REVIEW: Bad Moms

5 09 2016

We’re at a cultural moment where parents are more stressed and confused than ever as they try to prepare children for a newly competitive world while also imparting the requisite cultural norms necessary for survival. (Never mind having any time for their own personal happiness and satisfaction.) It’s the perfect time for a movie like Jon Lucas and Scott Moore’s “Bad Moms” to come along and assure audiences that there is still value in just being a good, decent person. If only it were a little bit funnier, the film would be a cultural touchstone for generations to come.

Lucas and Moore’s background writing “The Hangover” shows as the film’s key trio bears a striking resemblance to the Wolfpack. Mila Kunis’ Amy has her act most together but struggles to find satisfaction amidst the demands placed on her by a louse of a husband (think Bradley Cooper’s Phil Wenneck). Kristen Bell’s Kiki is a meek, sexually naive mother of four who mistakes her ignorance for happiness (see Ed Helms’ Stu Price). Kathryn Hahn’s single swinger Carla proves a wild card in any scenario (sounds like Zach Galifianakis’ Alan Garner).

As they fight back against societal pressures to maintain the image of perfection, enthusiasm and optimism, these moms’ antics are more likely to spark discussion groups in sociology seminars than set social media ablaze with a killer line. Their candid conversations, easily more memorable than their Top 40-scored romps of bad behavior, are notable for the way the women speak to each other. They speak less as characters or friends and more as field workers looking for answers to research questions about modern motherhood.

Never fear, humor-seekers: Lucas and Moore always provide a joke line as a response. But “Bad Moms” doesn’t need a sequel so much as it needs a sitcom. In that format, the creators might really be able to delve into the issues that so clearly concern them without succumbing to the pressure for a giant comedic set piece on such a consistent basis. B-2stars

REVIEW: Oz the Great and Powerful

11 03 2015

Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” is home to a number of very pleasant elements.  James Franco’s Oscar receives accompaniment a heartwarming and adorable CGI china doll with a broken leg voiced by Joey King as well as a flying monkey hilariously played by Zach Braff.  The conclusion (no spoilers) also pays a wonderful tribute to the magic and power of cinema.

And … that’s pretty much it that I can remember.

“Oz” mostly strands a talented cast of actors against recycled graphics from Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.”  Raimi and screenwriters Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire (the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Rabbit Hole,” mind you) have to tiptoe around the iconography of “The Wizard of Oz” since Disney does not own the 1939 classic film, which means they cannot gush about its timeless qualities or rejuvenate the brand.  So the whole thing just feels rather awkward in principle, and then the film itself does nothing to alleviate that sensation.

James Franco is a great actor, but he is unfortunately miscast as Oscar.  His moral ambiguity in the role means nothing without the kind of earnestness and goodness that make up the bedrock of a Disney protagonist.  The part just seems too simple for him, as strange as that sounds.

Meanwhile, among the witches in the Land of Oz, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz appear to be having some kind of competition to see who can overact the most and bring the movie down more.  Shockingly, it’s the Oscar-winner Weisz who might tank “Oz” to a greater extent.

And then there’s also Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch.  She’s very pleasant, too, I’m now remembering.  Williams brings the airy, gentle grace she endowed her Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn,” and it does make the film more bearable when she appears on screen.  That is hardly enough to salvage the whole movie, though, or make it fun and entertaining. C2stars

REVIEW: Blood Ties

22 06 2014

Blood TiesCannes Film Festival – Out of Competition, 2013

It’s clear from the beginning of “Blood Ties” that Guillaume Canet’s English-language feature debut is a Scorsese-lite New York ensemble drama.  Still, to so successfully channel a modern master right out of the gate is pretty impressive.  While Canet’s direction is hardly novel, he always keeps the film fun and compelling.

His ’70s saga follows the exploits of the two Pierzynski brothers squaring off on opposite sides of the law, Chris (Clive Owen) the criminal and Frank (Billy Crudup) the cop.  If the premise sounds familiar, well, it is.  In fact, the film is co-written by Canet with the help of James Gray, who himself wrote/directed a very similar tale of fraternal opposition called “We Own the Night” back in 2007.

