Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Look at Fall 2015

So this summer's offerings were generally alright to below, with a few stellar movies sprinkled in. There were a few boffo gangbusters that surprised box office watchers but for the most part the hauls for many films were pretty low and/or received by audiences far worst than predicted. Now we have to deal with the Oscar contenders and wannabes, the major new films helmed by auteurs, the scary, the strange, the ones that go better with popcorn, the family dreck, the holiday cash-ins, the last of the blockbusters, and some more bad Christian flicks.

Let's check out and go thoroughly through all of the offerings coming out in the last four months of 2015.

September 2, tomorrow, will give us our very first new film of the season and it is a total wimper. A Walk In The Woods has Robert Redford walking the Appalachian Trail with his old buddy Nick Nolte, much to the chagrin of his wife Emma Thompson, who will most likely spent the entire film having her talents be utterly wasted. Even with it being based a real memoir by Bill Bryson, this journey with two grumpy old men is being helmed by the same guy who gave us that great classic Dunston Checks In!

September 4 has one sole new wide release over the death weekend, I mean Labor Day weekend. The Transporter Refueled has Ed Skrein (aka Daario Naharis #1) taking over for Jason Statham as Frank Martin. Here, he does what he does best: transporting people, namely a group of women as they embark on a revenge scheme on a Russian kingpin. Action and car fans might give it a polite reception but producer Luc Besson a has mixed track record recently, including driving the Taken franchise into the ground this year, and I don't really see anyone really clamoring for more transporting adventures sans Statham. The limited releases are pretty barebones yet eclectic to say the least. Chris Evans is both in front and behind the camera for Before We Go, where he meet cutes with Alice Eve in Manhattan. Shout! Factory is releasing something called Bloodsucking Bastards, which I really, really hope has nothing to do with the horrible cult film Bloodsucking Freaks. Upon closer inspection, it is a vampire movie set in a corporate office. And then we have Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos. Yep, an animated movie from Mexico that translates as "A Rooster with Big Balls".

September 11 is our first skip weekend of the season. Not only does it kinda still feels a bit odd to be all excited for new movies on one of the most unfortunate dates of recent memory but the selection being offered to the public just seems dreadful. The Visit is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan. If that doesn't scare you away, the horror film is shot in the form of found footage. If that too doesn't scream "get out while you still can", the plot has two whippersnappers staying over at their grandparents' house, only to find that the two elders are a bit insane. The trailers are beyond laughable to take serious and it will probably be nothing but jump scares. The Perfect Guy is the only one of the lot to possibly be an okay movie but nothing really stands out. The thriller has Sanaa Lathan caught between new beau Michael Ealy and ex-boyfriend Morris Chesnut, with the former revealing to be a sinister creeper. The Christian crap train continues moving forward with 90 Minutes in Heaven, yet another film adaptation of a popular book about a person's journey into heaven and return back to Earth following a deadly incident. Forever mocked for playing the angst-ridden teen version of Darth Vader and other less-than-pleasing roles, Hayden Christensen plays the lead role as a Baptist minister that miraculously survives from a car accident and becomes famous after writing a book about it. The former It Guy is given former It Girl Kate Bosworth to play his wife. Of the limited releases, Sleeping With Other People has the best bet of earning major notices. The Sundance rom-dramedy has Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie trying to correct their personal life choices when dealing with sex and love.

