1. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal, 3,658 Theaters,130 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I have to admire the resilience of this franchise. I thought for sure that after 2006′s The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, a film with only a tenuous connection to the films that came before it, that the franchise would fade off into obscurity.
Not so. 2009′s Fast & Furious proved that a reboot isn’t always what is needed to revitalize a film series. That film brought back most of the original cast, capture the feel of the original feel of first film. It made a ton of bucks which led to three sequels (2011′s Fast and Furious 5, this one, and another installment coming next year).
This time around, the crew is enjoying their ill-gotten gains from the last film, but far away from the families and homes. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) comes to Dom (Vin Diesel) with a proposition: Reunite the crew and help him take down a team of mercenary drivers and everyone gets a pardon. However, the stakes are even higher and even having the law on their side won’t protect them from what comes next.
1. Pain & Gain (Paramount, 3,277 Theaters, 130 Minutes, Rated R): My first thought on how to approach writing the blurb for this film was how awkward a fit Michael Bay was for directing this film. After all, the ads portray it as a wacky crime comedy about a group of bungling bodybuilders who engage in an extortion plot as revenge against a particularly obnoxious client. That is almost a story that Elmore Leonard would write. It was a film that would be better suited being directed by a Barry Sonnenfeld or a Steven Soderbergh, not the master of the explosion.
Then, thanks to the Internet, I was able to read the articles that inspired the film. You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by clicking those links. If you have enough time, I’d recommend you do so. You’ll find a fascinating retelling of the true story that is being dramatized on the screen. What you won’t find is a wacky comedy. Yes, there is bungling. But there is also brutal, inhuman torture of the character Tony Shalhoub represents. There is also a second crime done by the same crew that ends in the murder of two people and their corpses being cut up and sunk in a culvert. The victims of the second crime are listed on IMDB in the cast listing, so that gruesome crime will be addressed in the film.
The true story the poster takes so much pride in stating it is adapted from doesn’t seem like the buoyant fun-filled romp that the trailers make it out to be. That means one of several things. It could mean that Paramount is misrepresenting the film as a goofy comedy instead of a pitch-black comedy/drama the real story would be. This kind of bait and switch is always unctuous.
Or it could be that the Hollywood has taken liberties with the story so it is now a wacky crime caper. This is likely, because Dwayne Johnson’s character appears to be a composite of numerous other accomplices of the Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie characters.
Either way, this is an event where people died. People who were loved and respected by their friends and family were brutally murdered and the bodies underwent the ultimate disrespect after their demise. And while some of the incompetence about the muscle-headed plotters can lend itself to dark humor, you need a master of setting a tone to ensure the film stays respectful to the victims. And Michael Bay is anything but a master of setting the tone, unless it is coming from loud explosions.
2. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate, 2,633 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated R): You know, you don’t often get casts like this one in your remake of a French farce. I mean, you have four Oscar winners, and Prince Caspian! How could you lose!
This is a remake of France’s 2006 film, Mon Frère Se Marie. The plot consists of a family whose adopted son is getting married. The son has been writing home to his biological mother, a devout Catholic, about the wonderful family he was raised in. Only problem is that the story is a lie. His parents are divorced, his siblings are crazy, and his life is anything but perfect. But his birth mother is coming to the ceremony so the man’s family has to pretend to live up to the idealized version he relayed to his mom.
Now, right off the bat, I can pick a bone about the premise. Not that I am one to judge, but I think a Catholic who got pregnant out of wedlock and gave her son up for adoption should be able to cut a divorced couple a little slack. And the semantics of the son’s lie is troubling for me. Why would he have to address his family life in any sort of detail? And if he did, couldn’t he find something positive about his family to relate? In other words, why did he lie when he could have just not admitted the whole truth?
Anyway, farces usually have plots that work best if you don’t think about them. And this all-star cast could make anything good. Might be a fun film if you just take it at face value and run with the concept.
