Saturday, January 29, 2011

New In Theaters - February 4th, 2011

Starring: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Aly Michalka,
Danneel Harris, Frances Fisher & Billy Zane
Directed by Christian E. Christiansen for distribution by Screen Gems (Sony)

The Plot: A mentally disturbed freshman college student (Meester) becomes obsessed with her new roommate (Kelly).

The Final Word: While it isn’t hard to see why any man (or woman) would become obsessed with Minka Kelly, this movie’s plot is….actually on second thought, who’s really going to see this for the plot? You’re going to see this because Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly are two of the hottest young actresses around (and I mean that both literally and physically). This is a young cast, none of whom have probably ever heard of or seen “Single White Female” and in all honestly neither has its target demo, which could translate into a modest box office success for Screen Gems.

Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd & Alice Parkinson
Directed by Alister Grierson for distribution by Universal

The Plot: A deep sea expedition turns treacherous when a tropical storm traps a team of divers in a complex underground series of caves where they must fight to escape raging waters, dangerous terrain and a frightening sense of panic as they realize there may not be a way out.

The Final Word: From executive producer James Cameron, comes what is promising to be a breathtaking 3D event. Here, Cameron and his crew aren’t relying on cheap effects to get the point across; the adversary isn’t some sort of underground sea monster, but a race against time to make it back to land. Based on actual events, this is a rare example of a time where the use of 3D is not only justified, but will more than likely enhance the overall viewing experience. 

Previewed next week: The Eagle, Gnomeo & Juliet, Just Go With It & Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New In Theaters - January 28th, 2011

Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland & Christa Campbell
 Directed by Simon West for distribution by CBS Films

The Plot: A skilled hitman (Statham) seeks revenge on the men who killed his mentor (Sutherland), while reluctantly taking on the mentor's vengeance-seeking son (Foster) as an apprentice.

The Final Word: The star of “The Transporter” and “Crank” franchises, Jason Statham has yet to meet an action film that he doesn’t like. More importantly to the studios, he’s never a met an action franchise that moviegoers didn’t find appealing. While not all big budget successes, Statham is a steady action movie force and stability is something CBS Films could use right now. After releasing three box office bombs in a row, the freshman studio is desperately seeking a spark and they hope this is it. Coming to theatres close to a year after the company’s debut effort “Extraordinary Measures,” all involved are banking on more positive result this time around.

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga,
Ciaran Hinds & Rutger Hauer
 Directed by Mikael Hafstrom for distribution by New Line (WB)

The Plot: A skeptical seminary student (O’Donoghue) reluctantly agrees to travel to the Vatican to part in an exorcism school, where he meets a priest (Hopkins) with his own mysterious agenda.

The Final Word: Lionsgate hit upon some luck last year when“The Last Exorcism” became a cult success, but it doesn’t seem as likely New Line will catch the same lightning in the bottle. Despite Hollywood legend Anthony Hopkins top-lining the movie, this looks a lot more like New Line burning off a dud in the dead of the winter, than giving it a vote of confidence. Horror films are always hit or miss at the box office, and this once could still surprise, but more than likely this time the devil may just be in the details.

Previewed next week: "The Roommate"  & "Sanctum"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New In Theaters - January 21st, 2011

Starring: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones,
Rosemarie DeWitt, Maria Bello & Craig T. Nelson
Directed by John Wells for distribution by The Weinstein Company

The Plot: Three business men find themselves suddenly downsized and forced to do something different than what they’ve always known.

The Final Word: The culture of corporate America has undoubtedly changed over the last few years and the extremely talented John Wells is ready to bring that story to the silver screen using some of Hollywood’s most talented actors.  This has Oscar-bait written all over it, which should come as no surprise with the Weinstein Brothers behind it. Although the movie has been largely shut out of all early awards and has only ran in a few select NYC/LA theatres, which has placed it very much below the radar. 

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig,
Lake Bell & Cary Elwes
 Directed by Ivan Reitman for distribution by Paramount Pictures

The Plot: Two friends (Kutcher, Portman) try to have a relationship based solely on sex, but despite how much they fight it, they begin to develop feelings for each other.

The Final Word: Natalie Portman is experiencing a huge career resurgence as of late between this, “Black Swan,” and the upcoming “Your Highness” and “Thor.”  Meanwhile her co-star is trying to find a movie that he can successfully headline, which he hasn’t been able to do in a while.  Although with veteran director Ivan Reitman at the helm, both seem like they are in the right hands. Paramount is also trying to get a jump on Sony which has the similarly themed “Friends With Benefits” coming out in July, ironically starring Portman's "Black Swan" co-star Mila Kunis.

