The Prognosticator has made it a full year – amazing! Thanks to everyone who has kept this column alive with their feedback; it’s what keeps us going until we have the technological know how to start charging for this stuff.
You may notice that this column is late. I won’t give you a litany of excuses why, but will rather just say it was my fault. Dave, Russ and George did their usual great job in getting their parts of the column done. In fact, special mention needs to go to George, since he’s the guy who does the really hard work on the Prognosticator – he formats it every month.
But better late than never, as they say! December sees the real unleashing of Oscar hopefuls, and the eventual smacking down of them all by a big, smelly gorilla.
Thanks for enjoying year one of the Prognosticator. If there’s anything you would like to see us add or change in year two, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our message boards and tell us what you think.
Dave says: Inordinately sexy Charlize Theron emulates fellow Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and
Prognostication: Does anyone actually remember Liquid Television? The old MTV animated series the movie is based on was known more for its distinct style and S&M flavor than for any sort of cohesive story (you can find an amusing brief history at the Boston Globe RIGHT HERE). Aesthetically the movie looks more like an expensive retro Bond ripoff than the cartoon, and it apparently wasn’t screened for critics or actual humans, which is traditionally not promising. Those who enjoy gunplay and drooling will likely take a chance regardless of reviews.
Official Site: http://www.aeonflux.com/
Devin says: What’s the biggest secret for Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman? She’s got a cock. And a son. Huffman plays a man trying to become a woman, but at the last minute his (her?) psychiatrist calls foul when it’s learned that she (he?) has a son from his one heterosexual tryst. Together father (mother?) and son (son) travel across country, searching for a Best Actress nomination.
Prognostication: Indie movies come in two flavors these days – dark, soul crushing seriousness and light, happy life affirming. This is the second of the two. Huffman got the role before Desperate Housewives even got picked up, but the Emmy she took home for that show will certainly help propel her to some other nominations. Plus it’s one of the big films for the new Weinstein Co, and expect Harvey to actually murder people to start his new company off with some gold.
Official Site: http://www.transamerica-movie.com/
George says: Based on the novel by Tolkien boyfriend C.S. Lewis, TCON:TLTWATW (that was almost more annoying than writing the full title out), tells the tale of four young children who are taken from London to the home of some weirdo professor during the chaos of World War II. Life in the house is dull until they find the one thing every kid will be asking for this Christmas: A Wardrobe (hopefully not from Ikea). Not just any wardrobe either, mind you. It’s a gateway into another world with talking animals, minotaurs, a white witch, and some lion that’s supposed be like Jesus Christ or something.
Prognostication: The obvious out of the way… this is Disney’s cash-in on the whole Lord of the Rings/Harry Pottter fantasy explosion of the current decade (and I bet they’re ecstatic to have their own potential cash-cow franchise). Will it have the same sort of popular and cultural influence that those two have had? I don’t know, I kind of doubt it. It’ll make dough, but how much exactly is a bit difficult to say. The prospect of six more films (or whatever the number is) is a bit annoying to me because I’d love to see the money and effort put into something original… but I realize that’s like me asking for and receiving many beautiful ladies on Christmas morning; a possibility but a very unlikely one. But, if Andrew Adamson (director of the Shrek films) can pull this off, I certainly wouldn’t mind. Let’s just hope he steers clear of Shrek 3 afterwards.
Official Site: http://www.narnia.com/
Russ says: You might have heard of the book. The geisha of the title is Sayuri Nitta, a gorgeous woman from a fishing village who becomes the Grace Kelly of courtesans. The gorgeous is courtesy of the incredible Ziyi Zhang, who gets support from Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe and about seven hundred yards of thousand-dollar silk.
Prognostication: I have absolutely no faith in this film. Rob Marshall was way down the list of people who deserved praise for Chicago, and I don’t expect that he can turn out anything other than a pretty and colorful love story, like The Last Samurai with doe eyes instead of swords. Expect loads of sheltered suburbanites to flock to the accessible exoticism and dispassionate romance while those who want depth go back to the book.
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/memoirsofageisha/
Devin says: OK, get the jokes out of your system. They’re cowboys. And they’re gay. There’s no pudding. Ang Lee bounces back from The Hulk with a low budget film about two manly men in 1963 Wyoming who find themselves suddenly and truly in love. The film follows them for twenty years through loveless marriages and intolerable separation, punctuated only by occasional return visits to where they fell in love, Brokeback Mountain.
Prognostication: Larry McMurtry is the modern king of westerns, and he and partner Diana Ossana have done a wonderful job of adapting Annie Proulx’s short story. Ang Lee finds his usual repression here, as well as some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable. But will America accept Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as bronco busting butt buddies? If they do I’ll have a little more faith in this nation.
