WTLFT: September 2011

18 08 2011

Summer comes to an abrupt halt in September as we shift from tentpole, blockbuster fare to dumpy, forgettable movies that studios drop here rather than release straight to video.  For the most part, that is.  You can decide for yourself if there are any bright spots in September.

September 2

Some claim Labor Day is the last “official” week of summer, but it’s now the perfect way to usher us into the month of September!  Take “Shark Night,” for instance.   I can imagine the rationale behind this movie: let’s stick a bunch of no-name teen actors in a lake, throw in a shark, film it with a 3D camera, call it a movie, and hope to come out in the black on it!  “Apollo 18” … yeah, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” soured any small inkling of want I might have for another Apollo conspiracy.

And since it comes out on August 31, I’m going to technically classify “The Debt” a summer release.  If it’s as good as its trailer, it probably doesn’t deserve to be among these stinkers.  Jessica Chastain, Tom Wilkinson, Helen Mirren, the dude from “Avatar” (who has a name, Sam Worthington) – this is one I don’t plan to miss.

September 9

I haven’t watched the trailer for “Contagion” because apparently there’s a big spoiler in it.  But I’ll do my best to avoid it since I want to enjoy the movie as much as possible.  Steven Soderbergh, virus outbreak, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, playing at the Venice Film Festival – that’s like water in the desert.  Why ruin it?

I’ve seen “Warrior,” and you’ll hear my nonplussed comments on it later.  On the other hand , I will stay as far away as possible from the rank “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.”  I’d rather bushido than sit through that torture.

Also, if you want to say you REALLY knew Rooney Mara before her humongous breakout role in December’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” then maybe you ought to see “Tanner Hall.”  But I don’t know if it’s anything I’m all that interested in.  What might be more interesting is “We Were Here,” a documentary about the early days of AIDS, or “Where Soldiers Come From,” a documentary about some friends who join the National Guard together.

September 16

Another trailer I don’t want to watch is that of “Drive,” the Ryan Gosling vehicle involving vehicles.  Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, who unleashed the massive testosterone rush that is “Bronson” on us two years ago, this September sleeper could be seeing Oscar gold.  He won Best Director at Cannes – but then again, “The Tree of Life” won their equivalent of Best Picture, so I’m not sure how much I trust the Robert DeNiro jury.

In case the chicks are tired of “The Help” (and I assume that “One Day” will be long gone by this weekend), they get fresh food in the form of “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” a Sarah Jessica Parker working mom comedy.  And the never-sleeping remake culture goes on with the ultra-violent “Straw Dogs” – not for the women.  Except maybe Megan fromBridesmaids.”

On another note, can you feel the love tonight?  I can feel childhood nostalgia stirring…

On the indie side of things, there’s “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator,” a documentary about a filmmaker who does research in an attempt to nail some Guatemalan military officials, and the super-angsty teen romance “Restless,” a long-delayed project from Gus Van Sant.

September 23

“Abduction” seems somewhat original from the trailer … don’t know if Taylor Lautner can carry a thriller by himself though.  Expect plenty of gratuitous shirtlessness.  However, I will give them props for playing Sleigh Bells at the end.

The weekend’s other high-profile release is potential awards candidate “Moneyball,” based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis, the guy who penned Best Picture nominee “The Blind Side.”  It’s directed by Bennett Miller, who received an Academy Award nomination for his work on “Capote.”  It stars two-time Oscar nominee Brad Pitt, Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, and a trimmed-down but non-Oscar nominated Jonah Hill.  It’s co-written by Aaron Sorkin, who won the Oscar last year for writing “The Social Network.”  Hopefully it earns buzz on its own merits, not just on these incredible credentials.

On opposite extremes of the MPAA spectrum are sure-fire disappointments “Dolphin Tale” for the youngsters and “Killer Elite” for the bullet crazy.  How can I make this projection so assuredly?  Their trailers both make them look derivative and unnecessary.

The independent releases this weekend are actually pretty impressive.  There’s “Machine Gun Preacher,” whose impressive story of philanthrophy and bravery could transcend the presence of Gerard Butler.  There’s also “Puncture,” which doesn’t look like your average legal thriller.  Who knows, Captain America Chris Evans might be able to show he has real acting chops!

September 30

This indie takes precedence over all other releases this weekend because Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” looks like one of 2011’s saving graces.  The vastly underrated Michael Shannon gets a chance to deliver the powerhouse leading performance we all want in this drama of seemingly biblical proportions.  I’m excited to see where this movie goes because the trailer makes my stomach churn.

I’ve already had the chance to see “50/50,” and you’ll be hearing my raves for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and company right before the film’s release.  But for now, know that I recommend it.

R-rated comedy looks to keep taking its nosedive with “What’s Your Number?,” starring “Scary Movie” staple Anna Faris.  You can watch the trailer for “Dream House” and get a tiny yet fully-fleshed out horror movie in less than three minutes, which beats paying for trite fare like this at a theater.  “Courageous” seeks to fire up the Christian base like “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants;” I’m curious to see if their success keeps increasing.

In other news, Kenneth Longeran’s “Margaret” finally sees the light of day after half a decade sitting on a shelf.

So, what are YOU looking forward to in September?  Anything?  Just the high-profile releases like “Contagion” and “Moneyball?”  Or are you just planning on staying at home and watching some football?!  Sound off or take the poll!

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REVIEW: Waking Sleeping Beauty

18 12 2010

As part of the generation who grew up loving the second wave of Disney animated classics such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King,” it’s interesting to see a full-length documentary about the creative team that made it all possible.  Enter “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” a chronicle of the second Golden Age of Disney animation from 1984 to 1994.  It covers all the struggles of ushering in the new era and all the fantastic successes of the finished products they put on screens before a sea of exciting moviegoers – and then all the struggles that success created.

It’s a little different than most documentaries in that all interviews are done through audio; we never see any ex post facto commentary from the people who brought us these classics.  There’s so much footage of the animators themselves that perhaps Hahn thought viewers would best be served by seeing the process take place (since that is, after all, what most people want when they sit down to watch the movie).  But without their faces, it’s hard to establish characters outside the main narrative, which makes it feel more like a narrated sequence of events than a documentary.

While the power struggles between CEO Michael Eisner, Board Chairman Roy Disney, and studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg are fascinating, they lack some perspective that could have taken “Waking Sleeping Beauty” to the next level.  I love these Disney movies and I love seeing the creative process that got them made, but I still wonder what distinguishes this documentary from any other bonus feature on the DVDs for these animated movies apart from its length.  It feels like something Disney would show at the 25th reunion for “The Little Mermaid” animators – fun for everyone, but only truly pertinent to the people involved in it.  B