Yet even though it felt like I knew these characters from other movies, they still thrilled me.  Gray, a consummate crafter of familial tension, completely nails the tricky dynamics between Chris and Frank.  They have always been pitted against each other, so a natural rivalry has been fostered between them.  Yet underneath it all, there’s the undeniable pull of – wait for it – blood ties that every so often overpowers all else.

Clive Owen is once again dastardly convincing in a brutish role, recalling his gripping performance in “Inside Man.”  However, it’s Billy Crudup who really carries the movie with a quiet strength.  He never really got a role to showcase all the talent he showed in “Almost Famous,” and now, 14 years later, Crudup arrives again with a bang. Read the rest of this entry »


4 08 2012

For better or for worse, “Ted” is a product of Seth MacFarlane through and through.  In other words, the film plays out like one of those five-part “Family Guy” story arcs.  It also doesn’t help that the comedic pairing of semi-serious Mark Wahlberg and a wildly inappropriate talking teddy bear, aptly named Ted, are essentially performing the same functions as straight-shooting dog Brian and the indecent infant Stevie.

And since “Ted” bears such an uncanny resemblance to the comedic stylings of “Family Guy,” the optimal way to consume it is the same: as a set of stand-alone YouTube clips that make you roar with laughter and cut out the story that connects the jokes.  MacFarlane, absurd metaphor-spawner that he is, has never quite figured out how to tell a story that compels anywhere near as much as his cut-away humor does.

Granted, his borrowed, trite plot is merely there to string together the laughs.  Yet it also winds up depreciating the value of the entire film because eventually you forget all the jokes.  But the story is something that sticks in your head.  For instance, I could recite one or two funny lines from “Ted” off the top of my head, but that creepy and unnecessary subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi as a sexually disturbed adult willing to kidnap a talking teddy bear will always haunt my memory.

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REVIEW: Friends with Benefits

22 07 2011

It’s time for a movie to come along that changes the romantic comedy genre for better and for always (or at least reverses the way it’s heading at the present moment). A movie willing to avoid the sappiness and the cliched, predictable genre tropes. A movie willing to be a little bit sneaky and subversive in its delivery of what the audience wants from the genre. A movie that gets to the heart of what the genre is supposed to be – truthful, believable romance with some observations on the tricky thing that is love with some humor sprinkled on top.

Friends with Benefits” is not that movie, although it desperately wants to be. It gets some points for trying, though. It takes some good pot shots at the genre through the very clever usage of a fake romantic comedy starring Rashida Jones and Jason Segel inside the movie, and levels some very accurate criticism of them that will no doubt have audiences nodding along with Timberlake and Kunis’ sex pals.

But like so many of the recent onslaught of meta movies, it winds up devolving into the very thing it scorns. It wants all the benefits of self-awareness but none of the responsibilities, which here would include being creative and providing an alternative to the laughable aspects of the genre that it constantly lampoons. To use a sports metaphor, it has the swing but not the followthrough. It boldly goes where few romantic comedies will go and then backs away when honesty and ingenuity is asked of it.

However, it’s nice (for once) to see the movies giving us some indication they realize how RIDICULOUS the romantic comedy has become. Even though “Friends with Benefits” eventually subscribes to the formulaic rules of the genre straight from the textbook, I’ll take a movie with squandered potential over one with no potential any day. Not that it makes it any less disappointing, but the movie sort of gives us a wink and a nudge when it crosses over to the dark side. It’s almost as if director Will Gluck (last year’s excellent “Easy A“) is so apologetic for selling out that he all but superimposes the text “I’M SORRY” over the closing scene.

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Know Your Nominees: “Black Swan”

29 01 2011

The Oscars are a great cultural conversation for all to participate in, but it’s all too easy to only have surface knowledge of the nominees.  It’s all too easy to know “Black Swan” as the ballet movie, “The Fighter” as the boxing movie, and “The Social Network” as the Facebook movie.  But don’t you want to know more and stun your friends with your knowledge of the movies in the weeks leading up to the awards and ultimately during the broadcast itself?