Official Site: http://www.brokebackmountain.com/
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Dave says: Judi Dench is the titular 1930s widow who buys a dilapidated theater house and employs cantankerous Bob Hoskins to manage it, which he does by running naked shows. Despite the fact that pale and doughy Brits are the ones disrobing, the venue becomes hugely successful. Lots of fun is had, and Christopher Guest shows up in a movie that actually has a screenplay.
Prognostication: You can’t knock director Stephen Frears for gravitating to similar material – the excellent High Fidelity and Dirty Pretty Things were his two previous big films. But the studio (Miramax) and the timing make it painfully obvious they’re shooting for Oscar bait with this release. We’ll have to see what the promotional campaign is like. If there is one.
Official Site: http://www.mrshendersonpresentsmovie.co.uk/
The World’s Fastest Indian
George says: What? This isn’t the long rumored Ghandi meets The Flash fanfic adaptation? Nevermind then. Apparently, The World’s Fastest Indian is actually referring to a 1920 Indian motorcycle that was taken by New Zealand hero Burt Munro and suped up to enter Speed Week in Salt Lake City, Utah where Munro went on to set the world landspeed record… numerous times. It’s directed by Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days, Cadillac Man – with arguably the best Tim Robbins hairdo in cinema history, Cocktail) and stars Anthony Hopkins as the aforementioned Kiwi.
Prognostication: I had no knowledge of Burt Munro so I did a little research (I <3 Wikipedia) because I realized that if Hopkins is playing this real life man, then he must’ve been up there in age when he set this world record. And he was! He was in his early 60s. I don’t know, I find that pretty amazing. What does this has to do with the film? Nothing really. But if any of the above has piqued your interest in any sort of way (it has for me) and you’re not exactly keen on geishas or gay cowboys, you could probably do a lot worse. It’s got a good rating over at IMDb… take that with a grain of salt, though.
Official Site: http://www.worldsfastestindian.com/
Dave says: A freelance cameraman catches a suicide on film and becomes obsessed with fear. Investigating the site of the death in a dank subway tunnel, he believes he locates a mythical “gateway to hell” when he finds a young fanged woman chained to a rock. He brings her back to “our world”, and discovers that she can only survive by consuming blood. You know how many times I’ve been through the same shit? Five.
Prognostication: Japanese director Takashi Shimizu finally ditches his Ju-on/The Grudge series with this low-budget quickie (shot in eight days on digital video), and has reportedly produced quite an unsettling little experimental horror flick. But you’ll probably have to do some searching to find it, and probably some soul scouring after you see it.
Official Site: http://www.marebitomovie.com/
Devin says: I moseyed over to the Rotten Tomatoes message boards and was horrified to discover how many people didn’t know the story of King Kong. Some of those dopes didn’t even know there were dinosaurs in the 1933 original. What is the youth of America coming to today when I feel like I may have to actually include a synopsis of this movie in this space? I won’t, just on general principal.
Prognostication: This movie is going to make so much money. It’s got cool monsters and it has that Titanic thing – a story that will appeal to girls. The movie is pretty good (read my review here), but pretty good is about one quarter of the 1933 original, which is one of the best movies ever made. Still, it’s nice to see that Peter Jackson has come to his favorite film and not made an ass out of himself. But hey, Pete – let’s get to something a little smaller next time, huh?
Official Site: http://www.kingkongmovie.com/
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Russ says: A man is shot and unceremoniously buried in the desolate American outback of West Texas. His friend Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones, who also directs) recovers the body and makes good on an old promise to see it buried in Mexico. But it’s a long way to the border, and the land is full of violent ghosts and vengeful spirit.
Prognostication: Sometimes pedigree is all it takes. This is from the pen (or word processor) of Guillermo Arriaga, writer of Amores Perros and 21 Grams, which is good enough for me. Add Jones, who hails from San Saba, TX — country just a bit northeast of where the film takes place. Then there’s the similarity to Peckinpah’s incredible Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Burials promises the same atmosphere as Garcia, only with a smarter, more nuanced world view. A western that’s modern, metaphysical and introspective? Let’s go.
Official Site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/threeburials/
George says: Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane), once the big shot of Broadway now keeps having his shows closed down on opening night. He gets a visit from accountant Leo Bloom who proposes a tricky scheme on how to pocket some big cash. They produce a musical entitled Springtime for Hitler written by Nazi Franz Liebken (Will Ferrell), directed by the lively and extravagant Roger De Bris (Gary Beach), and starring the ditsy Swedish bombshell Ulla (Uma Thurman-Merchan). People sing in this, by the way.
