Author Archives: Brian

Opening in Chicago, 02/01

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Another weekend, another dull slate of movies. Tough time of year, this.

Director Jonathan Levine has made a couple of movies that I’ve seen in The Wackness and 50/50, but I didn’t really think much of either one. It seemed like he was getting set to specialize in movies about insufferable douchebags, and now he’s back with Warm Bodies (trailer), about a girl who falls in love with a zombie. Man, am I tired of zombies, and I’ve made a point not to see most of the zombie movies out there. At least this time there’s a reason the male protagonist is a douchebag, I guess.

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin team up for Stand Up Guys (trailer), a movie about old gangsters reuniting for one last night of fun until one of them gets whacked. Perhaps all that needs to be said is that it got an Academy qualifying run back in December, which no one noticed thus resulted in absolutely no awards consideration whatsoever. Reviews are pretty terrible.

Sylvester Stallone stars in Bullet to the Head (trailer), which is probably more notable for being the return of director Walter Hill. It’s his first feature since Undisputed with Wesley Snipes, which I honestly don’t remember happening. Probably won’t remember this one in ten years, either. Reviews are of course not good, although they seem moderately better than Stand Up Guys, which probably tells you more about Stand Up Guys than Bullet to the Head.

In the arthouse world, Michael Apted brings the next installment of his Up series, 56 Up (trailer).

And waaaay down in Chatham opens urban teenage drama In the Hive, starring the late Michael Clarke Duncan and directed by Meteor Man himself, Robert Townsend.

Opened in Chicago, 01/25

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Another boring week:

The industry had bizarrely inflated expectations for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (trailer), and I saw estimates of $30 million and even higher last week. That didn’t materialize, though, with the movie only grossing about $19 million over the weekend. And even that seems high since the movie looks terrible.

Maggie Smith, fresh off her Oscar snub, stars in Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet (trailer), which looks prettty dull to me. I’m glad that it didn’t get any Oscar nominations, because now I don’t feel the slightest bit of compunction over skipping it. I do, however, think that this “let’s make movies for old people” trend is interesting, because it seems like pop culture has been almost exclusively mareketed to young people (i.e., maximum age of 30) for a long time.

Then there are a couple of movies that no one cares about at all, Taylor Hackford’s Parker (trailer), starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, and Movie 43 (trailer), starring a bunch of people but no one I feel like mentioning. The former looks utterly routine, and the latter looks like it should be showing on one of the lesser Showtime channels.

From India comes Race 2, apparently a sequel to Race, and about the activities of the Indian mafia in Turkey. As far as I know, every word in that sentence is really true.

The Music Box is showing a couple of reissues, Alexander Mackendrick’s The Man in the White Suit and Marcel Carné’s Port of Shadows. I’ll try to make it to Port of Shadows, at least.

Downtown, there are a couple of arthouse films showing. The first is a documentary about photographer Gregory Crewdson, entitled Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (trailer). The second is Consuming Spirits, an animated film about residents of a “dreary Rustbelt town”.

Opening in Chicago, 01/18

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Nothing really of interest this week, I’m afraid. In fact, looking at the release schedule, I’d say that things look pretty bleak indefinitely. 2012 was an off-year for movies, I think (though I still have some major things to see), and so far 2013 doesn’t look all that promising either. We’ll see.

Broken City (trailer) – one of the Hughes brothers directs a generic-looking cop movie
The Last Stand (trailer) – Arnold’s back, but no one cares
LUV (trailer) – Common stars in an urban indie drama
Mama (trailer) – horror movie secretly starring Jessica Chastain
La rafle (trailer) – French WW2 drama starring Melanie Laurent and Jean Reno
West of Memphis (trailer) – doc about the West Memphis Three

Opening in Chicago, 01/11

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And so we find ourselves in the winter season, where our new releases are an odd mixture of prestigious award hopefuls, studio dumps, and bottom-of-the-barrel trash.

As an example of the first group, we welcome Michael Haneke’s Amour (trailer), the 2012 Palme d’Or winner at Cannes and Oscar nominee for Picture, Director, and Actress. As everyone’s no doubt aware, I’m a big Haneke fan, so this is a big event for me regardless of its awards cachet, and I’m very anxiously awaiting the chance to see it. Probably next Tuesday, hopefully.