That’s what my KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series hopes to do.  Every three days, I’ll feature ten interesting facts about the ten Best Picture nominees of 2010 that would be fascinating to pepper into any conversation.  My hope is that you will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the movies but also enjoy learning strange and interesting things about them.

So, as we proceed in alphabetical order, the logical starting place is “Black Swan.”

For all the acclaim “Black Swan” is receiving now, it seems silly that anyone WOULDN’T want to pour money into making the movie.  Yet according to director Darren Aronfosky, the movie was a surprisingly hard sell to production companies even with Natalie Portman and the rest of the cast all lined up.  When financing finally lined up, Aronofsky was forced to make the movie on $15 million, which was $10 million less than what he had hoped to have.  This meant a streamlined shooting schedule; for example, each act of the “Swan Lake” ballet shown at the end of the movie was shot in one day.

Maybe you’ve heard the mutterings that “Black Swan” was once the same movie as “The Wrestler.”  They are true. Director Darren Aronofsky brought it up once, and ever since, he’s been carefully clarifying exactly what he meant by that.  The movies originated out of the same idea: two performers whose craft drives them to physical and emotional extremes.  The end results are entirely different, but the two work together nicely as companion pieces.

A lot has been made of Nina’s sanity in the movie.  Is she ever sane?  When does she lose her mind?  Darren Aronofsky, in an interview with Cinema Blend said that “the only time she’s normal is right at the beginning of the film when she’s dancing before the demon shows up. That very first shot, she’s clear.”

We’ve all heard about Natalie Portman’s year of training to get ready for the role of Nina Sayers.  You’ve probably heard that she worked five hours a day doing swimming and ballet for eleven months and then a shocking eight hours a day in the final month.  She lost over 20 pounds practically starving herself to slim down.  But ballerinas have a long, lanky physique that’s hard to simply tone into.  So how did Portman overcome this challenge?  She had people pull on her arms and legs every day to stretch her out!

There was more to Natalie Portman’s physical commitment to “Black Swan” than her training.  While filming the movie, Portman broke a rib during a lift.  The film’s tight budget meant no on-screen doctor to help her, and the tight filming schedule didn’t exactly allow for much recovery time.  So how did they work around it?  They simply readjusted the lift.

And there’s even more commitment on Natalie Portman’s part than just physically embodying a ballerina.  She has been attached to “Black Swan” since 2000 when she met Darren Aronofsky in Times Square and said she wanted in on the project.   She claims Aronofsky had most of the movie laid out then.  Many other members of the crew have been committed to the movie for multiple years as well.

Did you see Winona Ryder in “Black Swan” and go “Woah, haven’t seen her in a while!”  According to Darren Aronofsky, Ryder was cast in the role of Beth because it echoes her career.  The “metacasting,” as he calls it, was crucial because the audience would likely feel more impacted by Beth if someone largely at the same point in their artistic life was playing her.

The movie could have been impossible to make as the acting qualifications were just as vital to the movie as the ability to dance ballet were.  Luckily, Natalie Portman took ballet from age 4 to 13, ultimately stopping to pursue only her acting career.  Thus, when she was needed to tap back into her ballet skills to prepare for “Black Swan,” the groundwork was already laid.

What was the hardest part of the movie to get right?  According to the choreographer, it was Natalie Portman’s undulating arms at the end of the movie that gave them such a hard time.

In case you haven’t heard, Portman is pregnant and engaged to Benjamin Millepied.  He was the film’s choreographer, and the two met on set.  Millepied also had a role in the film as pretty much the only male other than Vincent Cassel to speak in the movie – the lead dancer that drops Portman on opening night.  Portman referenced an ironic line he’s asked in the movie – “Would you f*** that girl?”

Check back on February 1 as the KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series continues with “The Fighter.”

REVIEW: Black Swan

27 11 2010

At 18, I’m probably a little young to be using the phrase “they don’t make ’em like this anymore,” but I can’t help but have it come to mind when talking about “Black Swan.”  Simply put, Darren Aronofsky’s brilliant directorial artistry has culminated in a stunning masterpiece that is unmatched in vision or ambition by anything that cinema has churned out in a long time.

