Upcoming Movies — for the Awards Season

Happy Thanksgiving!  These are some of the trailers I’ve been seeing in the theaters lately; we may be thankful if they live up to their promise.

First off, The Wolf of Wall Street was first promoted in theaters in July or August.  Next, I’ve yet to see the currently released Dallas Buyers Club; you’d have to be living under a rock not to have seen an ad or trailer for this one.

That leads to the new Coen brothers flick, Inside Llewyn Davis.  This is getting some advance praise and as a Coen brothers film has the potential for greatness.  We’ll see; the trailer doesn’t inspire me much (yawn…) and the title even less.  Can we banish forever movies or books called “Inside ____ (fill in the blank)”?  But it is the Coen brothers, and therefore a must-see.

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Next is the new Spike Jonze film, Her.  A couple things going for this: the precedent of Being John Malkovich, a masterpiece in my opinion.  And Joaquin Phoenix, who looks great here.  I’ve been incredibly impressed with him starting with Walk The Line, and then in last year’s The Master.  He’s become like Ryan Gosling — or John Malkovich for that matter — in the sense of anything he does, it doesn’t matter: he’s interesting and enigmatic.  Just seeing him on the screen is enough to hold you.

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This one reminds me of that Al Pacino film that was generally panned,  Simone, and of The Truman Show, and of the “Siri” episode of The Big Bang Theory, and also, inevitably, of P.T. Anderson films and Being John Malkovich.

On a more conventional bend, there’s The Book Thief.

American Hustle has benefitted from a lot of early marketing including TV ads, so I will not post a trailer here.  It’s blockbuster cast includes Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bobby De Niro.  Like the Yankees, anything less than giant success will be seen as a disappointment.

Nebraska, with Bruce Dern, falls in the same category as Dallas Buyers Club: it’s already released; I plan to see it; I will post a trailer when I do, if it’s good.

Looking at the Apple trailers site, there are a ton of other interesting pics out there, but I think the last one I wanted to mention today is Spike Lee’s new film, his remake of Oldboy (I have not seen the Korean original from 2003, but had heard about it a couple years ago as something to check out).  This looks like it could be really good; the type of movie I dig — and an interesting project for Spike Lee — where’s he been lately anyway?

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Two Spikes in one post!  Click for Trailer

Film Brief: Enough Said

The romantic comedy Enough Said, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Toni Collette and Catherine Keener consists of a weakish story housed in a film that didn’t seem to quite know if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama — but in that way you can argue it reflects real life.  It compares unfavorably to Sideways or Apatow comedies, but nonetheless I liked the performances and was entertained: a mild recommendation, conditional that the trailer appeals to you.  It does have a high Tomatoemeter reading, but for me story and characters matter;  6/10.

80’s Flashback: The Sure Thing

The Sure Thing - poster

THIS TO ME is the defining young John Cusack role, though he doesn’t seem much matured in Being John Malkovich.

In any case, The Sure Thing (1985) is a terrific, warm-hearted romantic comedy and a quintessential 80’s classic.  Directed by Rob Reiner as the follow-up to his big-screen debut This Is Spinal Tap, he continued on with Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery and A Few Good Men.  Wow!  What a run of directorial triumphs by the Meathead.

Comparison Note: Prior post on Valley Girl

The trailers available for The Sure Thing are wanting, so here’s something much better, a hilarious clip!

An Audience with The Queen of Versailles

Roger Ebert:

When we’re discussing who to invite to a dinner party, my wife Chaz and I sometimes use the shorthand, “good value for money,” which indicates guests expected to be entertaining. The Siegels would qualify.

Queen of Versailles posterLet me just place some background on the table. David Siegel is a billionaire who founded Westgate Resorts, “the largest time-share company on the planet,” I believe he says. Jackie is his third wife, and although she is clearly a trophy and has the boobs to prove it, she is also the mother of seven of his eight children, was born into humble circumstances, refused to become somebody’s secretary and earned an engineering degree instead.

