In the next two weeks: 2012’s most promising movies


Lincoln, Argo, Flight and The Sessions have been in theaters and three more of 2012’s most promising films open in the next week or so.

Silver Linings Playbook won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and looks to be a crowd pleaser that will be in the running for the Best Picture Oscar.  It opens today.

So does Life of Pi, Ang Lee’s visually spectacular version of the Yann Martel fable.

Next weekend, we’ll get to see Killing Them Softly,  a stylishly violent crime movie with Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepherd.  It was a big hit at Cannes.

Here’s the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook.

Two big new movies this weekend

You can read descriptions and watch trailers of upcoming new movies on my Movies I’m Looking Forward To page, including this week’s two big releases, Argo and Seven Psychopaths.

I know that I’m gonna love Seven Psychopaths (which I’ve already been shilling).

Argo was wildly popular at the Toronto International Film Fest, and Roger Ebert tweeted that it is likely to win the Best Picture Oscar.  Ben Affleck directs and stars in this true story from the Iran Hostage Crisis: a down-on-his-luck spy rescues five Americans hiding in the Canadian Ambassador’s Tehran home by pretending to make a Hollywood sci fi movie.  The trailer emphasizes the thriller aspect, but I understand that the movie industry guys played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin are very funny.  There’s also a Who’s Who of high quality supporting actors:  Bryan Cranston, Philip Baker Hall, Richard Kind, Michael Parks, Clea DuVall, Adam Arkin, Chris Messina and Victor Garber (plus Adrienne Barbeau).  Here’s the trailer.

Big fall films – the first salvo

Autumn is here, and so are the first major film releases for this weekend.  You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

One of the most anticipated is The Master, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love).  A charismatic writer spawns a new religion (like L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, perhaps?).  The Master stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams and got good but not great reviews at Toronto.

Stephen Chbosky directs the screen version of his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  A shy high school freshman is adopted by two unapologetically misfit seniors, played by Harry Potter’s Emma Watson and Ezra Miller (very different here than in We Need to Talk About Kevin).

In Trouble with the Curve, Clint Eastwood stars as an aged baseball scout who takes his daughter (Amy Adams) along on one last scouting trip.  The cast also includes Justin Timberlake and John Goodman.

I don’t go to many shockers, but House at the End of the Street, with Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Shue, could be good.

Here’s the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Trailer for Spielberg’s Lincoln

Here’s the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s based on Doris Kearn Goodwin’s absorbing Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  The film will be released on November 9.

The brilliant cast also includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, Hal Holbrook, Sally Field, John Hawkes, James Spader, Bruce McGill, David Straithern, Tim Blake Nelson, Walton Goggins (Justified) and Dakin Mathews (the horse trader in True Grit).

Because Lincoln’s prose is so exquisitely profound and because he is such an icon, he is often played on screen with a deep speaking voice.  In fact, Lincoln’s voice ranged high, and I enjoy hearing Day-Lewis capturing that characteristic in the middle and end of this trailer.

Return of the Gangster Movie

During the next few months, we’re going to see some major releases of violent crime dramas.

The first, opening on August 29, is Lawless, written by musician Nick Cave.  It is set among moonshiners in Depression Era Appalachia.  The cast includes Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska and (why is he a movie star?) Shia LaBeouf.

On October 19, we’ll see what I expect to be the best of the lot,  the stylishly violent Killing Them Softly, a big hit at Cannes.  It’s a contemporary story with an ensemble cast featuring Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepherd.

Those two movies were going to sandwich the release of Gangster Squad, a mob movie based on Mickey Cohn’s 1949 sojourn in LA, starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Giovanni Ribisi.  But one scene in Gangster Squad is a shooting in a movie theater; the Aurora, Colorado, tragedy made the distributor skittish, and the release has been delayed to January 13.

You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.  Here’s the trailer for Killing Me Softly:

The Dreaded Mid-August at the Movies

Usually mid-August is not very promising at the movies.  Distributors have already released the big summer movies and are holding their Oscar bait until autumn.  But I’m intrigued by a few upcoming films.

The French Beloved traces the lives of women over several decades and several cities.  It stars Catherine Deneuve, her daughter Chiara Mastroianni and, in a rare acting role, the great director Milos Forman.