It’s so bold and daring that to call it wowing simply doesn’t do the experience justice.  Aronofsky weaves together the beauty of ballet with the terror of psychological meltdown with such nimble grace that it leaves you reeling long after leaving the theater.

There’s really no one else but Aronofsky who could pull off a big, brassy movie like this.  He’s simply the best visual filmmaker out there.  As if his first two movies, “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream,” weren’t powerful enough, “Black Swan” is Aronofsky in full bloom, showing absolute command of all cinematic vocabulary.  There is no boundary too sacred or stiff for him to toy with, and he doesn’t so much push them as he does eradicate them.  Thus, “Black Swan” isn’t just a victory for Aronofsky and the rest of the crew; it’s a victory for the craft of filmmaking as we know it.

The film is chalked full of imagery, symbolism, and visual motifs that jump off the frame and into your lap.  It’s so clear that Aronofsky is intimately involved in sculpting every frame and every moment down to the colors of the room.  His presence is terrifyingly arresting, and it feels like he himself is reaching out to grab your heart and pump it at a million beats per minute.  The racing begins in the first scene and doesn’t let up even when the credits roll.

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Oscar Moment: “Black Swan”

20 09 2010

The Toronto Film Festival closed yesterday, and Oscars season 2010 has kicked off now as a result.  To commemorate this commencement, I am dedicating the next five days solely to theorizing about the five major contenders emerging from the festivals held in Venice, Toronto, and Telluride.

While I could have (and probably should have) begun with the big winners, “Somewhere” from Venice and “The King’s Speech” from Toronto, I’m going to start by talking about the movie that appeals to me the most, “Black Swan.”  I’m a huge fan of director Darren Aronofsky, and the cast and plot are both incredible.

The whole premise of a movie centered around the price of art is something that connects personally with me as I dedicate most of my free time currently to theater and music.  “Black Swan” stars Natalie Portman as an ambitious New York ballerina, compelled to keep going by the hopes that her director (Vincent Cassel) will feature her more.  But along comes a strong and beautiful rival (Mila Kunis) who wins him over with her talent and starts shifting the spotlight her way.  Eventually the envy and rage begins to consume Portman’s Lily, and her mental sanity begins to collapse.

The movie’s trailer is absolutely terrifying, but it drew me in with this incredible force.  Yes, it is scary, but it is also elegant and gorgeous.  The cinematography, the choreography, the score, the cast – it’s a mad rush of beauty emerging from the screen under the magnificent direction of Aronofsky.

Opinion on the movie emerging from the festival is incredibly polarized, with the prevailing side being those in favor.  Here’s Peter DeBruge of Variety weighing in:

“A wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer’s all-consuming ambition, ‘Black Swan’ serves as a fascinating complement to Darren Arononfsky’s ‘The Wrestler,’ trading the grungy world of a broken-down fighter for the more upscale but no less brutal sphere of professional ballet.”

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter, while seeing it through a somewhat different light, still gives it praise:

“The movie is so damn out-there in every way that you can’t help admiring Aronofsky for daring to be so very, very absurd. ‘Swan’ is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what’s so good about it.”

On the slightly less professional side, blogger Kris Tapley of In Contention had this to say about the movie and its chances:

“The film is the perfect marriage of Aronofsky’s past work, containing all of the paranoia of ‘Pi,’ the identity concerns of ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ the sense of inevitability apparent in ‘The Fountain,’ and the professional obsession of ‘The Wrestler.’ Portman gives her best performance to date and could well find her way to an Oscar nomination, while Matthew Libatique’s splendid photography also deserves recognition. It may play too dark to AMPAS types, but I imagine many members will at the very least grasp a powerful theme that relates very much to filmmakers as it does as to painters, musicians and, well, ballerinas.”

It’s not just a hit with the critic; audiences are fawning over this rabidly.  At the Venice festival premiere, it received a five-minute standing ovation, and it remained an incredibly buzzed piece the entire festival.  And according to a Los Angeles Times report on the screening in Toronto, “During the screening, moments of unexpected scares sent ripples of gasps and nervous laughter through the crowd. Festival screenings can feel a little cold, and thus less communal, than the commercial variety. That wasn’t a problem here.”

