Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Flicks Flashforward - "2012 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: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave,
Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain & James Nesbitt
Directed by Ralph Finnes for distribution by The Weinstein Company

The Plot: A feared and revered Roman emperor teams up with his nemesis with to extract revenge on the city that spurned and then banished him.

The Final Word: This should be interesting to say the least. Perianal Academy Award contender Ralph Finnes not only stars in the picture but it will serve as his directorial debut. Looking back at the plot, this really would seem to be a Finnes type picture. Backed by a strong supporting cast including Gerald Butlet, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox, it will draw notice from Oscar voters, but some wonder if it can top some of this year’s strong competitors.

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale
Directed by Steve McQueen for distribution by Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Plot: A New Yorker’s sexual addiction is challenged when his sister drops by for a unannounced visit.

The Final Word: Movies are all about feeling a connection to the characters and honestly based on the plot and poster, that feeling is “dirty;” which ironically is an Academy Award staple. Like “Shame’s” star Michael Fassbender, the movie’s director Steve McQueen has had a break-through year. His movie  “Drive” is also garnering significant buzz for his unflinching style of filmmaking and “Shame” is going to garner the same time of headlines.

Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt & Elizabeth Reaser
Directed by Jason Reitman for distribution by Paramount

The Plot: Following a divorce, a writer returns to her small Minnesota hometown on a mission to re-kindle a relationship with her ex-boyfriend; who just happens to now be married with kids.

The Final Word: Jason Reitman has had a lot of success with in recent years with “Juno” and “Up In The Air,” but to be able to re-team with Diablo Cody on this new comedic drama can only help make him more successful. The same goes for Theron who has not had a real major hit since winning the Oscar for “Monster,” and with the streak of films she had lined up for 2012 and beyond, don’t be shocked if this is the one turns things around for her.

Starring: Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, Sasha Grey,
Zander Eckhouse, Abhi Sinha & Arielle Kebbel
Directed by Mark Pellington for distribution by Magnolia Pictures

The Plot: Four 40-something college friends meet for their yearly reunion only to find a pact they made as young men come back to haunt them and send their lives into a spiral.

The Final Word: When you are looking to cast four slightly older actors to play four men with a seriously messed up past you’d be hard pressed to find a better group than that consisting of Thomas Jane (“Hung”), Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”) and Rob Lowe.  Not sure you really need to know more than that…

Starring: Abbie Cornish, Oscar Isaac, James D'Arcy, Andrea Riseborough,
Natalie Dormer, Richard Coyle, James Fox & Laurence Fox
Directed by Madonna for distribution by The Weinstein Company

The Plot: A look at marriage and divorce as seen through the eyes of two couples including King Edward VIII and the woman that caused him to abdicate the thrown.

The Final Word: Ever wonder what happened to King Edward following the events of “The King’s Speech?” Well, Madonna has you covered….and yes “that” Madonna.” The controversial material girl returns for second time behind the camera in this drama loaded with a cast dripping with Oscar-bait. Based on the success of the Best Picture winning “Speech,” this could be a sleeper.

Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller
Directed by Lynne Ramsay for distribution by Oscilloscope Laboratories

The Plot: After her son goes on a murderous shooting spree at his school, his mother is forced to deal with her grief and feelings of guilt over the event.

The Final Word: Tilda Swinton already has one Oscar and she could easily pick up another based on the early buzz about this drama. Joining her as a solid contender is John C. Riley, who is one of the most under-valued actors in the industry. Directed by Lynne Ramsey (in her third and most high profile film to date), “Kevin” is going to be the topic of much conversation this award season.

Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Directed by Roman Polanski for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics

The Plot: Two very different sets of parents meet to talk about an playground incident between their sons.

The Final Word: Based on the Tony award winning play “God of Carnage,” the movie has been adapted and extended to fit the silver screen courtesy of original author Yasmina Reza and director Roman Polanski (whose son plays one of the two boys at the center of the plot). Audiences who were unable to get to New York to see the Broadway version will be very excited to see this film version as it boasts just as strong of a cast of actors as the ones that appeared on stage.

