Finally, after the failures of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, DC Comics delivered a superhero adventure able to rival the Marvel movies. Directing her first feature film in 14 years, Patty Jenkins and her team craft a handsome and robust equivalent to the Captain America movies, set during World War I, with Diana (Gal Gadot) accompanying a British spy (Chris Pine) to the front where she hopes to confront the war god Ares. Done in a much lighter way than previous DC blockbusters, even though the final showdown is predictably grim. Overlong, but fun and explosive; boosted by the rapport between Gadot and Pine.
2017-U.S. 141 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Richard Suckle. Directed by Patty Jenkins. Screenplay: Allan Heinberg. Comic Book: William Moulton Marston. Cast: Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Robin Wright (Antiope), Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen.
Trivia: At various points over the years, Ivan Reitman and Joss Whedon were reportedly considered for directing duties. Wonder Woman next appeared in Justice League (2017).
Last word: “It ended up being very ‘Superman’. For me it’s ‘Casablanca’ a lot. It came up a lot. And Indiana Jones. It’s those three films. It’s a classic film. We’re making a classic film. We care about humor. We care about epic. We care about heroicism. We care about arc and story. Make it elegant. Go for it. Don’t hold back. Just try for that pocket all the time. Really those three films with a kind of war hero, who Steve Trevor is. Indiana Jones or Rick from ‘Casablanca’ meets Wonder Woman and I’m in.” (Jenkins, Slash Film)
This film, surely one of the best to screen in the Un Certain Regard section of this year’s Cannes festival, may take place in West Texas, but it wasn’t shot there. The filmmakers opted for Eastern New Mexico instead, a region that is sometimes called ”Little Texas”. As far as culture, demographics and the landscape goes, it looks a lot like West Texas. Maybe it was cheaper to shoot there, but in any case the place has the right feel for the movie – its flat terrain, hot sun and rural culture provides an effective backdrop to what we might call a neo-Western.
Early one morning, two brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine, Ben Foster), rob two branches of the Texas Midlands Bank. They plan to hit several more offices in small towns over several days, avoiding complications and also making sure to steal only small amounts, no $100 bills that could be loaded with dye packs. The brothers intend to use the money to avoid foreclosure on a ranch left behind after the death of their mother. It’s a smart plan, even though Tanner is a hothead willing to take much greater risks. Texas Rangers Marcus Hamilton and Alberto Parker (Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham) don’t yet know who they’re after, but soon figure out where the robbers might be headed…
Great understanding of westerns
An impressive effort from British director David Mackenzie who up until the premiere of Hell or High Water was probably best known for the Scotland-set drama Young Adam (2003). This is his second American film and it shows a great understanding of and interest in the classic hallmarks of the western genre. We have two young bucks robbing banks and two seasoned lawmen on their trail. We’re treated to sights of dusty, wide plains and small towns, shot in a traditional, iconic way – expect many gorgeous scenes where characters hang out on porches, pickup trucks and fences, surrounded by earthy vastness. Obviously, there’s also an exciting showdown near the end, brutal and heartbreaking in nature. Writer Taylor Sheridan’s script consistently comments on what life is like now for those who live in these places, connecting old-fashioned sensibilities with current events. The fictional Texas Midlands Bank is the true villain, unreasonable and money-grubbing, taking advantage of folks who are struggling to get by. A lot has also changed for Native Americans; Alberto Parker is Comanche, used to his partner’s constant ribbing, but also bitterly aware of the dignity and history of his tribe that once ruled the land where he’s now simply a ranger. The Howard brothers also launder the money they steal at an Oklahoma casino, which ties into the Native American theme. The intellectual value of this social critique is a bit muddled and on the thin side, but still relevant as examples of what happened to the Old West. As a thriller, Mackenzie paces his movie very well, and the actors are magnificent. I’m happy to see Pine in a great movie, finally, and Foster is very entertaining as his loose cannon of a brother. Bridges (who’s starting to look more and more like Stan Lee in the film’s second half) is excellent as the aging but still brilliant ranger; Birmingham (who’s Comanche in real life as well) has the film’s most intriguing role as Bridges’s quiet, loyal partner.
Western mythology aside, the movie is also about relationships between men, brothers and friends. There isn’t much room for women as they embark on their quests. The landscape, economy and lifestyles of what used to be the Old West may change over the decades, but maybe some things remain the same.
Hell or High Water 2016-U.S. 102 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Sidney Kimmel, Julie Yorn. Directed by David Mackenzie. Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan. Cinematography: Giles Nuttgens. Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis. Cast: Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey.