Prognostication: The little bit I’ve heard about The Producers has been mixed. Not as dynamic as it needs to be. And that doesn’t surprise me too much as this is the director’s feature film debut. But, what can you do? I’m a fan of musicals and an even bigger fan of Uma Thurman. Have you seen her on the poster and in the trailer? I’m there, sucka!
Official Site: http://www.theproducersmovie.com/
Devin says: Former fashion executive (seriously) Thomas Bezucha makes his second film with the kind of cast most directors would kill for – Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes and thespian juggernaut Craig T Nelson. The story is about a guy who is really just very thankful that you let him be mice elf – it’s a Christmas tale!
Prognostication: Nobody is going to see this movie. And that might cause some problems in Sarah Jessica Parker’s home, as hubby Matthew Broderick’s The Producers is going to poop all over this film when they both open the same day. Still, what a good cast, and how can you not root for the traditional American underdog of the fashion exec?
Official Site: http://www.thefamilystonemovie.com/
Dave says: This unholy holiday offering is a sequel to a remake that nobody wanted or needed but people saw anyway. Steve Martin has a huge family of at least ten, possibly more, and they go on vacation where they clash with Eugene Levy and his equally extensive kin. Strained laughter is wrung from whatever script could possibly exist for this scenario.
Prognostication: Devin’s loathing of director Adam Shankman’s work is no secret (he once described him as “a robot sent from the future, the ultimate schlock movie making machine”), but my acute disappointment lies solely with Steve Martin. I’m positive he was once funny – I used to sneak listens to his “Let’s Get Small” act on 8-track. I own LA Story on DVD. I broke out Planes Trains and Automobiles on Thanksgiving. But he spent most of the 90s on an Eddie Murphy trajectory, making limp remakes and sequels and sequels of remakes, and aside from Shopgirl he doesn’t seem likely to recover from this tailspin. I suppose one of the benefits of not having a wife and children is that they won’t nag me to go see this with them. Otherwise, it’s so terribly lonely here.
Official Site: http://www.cheaperbythedozen2movie.com/
George says: In 1930s Shanghai, a blind American diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) develops an odd relationship with a Russian refugee (Natasha Richardson) who works peculiar and often seedy jobs to help support the members of her dead husband’s affluent family.
Prognostication: I’ll be honest; I had to take almost all of the above verbatim from another website because the film’s trailer tells you absolutely NOTHING about the film. All I know is that Ralph Fiennes is a mighty fienne actor and that Natasha Richardson makes Liam Neeson a mighty lucky son of a bitch. The film is directed by James Ivory (Howard’s End) and written by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Saddest Music in the World). I hope that info helps. A little bit? No? Bah!
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/classics/whitecountess/
Russ says: Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni are Dick and Jane, a married couple who hit the financial skids when Dick’s employers sell him up the river. To make ends meet, they turn to crime, but only in the friendliest, most latte-sipping suburban way.
Prognostication: It’s a comedy. With Tea Leoni. Make that an intentional comedy. With Tea Leoni. That’s two warnings. I can’t come up with a third, but there’s a reason that the original film isn’t on anyone’s list of favorite memories from 1977 — it’s outdated, dull tripe. I know we always say that it’s better to remake a bad old movie than a classic, but when that effort involves Jim Carrey’s return to manic pratfalls and mugging, I start to wish someone had just tackled Casablanca instead.
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/funwithdickandjane/
Dave says: Eric Bana is pissed. And it’s not because he just got around to watching the final cut of The Hulk. Compelled by Steven Spielberg and the terrorist kidnapping and subsequent assassination of Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Bana’s Mossad commando goes looking for some payback, enlisting the services of future 007 Daniel Craig and a handful of others in dated wardrobe and hairstyles.
Prognostication: Spielberg rushed the hell out of this movie, beginning production right after putting the finishing death-blasts on War of the Worlds. Miraculously it seems ready to unspool at theaters this month in time for Oscar contention (and at a rumored cost of $70+ million). It’s got a whole bunch of awards behind it already – writers Eric Roth and Tony Kushner have an Oscar and a Pulitzer, and I’m pretty sure Spielberg has received some praise for previous work, so it should gain some attention. But will it be viewed as powerful or propaganda?
Official Site: http://www.munichmovie.com/
George says: It’s a retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale! Sort of. This time, it’s picking up at the end of the story where animal detectives investigate the disturbance at ol’ granny’s home. The voice talents of Glenn Close, Anne Hathaway (sans tits one would imagine), James Belushi, Patrick Warburton, Xzibit (?), and Andy Dick (among others) are on tap.