I think the movie has the goods to be a Best Picture candidate – the subject matter may just be a little too intense for them.  Mental psychodrama, as one person describe the movie, just isn’t up their alley.  But if the public gets behind it and critical response is still great, it could have a chance.

If and only if it lands a Best Picture nomination, Aronofsky could net his first Best Director nomination.  Back in 2008 when there were only five Best Picture nominees, his name was constantly thrown around as a replacement for Ron Howard in the directorial race.  He’s very respected and honoring him for “Black Swan” makes more sense that nominating him for “The Wrestler” as this is the kind of movie that he is most proficient at making.  Perhaps a screenplay nomination will also follow, but I’d say that’s probably the least likely of the bunch.

But the movie’s support will most likely be expressed in the acting categories, where it has four strong contenders in Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, and Barbara Hershey.

Portman is the film’s shining star.  She’s in every scene and apparently has total command of the screen, challenging her emotional and physical limits constantly.  The Academy has noted her once before for her complex and rough role as Alice in “Closer” back in 2004, but her acting has matured much since then.  This is a very demanding performance for Portman in a very demanding movie.  Even those who oppose the movie will still have good things to say about her work.

At 30, her youth is an asset as she is now old enough to not be written off as “too young.”  In fact, since 1997, only two actresses older than 35 have won Best Actress, both of which came in the past four years.  So a win for Portman keeps the trend going.  She faces stiff competition this year; many are calling it the strongest leading actress field in years.  Her stiffest competition may come from Annette Bening, who at 52 won raves for “The Kids Are All Right” over the summer.  With three nominations to her name, Bening will be a force to reckon with.  Awards Daily proposed today that the race may be down to the two of them:

Portman’s performance is said to be her best yet – brilliant, harsh, challenging.  If only she was also playing a prostitute or a drug addict – she’d been the winner.  But, from what I gather, her character is not likable.  Likability, or at least great sympathy is key to a win.  Can she make it on sheer ability?  Of course.  Liking her character, really really liking her character helps a wee bit more.  I haven’t yet seen the film so I can’t say for sure.

Portman has a sex scene.  I don’t think this is necessarily a turn-off.  Best Actress winners often have on screen nudity or sex scenes — The Reader, Monster’s Ball, etc.  But usually it’s with a man.  Still, since when have men objected to sex between women?  Bening is probably way ahead in terms of likability.    She too has a sex scene to contend with.

This time last year, I boiled the race down to Carey Mulligan vs. Meryl Streep, the film festival breakout and up-and-comer pitted against the awards mainstay.  While Bening is know Meryl Streep and Portman is hardly unknown, the race is very similar.  Of course last year, Sandra Bullock came out of nowhere to take it all.  I think simplifying a race down to two people now is misguided, although I will say that they are the two strongest candidates at the moment.  A nomination of Portman is almost certain; a snub would mean that the Academy really needs to grow up and learn how to handle tough subject matter.

The other three actors are all wild cards.  Cassel could do well in awards season; his performance was voted second-best in the supporting category from INDIEwire’s informal critical polling.  He’s pretty unknown stateside, which could propel him higher or doom him.  Kunis also has potential, but I get the feeling that she will be seen more as an object of lust than an actress.  Her past movie choices won’t do her much good either.

Outside of Portman, the best shot “Black Swan” may have at another nomination would be through Barbara Hershey, who plays Lily’s aggressive mother, a former ballerina herself.  At 62, the movie could prove to be a great swan song for her (pun fully intended).  Hershey hasn’t been in much since her 1996 Best Supporting Actress nomination, practically nothing in the past decade.  But a welcome return to grace the screen with her presence could land her another nomination.

It’s important for “Black Swan” to keep the massive buzz and allure it gained over the past few weeks in check so that upon its release in December, the can of worms will be opened anew.  But until then we wait.  And hope the movie is as good as we anticipate.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Hershey), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress (Kunis), Best Film Editing

REVIEW: The Book of Eli

10 08 2010

If you stick with “The Book of Eli” all the way to the end, you’ll notice that the movie had two directors, The Hughes Brothers. My theory now is that the two brothers decided to split up the movie, one taking the first hour and the other taking the second. It’s the only way I can explain its complete bipolarity. Whichever brother directed the second half should disown his brother and then make movies on his own because he is capable of making an exciting, captivating ride.

