Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 FALL MOVIE PREVIEW

It is now that time of the year when Hollywood decides not to devote most of it's time and money catering to fourteen year old boys. The fall season is when we see films that offer more complex and challenging subject matter and in turn, may deliver a richer and deeper cinematic experience.

Here are a few highlights of some of the upcoming films that have captured my attention. Release dates are subject to change:

"THANKS FOR SHARING"

Release date: September 20, 2013

Sex addiction seems to be a popular theme this fall as two films deal with this apparent disorder and are being released just a week apart. In "Thanks For Sharing", director Stuart Blumberg ("The Kids Are All Right") brings the story of a recovering sexual addict (Mark Ruffalo) who meets the girl of his dreams (Gwyneth Paltrow) and struggles to maneuver around this potential relationship and his uncontrollable impulses. Also starring Tim Robbins, John Gad, Joely Richardson, Carol Kane and making her big screen debut, pop singer, Pink under her real name, Alecia Moore.



"DON JON"

Release date: September 27, 2013

While in "Don Jon", Joseph Gordon- Levitt stars (as well as writes and directs his first feature film) as a man that has an unhealthy preoccupation with pornography or at least according to his smoking-hot new girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson) who is disturbed by the idea that he even needs to watch since he has her around. The comedy also features Julianne Moore and Tony Danza.




"CAPTAIN PHILLIPS"

Release date: October 11, 2013

Based on the real-life incident, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his crew aboard an American cargo ship are hijacked and taken for ransom by Somali pirates in 2009.  There is a tense stand-off between the pirates and the U.S. Navy while the Captain's life hangs in the balance. Paul Greengrass ("United 93", "The Bourne Supremacy") directs this action-thriller.



"KILL YOUR DARLINGS"

Release date: October 16, 2013

"Kill Your Darlings" takes a look at the early life of future beat poet, Allen Ginsberg (played by former wizard king, Daniel Radcliffe). The film takes place during his time as a student at Columbia University when he met fellow writers William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston of "Boardwalk Empire") and gets wrapped up in the shocking murder of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) by an acquaintance of Ginsberg's, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan).



"THE FIFTH ESTATE"

Release date: October 18, 2013

"The Fifth Estate" tells the story of how long-time friends, Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) founded the notorious website, Wikileaks. Although the film is partially based on Domscheit-Berg's memoir, who had a falling out with Assange, it's still an unbiased look in to why they were determined to leak to the world classified information in the name of journalistic freedom.




"12 YEARS A SLAVE"

Release date: October 18, 2013

October will feature an exciting double dose of Michael Fassbender as the sexy and talented actor is featured in two very different films. His first appearance will be in a supporting turn as a slave owner in director, Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave". Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free African-American who is kidnapped and sold in to slavery. This film (based on Northup's autobiography) has already received critical praise and awards buzz and just won the Audience Award at the just completed Toronto Film Festival.



"THE COUNSELOR"

Release date: October 25, 2013

Mr. Fassbender headlines his other film, "The Counselor" which is directed by Ridley Scott and features an original screenplay by acclaimed novelist, Cormac McCarthy ("No Country Fort Old Men"). This thriller involves a lawyer (Fassbender) who unwisely gets involved in a drug-smuggling operation and discovers that these people play by their own set of rules. An impressive cast includes Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt.




"THE WOLF OF WALL STREET"

Release date: November 15, 2013

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is based on the memoir of the same title by Jordan Belfort during his time as a high-rolling, overzealous stock broker and his involvement with securities fraud and corruption. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Belfort and has teamed-up with director Martin Scorsese for the fifth time. Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, and Jonah Hill also star.




"AMERICAN HUSTLE"

Release date: December 13, 2013

The volatile but highly gifted filmmaker, David O. Russell returns with "American Hustle", the follow-up to his award-winning film, "Silver Linings Playbook". Set in the '70's, it tells the tale of a con man (Christian Bale) who is coerced by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to assist in a sting operation against a mayor (Jeremy Renner) in New Jersey. Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro and last year's Best Actress Oscar winner for "Silver Linings", Jennifer Lawrence co-star.




"SAVING MR. BANKS"

Release date: December 13, 2013

Tom Hanks also has two movies out this season and he has been perfectly cast as the man behind Mickey Mouse; Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks". This film recreates the difficult struggle to convince the overprotective author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow Disney to make a movie of her beloved book, "Mary Poppins".  John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") directs.