Starring: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson,
Janet McTeer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Pauline Collins & Brenda Fricker
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia for distribution by Roadside Attraction

The Plot: Desperate for a job, a woman poses as a man to take a job as the butler to an influential family only to find herself trapped leading a double life thirty years later.

The Final Word: Many critics have this year’s Best Actress race as a dead heat between Close and Meryl Streep, but that could also actually work against the pair as they could easily also split the vote.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloy,
Olivia Colman, Nicholas Farrell, Susan Brown, Roger Allam & Anthony Head
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd for distribution by The Weinstein Company

The Plot: The story of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the cost she paid for her historic rise to power.

The Final Word: Again, many critics have this year’s Best Actress race as a neck and neck race between Streep and Close. Although based on past voting patterns, Streep has an advantage as she’s portraying a real person, which is something Oscar voters always seem to love.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, James Gandolfini,
Zoe Caldwell, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright & Max von Sydow
Directed by Stephen Daldry for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: A nine year old searches the streets of New York for the lock that fits a key his late father gave him prior to 9/11.

The Final Word: How’s this for a stat? Stephen Daldry has directed three major motion pictures in his career and he’s netted an Oscar nomination for each one (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours,” & “The Reader”). It looks like he’ll get a fourth and in the process secure another nod for former winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, while also introducing the world to “Jeopardy” teen tournament winner Thomas Horn. Yeah, this one has Oscar bait written all over it.

Previewed next week: New Year's Eve, The Sitter & Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New In Theaters - November 23th, 2011

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin,
Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Zach Galifianakis, Kathy Griffin,
Ricky Gervais, Emily Blunt, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy,
Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal & Walter
Directed by James Bobin for distribution by Walt Disney Pictures

The Plot: After years out of the spotlight, the Muppets band together to save their theater from a greedy developer determined to tear it down.

The Final Word: If you didn’t know the Muppets were coming back to theaters, you really may have been living under a rock, because Kermit and friends have been everywhere this year. Co-written by and starring “How I Met Your Mother’s” Jason Segel, the film looks to re-cement the classic Jim Henson characters status as pop culture kings. With an arsenal of celebrities signed on for cameos and built-in name recognition, this is expected to be one of the top Hollywood films this season. Although many (including a few of the original puppeteers), remain unconvinced that Segel and crew has successfully captured the tone and magic that made the Muppets a hit in the 70’s.

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley,
Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Richard Griffiths,
Frances de la Tour, Emily Mortimer & Michael Stuhlbarg
Directed by Martin Scorsese for distribution by Paramount

The Plot: An orphan living in a 1930’s Parisian train station struggles to unlock the mysteries behind his father’s death and the strange invention he left behind.

The Final Word: While 3D had taken a huge beating at the box office, its proponents (those that are left that is), have rallied behind “Hugo.” With film legend Martin Scorsese making his initial foray into the third dimension, many believe if anything can help the technique it’s him. Although this is no slam dunk as the competition is fierce and the plot isn’t the easiest to explain, but Scorsese’s pedigree needs no explanation and you’d be wise to not bet against the iconic director.  Still, going up again “Happy Feet Two” and “The Muppets” will eat away at its opening week, but by how much remains to be seen.

Starring (voices): James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent,
Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton & Ashley Jensen
Directed by Sarah Smith & Barry Cook for distribution by Sony Pictures Animation

The Plot: Ever wonder how Santa really pulls off his yearly round-the-world trip? Go behind the scenes as Santa’s youngest son tries to help his father with his journey after an unexpected problem arises.

The Final Word: What started out as a movie with a very clever marketing campaign has seemingly stalled, which is odd given the clever premise and “A”-list cast. Either way, the film is going to have some tough competition between the instantly recognizable “Muppets” and the 3D spectacle that is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.” Still animation enthusiasts are very excited about the picture as it is from Aardman Animations, the same people who brought the loveable “Wallace and Grommit” to life. Sony has to hope that this will have the same success “W & G” had, instead of the failure DreamWorks saw when it teamed up with them on “Flushed Away.”

