E: Oscar season is finally over, and I am ready for some new movies! Now, it’s not quite last March (when we were thrilled with anticipation for The Hunger Games) but this March oughtn’t be too bad. There’s a pleasantly long list of films worth checking out, I think.
C: Yes, a surprising number, actually! We’re finally out of the midwinter doldrums, it seems.
Jack the Giant Killer
E: Will it be good? Bad? No idea. I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, though. And while he’s no guarantee of quality, I’m all about Ewan McGregor.
C: Though I have to admit my heart hasn’t quite recovered from the fact that McGregor is playing, not the hero, but the dad here. Still, I do like a fun action/adventure fairy tale.
M: And Bryan Singer still has a lot of cred in my book, despite Superman Returns. I mean, The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2, not doing X3… all very good.
C: But… it’s just… do the giants look gross to anyone else? This has the same potential issue as last year’s Green Lantern for me. Even if everything else about it were great, I’m not sure I could take looking at those icky, skin-crawly CGI giants for two hours. I can understand that may sound ridiculous, but it’s true.
E: It doesn’t sound ridiculous at all – I would have brought it up if you hadn’t. I don’t think it’s quite Green Lantern bad, but I’m still not sure it’ll be watchable. I’ll be really curious to see the reviews on this one.
M: I see your concerns, and probably share them, but I kind of want this one to work. I mean, it’s a remake/retelling/re-imagining that isn’t darker and grittier. When was the last time Hollywood remade a fairy tale or something that looked as bright and light as this does? Maybe it won’t be, maybe it will be gritty and more “real,” but it looks to me like the right tone, and I’ve had enough of the dark and gritty.
C: Yeah, that’s nice; it seems to have embraced its status as a tall tale. (Hee!)
E: American Gothic Hitchcock-wanna be, written by the actor Wentworth Miller, about a lonely teen who becomes obsessed with her uncle.
C: It’s almost hard to blame her, when the uncle’s played by Matthew Goode. (Almost.) But hold up a second. Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver – what are these people doing in a bad-looking horror film?
E: I don’t know. It really is a puzzle – Nicole Kidman especially, not because she’s above doing a horror movie or above making bad career choices, but a bit role in a slasher movie? You have to wonder if it’s above average just based on that casting.
C: Hmm, though. Naming a scary movie “Stoker” when it has nothing to do with Bram Stoker (it’s just the characters’ surname)? As my roommate put it: that’s cheating.
E: Only if you assume most people know that Dracula is a book written by Bram Stoker.
M: I do assume that, and was shocked that this had nothing to do with him, Dracula, or at the very least Count Chocula.
C: Count Chocula the movie: now there’s a commercial spinoff I’m surprised we haven’t had yet!
E: This Oscar nominated foreign film is actually Canadian, but tells the story of a young African girl kidnapped and forced to “service” child soldiers. It’s supposed to be excellent – and is exactly the sort of movie that ought to be seen, but hardly qualifies as entertainment.
C: I read a fascinating article once about how our Netflix queues inevitably fill up with these worthy, depressing movies – while we watch old episodes of What Not to Wear instead.
E: Holy crap, that is so true.
M: Speak for yourselves. I, personally, have NEVER watched What Not to Wear.
E: Fine, why don’t we say Chopped, then? Anyway, this has to be more appealing than an incest horror movie, though, right?
C: Child sex slavery? You think?
E: Okay, maybe appealing was the wrong word.
Oz the Great and Powerful
C: As usual with Oz adaptations – think Wicked, for instance – this prequel is definitely set in the universe of the 1939 film, not the wonderful L. Frank Baum novel I grew up on (because our mom was scared of the flying monkeys in the movie).
M: I was scared of the flying monkeys in the movie, too! I remember seeing that scene as a 2nd grader and being terrified of it and never wanting to see the movie. That said, my 12 year old is dying to see this one.
E: This is a gorgeous looking fantasy riff on a classic, starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.