September 18 has a clear split between teens and adults. The expected winner over the weekend is Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the second entry of the YA franchise involving robo-spiders and a shadowy organization that creates kids to be the cure of a zombie disease caused by the exploding sun, yet for no real explanation still want to kill them. Though the first one was pretty dumb, I had some fun with the nutty plot and this next one has the teen crew moving into Mad Max territory and facing off against HBO favorite Aidan Gillen. Universal Studios looks to continue its winning ways with Everest, a real-life disaster movie with a huge cast of actors. It may be an alright weather drama and sell a ton of popcorn but I'm not a big fan of snowy plights, unless they star Sly Stallone. This weekend also gives us our first Oscar contender. Black Mass follows the horrific true story of how Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) came to power in the Boston mob and how the FBI let his on-going crimes slide a bit after becoming a secret informant for them. Depp has been pushed heavily in all of the ad campaigns due to his star status and being pretty scary in the clips shown. However, the Oscar talk has been surprisingly more focused on Joel Edgerton, who plays the FBI agent who assisted Bulger in getting away with murder. Competing against it in the real-life crime thriller department is Captive, which recounts how a female hostage had to carefully deal with a murdering fugitive on the loose. Despite having David Oyelowo and Kate Mara in the leads, this movie looks like utter rubbish. Additionally, director Jerry Jameson has done nothing but TV movies for a long while and is best known for such "classics" as Airport '77 and Raise the Titanic. The limited market offers up quite a doozy with Sicario, the latest from Denis Villeneuve. It had a mixed reception at this year's Cannes but many were wowed by Roger Deakins' cinematography and having its female protagonist (Emily Blunt) be just a small peg within the dark war on drugs in Mexico. Also available is About Ray, the award-seeking drama where Elle Fanning plays a transgender male, much to the dismay and confusion of her family.

September 25 oddly has several horror-themed films coming out a week before the true Halloween season. The big money-winner will be Hotel Transylvania 2, due to the surprise business of the first entry and it being the only one aimed at kids. This time around, the plot has gotten pretty hazy and a bit stale as family hijinks ensue with the arrival of a new non-vampire baby boy and Dracula's father (voiced by Mel Brooks). Horror hounds finally, finally get their chance to see Eli Roth's The Green Inferno. The grim tribute to 70's cannibal films has been long delayed, which I have covered extensively, before at last finding a new distributor. It may not be worth the wait but at least it wouldn't be a lost film. Those who hate gore and are too "adult" for cartoons can then check Before I Wake, which is pretty much Insidious but not as good. Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane play a dumb couple who choose to adopt the wrong kid, namely the one whose dreams and nightmares come to life. As for the old folks whose tickers can't handle even the lamest of scares, they can sheepishly head off to The Intern, where Robert DeNiro helps out Anne Hathaway in the internet fashion game. It comes from Nancy Meyers, whose track record is not always stellar; this one doesn't look to change that opinion. The limited releases have several big heavy-hitting indies on tap. First up is Stonewall, Roland Emmerich's interpretation of the famous riots for LGBT rights which has already generated some bad buzz from concerned groups. 99 Homes looks to be a hard-to-watch thriller as Andrew Garfield is evicted by a shady man (Michael Shannon), only to work under him and kick other people out of their houses. Mississippi Grind drew up some buzz at Sundance, as struggling gambler Ben Mendelsohn and lucky lad Ryan Reynolds go on a risky road-trip. And Drafthouse Pictures brings us The Keeping Room, a dark Civil War drama where a group of forlorn women have to protect their homestead from dangerous soldiers.

September 30 premieres the special IMAX-only 9-day run of Robert Zemeckis' The Walk. Even though its story was best told in the Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire, Zemeckis forged ahead and crafted a dramatic version of how high-wire performer Philippe Petit and a small crew of friends broke into the World Trade Center to do a wire walk between the towers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will bring his best to the role but I'm still a bit hesitant. The film will open in normal formats nationwide on the 9th.

October 2 gives you the reason for the odd misplacement of horror films: none of the studios wanted to contend with 20th Century Fox's new sci-fi drama. The Martian tells of an astronaut who is left for dead on the red planet and seeks to survive and contact his crew. If you've seen the way-too-spoilery trailer, you already known half of the film. Fox really wants this to be the next Interstellar but despite Drew Goddard handling the adaptation of the Andy Weir novel, Ridley Scott is very iffy with sci-fi nowadays, especially considering the audience fallout from Prometheus. The limited release market will be filled with three "for your consideration" projects. The sole documentary/crowd-pleaser of the pack is the awkwardly named He Named Me Malala, which looks at the life and struggles of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai. Those seeking for a cry can endure through Freeheld, an indie drama about cancer-stricken policewoman Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) and how she fought the system to ensure her pension goes to her domestic partner (Ellen Page). The trailer sadly makes its look cheap and cookie-cutter despite being penned by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, Soldier's Girl). And Brian Helgeland jumped over the Atlantic to do Legend, another dramatic look at the lives of twin gangsters the Krays. Instead of two members of Spandau Ballet, both roles will be played by Tom Hardy.