1. G.I.Joe Retaliation (Paramount, 3,719 Theaters, 110 Minutes,Rated PG-13): So, the weather isn’t even warm yet and we already have our first summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, it’s from the summer of 2012.
That’s when the film was supposed to come out. But last May, just a month before the film was supposed to hit theaters and with marketing tie-ins already starting to roll out, Paramount pulled the plug on the release. They said it was so the film could be converted into 3-D, but industry wags claimed that it was done for other reasons, everything from rewriting Channing Tatum’s character’s death out of the film or just to avoid Tatum’s Magic Mike (although that excuse seems flimsy when you consider Dwayne Johnson has 15 other films coming out this year).
The sequel deals with how the team reacts after Cobra takes over the U.S. Government and makes the Joes public enemy #1.
I was a minority who actually liked the first film, so I can’t wait to see what they do now.Not all of the original cast is back, but the addition of Johnson and Bruce Willis more than make up for it.
1. Snitch (Summit Entertainment, 2,511 Theaters, 112 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Dwayne Johnson has built quite the eclectic career for himself. One of the rare professional wrestlers that has grown a long-lasting film presence through appearing not only in action films , but also in comedies (Be Cool), family fare (The Game Plan) and inspirational dramas (The Gridiron Gang). He is as comfortable in the lead, sharing the screen with a co-lead or in a supporting role. He might not be the biggest name in action films since Schwarzenegger, but he has consistently worked.
He’s playing the sole lead in this one, acting in the role of a father who must go undercover for the DEA to infiltrate a drug ring in order to clear his son’s name.
While it might not be the most original concept, Johnson has surrounded himself with a great group of actors (Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper, Benjamin Bratt, David Harbour, Jon Bernathal) that the final product should rise above the what you’d typically expect from a film like this.
2. Dark Skies (Dimension Films, 2,313 Theaters, 97 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Personally, I saw the trailer to this film and I was impressed. I thought there were a few good scares in there, and a pretty creepy vibe throughout.
I also thought the film was going to be about a supernatural possession, more Poltergeist than anything else. Apparently not, because it is about an outer space alien who takes a special interest in a suburban family, especially their children. I mean, the fact that demons might have singled out one particular family to terrorize has been done before, but it is far easier to explain that space aliens.
I think it’s hard to get aliens to work in a horror sense (outside of the Aliens franchise, that is). Add to that the fact that the film’s PG-13 rating, and there is nothing to draw me in.
1. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers, 3,470 Theaters, Rated PG): This is one of those “okay, we’ll call it a sequel” sequels. When 2008′s Journey to the Center of the Earth became an unexpected success (over #241 million worldwide), a sequel seemed likely but there was none in the works since financial success was anything but assured.
The script for this movie was intended to be a standalone film which was rewritten to take part in the franchise. Gone are Brendan Fraser and director Eric Brevig. Sticking around is Josh Hutcherson as Sean and the quest to find a missing relative (this time it’s grandpa, played by Michael Caine). New this time around is Dwayne Johnson as Sean’s mom’s boyfriend/adult chaperone (awkward!), animals who are either much bigger than they should be or much smaller than they should be, and Vanessa Hudgens as Sean’s love interest.
I guess it does come close enough to the first Journey to qualify as a sequel, but it probably would be better as a stand alone film.
2. Safe House (Universal, 3,118 Theaters, 115 Minutes, Rated R): Denzel Washington is back to playing a bad guy…or is he?
Washington is playing Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA agent who has gone over to the dark side. When he is captured by his former employers, he is put in a safe house managed by Ryan Reynolds. When a group of bad guys storm the supposedly safe location, Washington and Reynolds must go on the run. They must trust in each other in order to save their lives, which is hard because neither one trusts the other at all.
Not that I know anything about the film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington’s character was a good guy all along or had run afoul of a criminal element in the CIA.
Regardless, even more interesting than that is seeing how Ryan Reynolds fares acting with Washington. I like Reynolds as an actor, but he’s not in the same league as Washington, one of the best actors of this generation.
3. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems, 2,958 Theaters, 104 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I love the way they are marketing this film. “Starring Channing Tatum from Dear John. Rachel McAdams from The Notebook.” And there’s a lot of emphasis placed on that fact. It’s the producer’s way of saying, “Listen, these two actors have experience in sappy, romantic films about two, star-crossed lovers who try to get together despite whatever fate throws in their way, which is just the kind of thing that happens in this film. If past performance is any indication of future results, this should be the best movie ever! Come see it!” If it works, expect a cycle of other actors from other sappy romances to become interchangable within the genre. It will become mix and match cinema.
And what does fate throw at these to young lovebirds? A car accident, a coma and partial amnesia, all thrown directly at McAdams’ character. This causes her to forget that she is married to Tautm’s character, and he is forced to win her back. Supposedly based on a true story, but, really, if you have legal documents that state you are married to someone, pictures from a wedding, and friends and family telling you that you are married, are you just going to ignore all that and make your hubby woo you all over again?
4. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 3D (FOX, 2,655 Theaters, 136 Minutes, Rated PG): The wife and I were coming out of the movies the other day and we saw a poster for this film in a display case right next to one for the Titanic rerelease, and I said to her, “Why doesn’t Hollywood just stop making new films and rerelease all their classic films over and over again.” I mean, royalties and residuals have to be cheaper than paying new actors to do new stuff right? Andit’s not like Hollywood isn’t already being slammed for its lack of originality. That way at least they’d be up front about it.
Of course, I’m being sarcastic. But seeing those two posters right next to each other made me realize that the wave of the future is actually a wave to the past.
Anyhow, if there’s anyone who knows anything about wringing the most money out of a franchise, it’s George Lucas. And here he is, rereleasing the Star Wars franchise yet another time to theaters to capitalize on the moribund trend that is 3-D. And he’s starting with the weakest installment to boot. There are some good things (whenever Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are on screen alone, the opening battle, Darth Maul, the closing battle, the spry version of Yoda), but the bad (Jar Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd’s performance, Jar Jar Binks, the thinly veiled and insulting cultural stereotypes, Jar Jar Binks, the nonsensical plot points, and Jar Jar Binks) far outweigh them in such a way that no amount of 3-D can fix. My advice? Wait until they get to episode IV until you head back into the theaters. Wait until this version hits DVD and Blu-Ray, which will be the 573rd and 574th version of a Star Wars film to hit home video.
It’s getting so you don’t even need to watch the Super Bowl anymore in order to see many of the commercials that have become synonymous with the big game. Today we see the release of the 30-second GI Joe: Retaliation spot that Paramount will be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million to air on Sunday. The commercial features mostly new footage, but they do reprise a shot from Storm Shadow’s (Ray Park) fight with some ninjas while repelling down the side of a cliff. Among the new footage we get a glimpse of a new helmet for Cobra Commander, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) reveal his love for Jay-Zee and another shot of Bruce Willis.
1.Underworld Awakening (Sony/Screen Gems, 3,078 Theaters, 88 Minutes, Rated R): I don’t know if it’s a good sign or a bad sign that Kate Beckinsale is back in this franchise. Well, it’s good in the sense that I always like her in the role, bad in the sense that it’s a bit of a step back for her, isn’t it?
Anyhoo, Beckinsale returns as Selene, the vampire warrior, who is awaken to find that both the Vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are threat with annihilation by humans. As Selene fights for both races’ survival, she comes across a half-vampire/half-lycan child who just might be her daughter.
The film looks like just what you’d expect from the franchise: Beckinsale in skin-tight leather, kicking ass. It won’t be Shakepeare, but if your taste run toward the goth action film, it should be entertaining.
2. Red Tails (Fox, 2,512 Theaters, 120 Minutes, Rated PG-13): The ads might say this film is “from George Lucas,” but he didn’t write or direct it. His only credit is as executive producer. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute.