Previewed next week: The "Best Picture" contenders previewed!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New In Theaters - November 18th, 2011

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner,
Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone,
Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Billy Burke, Rami Malek & Maggie Grace
Directed by Bill Condon for distribution by Summit Entertainment

The Plot: As Edward and Bella prepare for the impending birth of their child, they must avoid their multiple enemies who are determined to protect their own kind no matter what the costs.

The Final Word: Despite the box office’s recent struggles, Summit knows they have a blockbuster in waiting with “Dawn.” The problem here is that the studio only has one more “Twilight” bullet left in its chamber and then it and the industry as a whole will have to look elsewhere for a Cineplex stabilizer.

Starring (voices): Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria,
Alecia Moore (P!nk), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara,
Common, Hugo Weaving, Magda Szubanski, Anthony LaPaglia,
Richard Carter & Benjamin "Lil P-Nut" Flores, Jr.
Directed by George Miller for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: A penguin must balance his son’s phobias while protecting his home from powerful outside forces.

The Final Word: In 2006, the original “Happy Feet” proved to be a major surprise for Warner Brothers as the penguins craze at the box office was just heating up. Now the studio is set to unleash the sequel to the Academy Award winning original, with the majority of the cast reprising their roles including Elijah Wood and Robin Williams. Interestingly enough, despite the heavy traffic in theaters this month, “Happy” actually could duplicate its success given the film’s built-in audience, but will see some competition as “Twilight” which will have a stranglehold on a number of the same 3D theaters that the first film used to its advantage. 

Previewed next week: The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, Hugo, A Dangerous Method

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New In Theaters - November 11th, 2011

Starring: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto,
Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz, John Hurt & Mickey Rourke
Directed by Tarsem Singh for distribution by Relativity Media

The Plot: A young villager out for revenge becomes the world’s only hope to stop a ruthless King’s quest to overthrow the Gods of Olympus.

The Final Word: Before he becomes the “Man of Steel,” audiences are about to get their first good look at the next man to don the legendary cape and red “S.”  Starring Henry Cavill, “Immortals” is out to wipe the bad 3D taste last year’s “Clash of the Titans” left in the mouth of moviegoers. With a strong ensemble cast including Mickey Rourke as the film’s villain and Freida Pinto as Cavill’s love interest, Relativity could see a strong reaction from viewers who have been buzzing about this picture for a while. “Immortals” will also see the return of visionary director Tarsem Singh, who has mostly stayed out of the spotlight since helming Jennifer Lopez’s “The Cell” back in 2000.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench,
Armie Hammer, Josh Lucas & Ken Howard
Directed by Clint Eastwood for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: The story behind the story of FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and his incredible rise to power while hiding his own demons from the world.

The Final Word: To the public, J. Edgar Hoover helped lead one of the country’s one most prominent investigational bureaus, but in private he held secrets that could have destroyed him and everything he helped build. With Leonardo DiCaprio playing Hoover and Clint Eastwood at the helm, this sure to be controversial bio-pic has Oscar-bait written all over it and is sure to be a favorite this award season.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes & Al Pacino
Directed by Dennis Dugan for distribution by Columbia Pictures (Sony)

The Plot: A family man prepares for the annual Thanksgiving visit of his needy and over-bearing twin sister.

The Final Word: Adam Sandler made a name for himself on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” by bringing a number of memorable characters to life. Since then he’s created another bunch of memorable characters on film, but with “Jack and Jill,” it looks like he’s channeling his “Gap Girl” days. Appearing as both “Jack” and in drag as “Jill,” Sandler will still be a draw to audiences, but it’s hard to imagine this one coming anywhere near the ranks of “Happy Gilmore” or “The Wedding Singer.” 

Previewed next week: Happy Feet Two & Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 1