October 9, oh boy, gives us Pan, Joe Wright's unwanted new origin story for Peter Pan, Captain Hook and the world of Neverland. Even though it is expected to do very well, the Peter Pan mythos isn't a big favorite with the public, save for Disney's Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The strangest wide release this weekend is My All-American, a sure-to-be forgettable sports bio about the brief career of college football player Freddie Steinmark. Those of whom weren't spurned by the infamous Ashton Kutcher attempt or its own production horror stories can finally get a look at Steve Jobs. The Aaron Sorkin written, Danny Boyle-directed film looks at three major events that helped change the tumultuous life of the iconic Apple co-founder. We finally get some new horror films this month but only in limited theaters. Knock Knock is the second film from Eli Roth this year and is already considered by critics to be his best film ever made. Adulterous Keanu Reeves finds the tables have turn when he lets in two lost women into his family house. While that movie did well at Sundance, this year's South By Southwest was dominated by The Final Girls, a meta-horror-comedy that sends a group of modern teenagers into an 80's style horror flick. If you really want to torture yourself with a different type of horror, there's Big Stone Gap, an Appalachian comedy written and directed by Adriana Trigiani, who wrote the book it is based on and whose last real credit in the industry was writing for The Cosby Show.

October 16 is the one and only weekend to be dominated by horror from Hollywood. The no. 1 film of the three days will be the nostalgia-stroking Goosebumps. Jack Black stars as the film version of R.L. Stine (despite looking like Gareth Marenghi), as he tries to save his town after a couple of teenagers and his daughter accidentally allow his monster creations to leave their books and wreck havoc in the real world. Practically everyone who grew up with the original books and the cheesy TV series lambasted the first trailer but I honestly though it looks to be a dumb yet fun treat. I will utterly loathe that annoying sidekick though. Unless the teen and adult crowds come in droves, Guillermo del Toro might sadly see another one of his passion projects fail at the box office, this time with Crimson Peak. Mia Wasikowska's natural beauty and her hidden ability to see ghosts causes her to fall prey to a conniving brother-sister duo (Tom Hiddleston & Jessica Chastain) and be locked away at their haunted castle. To counter-program the horrorfest, Dreamworks oddly decided to fit in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies. It is just incredibly weird to not see his new Oscar hopeful be placed in November or December like usual. Anyway, it has Tom Hanks playing James Donovan, a lowly lawyer who is suddenly tasked to be the representative for a Russian spy (Mark Rylance) and then must negotiate a prisoner transfer with Russian officials. The limited selection coming to NYC and LA all look very questionable, save for one. Sundance razzie The Bronze may finally come out or again be scuttled off, especially since there's still no promotion for it. The same can be said for Truth, screenwriter James Vanderbilt's debut feature about 60 Minutes' investigation into the military background of then-President George W. Bush. However, this film might remain on track after its splash at the Toronto Film Festival in a couple of weeks. And Woodlawn is a very stupid name for a Christian film hiding under the disguise of high school football drama, aka the When The Game Stands Tall approach. The sole interesting title from this pack of small releases is Room. An adaptation of a novel by Emma Donoghue, the art indie chronicles the plight of a mother and son as they are being held hostage by an unknown sexual predator. Many are seeing it as Brie Larson's chance to earn an Oscar nomination.

