Smashed (October 12)
Silver: Stories about struggles of enduring love have been so thoroughly explored in both comedic and dramatic films that sitting through one is more comforting in its familiarity than it is challenging. What you don’t see a lot of, and it’s the reason why I’m excited for Smashed, are stories about late 20s, early 30s couples who are dealing with not only the loss of youth, but the overwhelming pressures of real life. It’s the grayish middle between "Zac Efron prom date gone awry" and "Meryl Streep dancing with Tommy Lee Jones on a beach." And it's harder to truthfully capture on film because a couple, much less a married couple, in their late 20s or early 30s are in a constant state of transition. And much like Celeste and Jesse Forever dealt with a young couple’s divorce, Smashed ups the drama by throwing in some “real-life shit” like the combined act of getting sober. So even if Smashed didn’t star two of my biggest crushes — Ramona Flowers ... err ... Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron “Bitch” Paul — based on all this I know it’s a film I’d still want to see.
Browne: It's funny, Dan, because I was a tad bit hot-and-cold about the film, until I saw that our last true Hollywood love story (THNKS 4 TH MMRS, AMY AND WILL), Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, are both in prominent roles. Just look at them:
That's enough to get me excited about this crack-smoking fiesta of a film.
Lincoln (November 9)
Silver: My cinema relationship with Steven Spielberg is akin to the hill I used to sled on just outside my front door. When I was a kid that hill used to look huge, treacherous even. And when I walk it now, it’s nothing more than a slight incline; it looks and feels just like the rest of my parent’s front lawn. As a young cinephile, once I started seeing films from the Italian Neorealists, Russian Expressionists, the directors of the French Wave filmmakers, and even some of Spielberg’s other “Easy Riders and Raging Bulls” contemporaries, Spielberg’s dramas started to look like Disney-fied roller coaster rides. So as much as Lincoln looks and sounds like a typical Spielberg joint, it’ll be interesting to see how his lustrous visuals and emotion blends with the rawness of Daniel Day-Lewis (a.k.a. The Master Thespian, a.k.a. The Widdler). Watching Spielberg’s visuals mix with John Williams's strings in the trailer made me wonder if I’d finally outgrown him, or if modern cinema sensibilities had left him behind, but then I couldn’t help but be tugged back into it every time I heard Day-Lewis deliver a line. And every shot of him — wow. As with all his performances, he’s completely disappeared into his role. So can a dose of Stanislavski in this film be enough to overcome the loftiness of Spielberg’s sensibilities? We soon shall see.
Browne: After watching that trailer, I am now Dan Silver, age 8, atop his giant hill, preparing to sled down a treacherous hill.
Wreck-It Ralph (November 2)
Silver: By replacing cartoons with video game characters, and by sprinkling in some Monsters, Inc.–esque dynamics, Wreck-It Ralph looks like it’s striving to be our generation’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or the pop culture–reference bouillabaisse movie. And instead of a roly-poly Bob Haskins, Wreck-It Ralph has John. C. Reilly. In both his look and discourse, Reilly is a distinctive performer. His Dale Doback, Dewey Cox, and Cal Naughton Jr. are so fully formed and hyperbolic that they could have easily been animated characters. So he seems perfectly suited to voice the title character of Wreck-It Ralph. In the first few moments of this trailer, when in-game Ralph screams “I’m going to wreck it!,” I can practically see the real-life Reilly, unkempt, standing in the sound booth dressed like his character, delivering those lines.
Browne: This is like the "We Are the World" for video game characters. I wonder which one will be Dan Aykroyd.
Parental Guidance (December 25)
Silver: I’d like to set the over/under on gratuitous Billy Crystal groin shots in Parental Guidance at 4½ (with a half-point counting for anytime Crystal is seen onscreen kissing Bette Midler). I’m going to take the over, and will be shocked if I lose this bet. Holiday fun for the whole family, folks.
Browne: Crystal hasn't really been in a film in a decade (since 2002's Analyze That). Because of that fact, I respect this film for what it is, an "I got bored, let me call Bette and see if she's bored too" holiday gem. Won't see it, but I do respect productivity that stems from boredom.