Lucas started developing the project, based on the real-life Tuskegee Airmen, back in the late 1980s. It was intended to open in the early 1990s, but fears amongst the Hollywood studios about financing a big budget film with a predominantly black cast made the road the the screen an arduous one, even for a producer of Lucas’ stature.
But the film is finally hitting screens. Lucas hired an African-American director (Anthony Hemmingway) and African-American writers (John Ridley, who wrote one of my most favorite comics of the last decade in The American Way, and Aaron McGruder of The Boondocks fame). I don’t see why all audiences wouldn’t be interested in heroes fight evil, no matter what color the heroes are. I hope audiences prove that to be true this weekend.
3. Haywire (Relativity, 2,439 Theaters, 93 Minutes, Rated R): It’s not easy for any athlete to make the jump to film stardom. For every Dwayne Johnson or Jim Brown, there are twice as many Kurt Thomases and Brian Bosworths. Gina Carrano faces an even more difficlt challenge, being a female MMA fighter trying to break into the world of action films, a world not all that receptive to women with loads of acting experience.
But few athletes could ask for a better introduction to the world of movies than Carrano got. She is paired with an A-list, Oscar winning director in Steven Soderbergh, who surrounded her with a great cast that features Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, and Bill Paxton. Add to that a revenge plot that almost always works (a black ops agent is framed and betrayed and seeks revenge) and you have a pretty solid film.
The trailer was awesome, the kind that made me wish the film started right then. I don’t know if it will open well, especially considering there is another action film with a female protagonist opening the same day, but it’s not for lack of trying.
One of the few things we’ve known about director John Chu’s GI Joe sequel, GI Joe: Cobra Strikes, is that a majority of the cast from the original 2009 film would not be back. So who will take their positions? It looks like one actor stepping up to fight the forces of Cobra is Dwayne Johnson.
Variety is reporting that the actor is currently in discussions with studio Paramount to play Joe team member Roadblock.
In the GI Joe canon, Roadblock is an infantryman known for his proficiency with a heavy machine gun. As Roadblock is also an aspiring chef I guess we should just prepare ourselves now for some variation of the line “Can you smell what Roadblock is cookin’?”
1. Tangled (Disney, 3,603 Theaters, 100 Minutes, Rated PG): Ah, Thanksgiving! The time of year where we reunite with our families, immediately get sick of them and then go out and see a movie. Four are opening today, and they cover just about every member of the family.
There is a lot about this one that makes me skittish. First, it’s a non-Pixar CGI Disney film, which is always a dicey proposition. And while it is what Disney usually does best, a fairy tale adaptation (in this case, it’s Rapunzel), they are giving it a quirky, wacky comedic twist on it. And while the original story was aimed more at girls, the film seems aimed more at boys. There might be a little bait and switch going on there.
That being said, it still looks good enough for the young (and young at heart) to go see. I laughed out loud once or twice during some of the ads, so, that’s a plus.
2. Burlesque (Sony/ Screen Gems, 3,037 Theaters, 100 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Hey, moms! If you can trust your kids to go into Tangled by themselves, and you go to a showing of this film going up at the same time, you’ll leave the theater the same time they do.
But, would you really want to see it? On one hand, it looks like Oscar bait. Well, it looks like Chicago, but that film did win an Oscar. And it has an intriguing cast–Christina Aguilera making her film debut, Cher making her return to film, solid supporting actors like Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell and Dianna Argon.
But the plot is so old that it can remember a time before we had Social Security, televisions in every home and a second World War. A small town girl comes to the big city in hopes of becoming a star. She gets a job at a theater that is down on its luck and barely hanging on. Through pluck and determination, the farm girl gets to perform at the theater and, gosh darn it, isn’t she a hit! But does she have what it takes to save the theater! Ooh, I hope so!
3.Love And Other Drugs (FOX, 2,455 Theaters, 113 Minutes, Rated R): Here’s another one where I laughed out loud at the ads and yet have reservations about the actual film.
