Homefront (November 27)
Silver: STATHAM!!! I can’t even believe this is real. My system is so over-Stathamed that I feel like I’m operating in some kind of Trainspotting-esque induced Statham haze.
Let me see if I got this straight.
Statham is starring in a film written and produced by Sylvester Stallone, where he goes toe-to-toe with a meth-cooking bad guy played by James Franco, AND the film is not being buried in some off time of the year where it can pick up only box office scraps, but instead, smack dead in the middle of the Thanksgiving Cineplex melee?
So say we all: Statham!!
Statham plays the seemingly shady character that winds up being the beacon of virtue and justice while beating the Statham out of everyone around him. What more would you want from your Statham? Oh, how about a spawn of Statham who also can sufficiently Statham her foes? Statham!
I honestly can’t believe this film is real. Now excuse me while I watch this trailer in the privacy of my own Statham. I didn’t think it was possible, but my Statham just popped its own Statham.
Yoshida: So after watching this trailer three times, I've decided my Thanksgiving movie plan is to get tickets for Nebraska, stumble to the theater in a late-afternoon turkey coma, and when whoever I see the movie with isn't looking, sneak away and go watch Homefront instead, then come back out to the lobby and praise the breathtakingly stark visuals and compelling meditation on Middle Americana. I know this isn't the most honorable thing to do, but I already know my Payne threshold will be low that day. My Statham threshold, on the other hand ...
August: Osage County (November 8 )
Silver: Is there ever such a thing as too many stars? I guess. But for something as intensely dark and sardonic as the screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’s play, I believe that this can only help. August: Osage County was one of those rare theater experiences in which I truly felt like I was trapped, forced to tough out the proceedings among the characters.
And, as I was for past film adaptations of plays I've felt this way about — The Shape of Things, Carnage (formerly God of Carnage), Doubt, Proof, and Closer — I’m pretty skeptical that the truly joyously harrowing live experience I had could be translated to the screen.
A huge warning: If this play is not executed with the right amount of care, operating with a delicate balance between humor and heartache, it’ll literally be people screaming and spewing vitriol for close to two hours. And that can become interminable … or Carnage.
Yoshida: The real question about August: Osage County is not what it will win, but who will win it, and at whose expense. Inevitably, I feel it will fall to Grantland, and myself, to create some sort of list or chart or empirical value judgment to settle this matter. Sight unseen, and with absolutely no knowledge of Letts's play, here it is, your August: Osage County Power Rankings.
Can't wait to check back in after November 8 to see how right I am.
The Double — TIFF Trailer (TBD)
Yoshida: Double Eisenbergs?! Was Michael Cera over the budg — I'll see myself out.
Silver: Here’s a brief look into my mind. The first applicable thought I had while watching this trailer was, “Oh. How interesting. The Double’s writer/director, Richard Ayoade, also directed that incredible My Dinner with Andre send-up episode of Community, and one of Andre’s stars, Wallace Shawn, is in this film. Was this intentional? Is he commenting on his own TV work? No, couldn’t be. He must be a fan of that film, though, right? Why doesn’t Wallace Shawn work more? Is it because Amy Heckerling hasn’t made a film in a while?”
Yes, yes, I know. Bizarre.
But not as bizarre as The Double looks. (Ah! See what I did there?)
Richard Ayoade’s charming and imaginative first film, Submarine, was stylistically somewhere between Wes Anderson and Charlie Kaufman, and his work on The IT Crowd or the hilariously twisted Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace helped build him a small but fervent fan base here in the States. And even though the idea of an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novella of the same name usually would ward off any sane human being, because of Ayoade, this film is going to be one of those eagerly anticipated fringe releases. This eerie trailer certainly helps a lot as well.
Yoshida: OK, I'm back. I love this trailer, mostly because it reminds me of the first time I saw a trailer for a Paul Thomas Anderson film, which was probably Magnolia. The colors are similar, the rhythm is similar, the overall feeling of the hopelessness of being a human being is definitely similar. Ayoade is the kind of comedic director whose sensibility I'm very curious about in darker territory, because the only thing better than a gorgeous, well-acted, feel-bad movie is a gorgeous, well-acted, absurdly feel-bad movie.
The Railway Man (TBD)
Silver: I’m beginning to think my age has something to do with my recent fondness for films like this and The Book Thief. Maybe that’s why World War II–based dramas seem to never stop being churned out. The Desert Storm trend has died down, and you certainly don’t see a lot of Vietnam-centric films, either. So perhaps there is just something in our genetic makeup, a chemical embedded deep in our DNA that makes us feel like we already know a Beatles song the first time we hear it, ensures that the taste of McDonald's McNuggets always satisfies, and makes melodramatic WWII dramas seem more appealing after the age of 33. But darn it if I’m not eager to see Colin Firth drop some retributive justice.
Yoshida: I got a really icky feeling from this trailer, starting at right about 1:43, when the choir of third-world children comes in and Nicole Kidman, at her palest and brittlest, starts getting really emotional. Something about it just sets off my "NOPE" alarm. But hey, it's Takeda from Revenge! (I don't watch Revenge anymore.)