C: All in one elaborate romantic entanglement, if the trailer is anything to judge by? Since canonical Oz is a world of powerful women and men who aren’t very good at being in charge, it’s a little disappointing to see the witch ladies here tizzying over the manhero they’ve apparently all been waiting for. But maybe the film’s gender politics will turn out to be less conventional than the trailer suggests.
E: It must be, right? They’re all using him to further their own ends, perhaps? Buttering him up to make him do their bidding?
M: Seems that way to me. Plus, we know that the wizard doesn’t exactly turn out to be a hero by the time Dorothy shows up, right?
C: That’s true, though this may be a revisionist history. As a live-action film with an all-adult cast, it’s a little surprising that this seems to be aimed squarely at kids, with talking animal & toy sidekicks and a heavy emphasis on the CGI. Hopefully it’ll be more satisfying than the last film of that description I can think of, Enchanted. I would like this to be good.
M: Honestly, everything but the doll looks good to me, and I too am hoping this is good.
C: The china doll people are in the book!
E: One of my favorite parts, even – I was super excited to see the doll.
C: I have to appreciate that touch of authenticity… even if I don’t actually want to watch a doll talk for two hours.
Dead Man Down
E: A revenge thriller from the Swede who directed the original Girl in the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, starring the Girl (Noomi Rapace), Colin Farrell, Terence Howard and Dominic Cooper.
C: This looks grim and gritty (at least in a clean-cut-attractive-people-in-perfectly-fitted-clothes-but-all-smudged-with-dirt sort of way), and not my sort of thing at all, with Rapace hiring Farrell to kill someone who attacked her and lots of bullets flying and no detectable character arcs or anything.
M: Bah, character arcs are overrated. But to clarify, it looks like lots of bullets flying, people flying out windows, cars flying through walls, rats chewing on live people, things exploding, and all sorts of other mayhem. Pass.
E: Matthew Fox and recent Oscar nominee Tommy Lee Jones are the American stars in this story of General MacArthur (Jones) and the occupation of Japan after WW2.
M: More specifically, the story of MacArthur (who our Uncle Doug was named after, btw) determining whether or not to hang the Emperor of Japan as a war criminal. Fox is the lead investigator, and looks to have a love story of sorts added in (whether that is also based on a true story is unclear). The quality looks really top notch, and I’m a sucker for this type of historical picture.
E: I had no idea about our uncle. Awesome. Also, I’m a fan of military/legal/political history films, too.
C: It really does look well done, even if Tommy Lee Jones does seem to be playing General Tommy Lee Jones. It’s also an interesting historical moment to choose to depict, and one I must admit I know nothing about.
M: As a side note, when I went to watch the trailer for this on IMDb, I had to watch a commercial for Olympus Has Fallen first. Really? Now we have to watch commercials before we can…. watch commercials? Come on!
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
C: If you watch primetime TV at all, you’ve seen a million commercials for this already. If you saw Anchorman, you already saw this movie, just without the magic.
E: She means that last literally.
M: I’m pretty sure she meant the first comment literally, too.
E: The point is, stage magicians compete in this comedy starring Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey. Seems like a world ripe for comic treatment – and either way, it has to be less haunting than The Prestige, right?
C: Except, possibly, Jim Carrey’s hair.
E: Thinking about it makes me want to watch The Illusionist again…
C: Ed Norton does have great hair in that movie.
M: I can’t help but want this to be good, and while I have some trepidation, the “Ow, your face hit me right in the knee!” line kills me. And Jim Carrey is sooooo perfectly cast as a Criss Angel type “bad-boy” magician.
C: I feel like if you’ve seen one two-male-comedians-compete-in-the-farcical-world-of-[TV news/NASCAR/politics/magic/whatever] movie, you’ve seen them all. That said, if you enjoy one you probably enjoy them all.
E: And he does, he really does.
E: 911 operator Halle Berry gets a call from a teenage girl who’s being kidnapped.
C: Who reads that sentence and thinks, “I need to go see this movie?” There must be people.