Previewed next week "The Mechanic" & "The Rite."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Flicks Flashforward - "Oscar Preview 2011 - Best Picture"

With the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor Guild already pulling back the curtain on this year’s group of nominees, it will soon be time for the Academy of Arts & Sciences to do the same. This six part series will look at each of the main categories and break down the frontrunners and dark horses of this Oscar season.

The Frontrunners:

“The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” & “The Fighter” – With the Academy switching last year to a system with 10 nominated films, a number of movies have in turn gone from contenders to frontrunners to locks; the above trio qualify in that category. If one of these movies doesn’t make the final list, you’ll hear a collective gasp from the nation’s critics.

The Contenders:

“127 Hours” –  Both director Danny Boyle and lead actor James Franco have great shots at being nominated in their individual categories as does the movie itself. Although some of the film’s detractors have said the film itself may just be a little too intense for certain voters to stomach.

“Black Swan” – Director Darren Aronofsky undoubtedly has a hit on his hands with this dark ballerina thriller and it would be surprising not to see his talented cast acknowledged.  With that said Aronofsky has yet to receive a nomination for himself and has yet to see a film he’s directed get the nod either. Even last year’s well-received “The Wrestler” was snubbed and that was also with the expanded field in play. Will this be the year he breaks though?

“Inception” – “Inception’s” Oscar chances are as complicated to describe as the film’s plot. The movie itself was one of the year’s most creative and visually stunning box office entries, but also one of the most confusing. While a lot of viewers were able to navigate the storyline’s different layers, a lot of audience members were lost halfway into first act. It is that level of intricacy that can work both for and against it a movie hoping for a nomination.

“True Grit” – The Coen Brothers know how to make movies that the public and the Academy love, even if most of them are beyond dark. Regardless, an expanded category works in this film’s favor.

“Toy Story 3” – Oscar fact: only twice has an animated movie been nominated for Best Picture.  The reason is that many voters still refuse to look at animation as a viable storytelling device for anybody other than children. Eventually the backlash grew to such a fever pitch that the Academy had to add a Best Animated Film category, but that itself hasn’t come without controversy.  Now with five more nomination slots, voters have been able to grant animated movies entry to what had been an exclusive club, but whether they’ll reward one with a win is yet to be seen. Either way, if “Toy Story 3” makes the cut, members will be hard pressed to watch this film and not put it in the same class as its colleagues.

“Shutter Island” – Paramount originally slated “Shutter Island” for last October, but unexpectedly moved it to February to avoid a crowded field of contenders and allow it room to breathe. The plan worked in that the movie became the first real hit of 2010, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to the big dance. With legendary director Martin Scorsese at the helm and a spot on a number of year end “best” lists, the movie should be a shoo-in, but it will have to contend with lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Titanic” sized hit “Inception” which could steal its thunder. While it is possible both could be nominated, it is still rare to see one actor topline two different “Best Picture” contenders.

“The Kids Are Alright” – The reason for expanding the nominations was for films like this to make the cut. Smaller art house style movies that the public has embraced have in the past always been left off, but now they have a real legit shot.

The Dark Horses:

“Rabbit Hole” – The Academy has a habit of nominating the leads of many successful dramas but snubbing the actual picture itself. Despite strong performances from its casts, voters may still elect to skip this trip down the “rabbit hole.”

“The Town” – Ben Affleck jumped back on the radar in 2010 with his second directorial hit, “The Town.” Despite his well-known flops, many people have forgotten (or some in cases joked) that his Oscar from “Good Will Hunting” wasn’t for acting but for writing. As the director, star and co-writer on “The Town,” Affleck has struck back against the naysayers and could emerge with the last laugh.

“The Ghost Writer” – Very few names in Hollywood elicit more of a response than that of Roman Polanski. The exiled director’s latest film about a former British Prime Minister publishing his memoirs didn’t make as many headlines as his legal troubles did in 2010. Despite the small box office cume, it is hard to discount anything that this talented (and Oscar winning) director releases. Although with a busy field of contenders in the acting and directing categories, Polanski’s best shot at a nod could be with the big prize. Once again in this case, a nomination may be just as good as a win.

“Winter’s Bone” –Every year one movie comes out of nowhere and grabs the attention of the movie going public. In 2010, that movie was Lionsgate’s “Winter’s Bone,” a family drama about a  teenage mother of two, who must hunt down her deadbeat drug dealing father in the Ozark mountains or else lose their family home. This gripping drama has succeeded because of a well written script and the strong performance of its stars Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawks.

“Love & Other Drugs” –“Love & Other Drugs” has had varying degrees of success in 2010. The star power of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway has put the film on everyone’s radar, but the problem is nobody is quite sure what to make of it.