Last word: “It is political. It’s kind of weird as an outsider, because I don’t think I have the right to be judgemental. And talking to Taylor about it, we didn’t want to be judgemental, but it is swimming in the waters of American politics, and it explores a lot of the fault lines that exist in modern America. You know, guns, race, banks, oil, land – those are the kinds of things that are really alive and causing deep rifts and anxieties within America.” (Mackenzie, Den of Geek)
In 1952, Bernard Webber (Chris Pine) is one of the Coast Guard crewmen heading out into a nor’easter to save the crew of an oil tanker that’s been cut in half by the storm. A reality-based disaster movie in the same vein as The Perfect Storm (2000), which also took place in the dark waters off the coast of Massachusetts. The storm is staged in full force, as expected, but the filmmakers lack the ability to raise real tension out of this dramatic scenario. One reason is dull characters, especially Pine’s; he’s such an angel you fall asleep just watching him.
2016-U.S. 117 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Book: Michael J. Tougias, Casey Sherman. Cast: Chris Pine (Bernard Webber), Casey Affleck (Ray Sybert), Holliday Grainger (Miriam Pentinen), Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Graham McTavish.
A few years into a five-year mission, James Kirk (Chris Pine) is having doubts about his career when suddenly the Enterprise is attacked by unknown aliens. The story may sound like any other generic Star Trek outing, and this third film in the new franchise has indeed its moments where the action and the characters’ emotional dilemmas seem overly familiar. Still, the director, a newcomer to the franchise, paces the story well and the film looks and feels like a welcome tribute in 3D to those ingredients that have always made this concept fly. A solid adventure, and the cast is comfortable in their roles.
2016-U.S. 122 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Bryan Burk. Directed by Justin Lin. Screenplay: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung. Cast: Chris Pine (James Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Leonard ”Bones” McCoy), Zoë Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho… Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba.
It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2016 for ya. As always, premiere dates may change.
* 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Michael Bay leaves his robots aside for a while, taking on a politically sensitive subject. Looks far from another Zero Dark Thirty (2012) though.
* Kung Fu Panda 3 – Another entry in this popular animated franchise.
* Jane Got a Gun – Natalie Portman stars in a Western, alongside Ewan McGregor, about a woman trying to save her outlaw husband.
* Hail, Caesar!– Another star-studded comedy from the Coen brothers, where we follow the adventures of a Hollywood “fixer” (Josh Brolin). Looks like great fun.
* Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – A film adaptation of the bestseller that promises blood, gore and Victorian romance. Stars Lily James.
* Zoolander 2 – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are back as the dim-witted models that we first met in 2001. The sequel is on a large scale and has many cameos, including Justin Bieber.
* Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds plays the superhero in a movie whose first trailer was wildly praised at its release during Comic-Con. The character is tied to the X-Men movies.
* The Witch – This low-budget horror movie, which follows a 17th century Puritan family as it encounters evil in the New England woods, premiered at Sundance last January and is finally bowing in theaters.
* London Has Fallen – The sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) moves the action to London. Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler are back as the President and his Secret Service agent.
* Knight of Cups – Terrence Malick is back with a movie following a Hollywood screenwriter. Starring Natalie Portman and Christian Bale, the trailer looks very “malicky”.
* The Divergent Series: Allegiant – The last book in the popular series has been divided into two movies; here’s the first part.
* Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – The most talked about superhero movie of the year, a follow-up to Man of Steel (2013). Starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman.
* The Boss – A new Melissa McCarthy comedy is usually worthy of some attention. This one has her as a ruthless former executive who’s sent to prison. Her husband Ben Falcone directs.
* The Jungle Book– Jon Favreau’s live-action take on the Disney classic was originally supposed to have premiered in 2015. Featuring the voices of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray.
* Everybody Wants Some – Richard Linklater’s new movie has been described as sort of a sequel to both Boyhood and Dazed and Confused.
* Captain America: Civil War – The third Captain America puts Cap (Chris Evans) in conflict with Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.). This year’s biggest Marvel event.
* Snowden – Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the famous whistleblower in Oliver Stone’s take on how Snowden leaked classified documents to the press. Expect controversy.
* The Nice Guys – Shane Black is back with another action-comedy that looks overly familiar… but the trailer is funny, and stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling seem game.
* X-Men: Apocalypse – This one follows X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and has the younger versions of our most famed mutants battling the world’s first mutant.