Their new home in Florida has 10 kitchens and a bowling alley. I never learned how many rooms it has, but while it’s under construction, she gives a tour to Lauren Greenfield, the film’s director — and when Greenfield asks, “Will this be your bedroom?” Jackie says, “Oh, no … this is my closet.”

Ebert liked The Queen of Versailles more than I did.  A number of critics claim that the couple featured here are sympathetic, even lovable.  I disagree — I think they are rather contemptuous people who deserve their fate.  I did feel bad though for the children and servants — but not that bad.

The most remarkable aspect of this film is that it fell into the fortuitous circumstance of filming when the family was flush with money, looking to rid themselves of cash with all possible haste — and then continuing the story after they are nearly wiped out, their business in collapse, relegated to complaining that the lights in the house are being left on and bemoaning every last expenditure.  The before/after story is the great strength of the film.

But my problem with The Queen is that it is too one-note, and feels like an extended episode of the Kardashians.  I’ve said it before: great documentaries are not fundamentally different than any other great movies: they must have a strong, engrossing story — and this one felt a little predictable and ho-hum.  But I’m being too negative.  This was an entertaining movie, at times quite humorous — so overall a marginal recommendation.  If you like the preview you’ll like the movie, and it’s free to watch on Netflix.  6/10

Oh, and one more thing: not only is this house they are building ridiculously oversized, but it is hideously ugly.  Good luck finding a taker.  A potential theme of money over taste — as exemplified by the house — was either over the head of the filmmakers, or considered too touchy (I suspect the former).  Either way, a missed opportunity.

Blue Is the Warmest Color…?

There is a lot to like about Blue is the Warmest Color — winner of this year’s highest prize at Cannes, and a lot not to like.  I was generally absorbed by the drama, following the lead character Adèle into and out of her various relationships.  But I also had problems with it.

Blue is the Warmest Color - posterThe actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, who plays the character Adèle, cries a lot in this movie, but I began to tire of all the phlegm.  Phlegm is great once, but after that it’s like the boy who called wolf — we don’t need to cringe at seeing it a second or third time.  There is also a lot of sex in this movie, but I don’t think it’s overused as is the crying.  The sex is the main point of the film after all.  All of it is performed, along with all the other action, with raw, almost shocking reality.

I’m on the fence with this one.  On one hand, it reminded me a little of the last French film I saw, Holy Motors — it never really gets out of gear.  I also took issue with its lack of rounding out a complete world for Adèle.  And I don’t appreciate the way it’s marketed — it’s title in French translates to The Life of Adèle – Chapters 1 & 2 — kind of a boring title, and there aren’t two chapters here, there’s anywhere from three to six.  But the reason I have a problem with the title is it misleads; it speaks to the promise of more than this movie delivers.

To understand why I have a problem with this movie, compare it to the terrific Sleeping Beauty.  I know we are not going down such a fascinating path as that film, but still I expect more.  Blue is too one-note.  With its 3-hour run time, another good comparison is the Lars von Trier masterpiece Breaking the Waves — an exercise to sit through, but with titan rewards.

On the positive side, Blue did keep me engaged for the entire picture — no easy task for a film so long.  And it does have a certain lyric rhythm — I especially liked it when Adèle protests and dances.  Besides winning at Cannes, Blue has received a lot of praise.  For me, the strengths of the film don’t overcome the fact that it never comes together as complete story.  5/10 but your results may vary.

Film Brief: All Is Lost

All Is Lost - posterROBERT REDFORD STARS in a nearly dialogue-free tale of survival aboard a sinking sailboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  All Is Lost is straightforward and simple but effective.  I had a couple issues with this movie — I would have liked a little more depth, a point of transcendence — Runaway Train with Jon Voight and Eric Roberts flashes in my mind — and I picked up on a couple storyline glitches.

Redford delivers an impressive physical acting job that demonstrates he could handle probably any role thrown his way; maybe we’ll see more of him now?  Not likely, but who knows.

As I suspected aforehand, there are strong similarities between Gravity and All Is Lost — but Gravity is the better movie.  All Is Lost is good but not great.  If the trailer appeals to you then don’t miss it.  7/10

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