October 23 gives us five new releases and all of them look really lame or far worst. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension finally comes out and will finally put the last nail in the coffin on the dwindling horror franchise. This prequel/sequel/side-story has a new whitebread family uncovering a cache of VHS tapes featuring past characters, which then begin to have an impact on their home and their little girl. I enjoyed the original trilogy of films but gave right up after the utterly horrible fourth entry. I don't expect a large turnout for this finale, let alone good reviews. Then there's Jem and The Holograms. Ugh! This adaptation of the popular 80's cartoon has been rightfully trashed by all comers since the debut trailer; the latest development that Synergy is to be some kind of hologram-producing little robot was the last straw. This will surely bomb hard, as diehard fans will avoid it and today's teens will likely sneer and skip it until it hits ABC Family. Speaking of bombs, The Last Witch Hunter looks to be the next I, Frankenstein or Hansel and Gretel, despite the presence of Vin Diesel and Rose Leslie. It's basically a buddy horror film, where a hunter and a witch must team up to save New York from an evil coven. Make it a regrettable Redbox rental. Rock The Kasbah has Bill Murray trying to bring an Arab girl to Afghan Idol and trying to wring laughs from a terrible idea. It will be competing in the comedy department against Burnt, a dramedy from Steven Knight and John Wells that has Bradley Cooper playing a Gordon Ramsay-like chef looking to return to the graces of the restaurant industry. I always give food movies a chance due to my love for them but I don't expect this to knock my socks off or make me laugh in any way. No real fun to be had in the art theaters unless you are an Oscar voter: I Smile Back gives a meaty dramatic role to Sarah Silverman as a destructive housewife while Suffragette looks to be another carbon copy of every women's rights flick, this time focusing on the British movement in the early 20th century.

October 30 will kick off a weekend of empty theaters. Not looking to contend with everyone's Halloween parties and the trick-or-treaters, the studios practically offer nothing save for two odd wide releases. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse wants to be the next Zombieland, mixing in the undead offal with the story of some cub scouts stuck in quite a predicament. Even though it is led by acclaimed child actor Tye Sheridan, the film will quickly go through theaters with little to no money in tow. It's only competition is Our Brand Is Crisis, David Gordon Green's adaptation of the documentary of the same name. Produced by George Clooney and his favorite boy Grant Heslov, the drama looks at how a Washington D.C. political firm helped influence the 2002 Bolivian presidential election.

November 6 kicks off the holiday blockbuster season with two potentially huge moneymakers. Spectre is the last Bond film to be made for quite awhile and the makers have the arduous task of topping Skyfall. Their solution: updating the titled criminal organization that has brought tragedy to Bond in movies past and bringing in Christoph Waltz as the head villain. For the families, there's the 3D animated flick The Peanuts Movie. Not really hard to explain the appeal of that film. For those that want to duck the lines or have lower forms of taste, I guess you can check out The Outskirts. This teen girl comedy was originally set for release this summer and now it is to be the sacrificial lamb of the weekend. The limited releases have several awards contenders. Brooklyn, a melodrama set in the 1950's and written by Nick Hornby, has Saoirse Ronan playing an Irish lass who is torn between her homeland and her new life in New York. The film did very well at Sundance this year, championed by many critics as the true best film of the festival and picked up by Fox Searchlight for $9 million, and is expected to possibly give Ronan a Best Actress Oscar nomination. As for an expected nomination for Best Actor, popular actor Bryan Cranston may earn one with his performance in Trumbo, a biopic on the legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was infamously blacklisted in Hollywood during the Red Scare. Continuing the theme of true life tales this weekend is Spotlight, a re-telling of how the Boston Globe uncovered a massive cover-up by the Catholic Church. Other than its subject matter and its resemblance to another high profile drama this season, many might also be turned off by the film due who's at the helm: Tom McCarthy, the once respected writer-director who has been on a bad streak recently, including this year's catastrophic failure The Cobbler. And director Catherine Hardwicke tries to crawl her way back into the film game with the Beaches-sounding drama Miss You Already, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette.