Friday, September 13, 2013

BLUE JASMINE (2013)

Written & Directed by Woody Allen



Where & When: AMC Livonia 20, Livonia, MI. August 25, 2013  11:30 AM



The films of Woody Allen have become well-known hit or miss affairs. His annual output tends to fall either as charming cinematic delights ("Hannah and Her Sisters", "Bullets Over Broadway", "The Purple Rose of Cairo") or routine underdeveloped clunkers ("Shadows and Fog", "The Curse of The Jade Scorpion", "Hollywood Ending"). Thankfully, even Mr. Allen's lesser works are at least somewhat watchable although last year's offering, "To Rome With Love" was just barely. With the disappointing memory of  "Rome" still relatively fresh in my mind, I didn't know what to expect of the latest production,  "Blue Jasmine". I am very happy to report that this dramatic comedy, with elements of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the Bernie Madoff case, has the writer/director back on the right track. The magnificent Cate Blanchett plays the title character, an over privileged trophy wife whose cushy existence is pulled out from under her and becomes desperate to find a way back in to that world.

We first meet Jasmine rambling endlessly at her seatmate on a flight to San Francisco to live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Broke and in disgrace, she has to put some distance from her former life in New York after her investor husband (Alec Baldwin) has been exposed as the ringleader of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. Jasmine's relationship with Ginger has been complicated over the years as she feels that her working-class sister is just too far beneath her social standing and Ginger's poor taste in men hardly helps matters. Another sticking point is that Ginger and her ex-husband (Andrew "Dice" Clay) lost their entire lottery winnings to the investment fraud due to Jasmine's encouragement.

Despite the less than five-star accommodations and facing the unpleasant task of having to seek employment, Jasmine continues to flaunt the trappings of her previous fortunes. First-class plane tickets, Chanel jackets and a Birkin handbag (that is held like a shield) are used as an attempt to save face and indicate that her unfortunate, tragic situation is only a temporary setback. Cracks in the armor soon reveal her fragile mental state as Jasmine drifts off, reliving her posh life before the scandal (seen through a series of flashbacks) that leaves her confused and loudly muttering to herself. She struggles to keep it together with alcohol and medication as her only true comfort from the stress.

After reluctantly working as a receptionist for a lusty dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) until she can acquire a real job as an interior designer, Jasmine works on her sister to drop her brutish, auto-mechanic boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and find someone more worthy that will take proper care of her. Ginger meets a potential new man (Louis CK) at a party while Jasmine is introduced to a wealthy, aspiring politician (Peter Sarsgaard). She is swept off her feet and quickly engaged but Jasmine is haunted by her past which endangers her future happiness and return to a comfortable lifestyle.

"Blue Jasmine" is one of Mr. Allen's strongest scripts in years (including his recent Oscar-winner, "Midnight In Paris") and seems more engaged here than when attempting to do a wacky farce (like "To Rome") as the comedy feels dusted off and recycled. The director's wit works best now when it comes more organically from the plot filled with melodramatic situations. The film perfectly serves as a humorous reminder that greed and self-absorption has become shockingly more accepted in our society, to the point that when these white-collar criminals are caught, they behave like terribly, misunderstood victims while some of the actual casualties of their corruption feel empathy for them.

Far from modern or liberated, Jasmine is a relic of the past; the pampered wife that never bothered her husband with silly questions involving business or finances in exchange for the occasional sparkly gift to show how much she's appreciated. Ms Blanchett is front and center throughout most of the film and deftly conveys Jasmine's manic energy and outrageous pathos. Her character is not particularly likable or sympathetic yet the actress is able to make you feel actual compassion for this narcissistic society matron. The British Ms Hawkins is another bright spot and convincingly delivers Ginger's Noo Yawk honk. You may expect the comedians on board to bring their expert skills here (and they do) but surprisingly Louis CK and Mr Clay are also quite effective in their dramatic moments.

With "Blue Jasmine". Woody Allen hasn't broken any new ground as he's reliably delivered what he's been doing for well over fifty years. What's here is what he does at his very best; a compelling mix of dramatic histrionics and robust hilarity.