A Late Quartet (Limited November 2)
Silver: An open letter to the producers of A Late Quartet:
Dear Sirs and/or Madams,
Although we’ve never met formally, I’m now fairly certain it was you who was standing behind me in the line for the midnight screening of Doubt. I remember you because you were not-so-subtly listening in on my conversation with my friends. First of all, that’s rude. Work on your form. You’re very bad at being sneaky. But more important, I said I’d watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in anything, even (and I quote) “some ridiculous melodrama where he plays the violin in a quartet.” And my friends countered with, “Yeah, and the other members of the quartet would be made up of some random dude, Catherine Keener, and Chris Walken.” WE WERE KIDDING!
We’d all just seen Keener share the screen with Hoffman in Synecdoche, New York, so she was fresh in mind. And honestly, what’s funnier than imagining Christopher Walken in a string quarter? I’d argue nothing. Counter to the result of this week’s Grantland YouTube HOF in which Joaquin Phoenix was trounced, 8-4, I don’t think that I, or the general public, would really go see PHS in “anything."
Sorry if you were led astray.
Browne: I'm torn. Part of me thinks this looks awesome, because Hoffman and Walken and Keener are three of my favorites, but the other part is completely insulted by the way they did this trailer. I don't care how un-famous someone is, if you have a movie about a quartet, YOU CAN'T JUST LIST THE NAMES OF THREE OF THE PEOPLE. That's about the rudest thing I've ever seen. Why are they producers treating "Mark Ivanir" like he's Christian Laettner? Seems wrong. I'm not happy.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (November 16)
Silver: As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve not seen any of the Twilight films, but I have seen all of their trailers. And as this will most likely be the series' last trailer, I’d like to pose a question to the Twilight fans out there, which has been gnawing at me for a while. And please keep in mind the following is obviously coming from a very limited and skewed perception of the series. At any point in the four previous films, is there any narrative justification for why, and more important, HOW the people who turn into werewolves grow so disproportionately to their human forms. That brown wolf standing next to Kristen Stewart at 1:44 is huge! I know I’m writing about a film centered around mythical creatures, but even Marvel make an effort to add some specs of plausibility to their films. I’m not asking for anything on the Nolan level. But come on. Those werewolves just look ridiculous.
Browne: It's just so hard to watch RPATTZ and KsTeW share a screen like this. It's torture. My grieving won't be over by November 16. Might have to catch this one on Redbox after I lose a bet with the punishment being "going to Redbox and announcing to the store that you are checking out Twilight, dressed simultaneously as RPATTZ and KsTeW."
Stand Up Guys (January 11)
Silver: Based solely on the titles, cast, and photos I’d previously seen, I thought this film was another forgettable crotchety old geezer crime comedy. One where it’s clear Pacino, Arkin, and Walken took their roles more to cover their grandchildren’s grad-school tuition than out of love of the project. Based on this trailer, I’m thrilled that I appear to be wrong. There’s some intense and deeply human stuff going on here. Themes of brotherhood and honor among thieves are so prevalent that Stand Up Guys could be a remake of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow V (which doesn’t exist, but you Hong Kong action aficionados know what I mean). Pacino seems to have finally realized that his best performance of the last 20 years was in Donnie Brasco, a film in which he played a broken-down gangster and never raised his voice in that Pacino way. Not once. And Arkin’s Arkin, and Walken’s Walken. I’m super-psyched for this film.
Browne: If this is a real photo of these three guys from 30 years ago, I might cry:
Please say Photoshop hasn't played a part in this. Please say this is from Shirley MacLaine's 40th-birthday party. PLEASE.
Oh, and this film looks fantastic. Oh, and Walken can't stop making movies. He's the only one keeping up with Channing Tatum these days.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (January 4)
Silver: I said it 10 years ago when I saw the trailer for the first remake (yeah, it was only a decade ago) and I’ll say it now. This is a film that doesn’t need, and will never need, a remake, a reboot, a reimagining. Whatever you want to call it, Leatherface doesn’t need it. Tobe Hopper’s 1974 original is still one of the most disturbing and raw films ever made. Even its trailer is hard to watch. Seriously, just re-release the 1974 version. And if you want to be all “douchey studio” about it, convert it to 3-D. Who cares. It’ll still be more effective than any remake.
Browne: Trey Songz is in this film.
HE WILL DIE SHIRTLESS, HE WILL DIE SINGING FALSETTO, AND IT WILL BE GRAND.