The film stars French legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, the latter of whom I very much adore in Melville’s Leon Morin, Priest. I’ve deliberately avoided reading too much about the plot, and the opaque trailer is nice in this regard, but I gather it’s about an old couple, on of whom are experiencing a severe stroke or some other similar affliction. No doubt it’s a challenging film, but nonetheless this week’s Oscar nominations show that Haneke has a degree of mainstream acceptance that I would’ve thought impossible just a few years back. Who could’ve dreamed that he’d get a Best Director nomination someday?

As an example of the middle group, Warner Bros. is dumping Gangster Squad (trailer) into the January wasteland, where it will no doubt make some money and then disappear from everyone’s collective memory shortly after its opening weekend. You may remember that this was originally scheduled to come out last year, but had its release date pushed back in response to the theater shooting in Colorado. Now, as then, it doesn’t really look like anything special (too much Gosling), and in all honesty I think this is a better time of year for it then its original date was anyway.

And as perhaps the best example possible of the third group, one of the Wayans is in A Haunted House (trailer), another in an endless ripoffs of Scary Movie, which was itself a ripoff of a movie that was already a parody (not to mention other spoofs in the Airplane vein). I don’t have the slightest idea who actually pays money to watch this stuff, but here it is.

In other news…

We have a couple of releases from India, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, as well as the documentary $ellebrity (trailer). The Siskel is playing a reissue of Claude Sautet’s Max et les ferrailleurs, a movie I admit I know nothing about. Facets is playing the indie drama The Trouble with the Truth (trailer), starring a couple actors I’d mostly forgotten about in John Shea and Lea Thompson. And the Music Box is showing Somewhere Between (trailer), a documentary exploring the ramifications of China’s one-child policy.

Opened in Chicago, 01/04

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I’m posting late again this week, but fortunately it’s the week after New Year’s and as usual there’s not much going on. The big opening here this weekend was Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (trailer), which seems to have awoken a frenzy of liberaler-than-thou critics within the lefty blogospehere that I can barely stand to read. So I guess that this has become controversial in some fashion, although I don’t really get it.

As for the movie, I liked but wasn’t really terribly impressed by The Hurt Locker, and so far this looks like more of the same. Well, not the same, exactly, but this isn’t a story that sounds all that compelling to me (i.e., like something from the movies but real!), and the trailers haven’t done it any favors. I’ll see it, and I’ll probably admire it to some degree like I did The Hurt Locker, but it’s really hard to believe that it’ll be much more than that.

And that’s pretty much it as far as noticeable releases. Here are the assorted indies and others:

Any Day Now (trailer) – Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt as a couple who adopt in a disabled child
Price Check (trailer) – uh, I dunno, but Parker Posey’s in it
The Rabbi’s Cat – animated French film about a cat that learns to talk after swallowing a parrot
Sister (trailer) – Swiss-set French film about a young boy who steals to support his older sister
Texas Chainsaw (trailer) – no explanation needed

Opening in Chicago, Weekend of 12/28 (Better Late Than Never Edition)

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So, this is all going to seem like old news, since I’m not only late posting this, but also most of the movies came out last Tuesday already. In fact, I’m having a hard time remembering which movies I need to include and which ones I don’t without looking it up.

Puzzled chin-stroking aside, I guess the biggest releases of the week are Tarantino’s Django Unchained (trailer) and Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables (trailer), with its Village of the Damned poster that is supposed to evoke the classic image from the musical but just looks creepy. Why does it have a plastic doll on it that’s looking at me like it wants to eat my soul?

I don’t really have a strong preference between these two movies, although I suppose that I’d pick the Tarantino if forced to choose. Problem is, I feel like I look forward to every Tarantino less than the one before. It used to be that a new film of his was a major event, but now it’s more of a mild curiosity to me than anything. I don’t really think his classic work holds up all that well, either. I just watched Pulp Fiction again last week, and I can still appreciate it for what it is, but I also feel like I see it the same way that I did when I was 16 years old and it was first released. Some movies grow with you, but that one hasn’t grown with me. It’s still exactly the same to me as it was then, and I can’t see anything in it that I didn’t see as a teenager. I don’t think I could even make it through Reservoir Dogs again….

As for Les Miz, well, whatever. Jeanine’s seen it (I haven’t) and can say more about than I can. I’m not a big fan of musicals but this one looks more appealing than most, mostly because it has a cast I can tolerate. I expect I’ll be a little impatient but mostly OK with it and then kind of pissed when it wins a bunch of Oscars.