November 13 could be an unlucky night to open on. The studios seem to take grave notice as the selection is pretty poor. First up is The 33, Warner Bros.' Oscar bait drama about the Chilean mining accident in 2010. I rallied hard against the manipulative trailer issued for it and I still feel it to be a poorly handled excursion. Angelina Jolie returns to the director's chair again this season with the possible vanity pic By The Sea. The film has her and her husband Brad Pitt playing a disillusioned couple traveling Europe who begin to fall completely apart while in a small town. Despite its teasing of psychological thriller elements, the only people truly interested in this product are the talk show circuit and the celebrity press. Then, there is Rings, the third entry in the American franchise based on the j-horror Ringu series. Absolutely nothing has come out for it yet and I highly expect it to be delayed to 2016 any minute now.

November 20 will finally bring us the end of the last big YA franchise. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 gives us the conclusion to the myth-making of Katniss Everdeen and her bloody grudge with The Capital. I was once a huge fan of the series with the first two films but Part 1 was a near terrible borefest, clearly stretching out its slim material in order to keep us caring about the product. My lack of care for this film is also supplemented by the explosive contents in the second half of the original book, which fans are still angry over. My opinion wouldn't really matter though as the teen audience will go out in droves to see it and give it a huge haul of money. I would say the adults would instead go see The Secret In Their Eyes as the alternative this weekend but that will be a flat out lie. This unnecessary remake of the Oscar-winning Argentine film has Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, and Nicole Kidman stepping into the roles of beleaguered investigators still haunted by a personal murder case. The film already looks forgettable; just check out its original teaser poster to notice how lazy and laughable this entire endeavor is. Meanwhile, in NY and LA, the Weinstein Company will be giving out Carol, the lesbian romantic drama that has generated considerable awards buzz for its two leads Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the later of which won the Best Actress award at Cannes.

November 25 offers up several big movies for the Thanksgiving holiday week. The movie that has the most talk surrounding it is Creed, the spinoff/sequel to the Rocky series that focuses on the son of Apollo Creed and his attempt to achieve greatness in the boxing ring. Directed and co-written by hot director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), the film has the biggest chance of finally, finally making Michael B. Jordan a star with the movie-going public. Fighting in the red corner against the potential titan is The Good Dinosaur, Pixar's second animated film this year. The film is a simple tale of how one Apatosaurus finds a friend in a native human boy, set in an universe where dinosaurs next went extinct. Though Pixar and Disney are pushing for it to be a worthy treat for families for the holidays, the movie has been extensively noted for its production troubles and its complete voice cast overhaul. It remains to be seen whether it can be a profitable film, let alone be able to hang alongside the critical and commercial success of Inside Out. As for the films to bomb or do poor this weekend: The Night Before is the holiday bro-comedy featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie going on a party bender on Christmas Eve and Victor Frankenstein gives another origin story of a horror icon, but this time from the viewpoint of Igor (played by the devlishly handsome Daniel Radcliffe) and from a script written by Max Landis.

November 27 has two new releases but only in the limited markets. The Danish Girl is Tom Hooper's latest Oscar bait and reunites him with Eddie Redmayne, who here plays Einar Wegener, a man who begins to realize that he is really a she (Lili Elbe to be exact) and goes for the very first reassignment surgery. Since its announcement and first screenshot, many have decried the casting of Redmayne over real transgender actors. Upon viewing the trailer which luckily premiered today, while his performance looks to be fine right now, it is a bit distracting and again awards baiting. However, Alicia Vikander, the actress playing her torn wife and 2015's breakout star, looks to be delivering a better job in the film. Competing against this Oscar hopeful is I Saw The Light, Sony Pictures Classics' biopic on country star Hank Williams.