M: Liam Neeson? Richard Castle?
E: Whoever it was that greenlit the movie, anyway.
C: Watching the trailer does give me amusing flashbacks to the time the local police used our high school theater group to help them hire 911 dispatchers. I played a battered wife calling 911 furtively from the kitchen while her husband (a fellow 16-year-old classmate) shouted generically abusive-sounding things in the background. Now that, as you can imagine, was good drama.
M: Why didn’t you have us come watch?
C: The police station, oddly enough, didn’t have audience seating.
E: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson are looking for a little adventure and a little break from their kid-show images; bikinis, guns, James Franco in cornrows and gold teeth and they’re good to go.
C: It seems to go beyond “adventure,” given the R-rating and the number of guns fired in the trailer. (A LOT.) The girls become full-on criminals in their attempt to
“shock” weary audiences who are already starting to forget their names have a fun spring break.
M: Who are they, again?
C: Also, how does James Franco do so many things? It is one of life’s great mysteries.
M: He’s becoming like a young Samuel L. Jackson, except without the bad-assedness.
E: Sci Fi class warfare romance starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess as forbidden lovers from – talk about high concept – adjacent twin planets with opposing gravity. I’m more than intrigued. The visuals are breathtaking, and what can I say? I like me some star-crossed lovers.
M: And these are a little more star-crossed than most.
C: Har har. This looks chock-full of every Romeo and Juliet cliché, plus some sci fi clichés thrown in, and the dialogue in the trailer is painfully hammy (“What if LOVE… was stronger than gravity?”).
M: That’s not the “dialogue” in the trailer, that’s the narration, which makes a big difference in my book.
C: Well, but it’s Jim Sturgess’s voice, suggesting that narration is in the movie. But what I was going to say, before being so rudely interrupted, is that I kind of don’t care! It still looks adorable, and the visuals are spectacular – like something the Fringe concept artists drew, then looked at their budget, sighed, and tossed aside.
E: Right, exactly – so overblown and yet compelling all the same.
M: Not only does it look like a Fringe concept, even the way they display the text in the trailer looks like Fringe. That’s definitely giving it more points in my book.
E: As long as it’s not like a European movie where they’re perfect for each other but never meet. Or get hit by a bus just as soon as they’re about to reunite.
C: No, they definitely meet in the trailer, although I too fear it may not end well.
E: Geez, Miss Literal, that’s what I meant. I’ve seen the trailer, too. I know they talk to each other.
M: In C’s defense, as soon as you said that I assumed you hadn’t seen the same trailer I had, because there’s so much of the two of them together in it.
E: Oh, you took her side! I’m so shocked.
C: Thank you. What I find super weird from the trailer is that the characters appear to have their own personality gravity. If you go to the other planet, you’re not affected by its gravitational pull, but still follow yours. Because that is how that works.
M: Look, you’re dealing with a concept that there are two planets that are spinning in opposite directions within a few feet of each other, yet are somehow not crashing into each other. There are a whole variety of problems that Mr. Scott from Star Trek would have (since he cannot change the laws of physics) with the premise. The personal gravity seemed like a really cool issue to me, you just have to chalk it up to working within the confines of the story.
E: I’m willing to suspend disbelief for that – it sets up some really cool visuals (the office with workers on the floor and ceiling) and some really nice problems (how to make it over to the other planet). I dunno, it just seems cool.
C: Yeah, I guess it’s really fantasy, not science. But it makes the clichéd trailer voiceover all the more disappointing, doesn’t it? Knowing they could have used lines like “To be together… they would risk pulmonary edema.”
M: Oooh, that’s good. Or they could have gone with the slogan I saw while skiing last week: “Gravity. It’s more of nuisance than a law.”
From Up on Poppy Hill
E: Charming looking anime which combines post-war Japan, the 1964 Olympics, a “save the clubhouse” plot and an “innocent” teen romance.
