Hollywood’s extended summer

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From furniture throwers to coke addicts and puppets, the Carillon picks five fall Hollywood films that make it seem like blockbuster season never ended

Braden Dupuis, Jonathan Petrychyn, Sean Trembath, Rhiannon Ward
Popcorn junkies

After a long summer of veritable junk to rot your teeth to, Hollywood likes to overload its fall with Oscar-bait and pseudo-intellectual nonsense to placate academia into thinking Hollywood doesn’t only produce easily consumable crap, but high-art films.

Well listen, I’m not convinced most of what is on Hollywood’s release schedule for the next four months is any more or less disposable than what we saw this summer, but if you want to avoid the healthier intellectual choices, the Carillon’s got five Hollywood films that will make it seem like summer blockbuster season never ended.

Moneyball
Sept. 23

While Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a captivating read and very literally changed the course of baseball history, it doesn’t obviously lend itself to a Hollywood movie, given it is pretty much about math. But with a big name cast, an Oscar-nominated director, an Aaron Sorkin screenplay and a reported budget of almost $50 million, Moneyball is poised to either knock it out of the park or go down swinging.

In some ways, Moneyball is a classic “based on a true story” sports underdog story, but instead of an aging veteran taking one last shot, or the heartwarming power of teamwork, the underdog is saved by line graphs.

The struggling Oakland A’s baseball team has significantly less money than most of the teams they compete with. Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is forced to do more with less, which means thinking differently than the other teams.

With the help of an upstart statistician (Jonah Hill), Beane is able to cobble together a budget-priced team of players the more affluent teams ignore because they don’t fit into the traditional view of a successful player. Can this rag-tag band of misfits shock the baseball world? Would it have been made into a movie if they couldn’t?

The film does not suffer from the roster deficiency that plagued the A’s. Brad Pitt is the very definition of an A-lister, and any role he is taking seriously deserves attention. Pitt’s involvement in the project got it back on track after it was nearly cancelled due to creative differences between the studio and original director Steven Soderbergh. Philip Seymour Hoffman adds Oscar cred as dugout manager Art Howe. Director Bennett Miller’s last film, Capote, earned him a Best-Director nomination, and Sorkin is fresh off of a Best Screenplay win for The Social Network.

The question is whether a movie that is, at its core, about math and statistics can appeal to an audience outside hardcore baseball fans and logarithm enthusiasts. Judging by the trailer and early reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s got a pretty good shot. The trailer makes sure to include a nice father-daughter scene between Pitt and Kerris Dorsey, and both the colour palette and music used evoke Friday Night Lights, which certainly succeeded in giving sports a wide appeal. Also, Pitt throws a lot of furniture. /ST

The Rum Diary
Oct. 28

The work of the late Hunter S. Thompson is to return to the big screen this fall with the release of The Rum Diary.

Johnny Depp stars as Paul Kemp, an American journalist who, fed up with the “dry rot of American journalism,” takes his operation to Puerto Rico to write for a fledgling newspaper.  While there, he meets an assorted cast of inebriate characters who wile away the hours under the hot Puerto Rican sun drinking rum and waiting for their chance to die.

The recently released trailer would have us believe this is Fear and Loathing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except the material it’s based on is a world apart from the drug-fueled, paranoid psychosis of Fear and Loathing. The novel The Rum Diary is based on more of a slow-motion, train-wreck of a love story involving not much action and a whole lot of alcohol. The movie adaptation appears to tap a similar vein, with some obligatory action and comedy bits thrown in for good measure.

I’m just happy to see this movie finally hitting theatres. Apparently the film has been finished for well over a year, sitting on the shelf waiting for a release date. Well, the date is finally approaching, and Thompson fans won’t have to wait much longer to once again see Depp in action as the man himself.

Prior to filming Fear and Loathing in 1997, Depp spent months living with Thompson studying his mannerisms, shooting guns and drinking excessively, and the two developed a solid friendship. Up until the day he died in 2005, Hunter referred to the room Depp once occupied as “Johnny’s room”.

All of the research Depp poured into that role paid off, as he nailed every nuance in Thompson’s frantic speech and bow-legged movement. It’s good to see him get the chance to honour his late friend one last time by taking the starring role in The Rum Diary.

