Monthly Archives: September 2011

Review: Dream House

Movies like Dream House are simply amazing in the worst ways possible. With the slew of films that go into development to never see the green light, how does a script like this slip through rounds and rounds of coverage and scrutiny? Then, how does an irrational story like this attract such top-notch talent like Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz? Worst of all, who thought it’d be worth it to release Dream House in theaters rather than just attempt to tuck it away on a DVD shelf? Someone delivered the dismal word to Showbiz411 back in July and apparently their source was correct, “The movie is unrelease-able.”

Will Atenton (Craig) opts to leave his big city job behind to head out to a quaint suburban neighborhood with his loving wife, Libby (Weisz), and two daughters, Trish and Dee Dee (Taylor and Claire Geare). They shack up in what’s seemingly a dream house, but soon discover their humble abode has a dark past. Five years ago, Peter Ward brutally murdered his wife and children in this very home.

When news of their home’s dismal reputation spooks Libby and the girls, Will takes it upon himself to investigate. A group of teenagers hiding out in their basement recalling the legend of Peter Ward are one thing, but when Will suspects a mysterious visitor is actually Ward, he’s got no choice but to dig even deeper and, in the process, Will winds up discovering quite a bit about himself, too.

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Review: Take Shelter

Well paced movies aren’t necessarily swift, but if the storytelling approach is more on the calculated and wallowing side, there better be a strong payoff. While writer-director Jeff Nichols presents Take Shelter as a piece that’ll rock a powerful crescendo, what we get is one that feels rather one-note most of the way through until it spikes just before the end. Nichols makes an honorable attempt at wrapping the piece up in a fulfilling and stirring way, but the jagged build doesn’t make it nearly as satisfying as it could be.

Curtis (Michael Shannon) makes a living working for a local drilling company. He lives modestly with his loving wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and their young daughter, Hanna (Tova Stewart), in what appears to be a quaint Midwestern locale. When Curtis begins to experience intense nightmares, he dismisses them as average dreams, but, when his late night visions start to bear daytime repercussions, he becomes alarmed.

Assuming he might be developing Schizophrenia, similar to his mother who was diagnosed in her 30s, Curtis seeks psychiatric help. Even with this medical attention and a sedative prescription, the foreboding intensity of his dreams consumes Curtis, and his nighttime terrors consume his existence. Curtis is swept up by the fear of an incoming storm with potentially devastating effects and he desperately tries to build his family an underground shelter.

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Review: 50/50

When word of this “cancer comedy” hit, the hot question was, “Can cancer be funny?” Not only is the answer to that a solid yes, but director Jonathan Levine and writer Will Reiser make a dismal subject humorous in the most honorable way possible. You may look and sound ridiculous when 50/50 makes you laugh and cry at the same time, but the embarrassment is well worth it.

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is your average 27-year-old. He enjoys hanging out with his best buddy, Kyle (Seth Rogen), is working hard to build a career in the radio industry and is attempting to take his relationship with Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard) another step forward. Everything Adam’s worked for up until this point is thrown entirely off-kilter when he gets some shocking news; Adam has cancer.

From that point on, everything changes. Kyle opts to use his friend’s situation to his advantage, seeking sympathy from girls, Rachael struggles with whether or not she’s capable of committing herself to the situation and Adam’s mother, Diane (Anjelica Huston), swoops in whether her son likes it or not. The there’s the required therapy sessions. The hospital assigns Adam to Katherine (Anna Kendrick), a 24-year-old pursuing a doctorate and in need of training patients. Not only is his whole existence turned upside down, but Adam must also come to terms with the fact that his chance of survival is merely 50/50.

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Best/Worst Promos of the Week: ‘Elmo’ and ‘The Human Centipede’ Unite

We’ve got a little bit of everything this week – action, comedy, romance and so much more. But, with October on the horizon, it’s the horror material that’s inherently appropriate. The team behind the Paranormal Activity 3 campaign is really ramping things up, letting loose three new clips and a brand new trailer. While the clips themselves aren’t particularly special, the way in which they hit the web is quite fun. Shock Till You DropDread Centra land Bloody Disgusting not only received VHS tapes, but VHS players to play them with. An innovative and appropriate way to get the material out to the public, and, thanks to technology, likely quite cheap, too! As for the trailer, I’m sensing this might be a case of showing too much before the release, but at least it shows that there’s really more for this franchise to explore.