Next up is Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land (trailer), which apparently aims to lure a bunch of people who are already against fracking into a movie theater in order to tell them a bunch of stuff that they already know. I like Matt Damon, and I sometimes like Van Sant, but this looks like an endurance test.

From France, we have The Big Picture (trailer), which is the kind of French thriller that I used to see as a matter of routine. Now, though, I’m working, which occasionally makes it impossible to get to the the Music Box since they’re usually not open during the day. But also, I’m a little afraid to head down there these days, because I tend to show up and find that they’re showing a Blu-ray or something, which I of course will not abide. I’ve repeatedly requested to them that they make exhibition formats available on the web, like the Siskel or Doc Films or others do, but as of yet they haven’t listened to what seems to me like an easy and fair request.

Speaking of which, they’re also showing Lawrence of Arabia, in what is billed as a “meticulous 4K digital restoration created from the original 65mm negative.” Now, this isn’t really their fault, since Sony’s making the 4K file available so that’s what they’re playing. But seriously, 4K is not the same thing as 70mm, and it’s ludicrous to pretend like it is.

I never watched The Sopranos, but now creator David Chase has made his first movie, Not Fade Away (trailer), about a teenagers in 1960s New Jersey who form a rock band. Don’t really have an opinion on this one, because I don’t really know much about it. Reviews are not quite glowing but mostly respectful. Probably will skip it.

Facets is playing a reissue of what has to be one of the few Surinamese films to play in the US, One People, originally released in 1976.

Hmm, let’s see, what else … oh, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are starring in a movie that no one in their right mind can possibly expect to be good. It’s called Parental Guidance (trailer), and in the same spirit that I imagine propels reality shows where people eat disgusting food for spectacle, our own Marco Trevisiol has braved the harsh Australian winter to check it out and report back. He reports that it’s “assembly-line Hollywood ‘family comedy’ at its worst”. Sounds about right!

Opening in Chicago, Weekend of 12/21

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Is it just me, or does it seem like the film industry sort of shot its load early this year? For awhile, there were high-profile, well-reviewed movies coming out one after the other (e.g., Argo, Lincoln, Skyfall) as well as less well-reviewed but still interesting projects (Anna Karenina and Life of Pi, the latter of which I’ve yet to see). Now, though, the Christmas outlook seems less promising.

To me, the most interesting release this week is Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone (trailer). I thought Audiard’s A Prophet was impressive but maybe a little overrated, and for that matter I think I like his Read My Lips the best of his films that I’ve seen. This one isn’t getting quite the reviews that A Prophet did, but it seems like a good showcase for Marion Cotillard, who I think is one of the very best there is right now.

Besides that, we have a grab bag of notable but not really exciting releases. I was initially interested in The Impossible (trailer), starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as parents of a family caught up in the Asian tsunami from several years back, but the trailer doesn’t do much for me. And honestly, there’s something uninspired about casting McGregor and Watts in roles like these, and it’s hard to explain why since I like both of them well enough. I just feel like I know what I’m getting in advance, that’s all. Still, it should be better than Clint Eastwood’s tsunami film, Hereafter.

Up to this point, I’ve been contentedly but unenthusiastically aboard the Judd Apatow train, at least when he’s directing, but I just can’t imagine that I’ll enjoy This Is 40 (trailer), which looks for all the world like a big dumb self-absorbed jerkoff. I don’t even remember the Rudd and Banks characters from Knocked Up, why would I want to see a movie about them? Why do I care about how they feel about turning 40? Why do I need to see a movie about parents exasperated by the first-world problems they face raising their kids? These questions and more (such as, “why is this movie 134 minutes long?”) need to be answered before I go anywhere near this thing.

Also, anyone else find it odd that a Knocked Up spinoff is competing directly with a new Seth Rogen comedy? And which of the two looks less appealing? The Guilt Trip (trailer) stars Rogen as a man who for some unknowable reason decides to take a cross-country road trip with his clueless mom, who is Barbra Streisand, and toegther they face all kinds of predictable yet implausible encounters, like strip clubs. Who does this appeal to, exactly? Who wants to sit and watch two hours of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen squabbling? That sounds like torture to me.

And speaking of lack of appeal, what’s up with Jack Reacher (trailer)? It was once traditional for studios to try to market their big major movie star vehicles, but Paramount seems to have dropped this and run away like it was a bag of poo on someone’s doorstep. It’s odd, really, because whatever one thinks of Cruise, he’s rarely starred in an outright bomb like this. It doesn’t even seem like it was widely reviewed, so I’m not sure how widely Paramount screened it for critics. I wonder why they even bothered to keep the prominent release date instead of dumping it in February like studios did in days of yore, because clearly no one cares about it.