December 4 is the first weekend of December, which means it's a utter throwaway. The sole new wide release is Krampus, a horror-comedy based around the titled folklore character, who looked like a horned demon and would punish children who were naughty around Christmastime. No footage or plot material have been produced yet save for some posters but I am a bit more interested in it since it's being helmed by Michael Dougherty, who directed the cult horror classic Trick 'r Treat. More new films will be coming in the art theaters this weekend: Hitchcock/Truffaut is a documentary version of the legendary film book; Macbeth is the latest film remake of the Shakespeare play, with Michael Fassbinder stepping in the titled role; Life, directed by Anton Corbijn, looks at the time when Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) snapped the legendary photos of James Dean (Dane DeHaan) for Life magazine; and Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) strikes out with Youth, a stinker from this year's Cannes with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel.

December 11 again sees one brand new wide release; the studios really want the Thanksgiving movies to continue to do well before then blowing their entire load in the next two weeks. Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea is finally given a release after much delay. The special effects-laden, Chris Hemsworth-starring movie tells the real life sea story that would eventually inspire the creation of Moby Dick. Given the hesitation by Warner Bros. earlier this year, I don't expect the film to be a truly amazing film nor a blockbuster. The limited releases this weekend also offer nothing too extraordinary or must-see: The Dark Horse is a New Zealand film about speed chess player Genesis Potini and Lady in the Van will draw the blue hairs with its story of, well, Maggie Smith living in a van.

December 18 is Star Wars: The Force Awakens day. Do I really need to talk about this movie or how it's going to take in big business? So let's just move on to Sisters. On second thought, let's not. Though I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, this raunchy comedy about two siblings throwing a party in their childhood home looks incredibly unfunny. It will obviously draw in a larger female audience than Star Wars but it will receive poor returns and be quickly lost in the shuffle come next week. And if you want to avoid all forms of joy this weekend, Sony Classics unleashes Son of Saul, a dark drama about Auschwitz and the Sonderkommandos that won the Grand Prix award at Cannes.

December 23 sadly gives us Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Serenity now! This franchise has been the bane of everybody's existence, culminating in the disasterpiece Chipwrecked. No one save for some producers have been calling for more misadventures of the annoying CGI trio. Additionally, their last film greatly underperformed four years ago, nearly earning $100 million less than the previous two and unable to turn a profit domestically. What self-respecting little kid would want to see this over seeing Star Wars again?

December 25, Christmas day, is saturated with films but all are geared more towards the Oscar voters. The biggest one of the pack is of course The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino's eighth film and his second western in a row. Eager fans and viewers will have to really scour through NY and LA though, as the new film is premiering there first and only in theaters capable enough to screen it in its original format of 70mm. These people will also have to choice between that movie or The Revenant, Alejandro González Iñárritu's followup to the very overrated Birdman. However, this film still has not been completed and could be delayed. Also on the agenda but in wide release is Concussion, a movie chiefly designed to interest sports fans while also giving its lead actor a possible Oscar nom. The real life drama stars Will Smith as Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian doctor who discovered the repercussions of repeated head trauma in football athletes and his battle with the NFL. Not a very flashy film per se but more interesting right now than Joy, the David O. Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence. The showy trailer didn't really work for me, nor am I intrigued by the life story of Joy Mangano, the creator of as-seen-on-TV crap like the Miracle Mop and Huggable Hangers. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt returns for another thriller biopic with Snowden, the new film from Oliver Stone that is obviously about the computer programmer that leaked the news about the NSA. For regular viewers and/or those who are stupid enough to know better, you can partake in the eye-tearing remake of Point Break or the pathetic "battle of the dads" comedy Daddy's Home with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

My Top Picks of Fall 2015

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2. The Hateful Eight
3. Creed
4. Sicario
5. Spectre
6. Crimson Peak
7. Brooklyn
8. Black Mass
9. Krampus
10. Bridge of Spies

Of course, there are some films not mentioned here or included because I frankly had a hard time determining their release time frame. Examples include High-Rise and Midnight Special. Also, there is a possibility that any of the featured films will later be delayed.

I hope your movie experiences will be as good as mine, but probably less cynical.

No comments:

Post a Comment