“How To Train Your Dragon” – Yes, DreamWorks’s animated hit about a Viking boy who befriends a Dragon was incredibly well received and well-developed, but remember the Academy has problems with rewarding  animated films with a shot at the big prize. As nice as it would be to see two animated movies get a nod, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. More than likely we’ll have to settle for “Toy Story 3” & “Dragon” going head to head for the “Best Animated” film award against what will probably be the popular foreign film “The Illusionist.”

“Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1” –As far out there as it may seem, the Academy could decide to honor the long running franchise as it comes to a close. The voters have been known in the past to go the sentimental route, but even if that happened this time it would probably be for next year’s finale.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Flicks Flashforward - "Oscar Preview 2011 - Best Actor"

With the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor Guild already pulling back the curtain on this year’s group of nominees, it will soon be time for the Academy of Arts & Sciences to do the same. This six part series will look at each of the main categories and break down the frontrunners and dark horses of this Oscar season.

The Frontrunners:

Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”)
Firth is one of those actors that while you see everywhere, you never really see in the spotlight. He is also one of the most talented actors in the industry and this is predicted to be the role that pushes him to that next echelon with the public.

James Franco (“127 Hours”)
It is safe to say that no role has been more talked about than Franco’s portrayal of hiker Aaron Ralston, who after being trapped under a boulder for 127 hours amputated his own arm to escape.  Franco was a contender long before he was named a co-host of this year’s ceremony and he will remain a contender for a long time to come.

Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) 
“The Social Network” was always supposed to be a movie that got people talking and generated Oscar buzz. Although the level of success it has had so far makes a nomination for Eisenberg seem like a sure thing, no matter how competitive the race should be this season.

The Contenders:

Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”) 
Wahlberg really is more of a frontrunner than a contender, but a late run by “The Social Network” gives Eisenberg a slight edge. Regardless Wahlberg is still going to be a force this year and it would be a real surprise not to see him make the cut.

Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”)
In 1970, John Wayne won his first and only Oscar for his role as Marshall Rooster Cogburn , now Jeff Bridges is looking for the same success. Although Bridges is looking for an even more impressive feat, as a win this year would make him only the third person to win back-to-back Best Actors Oscars.

Leonardo DiCaprio (“Shutter Island”/”Inception”)
The question with DiCaprio probably shouldn’t be if he’ll be nominated, but for which film? With amazing performances in both “Shutter Island” & “Inception,” DiCaprio was one of the most critically praised actors of 2010. While it’s possible he could get nominated for both, it isn’t likely. Ironically having an embarrassment of riches could also end up hurting him as Academy voters can sometime have a problem choosing between two roles, which in the past has resulted in some shocking surprises.

Kevin Spacey (“Casino Jack”) 
When a two time Best Actor winner is closer to being considered a dark horse than a contender, you know it is a tight race. As disgraced Washington DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Spacey again shows off just how multi-talented he is as actor, but again this is a crowded year and he could just barely miss the cut.

The Dark Horses:

Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”) 
Both Gosling and his “Blue Valentine” co-star Michelle Williams have legitimate chances to score a nomination, but while both have been tapped before, it was a with a much different field of contenders.

Aaron Eckhart (“Rabbit Hole”) 
After “The Dark Knight,” Eckhart effectively put Hollywood on notice that he was going to be a contender, but this may not be his year. While some have called his role in “Rabbit Hole,” his best career performance, there are just too many other actors who could sneak into one of those nomination slots.  Whether he makes the cut or not, this will not be the last time Eckhart will be considered a contender.

Jake Gyllenhaal (“Love & Other Drugs”)
It isn’t possible to include Anne Hathaway in the discussion for Best Actress and not include her “Love & Other Drugs” co-star in the Best Actor conversation. Although it is also very likely neither will make the short list, but Hathaway probably has the edge.

Ben Affleck (“The Town”) 
Many nominees have said that is really an honor just to be nominated, but in Affleck’s case it may be that is really just an honor to be in the conversation. Affleck has had some rough box office bombs and to climb back into the mix with back to back directorial hits, he has shown a level of versatility that many forget he had.  He may not be personally nominated, but it is very likely some aspect of his film will be, which should go a long way in re-establishing him as an industry force.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New In Theaters - January 14th, 2011

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder,
Channing Tatum & Queen Latifah
 Directed by Ron Howard for distribution by Universal Pictures

The Plot: After a auto designer (Vaughn) sees what he thinks is his best friend’s wife (Ryder) out with another man, he must decide whether or not to say anything.