C: The Studio Ghibli label isn’t quite a guarantee these days, but it’s certainly reason enough to give a movie a chance to charm you. Though I feel like these films lose some of their humor in the dubbing, Disney as usual has put together a bang-up cast of Anglophone voice artists, including Anton Yelchin, Aubrey Plaza, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gillian Anderson (playing a grandmother!!) and Ron Howard. Also, E – Chris Noth!
E: I don’t think I can get past Gillian Anderson playing a grandmother, actually…
C: Well, at least it’s only voice acting, the world where adults regularly voice child characters.
M: I think it looks marvelously animated, and like it could be a cute story. However, what I struggle with is what appears to me to be the self-hatred of Japanese animators. I love Anime, but am constantly baffled by the fact that EVERYONE in EVERY show or movie looks Caucasian. Why? Why not have characters that look like themselves? The Japanese are a brilliant people with a wonderful culture and great history. Their anime shows that all off, but it shows it being acted out by Westerners. I find that strange, and sad.
E: I have always wondered that. Granted that the figures tend to be very slender (which is more Japanese looking) there’s the eye shape, and hair color. Baffling.
C: Huh. This is such an interesting question, I just went and looked at what the internet had to say. The consensus, at least in my initial findings, seems to surround two main explanations: 1. Anime was influenced at its outset by Western cartoon art like Mickey Mouse, so the big round eyes have more to do with genre than race. 2. The features you’re noting aren’t necessarily read as Caucasian in Japan, where generic- or unusual-featured cartoons still read as Japanese just as in America, characters like Marge Simpson read as Caucasian simply because that is our expectation for them.
E: A family of cave dwellers goes on an adventure and adapts to changing Stone Age technology.
C: I am so over cavemen. Oh wait, I was never into cavemen. Why are they a thing, exactly?
M: Clearly because of the mass appeal of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Seriously, though, I can’t begin to express how little interest I have in The Croods. It looks awful. The jokes are a mish-mash of understanding and not understanding technology in a way that makes them seem poorly thought out (for example, when first being introduced to fire, one of them doesn’t know to stay away from it, but then says it’s “burning” him). Poor, not clever.
E: And yet that might be what we do for my soon-to-be 8 year old’s birthday party, just for the timing of it. Ah well.
C: Resist! Resist! How about roller skating or a nice museum instead?
C: This is the third movie of the month that I know I’d like to see, and the one I have the highest hopes for. Funny but in a more realist, less broad-comedy way, with a heartwarming story at its core about an admissions counselor falling for a high school principal who thinks he’s found the son she gave away for adoption… could this be Tina Fey’s Dan in Real Life?
E: I certainly hope so; I love love love Dan in Real Life. The movie that proved Steve Carell can act like a real person! This one looks adorable. Paul Rudd and Tina Fey, how much better could it be?
M: Speaking as the non-Tina Fey obsessed among us… much better. E, I’m especially surprised at your take on this. You can’t stand sitcoms, and this looks like a big, not particularly funny sitcom episode to me. What gives?
E: I don’t know; it looks like a romantic comedy to me, and not a sitcom. I will grant you that some of the plot is quite, um, rom-commy, but not offensively so.
C: We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but from the trailer I don’t think the tone looks sitcommy at all. It seems like a different, less overt style of comedy. Since I don’t like 30 Rock, that is in fact why I’m interested.
Olympus Has Fallen
E: The first of this year’s American President in Peril flicks (the other is June’s White House Down). Aaron Eckhart is the president (really?), Ashley Judd the first lady, and Gerard Butler is the secret service agent who must, against all odds, retrieve the president from his captors.
C: Oh. Em. Gee. Less believable casting it is hard to imagine.
M: No no no, they could have cast Andy Dick as the President and Quvenzhané Wallis as the First Lady. That would be less believable. Or staying within the movie for the President, they could have cast Butler as him, and then maybe Andy Dick as the First Lady…
E: All I can say is this; you have Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman in your movie and you cast Aaron Eckhart as the president? Really? Any one of those actors has waaaay more gravitas than Aaron Eckhart. Haven’t we gotten over the white guy hang up yet?
