now with a December release date and an awards campaign being mounted behind it, this comedy could finally see the light of day. Although the next question is will people come to see it?

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest & Sandra Oh
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell for distribution by Lionsgate

The Plot: A couple (Kidman, Eckhart) tries to reclaim a sense of normalcy after the unexpected and tragic loss of their only child.
The Final Word: Kidman and Weist have already heard their names called on Oscar night and honestly it won’t be long before Eckhart and Oh experience the same thrill. This is a talented group of actors and Lionsgate does a great job in promoting its award contenders.  While the dark subject will only enhance the move in the eyes of the voters, it could also cause the public to shy away.

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter,
Guy Pearce & Michael Gambon.
Directed by Tom Hooper for distribution by The Weinstein Company

The Plot: The true story of how King George VI (Firth) found his voice courtesy of a Lionel Logue (Rush), a maverick speech therapist called in to help him overcome a stutter.
The Final Word: If early critics lists are to be believed, this year’s “Best Picture” race is over and “The King’s Speech” is the winner. Breaking it down further, the movie does have everything voters love and with the Weinstein’s guiding the PR ship, it should be a smooth ride across the award season waters.

Starring: Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming
Reeve Carney, Tom Conti & David Stratharin
Directed by Julie Taymor for distribution by Touchstone (Disney)

The Plot: When a sorceress (Mirren) is unfairly exiled to a remote island along with her young daughter, she uses her powers to protect her new home, but soon develops another enemy.
The Final Word: The famed Shakespearean tale gets the big screen treatment with “Across The Universe’s” Julie Taymor at the helm. Many also remember Taymor from Broadway’s “The Lion King,” and those who do know exactly what she’s capable of, which bodes well for this adaptation.  Although purists may balk at Taymor for changing the role of the sorcerer Prospero to a female sorceress named Prospera , they have to agree the Bard’s work has always been subject to different interpretations and this will definitely be a different interpretation.

New Releases - Week of December 3rd

Starring: Dong-gun Jang, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush,
 Danny Huston & Tony Cox.
Directed by Sngmoo Lee for distribution by Relativity Media

The Plot: After he refuses a mission, a warrior/assassin (Jang) is hunted by his own clan, forcing him to seek refuge in a small border town.
The Final Word: Jang is an internationally known superstar and this will be the first time he’s been give top billing here in the States.  In a month filled with nothing but pure Oscar-bait, this could prove to be a welcome distraction to moviegoers looking for an action escape.

Previewed next week: The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, The Company Men & The Tourist.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Releases - Week of November 24th

Starring the voices of: Mandy Moore, Zachery Levi, Donna Murphy,
Ron Pearlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett & Paul F. Tompkins
Directed by Byron Howard, Nathan Greno for distribution by Walt Disney Pictures


The Plot: A new re-telling of the classic fairytale “Rapunzel” with Mandy Moore voicing the long haired maiden and Zachery Levi as the dashing outlaw who discovers her castle while on the run.
The Final Word: In 1989 Disney began a new era of box office dominance with “The Little Mermaid.”  In the years following “the house the mouse built” thrived with some of the most profitable and critically acclaimed films (“Beauty & The Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin”) in the company’s history, culminating in 1995 with “Toy Story.” The Pixar classic paved the way for the next generation of animated storytelling and the early buzz is that “Tangled,” could so the same.

Starring:  Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough,
Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming,  Kristen Bell & Stanley Tucci
Directed by Steve Antin for distribution by Screen Gems (Sony)


The Plot: A small town girl (Aguilera) with a amazing voice stumbles upon a burlesque club, where the owner and headlining act (Cher) offers her a chance at a new life.
The Final Word:  Cher has been off the grid for a number of years, but every time she re-appears people do tend to take notice. Paired with Christian Aguilera and a strong supporting cast, the musical drama could make a splash or just fall flat, the jury is still out.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thorton, Carla Gugino & Maggie Grace
Directed by George Tillman Jr. for distribution by CBS Films