All Is Bright (September 10 — VOD/October 4 — Theaters)
Silver: Sometimes a movie is worth a try simply based on its cast. I like and trust these Pauls. Sure, they’ve made some stinkers. But even in films like Rock of Ages and Fred Claus (Pauley G) or This Is 40 and Dinner for Schmucks (for Pauley R) they’re usually the best parts, and I often understand why they took on the roles. Directed by Junebug’s Phil Morrison, All Is Bright appears to be a warm-hearted comedy that is well worth its 90-some minutes, but immediately fades into the “Yeah, I think I saw them in that movie about trees or something” memory bucket.
Yoshida: I don't know anything about the background of Morrison or screenwriter Melissa James Gibson (who's also a writer on The Americans), but do you ever come across a movie (comedy, drama, or otherwise) that really just goes for that lower-middle-class-struggle BINGO (Unemployment x Cancer x FREE SPACE FOR GIAMATTI FACIAL HAIR x Divorce x Carhartt jackets) but yet manages to be completely unconvincing of any firsthand familiarity with any of these subjects? Why did I phrase that in the form of a question? That's pretty much ALL OF THE MOVIES. I keep trying to remember a funny or snappy line from this trailer, but all I see in my mind is Giamatti's mouth opening and a sad-trombone sound coming out.
P.S. Did anyone actually see Junebug? I feel like everyone makes references to Junebug like, "Oh yeah, we all remember Junebug" while crossing their fingers and hoping that nobody asks them to recall any plot points from it so as not to reveal that they were actually thinking of Thumbsucker the whole time.
Silver: Maybe it's the well-worn story line of the rock star’s plunge into dark depravity, or just general exhaustion with stalker narrative tropes, but I couldn’t help but think this was a spoof trailer. Why make this film? We’ve all seen it. Hell, I’m fairly certain that if locked in a room with a laptop, held at gunpoint, and given the peripheral plot details, any one person chosen at random from this film’s target audience would end up with something pretty close to Plush's shooting script. This said, I am going to give Emily Browning a pass. She hasn’t really been in a great film, but I’ve liked her in almost everything I’ve seen her in since Lemony Snicket. I simply don’t think the right vehicle has found her yet.
Yoshida: I always want to root for Catherine Hardwicke, so I will say nothing bad about this trailer, pretend I'm a Hot Topic–trawling tween who already has had "9X13X13" scrawled across her wrists in Sharpie for the past month, and buy my tickets.
Zulu — International NSFW Trailer (TBD)
Silver: I don’t know if Zulu will ever get a release here in the States, but I hope it does. I’m intrigued by the story, and was taken with a few of the visuals in this trailer, particularly the high angle at 0:41 of the aftermath of a bloody gun battle, the shadow of a helicopter hovering over a man walking through a beach littered with lifeless bodies. And at 0:45, the image of a man running through a narrow alley only to be met by a speeding truck. These moments, mixed with the tone and subject matter, bring up memories of City of God, at least visually.
And if you would indulge me for a moment, I’d like to start a campaign to get Orlando Bloom back in movies. I don’t know why we’ve treated this guy like Affleck post–Jersey Girl and Gigli. Set the Pirates and Lord of the Rings films aside for a moment. He’s essentially made educated decisions, taking on roles in films directed by Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown), Ridley Scott (Kingdom of Heaven), and Wolfgang Petersen (Troy). It’s not his fault all these films wound up sucking. He’s actually not bad in all of them. Sure, he might whisper his dialogue a little too often, but he always found some interesting business and traits in characters that, on paper, were pretty thin. The most obvious example is Legolas. With very little to say, he subtly infused “human” traits into the character as the three films progressed. Most notably in the scenes between him and John Rhys-Davies’s Gimli. Can someone get this guy out of acting jail already? He’s incontrovertibly a better alternative than most of the actors being plucked out of YA movies.
Yoshida: So it's in English, with French subtitles, but there are no plans to release it here? C'mon, France, don't hoard all the brutally evocative cinematography and apparently great Forest Whitaker performances for yourselves! The people (i.e., Dan Silver) demand their Orlando Bloom genocide dramas!
Grudge Match (December 25)
Silver: Say what you will about some of Sly and De Niro's recent onscreen endeavors — I'd call B.S. if someone who called themselves a sports and movie fan of a certain age said they weren't curious and/or a little stoked to see Rocky fight Raging Bull. The rest of the cast — Arkin, Basinger, Hart, and Bernthal — surrounding De Niro and Stallone are an afterthought to what I hope is a 45-minute trash-talking mano-a-mano senior citizen bout over the last chocolate pudding. Actually, I partially take that back. I'm thrilled Kim Basinger is back in a movie I actually want to sit through — I feel like I haven't really seen her act onscreen since 2002's 8 Mile. I'm also quite intrigued that one of the (three) credited writers on Grudge Match is Entourage's Doug Ellin. I can't place my finger on it, but his sensibilities seems like the right fit for this material. Between this and Last Vegas, this holiday season we're going to see some of the biggest stars from yesteryear try to reclaim their old shine. So if you can look past the forced Top 20 music cues and the way too on-the-nose Rocky references, and just get excited to see Balboa and La Motta trading blows, this could be one fun little film.
Yoshida: Every half-decade or so we decide as a people that there is something about old men getting into high jinks and hitting each other that just really resonates with us. Finally, finally, Robert De Niro is old enough to get to join in this age-old tradition.