* Alice Through the Looking Glass– I was no big fan of the original Alice in Wonderland(2010), but we’ll have to see what Muppets director James Bobin has up his sleeve. Several of the first film’s stars return.
* The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist – The first film was damned scary, so James Wan’s sequel had better be good. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as the ghost-hunting couple.
* Warcraft – Duncan Jones is adapting the famous game and we’re all wondering if this is the one that will change the sad reputation of movies based on video games.
* Finding Dory – The follow-up to Finding Nemo (2003) has the same challenge as The Conjuring 2 – how can you top a beloved sequel? The trailer shows that Pixar likely has found the lovely tone of the first movie.
* Independence Day: Resurgence – 20 years have passed since the first Independence Day, and this sequel brings back some of the old stars as well as new ones. And, of course, the aliens are back.
* The BFG– Steven Spielberg directs this family-friendly story about a giant. Based on a Roald Dahl story, the script was written by the late Melissa Mathison who also wrote E.T..
* The Legend of Tarzan – Alexander Skarsgård plays Tarzan in this take on the classic story, directed by David Yates. The trailer suggests a rather traditional approach.
* Ghostbusters – The remake of the 1984 comedy classic has women replacing the male ghostbusters of the original. Stars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig; directed by their Bridesmaids helmer, Paul Feig.
* Star Trek Beyond – The third movie in this new franchise premiered a trailer a few weeks ago that sent fans into a rage. Will it honor the predecessors or turn into a new Fast and Furious?
* The Bourne sequel – It still doesn’t have a title, this fourth movie in the franchise to star Matt Damon, the first since 2007. Paul Greengrass is back as director.
* Suicide Squad – David Ayer directs this dark DC Comics adventure that unites supervillains recruited by the government. Will Smith leads the cast; Jared Leto plays the Joker.
* A Cure for Wellness – We don’t know much about this project, but it’s a supernatural horror movie directed by the very uneven Gore Verbinski. Dane DeHaan has the lead role.
* Sully – Clint Eastwood directs this film about the pilot who heroically landed a plane on the Hudson River. Tom Hanks plays “Sully”.
* Deepwater Horizon – The story of the 2010 disaster that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is directed by Peter Berg and stars Kurt Russell and Mark Wahlberg.
* The Accountant – Warriordirector Gavin O’Connor is back with a thriller starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons.
* Gambit – After Deadpool comes this, another spin-off set in the X-Men universe. Doug Liman is directing, with Channing Tatum in the lead.
* Inferno – Ron Howard is once again directing this third entry in the franchise that began with The Da Vinci Code(2006); Tom Hanks also returns as Robert Langdon.
* Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Tom Cruise returns as Lee Child’s antihero, now directed by Edward Zwick. This time, Reacher is accused of an old homicide.
* Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch plays a surgeon who discovers a world of magic and different dimensions. Another Marvel adventure gets its big-screen treatment.
* Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – David Yates’s second movie this year is a return to Harry Potter world for him; this is a prequel set in the 1920s, starring Eddie Redmayne.
* The Great Wall – Hollywood’s love affair with the Chinese market continues with this film about a mystery surrounding the construction of China’s Great Wall. Directed by Zhang Yimou, starring Matt Damon.
* The Founder – The story of the man who turned a small hamburger joint into McDonald’s stars Michael Keaton.
* Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – A stand-alone film, a prequel to Star Wars (1977), depicting a team of rebels trying to get their hands on the plans for the Death Star. Directed by Gareth Edwards.
* Passengers – Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in this space romance set in the future, directed by The Imitation Game‘sMorten Tyldum.
* Assassin’s Creed – The second adaptation this year to possibly save the reputation of movies based on video games. Stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
Chicago and Nine director Rob Marshall is the right person to bring this complex Broadway musical to the big screen. Assembling a variety of famous characters from Grimm Brothers fairy tales, the story sends them into the forbidding woods and explores what drives their actions. A few changes from the original have been made, but nothing big; this is still an adult experience, with undertones of even darker things than what we see on screen, with Johnny Depp as a creepy wolf/pedophile. Uneven, mostly because few of the songs are real standouts, but intelligent and gorgeously staged. A good cast, especially Meryl Streep as the witch.
2014-U.S. 124 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Callum McDougall, Marc Platt. Directed by Rob Marshall. Screenplay, Book: James Lapine. Songs: Stephen Sondheim (“Into the Woods”, “No One Is Alone”). Cinematography: Dion Beebe. Production Design: Dennis Gassner. Costume Design: Colleen Atwood. Cast: Meryl Streep (The Witch), Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife), James Corden (The Baker), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman… Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp.