Whenever a film, especially a romance, is listed as a comedy and a drama, it usually never is really good at either or both at the same time. And this films is listed as a comedy and a drama.
Brokeback Mountain co-stars Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal reunite in this film. Hathaway plays a free spirit that will never be tamed. Gyllenhaal plays charming rogue who is more than a match for her. They’re in love, but will it last?
Sounds good if it was just a romantic comedy. But since drug abuse plays a role in the film, and Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical rep, I can imagine where the drama comes in. And that’s a bit off putting.
4. Faster (CBS Films, 2,454 Theaters, 98 Minutes, Rated R): And then there’s this one. No fairy tale romances, no singing, no dramedy, just somebody killing a ;lot of people as fast as he can, the way the best revenge flicks work out.
Dwayne Johnson leaves the world of the kiddie flicks behind to return to the action genre he started out in. He plays an escaped ex-con who is tracking down the people responsible for killing his brother. He, in turn, is tracked down by a pair of cops and a pair of assassins.
See? That’s pretty much all you need for an action/revenge film. This one might not get great reviews from critics, heck, it might not be good at all, but it’s bound to be entertaining.
Tangled might have a chance in the already crowded Best Animated film category.
Burlesque does seem like Oscar bait, but is it really? Cher already has an award but could get a nod no matter how hackneyed the plot is.
Love and Other Drugs might seem like a long shot for any kind of nomination, but it is directed by Edward Zwick. Zwick has an Oscar as a producer for Shakespeare in Love), but as a director, he is good at getting his actors nods/awards (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Wantenabe, Denzel Washington). Hathaway and Gyllenhaal both have nominations in the past. So them getting acting nods is not entirely unheard of.
It’s pretty safe to say the chances of Faster getting any Oscar nominations are pretty slim. Well, outside of the technical awards, that is.
A film in limited release that could get some attention from the Academy is The King’s Speech (Opening Friday, 4 Theaters, The Weinstein Company, 118 Minutes, Rated R). It’s based on a true story (of the man who helped England’s King George the IV ascend to the throne), it’s the story of a man overcoming an affliction (granted, it’s stuttering, but still), it’s leads have had nods in the past and one victory to their credit (Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush), and it’s British.
I really don’t know what kind of career advice Dwayne Johnson has been getting over the last several years. The wrestler-turned-actor showed some promise early on in the mediocre The Scorpion King (2002) and Be Cool (2005), his career took a distinct downturn with the video game adaptation Doom into lowbrow kiddie fare like The Game Plan and Return To Witch Mountain. His appearances in good films like Get Smart and the recent The Other Guys seem more like statistical anomalies rather than choices powered by the same reasoning that lead him to do The Tooth Fairy.
But with the action film Faster slated for release this November and being currently in production of The Fast And The Furious 5, it certainly seems as if his career is tacking back towards the course it was on in the early half of this past decade. So it seems a bit odd, and perhaps a bit of a regression, that Johnson is in final negotiations to star in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a sequel to 2008′s 3D family adventure film Journey To The Center Of The Earth. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Heat Vision blog is stating that the actor is in final negotiations with the studio and a deal should be finalized by the weekend.
Journey To The Center Of The Earth was actually the harbinger of the current 3D craze and featured Brandon Fraiser as a professor who discovers a path to a hidden underground world and sets off to explore it with his nephew, played by Josh Hutcherson. Hutcherson is returning as the focus of the new film, with Johnson stepping in as adult supervision since negotiations broke down with Frasier. Johnson will play the boyfriend of Hutcherson’s character’s mother who gets pulled in to a quest to the titular mysterious island to search for his missing grandfather.
Like the first film, this one is also loosely based on a Jules Verne novel. Verne’s novel was a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and featured the pirate submarine commander Captain Nemo. There’s no word if the character will appear here, though if he does, Journey 2 will have beaten all three competing20,000 Leagues properties currently in development in getting him to the big screen.
Shooting is scheduled to start later in October in North Carolina and then Hawaii. The movie will be shoot in 3D.