The Final Word: With an all-star cast and the powerhouse team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer at the helm, this must have looked like an easy project for Universal to greenlight, but looks can be deceiving.  Believe it or not, Vaughn’s last real hit was 2005’s “Wedding Crashers” and a January release date for a comedy with this many A- listers raises a red flag.  You also have to take into account the controversy the first trailer raised with members of the gay community who are already threatening to boycott. 

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christopher Waltz,
Edward James Olmos, David Harbour & Tom Wilkinson
 Directed by Michel Gondry for distribution by Columbia Pictures (Sony)

The Plot: Following the mysterious death of his father (Wilkinson), a playboy (Rogen) formally content to coast through life, becomes a crime-fighting vigilante known as “The Green Hornet.”

The Final Word: Based on the long-running radio/TV/comic strip of the same name, the movie puts Hollywood comedian Seth Rogen in the role of newspaper heir Britt Reid. Yes Sony is making Seth Rogen a superhero and yes they are doing it in 3D. The studio is putting all of its fire power behind the  movie in hopes of not only launching a new franchise but the first blockbuster of the 2011 season.  Funny part is that I think this actually may work.

Previewed next week: "The Company Men" & "No Strings Attached."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Flicks Flashforward - "Oscar Preview 2011 - Best Actress"

With the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor Guild already pulling back the curtain on this year’s group of nominees, it will soon be time for the Academy of Arts & Sciences to do the same. This six part series will look at each of the main categories and break down the frontrunners and dark horses of this Oscar season.

The Frontrunners:

Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”) 
Portman earned her first nomination in 2005 for “Closer,” a role that won her a Golden Globe.  While not all of her dramatic roles have been as well received, her batting average is still very high and “Black Swan,” definitely reaffirms why she should be taken seriously. 2011 is going to be a big year for the talented actress.

Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”)
 Despite three Oscar nominations and seven Golden Globes, Bening has only walked away a winner once.  While her Oscar defeats can mostly be attributed to Hilary Swank (who could also be in contention again this year), the difference this season is that Swank’s Oscar-bait movies (“Amelia” & “Conviction”) both tanked and Bening’s “The Kids Are All Right” has been well-liked since its release. Bening’s biggest competition could be her co-star Julianne Moore.

The Contenders:

Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”) 
Kidman has been off the grid as of late, but her role as a grieving mother has put her back on the radar. It should come as no surprise when she earns her third nomination, especially coming off of both Golden Globe and Screen Actor Guild nominations.

Julianne Moore (“The Kids Are All Right”)
While both Moore and Bening are co-stars in “Kids,” Bening is the one generating more of the Oscar talk.  Be that as it may, it would still be hard to write off Moore as she has four Academy Award nominations to her name.

Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) 
Don’t be surprised if Jennifer Lawrence’s name is called out on nomination morning. Her performance as a teenage mother searching the Ozarks for her deadbeat father has placed her front and center in one of the highest profile races of the year.  The star of “Winter’s Bone,” Lawrence first really broke through as Bill Engvall’s daughter on his TBS sitcom, but with a few higher profile roles up ahead she won’t be as unknown for long.

Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”)
Williams burst onto the scene in 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” opposite her one-time fiancĂ©e Heath Ledger.  Both Ledger and Williams earned a nomination for the film, but neither walked away with the award. “Blue Valentine” could be the film to give the young actress another shot at a win.

The Dark Horses:

Halle Berry (“Frankie & Alice”) 
When Halle Berry won this award in 2002, it was for “Monster’s Ball,” a movie very few people had seen.  Ironically, she could very well pull off that feat again in 2011 with another movie very few people have seen.  While earning a nomination for a film with limited buzz is typically hard, Berry has done it before. Could she repeat?

Anne Hathaway (“Love & Other Drugs”) 
Hathaway was already generating Oscar talk before it was announced she was co-hosting this year’s telecast. So why is she only a dark horse? “Love & Other Drugs” under-performed at the box office and many critics were actually turned off by Hathaway’s frequent nudity in the film.  Normally something like that wouldn’t act as a counter but Hathaway is a very talented young actress and many expected her performance to drive the film, not her body.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New In Theaters - January 7th, 2011

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore & Christopher Lee
 Directed by Dominic Sena for distribution by Relativity Media

The Plot: Two soldiers (Cage & Perlman) return from the Crusades to find their home decimated by a plague.  Convinced a cursed young woman is to blame, the town elders task the pair with escorting her to a faraway monastery in an effort to save their people.

The Final Word: Nicolas Cage is hurting for a hit and unfortunately for him I just don’t see this being it. This is eerily reminiscent of the 2006 “Wicker Man” remake which also starred Cage and was given just as terrible of a release date. The only wild card here is Ron Perlman, the “Sons of Anarchy” and “Hellboy” star does have a strong cult following, but that audience coming out for this could be a long shot.