The others:

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (trailer) – “Cirque du Soleil” means “circus of the sun”
Dabangg 2 – “a continuation of the amazing exploits of Chulbul ‘Robin Hood’ Pandey”
Jean Gentil – a Haitian man in the Dominican Republic searches for a work
Monsters, Inc. (trailer) – pointless 3D reissue

Opening in Chicago, 12/14

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And so … the backlash for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (trailer) has sure been fierce and hard, hasn’t it? To some extent, this plays into my general feeling that Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy has not improved with time, and as someone who didn’t really like those films, I feel vindicated to some extent. After all, some of the big complaints I had with the trilogy are the very same things that people are complaining about with this new film.

That aside, though, it will be interesting to see how the whole HFR thing plays out. Reaction thus far has been overwhelmingly negative, and from what I’ve personally seen (I watched about 10 minutes of the movie the other night), whatever process Jackson used to capture 48fps is an unmitigated disaster. It looks like he’s applied the amped-up motion enhancement settings that you see with new HDTVs, making motion look smoother but also highly artificial. Frankly, even though all reports are that Jackson shot the film in 48fps, it looks like it was shot 24fps and then upconverted. There’s no inherent reason that I know of for why 48fps should look like that, so either Jackson “enhanced” the image in post or the technology isn’t there yet. Given the reliance on CGI, I’m going to guess a little bit of column A, and a little bit of column B. Whether this will be acceptable to audiences or not, I have no idea, but unlike 3D, I was actually looking forward to the arrival of 48fps, so it’s not like I’m just being a Luddite here.

The other major Chicago opening this week is Hyde Park on Hudson (trailer), which opened in limited release last weekend to generally poor reviews and middling box office. I’m as big of a Bill Murray fan as there is, but I was disappointed when the trailer was released to see the film being sold as some kind of weird FDR rom-com, and now that the movie’s been released it turns out that’s what it pretty much is. A shame, really, because I bet a really good movie could be made out of the subject matter.

The rest:

Back to 1942 (trailer) – Chinese film about a crippling famine during WWII
Beauty Is Embarrassing (trailer) – doc about artist Wayne White
Citadel (trailer) – Irish urban horror film
The Matchmaker – Israeli coming-of-age tale set in 1968
Yogawoman – doc about … well, women and yoga

Opening in Chicago, 12/07

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Sorry for the extremely brief post this week, but did anything interesting open here this week? Not so far as I can tell:

The Central Park Five (trailer) – doc about teens falsely accused of rape
Generation P – Russian film about social climbing ad exec
Khiladi 786 – another film from India
New Jerusalem – drama about returning Afghanistan vet
Playing for Keeps (trailer) – Gerard Butler AND Jessica Biel? Ugh
Starlet (trailer) – unlikely friendship between young actress and old widow
Step Up to the Plate (trailer) – doc about the Bras family of chefs

HAGEBOC 12 – Week 3

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Predict the #1 film for the weekend of December 7 – December 9, 2012. The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus 1:
Will Playing for Keeps finish in the top 4?
Bonus 2:
Will Hyde Park on Hudson average more or less than $100K per screen in its limited opening?

Deadline is THURSDAY 11:59 pm EST. Good luck!

SCORES
Jackrabbit Slim – 10.5
Rob – 9.5
Joe – 3
James – 1.5
Juan – 1
Filmman – 0.5

 

Opening in Chicago, 11/30

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Sorry for the late post this weekend, but there’s not really much to report this weekend anyway.

The most promising new release is Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly (trailer). I still haven’t caught up to Dominik’s Chopper, but The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was really terrific. I’d have bought that Blu-ray long ago if I hadn’t read that the image on it hopelessly overprocessed by Warner Bros. At any rate, it’s been five years since that film, and before that Dominik went 7 years between movies, so I hope this one is good. You have to make them count when you’re that unprolific.

The next most interesting release is the new remake of Wuthering Heights (trailer) by director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank). I actually saw this back in March, and was reasonably impressed, although it certainly has its flaws. Like one would expect from Arnold, there’s a lot of handheld photography, there’s no musical score, and the overall tone is gritty and harshly melodramatic.