Trivia: Emma Stone was allegedly considered for a role.
Last word: “It was always something I always had in the back of my mind, but I wanted to make sure it was the right time. It was in 2011, it was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and I was watching President Obama speak to the families of the victims on television. He said to them, ‘You are not alone. No one is alone.’ I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. What an important message for children of today.’ Obviously, it’s the sort of penultimate song in ‘Into the Woods.’ It was that moment that I thought, ‘This might be the right time to do this.’ I called James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim and said, ‘Can I have this to do?’ They were thrilled. So it was a nice beginning.” (Marshall, Coming Soon)
When Nick, Kurt and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) try to start a company together and are screwed by their financier (Christoph Waltz), they come up with a scheme to get back at him. As is the case with far too many sequels, the story is thinner but the running time longer. The first movie’s script was hardly a work of art, but it served up laughs in collaboration with a cast that looked like it was having fun. This time the three buddies are getting annoying, and the raunchiness is just vapid.
2014-U.S. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Sean Anders. Cast: Jason Bateman (Nick Hendricks), Charlie Day (Dale Arbus), Jason Sudeikis (Kurt Buckman), Chris Pine, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx… Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey.
Just as he’s going through a work-related crisis, Sam (Chris Pine) learns that his father has died; they were never close, but it turns out that the old man had a secret… Screenwriter Alex Kurtzman’s directing debut is more earnest than most of the adventures that he and partner Roberto Orci usually write. Pine and Elizabeth Banks are good, but Michelle Pfeiffer is largely wasted and it’s hard to buy into the story because of how Pine handles the family secret. His actions are neither very credible nor logical… and his work crisis is depicted in the same frustrating way.
2012-U.S. 115 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Alex Kurtzman. Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jody Lambert. Cast: Chris Pine (Sam), Elizabeth Banks (Frankie), Olivia Wilde (Hannah), Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Hall D’Addario, Philip Baker Hall… Jon Favreau.
Trivia: Rachel McAdams, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep were allegedly considered for roles.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens this week and it is, sadly, a disappointment. I can see where they were going with this project. As part of a never-ending effort to reboot virtually every franchise there is, Jack Ryan must have seemed tempting to Paramount. After all, author Tom Clancy did such a good job of creating a proper background for and development of the character in his novels. Going from NROTC training as a young man to a lucrative career as a stockbroker on Wall Street, then joining the CIA as an analyst, rising through the ranks to becoming Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and National Security Advisor, until finally becoming a two-term U.S. President… I mean, it’s quite a career. Over the years, Ryan managed to avert a terror attack on the British royal family, helped take charge of a nation lost after a devastating terrorist attack that wiped out the U.S. government, and fought Japan in a second Pacific war as President.
When Jack Ryan was first introduced to moviegoers, he wasn’t a leading character. The 1990 adaptation of Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October” had Alec Baldwin playing Ryan in his days as a CIA analyst and he’s portrayed as a brilliant, young man, the only one who understands the motivations of Sean Connery’s Soviet sub captain. When Ryan returned two years later in Patriot Games, he was played by an older actor, Harrison Ford, and the story came across as a follow-up to Hunt for Red October, even though in Clancy’s Ryan universe that novel was set years after the events of “Patriot Games”. Still, it has never mattered much. Ford’s two Ryan movies (the other one is Clear and Present Danger (1994)), while not as good as Hunt for Red October, are worthy adaptations and Ford remains the best Jack Ryan so far. A little older, a little wiser, not entirely comfortable when thrown into dangerous situations, but still savvy.
Jack Ryan is even older in “The Sum of All Fears”, but the 2002 adaptation of that novel became a chance to rejuvenate the character onscreen. Many changes were obviously made because of this, but Ben Affleck was good enough as the now once again young analyst.
The rebooted character in the current Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is even younger. Clancy fans will recognize much from Ryan’s past, as described in the novels, but a few things have changed. In this take, 9/11 is what makes Ryan join the military and he’s approached by the CIA immediately after recovering from the helicopter crash that nearly ends his life. Russia is still an enemy, but not in the old Soviet way.
The film is supposed to be followed by an adaptation of Clancy’s “Without Remorse”, presumably with Chris Pine and Kevin Costner returning. I don’t mind seeing Costner again as Ryan’s mentor, but Pine is painfully bland as Ryan, much less interesting than in his other franchise, the Star Trek movies. Going through Jack Ryan’s past, as described by Clancy, only reminded me of what a missed opportunity this is. All the previous films at least showed some sort of interest in the politics and national security issues that are Ryan’s life. Nothing of this survives in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I can’t imagine that Tom Clancy would be proud if he had lived to see it.