If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, there’s quite a bit to check out. In the romantic comedy department, we’ve got new trailers for New Year’s Eve as well as the Katherine Heigl-starrer, One for the Money. For those with a taste for suspense, catch Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell and Elizabeth Banks in the trailer for Man on a Ledge. We’ve also got a batch of clips from Real Steel, which combined, offer an appropriately modest sense of what the film’s got to offer. There’s also a brand new Puss in Boots parody video in which Puss gets his Isaiah Mustafa on.

In the poster department we’ve got three to note. Actually, there’s more than three because Melancholia just racked up six character posters all of which aesthetically foreshadow what’s to come in the feature. The new poster for I Melt With You shows off its main men including Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, and Christian McKay while the first design for The Lorax gives the fans what they want, The Lorax.

While all of the aforementioned promo material is worthy of your time and comes nowhere close to seeping into the demotions department, clearly they weren’t promotions-worthy. What was? Check out the best of the best right here.

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Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

In an industry with a tendency to use, reuse and then reuse yet again, a film that defies typical tactics is particularly exciting. In the case of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, we don’t just get a piece that attempts to purport something new; we get something that takes a common horror movie element, pumps it full of absurdity, blood and even some heart, shakes it up and then hands over the result – a charming spoof that’s a blast to watch.

Decked out in overalls, plaid shirts and trucker hats with scruffy beards, Tucker and Dale (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) are your quintessential hillbillies. When a group of, well, quintessential college kids head out into the woods for a wild weekend, they take Tucker and Dale for just that, a pair of evil killers à la the slew of middle-of-nowhere horror movies. Meanwhile, all Tucker and Dale are trying to do is enjoy a relaxing weekend away while fixing up their new vacation home.

During a fishing break, Tucker and Dale catch the group enjoying a skinny-dipping soiree. When one of the bunch, Allison (Katrina Bowden), hits her head jumping into the lake, Tucker and Dale come to her rescue. However, all Allison’s buddies see is a pair of hillbillies dragging their lifeless friend out of the water. While Tucker and Dale try to nurse her back to health, the college kids arm up in attempt to rescue Allison. It’s one big misunderstanding with immensely bloody consequences.

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Review: Bunraku

Based on Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s performance, there’s clearly a nice chunk of moviegoers who are okay with feature films that are visual spectacles and nothing more. However, not only isn’t Bunraku a Michael Bay blockbuster, but it’s highly stylized, instantly narrowing its target audience. Then again, by focusing on the fans of artistic hand-to-hand combat, Bunraku is poised to head right into more open arms. But, for the rest of us, while the visuals may be like nothing we’ve ever seen and downright incredible, it’s just not enough to make Bunraku a fulfilling watch.

Josh Hartnett is The Drifter, a man passing through town, looking to settle a score. Then there’s Yoshi (Gackt), a samurai with some business of his own, reclaiming a gold medallion. What do these two have in common? Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman). Nicola’s the most powerful man east of the Atlantic, with an army of “red suits” behind him as well as nine lethal killers.

Turns out, not only did Nicola steal Yoshi’s family’s medallion, but he’s also the man The Drifter is after. Both preferring to work alone, it takes a local bartender (Woody Harrelson) to bring the skilled fighters together and pursue their goals side-by-side. However, with the red suits and deadly assassins like Nicola’s right hand man, Killer #2 (Kevin McKidd), in the way, they’re in for an intense uphill battle.

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Review: Melancholia (NYFF 2011)

As someone with an appreciation for a more literal approach to storytelling, taking to Lars von Trier’s style of work has never been easy. However, with <I>Melancholia</I>, von Trier finds an absolutely impeccable middle ground, providing the audience with a uniquely sensible tale, but not holding back when dousing the piece with his authorial expressivity, giving us something that’s tremendously stirring.