C: Well, there was Deep Impact after all – it may just be that these particular casting directors were crazy.
M: I agree with C, Freeman has played the president before, so has Dennis Haysbert. I don’t think they’re caught up on the white guy thing. I think they saw Eckhart as a convincing D.A. in The Dark Knight, and figured people would buy it.
E: Freeman plays the Speaker of the House who takes over after Eckhart is taken down – but wouldn’t you really just want Freeman to stay in charge? I mean, come on.
C: In a related question, why does Hollywood continually imagine that the secret service would hire non-Americans to be our president’s bodyguards?
M: That one’s tougher for me to buy.
E: Why, because the actor isn’t American? I don’t think the character has an accent. Not that I’m impressed with what he actually says. “With all due respect, I’m the best hope you’ve got.” Eh.
M: Eh is right. Plus, the premise is that Butler’s supposedly a former Secret Service agent, but happens to be in the White House when it is taken over.
E: Double eh.
M: Now, bear with me for a minute. I saw a great documentary a while back about how movies get pitched. The reigning trend is to pitch your idea as an already successful movie, but with a twist (different setting, or something of that sort). The exec used the example of when Die Hard came out and they were inundated with “It’s Die Hard, but…” pitches, from “Die Hard, but on a boat” (Under Siege) to unsuccessful pitches, including someone who pitched him “It’s Die Hard, but in a building.” To which he had to point out that–
E: Wait for it…
M: Die Hard was in a building.
M: Now, as best I can tell, this movie must have been pitched as: “It’s Die Hard, but in the White House.”
C: And we already have our Die Hard for this year!
E: So to boil it down to one word? No.
E: Cute-looking Australian flick based on the true story of an aboriginal girl group singing Motown numbers (a genre they initially know nothing about) for the troops. The most recognizable name in the cast is the group’s manager, the very likable Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids).
C: And from my other roommate’s new favorite show, The IT Crowd. This looks very funny and also interesting, definitely the kind of small, history-rooted story that can turn into a surprisingly charming film. Got to keep an eye on the reviews of this one!
Love and Honor
E: Oh, Liam Hemsworth, what were you thinking?
C: “I need work, can’t spin this Hunger Games thing out forever”?
M: I was just going to go with “Cha-ching.”
E: Maybe? One could ask his character the same thing; when he’s dumped by his girlfriend, this soldier goes AWOL from the battlefields of Vietnam and returns home to win her back.
C: It looks like maybe it’s his army buddy who does that; Hemsworth goes with him for a few days’ leave, meets a cute peace protestor whose objections to everything he stands for are quickly overcome by the fineness of his abs, and deserts the army to stay with her. Always a smart idea in wartime. But I guess we’re supposed to think it’s about honor and principle, not lustbrain?
E: Wait, really? Wow, the teaser trailer I watched really sucked at exposition, then.
M: You’re relying on a teaser trailer for accurate exposition? Seriously, though, it sounds like the romance novel version of Born on the Fourth of July (one of my least favorite movies of all time). I wonder if there’s a character named “Wild Card” in it…
C: Aha, I know exactly what Hemsworth’s doing in this. Hoping the movie doesn’t actually have to be based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, for him to cash some of those sweet Nicholas Sparks bucks.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
E: How about I get retaliation from these filmmakers for making such crap out of one of my childhood joys?
C: I dunno, it’s hard to care that much after the first one.
M: I just saw the first one on cable somewhat recently (Dennis Quaid is in it, sorry), and was struck by one thing. What the hell was Joe Gordon-Levitt thinking signing on to it? If you look at his filmography, he’s uber-careful with his choices. He mixes indie movies and big studio movies, but they are consistently quality movies… with this notable exception.
C: Looks like he made it before 500 Days of Summer came out; maybe he didn’t get as many good choices then?
E: No excuse. There is no excuse for the national nightmare that is these movies.