The clip above shows parts of an interview with Clancy that may seem ridiculously macho… but it was provided by Penguin Books for PR purposes… and he does give some insight into his writing.
Young Afghanistan War veteran Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is recruited by the CIA to work covertly in a Wall Street company, but suddenly this analyst is turned into an operative and sent to Moscow on a mission. A reboot of Tom Clancy’s character that tries to turn Jack Ryan into Jason Bourne. Kenneth Branagh lacks the skills to do it in an exciting way, and without a genuine interest in security politics that formed the basis of Clancy’s novels, there is no point in using the name “Jack Ryan”. Never dull, but desperately mediocre.
2014-U.S. 105 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Cast: Chris Pine (Jack Ryan), Keira Knightley (Cathy Muller), Kevin Costner (William Harper), Kenneth Branagh (Viktor Cherevin), Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore… Peter Andersson. Cameo: Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Trivia:Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale were allegedly considered as Cathy.
It’s time for that annual list of this year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2014 for ya.
* Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – This reboot of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst cum action hero has Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh (who’s also directing), but the trailer disturbingly shows another variation on the Jason Bourne concept.
* Labor Day – Jason Reitman returns, aided by Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, what looked like a promising drama has now been dumped in the frigid January slot.
* The Monuments Men – George Clooney directs this story about museum curators and art historians trying to rescue vital pieces of art before Hitler gets his hands on them. Starring Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig. Originally slated for a late 2013 release.
* RoboCop – The remake has Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman. One vital question remains: What’s the point?
Also interesting to note this month: Kevin Costner and Liam Neeson will clash in 3 Days to Kill and Non-Stop, two action thrillers that look pretty similar in style and tone. One likely hit will be Son of God, a movie based on material from The Bible as well as previously unseen footage.
* The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson’s new movie has a star-studded cast and an intriguing story set between the world wars.
* Grace of Monaco – Another movie originally slated for a late 2013 release, this one is hopefully better than Diana. Nicole Kidman plays the princess.
*Muppets Most Wanted – The Muppets return for a jewel-heist caper. Lots of star cameos, as expected.
* Noah – One can’t help but being intrigued by a Darren Aronofsky movie about the biblical hero. Stars Russell Crowe, and the trailer has Gladiator-esque qualities.
* Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A summer of big blockbusters begins with this Marvel sequel.
* Sabotage – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies has been largely tongue in cheek, but the trailer for this film, directed by David Ayer of End of Watch fame, suggests a different approach.
* Transcendence – Johnny Depp stars in this sci-fi flick about a scientist who downloads his mind into a computer. Directing debut of cinematographer and Christopher Nolan loyalist Wally Pfister.
* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – The sequel looks like it might have the same problems as the first one. On the other hand, the first one was surprisingly good.
* Godzilla – Looks like a tired retread on paper, but director Gareth Edwards and the cast might make a difference. The trailer has the right look.
* X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer tries to unite two franchise threads. Let’s hope it’s better than Star Trek Generations(1994).
* Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise fighting aliens. Again. Directed by Doug Liman.
* How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Could become the animated hit of the summer. DreamWorks will be anxious to make sure that the sequel matches the wonderful original.
* Transformers: Age of Extinction – The last time I made the mistake of giving Michael Bay the benefit of a doubt. This time I’m sure Mark Wahlberg will be lost in a flurry of incomprehensible battles.
* Tammy– Melissa McCarthy puts her stardom to the ultimate test, being directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, in a summer blockbuster comedy that has Susan Sarandon playing her alcoholic grandmother.
* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski Siblings return after Cloud Atlas (2012) with another sci-fi movie, this one starring Mila Kunis.
* Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel strikes back with another adventure, this one starring among others Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.
* Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s follow-up to their 2005 movie. Postponed for a year after its original 2013 release date. Hardly promising.
* The Expendables 3 – I’ll mention this simply because Mel Gibson plays the villain and the cast also has Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer. I guess it has to be seen to be believed.
As a Swede, I have to highlight two world-famous fellow Swedes this month: Lasse Hallström is set to release The Hundred-Foot Journey, a film about an Indian family competing with a Michelin-starred restaurant in France, starring Helen Mirren, and Alexander Skarsgård who’s starring alongside Meryl Streep in Phillip Noyce’s sic-fi drama The Giver.