Broken up into two sections, the first part of <I>Melancholia</I> focuses on Justine (Kirsten Dunst). Right after marrying Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), the newlyweds head out to her sister Claire’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) estate for a majestic night of fine food, lavish décor and wholesome traditions. Justine should be as happy as ever, especially when her boss and husband’s father, Jack (Stellan Skarsgård), turns his toast into a job promotion announcement, but just a short while into the party, a familiar predicament taints the happiest night of her life, a chronic case of depression.

Part two is dedicated to Claire, her family and a planet called Melancholia. A planet that once hid behind the sun, Melancholia is now on the move, missing Mercury, Venus and, hopefully, Earth. Claire’s husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland), assures her the planet will pass right by as scientists suggest, but a foreboding sensation still looms.

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Review: Red State

Thanks to a great deal of unusual and somewhat off-putting hype, it’s nearly impossible to go into Red State without any preconceptions. There’s no denying Kevin Smith made some questionable decisions during Red State’s road to the public, but, in the end, how can you judge him when he managed to deliver? On a B-movie level at least.

Travis, Jarod and Billy-Ray (Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun) are teenage boys and – surprise, surprise – they want to have sex. One tracks down a potential candidate on a website who’s willing to take on all three. The boys seize the opportunity and head out to their mystery woman’s humble abode, a trailer in the woods. Psyched to get down to business, the trio’s caught off guard when they’re drugged and wake up in the clutches of the Five Points Church.

No, this isn’t any old congregation. The members of the Five Points Church are religious fundamentalists willing to do whatever it takes to rid this Earth of those they’re fighting against with a relentless viciousness. Trapped in the church, the boys are forced to watch while Pastor Cooper (Michael Parks) executes a man, leaving the impression that they’re next.

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Review: Moneyball

It’s pretty obvious that the sports genre has a tendency to revel in formulaic inspirational storytelling. But, when you’ve got a true story with a happy ending, isn’t that effect almost inherent? According to Moneyball, no. Is that a good thing? It depends what you’re looking for.

Brad Pitt is Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s coming off a hot season. However, as Billy frequently says, nobody remembers you when you lose your last game of the season and in 2001, the A’s lost to the New York Yankees in the playoffs. And that’s not even the worst of it. Billy is about to lose his three hottest players and has just $38 million to recoup his losses, a fraction of the budget of most MLB ball clubs.

In comes Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, a Yale graduate with a pension for baseball. Billy snatches him up from an entry-level position with the Cleveland Indians and makes Peter his assistant GM. Together they use Peter’s computer-based system to put together a championship team on a budget. While most look at players like the injured catcher, Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), and 37-year-old David Justice (Stephen Bishop) as liabilities, Peter and Billy see them as cheap grabs with promising skills.

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Best/Worst Movie Promos of the Week: ’13’ x 2 = 1 Promotion + 1 Demotion

Finally, a week resulting in a battle for the spots in the promotion department and not for the demotion slots! But before we get to those, here are the contenders that just missed out on promotion glory or demotion doom.

Let’s get the shoddy material out of the way first. Immortals better do away with that droning voiceover before the film’s release on 11-11-11 or it’ll scare away folks looking to avoid a history lesson. We don’t need anymore broad overviews like the one presented in this new TV spot. Give us a peek inside Theseus’ head! Footloose is having some trouble, too, delivering another clip suggesting the film will rock some wicked dance routines, but fall completely flat in the drama department.

On the brighter side of the past week’s marketing effort is the new red band trailer for The Thing. The piece packs a strong connection to the original while offering a few new thrills, keeping the tension high. J. Edgar isn’t really my type of piece, but there’s no denying that this film and star Leonardo DiCaprio have Oscar potential written all over them. The Awakening also gets a new trailer that tells a bit too much, but is intriguing enough to make you want to see the story play out in full.

The poster realm is rather sparse, but we did get a new one-sheet for the third installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise. It’s nothing special, but that’s only because the series has built up such a strong reputation, marketing effort techniques become givens. On the other hand, the poster for Another Happy Day is striking simply because we’ve never seen anything like this before. An upside-down silhouette of a person in a yellow tube is bound to make any passerby stop and wonder.

As the seasons come and go, so do promotional items. Here’s some that have the potential to stick with you even after the feature comes and goes – for better or worse.

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