E: Saoirse Ronan takes on Stephenie Meyers’s other confusing love story, a sci fi YA look at a girl, the alien who cohabits her body and the boys in love with each of them. See, it’s really different! No werewolves or vampires! And it’s a quadrangle instead of a love triangle!
M: I’m still holding out for that once rumored swash-fu version of Snow White starring Ronan.
C: Actually, you can give me flack for this if you want, but I think this could be good.
E: Wait, what did she say?
M: To quote Joe Jackson, if my eyes don’t deceive me there’s something going wrong around here.
C: That is to say, I think the premise is good enough for a quality movie: a member of the human resistance to alien colonization is captured, but the alien who bodysnatches her can’t quite ignore the residual human voice inside her head, and ends up helping the humans. Ronan is a great actress, and the visuals look excellent. If there were more to the story than drivelly romance – if it was put in the hands of some clever, capable scriptwriter, and the studio let them to risk a not-slavishly-faithful adaptation – I think it could transcend the YA box and be a cross-audience hit.
M: So, you’re looking for the equivalent of Jurassic Park, where they throw out everything except the concept of the book and the names of the characters, and write an entirely new story around it?
E: Not that I wouldn’t love it if that happened, but what do you honestly think the chances of that are?
C: Slim, I admit. Maybe none, since the makers of the Twilight movies were afraid to add a line without Meyers’s blessing, for fear of alienating the rabid fans. (That’s why all the awkward pauses, I’m assuming.) But try watching this trailer and pretending Meyers isn’t involved. You’d be hopeful, wouldn’t you?
E: Having watched the trailer? Not tremendously. I’d be happier if it was good than bad, though. And for all they’re promoting the heck out of the Stephenie Meyers connection, there can’t be the same need to be faithful to this book, right?
M: If they can do it to Michael Crichton…
E: Documentary about fans of seminal horror film The Shining, who believe the film was filled with coded messages.
M: No chance it’s as good as the fabulous Simpsons spoof of The Shining, The Shinning.
C: Or my favorite ever recut trailer, Shining.
E: Yeah, that’s rather splendid. This documentary does seem like something you’d get a few laughs from while desperately avoiding letting War Witch reach the top of your Netflix queue, though.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation
M: We mentioned this a while back when it was announced that Kim Kardashian was cast in it. Turns out she’s in a small role, what a shame.
E: Oh, weep for the humanity of it all!
M: The movie itself looks like a typical Perry movie, where he has at least one married couple questioning their marriage.
C: Oh goody.
M: For my money, the trailer doesn’t do the film justice. If it stuck to showing the titular temptation, you’d be going in wondering whether or not anything was going to come of it. Well, we not only know from the trailer that something will come of it, but that it will also turn very ugly, and not Kramer vs Kramer ugly, but more like bad Lifetime movie ugly.
C: Double pass.
E: But would you still rather watch it than War Witch, that’s the question.
C: Nope, I’d take the one with some redeeming value.
The Place Beyond The Pines
M: Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper star in what looks to be a riveting film about two young fathers on opposite side of the law, but who turn out to be in more similar circumstances than it originally looks.
C: I bet whoever cast that pair is pretty proud of himself, especially after Oscar season.
E: It’s great timing for sure, for anyone who wants to see these two in a serious light. And Derek Cianfrance proved himself a pretty brilliant (if dark) director with last year’s achingly painful Blue Valentine.
M: I joked way up above about character arcs being overrated, well this looks to be a highly character-arc-driven piece. I joked more recently about not trusting trailers for accurate exposition; well, if this one is even remotely accurate then this could really be a fantastic film.
C: One thing is a practical guarantee from the trailer, though: this is not a film with a happy ending.
E: Gee, I can’t imagine what makes you say that. Could it be the line from the preview where one character tells a lead “There’s a way out, but you’re not going to like it?” Still, it’s going to be higher on your Netflix queue than War Witch.
C: Like anyone waits for discs in the mail these days.