2 Days in New York is Julie Delpy’s sequel to her 2 Days in Paris (in the vein of the superb Before Sunrise and Before Sunset), this time paired with Chris Rock.

In Premium Rush Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in a bike messenger thriller with Michael Shannon as the scary villain.

Red Hook Summer is Spike Lee’s contemporary film about Brooklyn, which he insists is NOT a sequel to his masterful Do the Right Thing.

Lawless is a violent crime movie set among Depression Era moonshiners.

The indie Compliance has been controversial at festivals, evoking both love and hate.  Inspired by true events, the employees of a fast food restaurant follow the over-the-phone instructions of someone who claims to be a cop – and enter dangerous territory.

You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.  Here’s the trailer for Compliance:

More July Movies

Other than the superb Beasts of the Southern Wild and Take This Waltz, it hasn’t shaped up to be a very rich July at the movies.  But I’m interested in three upcoming releases.

Dark Horse is an indie comedy by Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) in which an epic underachiever falls in love with a heavily medicated depressive.  Reportedly, Solondz’ take on these characters is clear-eyed, but not mean.

Christian Bale growls on in Christopher Nolan’s newest chapter of the Bat Man saga, The Dark Knight Rises.  The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Juno Temple and Liam Neeson.

Farewell, My Queen is a lavishly staged French costume drama tracing the end of Marie Antoinette’s reign.  Early reviews focus on the performances by Diane Kruger as the Queen, Virginie Ledoyen as the Queen’s intimate friend and Lea Seydoux as the servant with ambiguous motives.

You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To. Here’s the trailer for Farewell, My Queen:

June at the movies

June 2012 looks pretty promising at the movies.  June 15 is the opening for the always quirky Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which premiered in Cannes.

We’ll also get Elena, a Russian contemporary noir about a rich guy who marries his nurse and then tells her that he is leaving his fortune to someone else.  Plotting ensues.

That weekend, I’m also looking forward to the opening of the Kristin Scott-Thomas thriller The Woman in the Fifth, the screen version of Broadway’s Rock of Ages and an indie dramedy with Emily Blunt, Your Sister’s Sister.

The next weekend, June 22, brings the opening of Woody Allen’s latest, To Rome With Love.  We’ll also get to see two blockbusters – Brave, Pixar’s much anticipated fable of a Scottish princess and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the movie from Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestselling novel

Finally, Take This Waltz with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen opens on June 29.  33-year-old Canadian actress Sarah Polley wrote and directed;  Polley’s debut feature was Away From Her, my pick for best movie of 2006.  I’ve seen Take This Waltz and it’s a very special movie.

You can read descriptions and watch the trailers on my Movies I’m Looking Forward To page. Here’s the trailer for The Woman in the Fifth.

movies for late May

It looks like a really strong late May at the movies, with several promising releases for Memorial Day weekend.  I’ve already seen Polisse, a riveting French police procedural about the child protective services unit – it’s one of the best films of the year.

Intouchables is story of a paraplegic rich French guy who hires a black street guy as his caretaker; though not critically praised, it’s the second most popular movie of all time in France.

Moonrise Kingdom is another entry from Director Wes Anderson, who has had some quirky hits (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore) and some quirky misses (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), but he’s always original.

With Hysteria, director Tanya Wexler brings us a female look at how Victorian medicine addressed female sexuality.  Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as a proto-feminist and High Dancy plays the doc who invented a proto-vibrator.

You can read descriptions and watch the trailers on my Movies I’m Looking Forward To page. Here’s the trailer for Polisse.

Upcoming movies: late April edition

After a dry spell, we’re starting to get promising movies by the handful.  This weekend will bring a promising Hollywood romantic comedy, The Five-Year Engagement, the animated Pirates! Band of Misfits and the indie thriller The Hunter.

The Five-Year Engagement features Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s writer-star Jason Segal and the director Nicholas Stoller, plus Emily Blunt.

Pirates! Band of Misfits comes from Aardman Studios, the folks that created Wallace and Gromit.

The weekend after will bring The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a story of aged Brits seeking a low-budget retirement in India that looks like fluff, but fun fluff.  Great cast:  Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey).

You can read descriptions and watch the trailers on my Movies I’m Looking Forward To page.

In The Hunter,  Willem Dafoe stars as a hunter sent to find the Tasmanian Tiger, thought extinct.  He looks for the beast, finds a thriller.  Here’s the trailer.