The Plot: A wronged man (Johnson) freed from jail, after serving time for a botched bank robbery that took the life of his brother, decides to track down those responsible while being hunted himself.
The Final Word: CBS Films puts Dwayne Johnson in the driver’s seat of their first action movie, hoping the former wrestler’s presence will be enough to jump start their luck at the box office. This is a radically different type of story than the studio’s two previous films (“Extraordinary Measures” & “The Back-Up Plan”), but just may be what they need to succeed.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt & Hank Azaria
Directed by Ed Zwick for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: A pharmaceutical sales rep (Gyllenhaal) falls for an alluring free spirit (Hathaway) only to learn love is a type of drug that he isn’t as familiar with as he thought.
The Final Word: Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway have a lot more in common that many people would probably assume at first glance. Breaking onto the scene around the same time, the pair have both stayed out of the negative Hollywood limelight. In fact they’ve made successful careers out of playing the same type of damaged characters, some of their not so lucky contemporaries have turned into. While movies that focus on flawed characters don’t always lead to high box office receipts they do lead to success during Oscar season, which is something these former nominees know a lot about.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane, Charlie Row & John Turturro
Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky for distribution by Freestyle Releasing


The Plot: The classic holiday tale returns to theatres, but this time in 3D.
The Final Word: Really not much to discuss here. This cherished story always does well around this time of the year no matter what the medium.

Previewed next week: "The Warrior's Way" and a special "Oscar" preview.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Releases - Week of November 19th

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Finnes,
Bill Nighy, Robbie Coltrane, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans,
Maggie Smith & Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by David Yates for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: The final showdown with the evil Lord Voldemort (Finnes) begins as Harry Potter (Radcliffe) and friends try to track down the source of his power.
The Final Word: After a ten year ride, the Harry Potter film series is almost over, but fans of the iconic characters won’t have to say goodbye just yet. With the final installment being deemed too long, Warner Brothers had to split the last book into two films. Although despite their initial plans to release both movies in 3D, only part two (out next summer) will get the extra dimension treatment. Somehow, I don’t think that will really impact the box office…

Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Nesson & Brian Dennehy
Directed by Paul Haggis for distribution by Lionsgate


The Plot: After his wife (Banks) is sent to prison for a murder he believes she didn’t commit, a husband (Crowe) plots a dangerous jailbreak.
The Final Word: Academy Award winner Paul Haggis returns to theatres for his highest profile film since he won the Oscar for “Crash.” In this remake of the French film Pour Elle, Crowe will try to give his career a much needed jump start. While the movie itself didn't start off with a strong buzz, this action drama with a edge, has come on strong in the last few weeks to become a legit dark horse.

Previewed next week: "Tangled," "Burlesque," "Love & Other Drugs," "Faster" & "The Nutcracker 3D."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Releases - Week of November 12th

Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Noah Emmerich,
Liraz Charchi & Nicholas Sadler
Directed by Doug Liman for distribution by Summit Entertainment


The Plot:  The true story behind how CIA agent Valerie Plame (Watts) was exposed to the public as pay back for a controversial opinion piece written by her husband (Penn).
The Final Word: When Plame’s cover was blown it ignited a political firestorm among reporters that still is being talked about. While the full story may never be told, the movie should cover all of the key points that many believe to be the truth. Although despite a strong pedigree, both in front and behind the camera, the early buzz is the movie could be left out in the cold come the Oscar season.

Starring: Rachael McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton,
Patrick Wilson & Jeff Goldblum
Directed by Roger Michell for distribution by Paramount Pictures

The Plot: A hotshot producer (McAdams) is recruited to re-invent a struggling television morning show.
The Final Word: McAdams is another actress who has seemingly gone off the grid since she burst onto the scene in 2004. After making a splash in five high-profile films over a two-year period, she has seriously reduced her workload in recent years. Here she teams with Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, two actors also looking for their first successful film in a very long time.

Starring: Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Scottie Thompson & Brittany Daniel
Directed by Greg Strause and Colin Strause for distribution by Universal

The Plot: A group of people team up to combat a series of mysterious lights in the night sky, that causes people to vanish in mid-air.
The Final Word: Universal is banking on this disaster/alien invasion film to boost the year end profits for the studio and possibly morph into a new franchise. Without a major A-list actor and amid a crowded box office, I’m not optimistic for its chances.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson & Kevin Chapman
Directed by Tony Scott for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: An engineer and his conductor must derail an unmanned runaway rail car headed right for the center of busy city.
The Final Word: It seems like every November; Denzel Washington has a new entry to the holiday box office. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t. I’m honestly still on the fence with this one.  In its favor is action maven Tony Scott at the helm and Chris Pine’s co-starring in his first high profile film since “Star Trek.” On second thought, that could be enough.

Previewed next week:  Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and The Next Three Days