Other than that … hmm. Saw ripoff The Collection (trailer) is making a token theatrical appearance before being forgotten by everyone for all time. Indian thriller Talaash is opening downtown; apparently there’s a reasonably large niche market for imports from India, because these have become a fairly regular occurence. Documentary Wagner & Me examines the Jewish guilt of liking composer Richard Wagner (really?). And Matthew Lillard’s indie comedy Fat Kid Rules the World (trailer) is about a teenager who takes up drumming for a punk band.

That’s pretty sparse, but next week looks even worse. At least I’ll get to catch up a little on the stuff that’s already out.

Opening in Chicago, Weekend of 11/23

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So, it’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the US, which as usual brings intolerably long lines at stores, traffic that makes one thankful for mass transit, and one of the busiest weekends of the year at movie theaters.

Leading the way among new releases this weekend is Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (trailer), which looks interesting on one hand but also carries the whiff of studio desperation with it on the other. I’ve seen a lot of Avatar comparisons floated lately, particularly in regards to its use of 3D, which seems like hype to me. Maybe I’ll eat my words (or probably not, since I won’t see it in 3D), but Ang Lee has never been a groundbreaking technician, and I’m skeptical that the movie is the landmark in film history that Fox is trying to sell it as. But like I say, I do want to see it, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at least proved that Lee is capable of very exciting but also very elegant spectacle.

Among potential Oscar hopefuls, Hitchcock (trailer) also sees its debut today, and frankly it looks awful. Who greenlit Anthony Hopkins’s make-up job for this movie? Forget looking like Hitchcock, he barely looks recognizably human. If you saw someone looking like him on the street, you’d assume he had some kind of grotesque disease.

Even aside from that, the trailer makes the film look pretty pedestrian. He has some pushback from the studios, his wife alternately stands by him and gives Oscar-bait lectures to him, he makes some droll quips from time to time … I don’t see anything here that seems enlightening or even fun. It looks like it was made for cable, actually.

Other than that, though, there’s not much to pick from. There’s the animated Rise of the Guardians (trailer), which looks like sort of a marketing-department-conceived Avengers-type thing made up of childhood mythical figures (e.g., Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.). Not sure what the appeal is, and early box office seems disappointing for Dreamworks. There’s the remake of Red Dawn (trailer), which hardly seems worth mentioning. There’s another animated film from France, Michel Ocelot’s Tales of the Night, and an indie drama called The Comedy (trailer).

But that appears to be it. Hope everyone is having a good weekend. Try not to be trampled by the bargain-hunting herd.

Opening in Chicago, 11/16

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In box office terms, the biggest release of the week will surely be the latest and last Twilight installment, but the bigger news for me is the release of a couple of OScar-season heavyweights in Anna Karenina and Silver Linings Playbook.

Anna Karenina comes to us from Joe Wright, returning to period pieces after a couple of contemporary films. Of those two, The Soloist was the type of pointless misfire that one would expect from a director out of his element. But then Hanna was a startling film, with terrifically efficient action direction and a weird grim fairy tale tone. It’s hard to know what to make about Anna Karenina, except that it’s so far gotten divisive reviews, and that its trailer makes it look rather audaciously stylized. Fairly or not, this movie will go a long way towards solidifying my opinion of Wright, because right now I’m not so sure what to think.

Meanwhile, David O. Russell returns with Silver Linings Playbook, with what appears to be a big moment for the clearly talented Jennifer Lawrence. Otherwise, the trailer doesn’t do the film many favors, making it look like an ostensibly edgy but actually quite saccharine romantic comedy about mentally ill people in love. But I’ve yet to not like a Russell film, and I can only trust that there’s more to it than it appears. Or, at the very least, that like The Fighter it takes a familiar plot outline but presents it with obvious craftsmanship, attention to emotional detail, and fine acting.

Rounding out the week’s notable films is This Must Be the Place, starring Sean Penn as an aging goth rocker. This frankly looks terrible, with Penn utilizing a voice that most resembles Chris Kattan’s goth character on SNL, and a plot that boils down to some bad stuff that happened to Penn’s father in WWII (that he has to go on a cross-country road trip to sort out). There’s also rumors of it being tinkered with by the Weinsteins, so there’s that, too.

Anna Karenina (trailer)

Band of Sisters – doc about nuns

Chasing Ice (trailer) – doc about glaciers

Jab Tak Hai Jaan – romance from India

Silver Linings Playbook (trailer)

Son of Sardaar (trailer) – action movie from India

Sushi: The Global Catch – doc about sushi

This Must Be the Place (trailer)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (trailer)