On the other hand, his brother undermines its effectiveness makes a laughably dreary bomb.  It’s almost made with the cocky assumption that we’ve never seen any sort of apocalypse or post-apocalyptic world.  Apparently he was under a rock for all of 2009 when moviegoers saw “Knowing,” “Zombieland,” “2012,” and “The Road.”  That makes five in the span of just one year.  He leads us almost silently through this land of ruin for the movie’s first twelve minutes, a cheap rip-off of Paul Thomas Anderson’s technique from “There Will Be Blood.”  This world just looks like a desert in Arizona with a gray tint.  Aside from being incredibly tedious and boring, it’s entirely unnecessary.  Feel free to fast-forward right on through when you watch.

And then he finally gives Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington the opportunity to do something other than wander silently through the destruction.  Unfortunately, it’s just to chop off people’s hands and do some ridiculous martial-arts inspired fight sequences.  Washington’s Eli looks like a middle-aged version of Will Smith’s Hancock from two summers ago, a mess who looks like he’s fighting off the hangover of a lifetime.  So to see Eli pulling out all these moves only serves to make us laugh.  He then proceeds to find his way into a po-dunk town, mumble to everyone, anger the authority (Gary Oldman) to the point where he flees, and picks up the very attractive Solara (Mila Kunis) to accompany him on the road.

The second half almost redeems the first, seemingly a gift to all those who can bear the dismal farce.  It takes a page out of “Fahrenheit 451” – the last pages, in fact – and makes an exciting race to the West Coast for control of a powerful book that Eli is in possession of.  If you don’t already know, I’ll give you three guesses as to what book could be so valuable or powerful.  Denzel Washington begins to act, although only at a fraction of his full capabilities.  Then again, that’s still enough to draw us back in after the first half leaves us high and dry.

In the end, I was glad I didn’t allow myself to become totally disengaged.  There are some nice surprises and shocking twists at the end, two things I totally wasn’t expecting.  And in addition to the turnaround the movie made, I was left pretty satisfied.  The movie also has some interesting things to say about faith, a thematic connection that really worked.  It would have worked more, though, had it been present in the first half.  B /

REVIEW: Extract

6 09 2009

We so often find humor in the ridiculous and far-fetched, and Hollywood serves it to us (actually, more like force feeds) at a rate that is more than we can digest.  But Mike Judge has a unique ability to find humor in the mundane, especially in the work place.  His 1999 film “Office Space” has become a cult classic over the past decade thanks to its smart satire of the workplace atmosphere.  However, his latest film, “Extract,” is really lacking flavor (pun fully intended).  It is too caught up in banalities to really succeed and perhaps even too lifelike for its own good.

The humdrum happenings center around Joel (Jason Bateman), the owner of an extract factory trying to sell out to General Mills.  However, the deal is threatened by a workplace accident in which a worker loses a part of his “manhood.”  To top that off, he has to deal with constant unrest among the workers, thievery, and a very attractive new temp (Mila Kunis) who becomes an object of lust.  But Joel has many problems outside of work to deal with, including his wife’s (Kristen Wiig) elastic sweatpants chastity belt, a pill-popping friend (Ben Affleck) intent on proselytizing, and an incessantly blabbering neighbor (David Koechner).

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What To Look Forward to in … September 2009

17 08 2009

I guess this sort of serves as a “fall movie preview.” With this, I want to present what I’m looking forward to in September, what other might be looking forward to, and hopefully introduce you to some movies that you might not have heard of yet.

September 4

The movie that I’m most excited for opening this week is “Extract,” the latest comedy from Mike Judge, creator of “Office Space” and TV’s “King of the Hill.”  The movie stars Jason Bateman, who has been in nearly every comedy and yet I still have not tired of him, as the owner of an extract factory who is a bit down on his luck.  Also featuring a great supporting cast which includes J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Juno”), Mila Kunis (TV’s “That ’70s Show”), Kristen Wiig (“SNL”), and Ben Affleck, the movie looks to be truly hilarious entertainment.