Prognostication: An amusing concept coupled with some nice voice talent (and Andy Dick) could result in something interesting. Riffing off of a classic children’s story gives me hellish flashbacks to Shrek and some of the shit it did that was supposed to be "cute", but it couldn’t possibly be that bad, could it? Could it?!
Official Site: http://www.hoodwinkedthemovie.com/
Devin says: A hitman and a salesman walk into a bar. It sounds like the set up for a bad joke, but it’s actually the opening gambit of a wildly funny and great film that refuses to play by the normal rules. Pierce Brosnan is a hitman who suddenly realizes he’s alone in the world. He runs into Greg Kinnear in Mexico City, a salesman who happens to be a regular guy, and they strike up an incredibly unlikely and incredibly interesting friendship.
Prognostication: The Matador is a completely unexpected delight. Brosnan deconstructs his own persona while getting to say some of the filthiest, most unpleasant and hilarious lines in film this year. Writer/director Richard Shepard vaults himself out of director jail (he ended up there after The Linguini Incident) with this spiritual cousin to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Russ says:Three backpackers on vacation in Australia run afoul of the president of the local Texas Chainsaw Massacre fanclub. He’s got the crazy eyes, the decrepit, secluded pad and everything. Even Tobe Hooper would be impressed. The kids might be, too, but they’ll probably be dead by the time you’re done reading this paragraph. Based on a true story, as if that wasn’t obvious.
Prognostication: In the wake of High Tension and the TCM remake it’s not too surprising to see Dimension’s logo in front of this Aussie import. But we haven’t had enough movies about kidnapping and torture in the past year, and I need something to run in a double bill with House of Wax one Valentine’s Day next year. Director Greg McLean is supposedly already working on his next film, about a big Australian man-eating crocodile. Anyone who’d make a movie about that deserves some attention.
Official Site: http://www.wolfcreekmovie.com/
George says: Weird meta-concept alert! Rumor Has it… follows the conceit that Sarah Huttinger (Jennifer Aniston) is actually the inspiration for both the book and the film, The Graduate, and that she may in fact be the fruit of the passions of the event. Rob Reiner directs and continues the attempt at erasing the memory of North.
Prognostication: I’m getting sick of these weird meta films that keep coming our way but I’ve got some confidence in writer Ted Griffin who brought us Matchstick Men, Ocean’s 11, and Ravenous. If he nailed it, then maybe we’ll get something interesting. I’m also a Kevin Costner fan and a humongous fan of Reiner’s The Princess Bride. Granted, he did that film like almost 20 years ago, but I have hope that he can still pull something off. Nevermind North.
Official Site: http://rumorhasitmovie.warnerbros.com/
Dave says: The most famous Lothario in history is embodied by Heath Ledger, who sexes up the 18th century with frilly garb and ample sex appeal. Casanova romps through
womanizing, avoiding gallows and chilling with Oliver Platt, until he
decides feisty Francesca is the gal for him, mostly because she looks
like Sienna Miller.
when Heath Ledger went from being the “It Hunk” to making a bunch of
movies nobody bothered seeing? Well, apparently playing a gay cowboy is
a good way to gain attention (I’m considering it myself – I look
fabulous in assless chaps), and he’s riding his Brokeback Mountain buzz with this one, conveniently released just in time for Oscar season (Casanova is directed by Lasse Halstrom, so this is a requirement).
Official Site: http://touchstone.movies.go.com/?dlink=casanova
Devin says: Have you seen Crimes & Misdemeanors, specifically the Martin Landau half? Then you can skip ahead – you know the important parts of Match Point. For the rest of you, the film is about a tennis pro (one time Velvet Goldminer Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) who marries into a wealthy family, only to fall in love with his brother-in-law’s fiancee (Scarlett Johansson, whose boobs steal the show in a rain sequence). Things soon get sticky… and then soon after get downright murderous.
Prognostication: Everybody at Cannes was saying that Match Point was Woody Allen returning to greatness. They’re right, to an extent – Woody is back on serious filmmaking ground that he hasn’t covered in a decade or more, and he’s made a movie that doesn’t contain his ever more Yoda-like visage, which means that we don’t have to deal with ScarJo making out with him (they may yet smooch in his next film, Scoop). To be fair, Match Point does tread old ground for the Woodman, but it’s good ground that no one else really covers, so who can complain? And it’s nice to see the guy making a movie that I never once felt embarrassed by.
Official Site: http://www.dreamworks.com/matchpoint/