* The Equalizer – Another TV show gets a movie adaptation, this one directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.
* Gone Girl – David Fincher adapted the bestseller, with Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris set to put the screen ablaze.
* Get On Up – James Brown is the latest music star to get a proper screen biography. Directed by Tate Taylor (of The Help) and starring Chadwick Boseman.
* Interstellar – Christopher Nolan returns with one of the year’s most highly anticipated sci-fi films. Starring Matthew McConaughey, who’s clearly continuing his current brilliant streak.
* Dumb and Dumber To – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return after 20 years. Are they getting any smarter?
* Fury – Another film by David Ayer this year (after Sabotage), a war movie set near the end of World War II. Stars Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.
* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Francis Lawrence directs this complex endeavor, where author Suzanne Collins’s book has been chopped into two chapters.
* Exodus – Ridley Scott mounts a comeback after the creative abyss known as The Counselor. This biblical epic, starring Christian Bale, looks more like Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
* The Hobbit: There and Back Again – The third and final chapter in Peter Jackson’s insanely protracted franchise
* Annie – Another movie adaptation of the Broadway hit, this time featuring Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz and Beasts of the Southern Wildstar Quvenzhané Wallis.
* Into the Woods – The Brothers Grimm fairy tales are presented with a twist in this film, directed by Rob Marshall, and starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.
* Unbroken – Angelina Jolie is set to direct this World War II story, which is based on a best-selling book and adapted by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.
Today we’re congratulating two actors – Patrick Wilson, who turns 40, and Kurtwood Smith, who is 70 years old. Neither is a huge star obviously, but they have both made their mark in different ways.
Wilson was last seen in a much-discussed episode of Girls where he played an older hunk whom Lena Dunham’s character got involved with for a very short while. Motivated by antiquated ideas of how women should behave, several critics lambasted the episode. Dunham answered this criticism a while ago in the Los Angeles Times:
“I get so tired of having to cry out ‘misogyny’, but that’s what’s going on in this situation. People questioning the idea that a woman could sleep with a man who defied her lot in the looks bracket hews so closely to these really outdated ideas about what makes a woman worth spending time with. Really? Can you not imagine a world in which a girl who’s sexually down for anything and oddly gregarious pulls a guy out of his shell for two days? They’re not getting married. They’re spending two days [having sex], which is something that people do.”
Dunham is absolutely right, and kudos to Wilson for playing the part of her two-day fling. As for his career, Wilson has become James Wan’s go-to man for horror movies. After delivering a very capable performance in Insidious(2011), Wilson is returning in two new Wan chillers, The Conjuring (opening 7/19) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (opening 9/13). A colleague and friend of mine has seen The Conjuring and was appropriately terrified, so I’m hoping for the best. Also lined up for Wilson is a Joe Carnahan-directed comedy called Stretch, featuring Chris Pine, Ed Helms, David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta.
The clip above has Wilson belting out “God Bless America”. Well, what could be more appropriate, considering his past as a professional singer, and tomorrow’s date.
Kurtwood Smith may be best known to a lot of people these days as Topher Grace’s grumpy dad on That ’70s Show (1998-2006). That’s sort of his career, playing either villains like the one in RoboCop(1987) or stern authority figures like Robert Sean Leonard’s dad in Dead Poets Society (1989). He’s also been a reliable actor in several “Star Trek” series and movies, and provided voices for a multitude of animated projects.
In the clip above, Smith (flanked by his wife Joan) talks a little bit about RoboCop. We’re certainly happy to see him again.
CIA agents and best friends FDR Foster and Tuck Hansen (Chris Pine, Tom Hardy) start dating the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) without realizing it and soon turn it into a mindless contest. McG returns to Charlie’s Angels territory with this romantic action-comedy, but he should have moved on. The cartoonish shootouts, fistfights and car chases are good for a few thrills. Pine and Hardy give it their best shot as the handsome and very competitive spies, but the film needs a far lighter touch (and better jokes) than McG and his crew are able to deliver.
2012-U.S. 97 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Will Smith, Robert Simonds, Simon Kinberg, James Lassiter. Directed by McG. Cast: Reese Witherspoon (Lauren Scott), Chris Pine (Franklin “FDR” Foster), Tom Hardy (John “Tuck” Hansen), Til Schweiger, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Harris… Chelsea Handler.
Trivia: Bradley Cooper, James Franco and Sam Worthington were allegedly considered for roles.