Other releases this week include “All About Steve,” a comedy with Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”), and “Gamer,” a non-stop action film with Gerard Butler (“The Ugly Truth”).

September 9 & 11

Opening on 9/9/09, “9” uses a clever marketing ploy to hopefully drive audiences its way.  But I’m not sold.  The ever creepy and quirky Tim Burton is behind it, and I have never really been into his type of movies.  The story revolves around nine CGI animated rag dolls living in a post-apocalyptic world.  Maybe this will be some sort of a breakout hit, but until I hear buzz from friends or other bloggers I trust, I’m not throwing my money at it.

“9” is the big attraction of the week.  Also opening is Tyler Perry’s latest movie “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” starring Taraji P. Henson of “Benjamin Button” fame, the thriller “Whiteout” starring the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale, and the horror flick “Sorority Row.”

September 18

There are several movies to get excited about that open this weekend.  First and foremost is “The Informant,” starring Matt Damon.  It takes your usual FBI rat story and flips it on its head, turning it into a comedy.  I have always thought Damon has a great knack for subtle comedy, perfectly illustrated in the “Ocean’s” movies.  The director is Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winner for “Traffic,” but has also helmed “Erin Brockovich” and all three “Ocean’s” films.  And the good news is that this is only Matt Damon’s first role of the year with Oscar potential (see the December preview later).

Also opening is “Jennifer’s Body,” which is the first film written by Diablo Cody since winning the Oscar for “Juno.”  It stars Hollywood’s beauty queen Megan Fox as a vampire who eats guys at her high school.  Her presence alone will drive every young guy in America to this movie.  It also features Amanda Seyfried, one of the bright spots in the otherwise disastrous film adaptation of “Mamma Mia!”  I love the quick-witted humor of “Juno,” and although this doesn’t appear to offer similar antics, curiosity (and Megan Fox) will probably get me.

In limited release, “Bright Star” opens, a movie consider by many to be a major Oscar player.  It isn’t the kind of movie that excites me just from watching the trailer, but the buzz surrounding it coming out of the Cannes Film Festival can’t be discarded.  The movie follows the life of the poet John Keats in the early 1800s.  It is directed by Jane Campion, writer/director of “The Piano,” and features a cast of nearly no recognizable names.  I feel obliged to tell you about it because many are sure that you will be hearing about it during awards season and also because so many people love movies set in the beautiful English country with tons of beautiful costumes and people.

Also opening is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” an animated adaptation of one of my favorite books growing up. Unfortunately, their idea of adapting it is taking the basic premise of food raining from the sky and destroying the rest of the original story. Maybe I will check it out for old time’s sake, but I’m not expecting anything special. The week also puts forth a romantic drama “Love Happens” starring Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) and Jennifer Aniston. And technically, the writer/director of “Babel,” Guillermo Ariaga, releases his latest movie, “The Burning Plain,” to theaters this weekend, but you can watch it on demand starting August 21 if you are that curious.

September 25

Being a musical theater junkie, I feel that it is my duty to push “Fame.”  The movie is a musical that follows a group of talented artists throughout their four years in high school in New York.  At a time in their lives where they don’t know if they have what it takes it to make it big, all the emotions appear to run high.  The movie features no stars. so hopefully this will launch some very promising careers.

For action fans, Bruce Willis is at it again in a high concept sci-fi called “Surrogates,” in which everyone in the world controls a robotic version of themselves from home called a surrogate. Willis plays a detective who investigates the possibility of the surrogates killing the user who operates it.  For sci-fi fans, a screamfest called “Pandorum” with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster (“3:10 To Yuma”) looks to deliver.  For all those craving a raunchy comedy, a little studio will try to pack you into “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell,” adapted from the tales of drinking and its consequences in the book of the same name.  In limited release, those who like the costumes of “Bright Star” get “Coco Before Chanel,” the story of the legendary fashion designer.  (NOTE: “The Invention of Lying” was pushed back to October 2.)

So, readers, what is your most anticipated in September?  Anything I left off?  Take the poll and let me know.

Until the next reel,