I’m sure Hunter’s up there in heaven somewhere, smiling down on Johnny while dropping acid with Jesus and firing his pistol at passing angels. /BD

Hugo
Nov. 23

Martin Scorsese is directing a kids’ movie. A 3D kids’ movie. While some filmmakers and critics are noting the end of 3D film – or praying for the end of it, anyway – Scorsese, one of the undisputed masters of American cinema, is hopping onto the 3D bandwagon with this 3D, motion-capture extravaganza.

Hugo, based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, follows a young boy – Hugo – on a whirlwind adventure, initiated by some mysterious device he finds in a train station. The trailer and the barebones plot descriptions don’t give much in the way of what this film is actually going to be about, though, so if you’ve read the novel (unlike me, who has not), you might be able to go into the film with at least an inkling of what is going on.

But this is a Scorsese feature, so all bets are off. Scorsese isn’t exactly known for his children’s fare, nor is his screenwriter John Logan, whose notable credits include Gladiator and Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. This could be an incredibly faithful adaptation of the film ¬– as Scorsese is known to do – or a wildly different take as Logan’s work on Sweeney Todd suggests.

The film’s trailer suggests it’s going to have a similar look and feel to the motion capture films of Robert Zemeckis. Problematically, Zemeckis’ films fall squarely into the Uncanny Valley, which results in this weird dissociation from the film itself. And throwing the third dimension onto the film isn’t going to make the film seem any more real or less uncanny.

However, I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic about this feature. Even minor Scorsese films, like 2010’s Shutter Island, turn out to be pretty good films by Hollywood standards. This is Scorsese’s first childrens’ film, but its pedigree, cast and crew all suggest it should be a bit meatier than your average kids’ film. /JP

The Muppets
Nov. 23

Each and every time I have seen the trailer for The Muppets during the previews at the movie theatre, I say to whomever is listening, “I am going to see that movie every day.”

While my commitment may not be quite that strong, there are many reasons to be excited about the newest film in the Muppets franchise.

Co-writer and star Jason Segel is a convincing reason. He is as talented as he is charming, and his earnest love for all things musical and Muppets-related will surely translate into a genuinely joyful viewing experience. His co-star, Amy Adams, is a delight to watch. Judging by the previews, their chemistry should make this as feel-good as a Muppets movie should be.

Those leads would be enough of a draw, but the film is also packed with cameo appearances from admired Hollywood-types sure to entice viewers of all ages – from Donald Glover and Neil Patrick Harris to Billy Crystal and George Clooney.

Of course, the strongest argument for seeing this movie when it arrives in November is the return of the greatest felt-and-foam entertainers in the world: the Muppets. The characters are close to the hearts of millions, providing laughter and memories for generations – since 1955, to be precise. If the movie continues in Jim Henson’s Muppets traditions of heartwarming stories, humour both clever and slapstick, and excellent music, it is sure to be a success with critics and audiences.

The movie follows the Muppets’ desperate campaign to save their beloved Muppet Theatre from the evil oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) who wants to tear it down. With the help of Kermit and their new friends Gary (Segel) and Mary (Adams), they track down heavy hitters like Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal and Gonzo.

You may not choose to see The Muppets every day, but it will be more than worth seeing at least once for the laughs, adventures and musical numbers. /RW

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Dec. 16

Robert Downey Jr. is back as Sherlock Holmes, ready to once again swoon the breeches off unsuspecting madams and nonchalantly solve mysteries like only an ex-coke addict can.

This time around he and his sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) are after evil genius Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a man who is apparently Holmes’ intellectual equal. Personally, I find this hard to believe. Did you see the first movie? The guy was on top of that shit.

Anyways, some prince dies, and there’s some sort of mystery or something. Does it really matter? Downey and Law kicking ass and solving mysteries alone will make the movie watchable. The plot is just the icing on the cake. I expect explosions, slow-motion fisticuffs and some clever dialogue spoken through delightful English accents.

Some complained the first movie was unfaithful to the sacred character of Sherlock Holmes, that turning the calm and sophisticated English folk hero into a street-fighting, wise-cracking action hero was some sort of travesty.

Fuck that. Robert Downey Jr. is pure sex as Sherlock Holmes, and that’s coming from a straight guy. Even if it is just another Hollywood bastardization of a beloved literary classic, I would watch this movie if it was just Downey Jr. and Jude Law charmingly bickering back and forth for an hour and a half. You win again, Hollywood. /BD


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