It’s that time of the year again, so CHUD will be bringing you our preview of the films coming at you in the last four months of the year. This is the first of four entries that will debut each Wednesday for four weeks in which we pick out the films we’re most excited (or particularly fearful) to see. If you think we missed something major or think there’s been a date change we didn’t catch, feel free to let us know…
Enjoy, and be sure to give us an idea what you’re looking forward to! Twitter, email, comments, boards… all good places to list your own most-anticipated flicks of the back end of 2011.
+++++ September 2nd, 2011 +++++
Film: Shark Night 3D
Director: David R. Ellis
Humans: Sara Paxton, Alyssa Diaz, Dustin Milligan, Katharine McPhee
Synopsis: A totally typical group of friends (ie, average looking guys and smokin’ hot girls) head to an island cabin for some good ol’ fashioned chillaxing, only to discover that the waters are infested with a hungry shark(s). And someone or someones seems to have put the sharks there on purpose. Dun dun dunnnn!
CHUD Prognosis: It is unlikely that this will be as transcendently fun as Piranha 3D, but there is certainly some potential. David R. Ellis still engenders some horror love for Final Destination 2, though his work since then hasn’t inspired a lot of blind faith. But for those who only enjoy 3D when it is shameless, this could be a theatrical mindless good time.
CHUD Pull quote: “It is Snakes on a Plane in the water, with sharks… and no Samuel L. Jackson. But in 3D!”
Film: Apollo 18
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Humans: Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie
Synopsis: This “found footage” thriller centers on the disavowed eighteenth mission to the moon that NASA says never existed, but involved evidence that the Russians made it to the moon, and met a terrible fate…as did the Apollo 18 astronauts.
CHUD Prognosis: With Shark Night 3D out the same weekend, and Don‘t Be Afraid of the Dark only out for one week, the audience could be split for this. Moon flicks have been one for two recently, with Moon and Transformers 3 hitting and missing respectively. Found footage films haven’t appeared to wear out their welcome yet, with Super 8 having raked in $125 million so far domestically. But Apollo 18 is going to have to be crazy good to be the best found footage film of the year, a title currently held by Troll Hunter.
CHUD Pull quote: “Some moon asshole stole our flag.”
Film: The Debt
Director: John Madden
Humans: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Cirán Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas
Synopsis: The twisting, turning story of three Mossad agents tasked with extracting a Nazi war criminal from East Berlin, as seen from their perspective during the mission and then decades later when they must face the possibility of their secrets being revealed.
CHUD Prognosis: See it. Having seen the film, I can say it’s a thrilling thriller that includes typically great work from Mirren, Wilkenson and Hinds, while showcasing unprecedented strength from Sam Worthington, of boring Avatar fame. The real standout is Jessica Chastain though, who is faced with some tough scenes and knocks it out of the park.
CHUD Pull quote: “THERE’S all that talent Worthington was hiding…”
Film: A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy
Director: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck
Humans: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb, Angela Sarafyan, Michelle Borth, Tyler Labine, Lake Bell
Synopsis: A bunch of 30-somethings who have been friends since high school plan one last major Labor Day bash when their party house goes on the market. They plan an orgy.
CHUD Prognosis: At the moment this is sitting at 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and either side makes sense. The trailer looks like it’s full of easy, pandering jokes and there’s a sense that Gregory and Huyck don’t know if they want to be Apatow or John Hughes, but there’s still some sort of lingering quirky charm to it all. At the end of the day, even if it doesn’t end up being a modern classic, I’d be surprised if it didn’t at LEAST prove to be fun.
CHUD Pull quote: “It‘s funny fuckin’!”
—Jeremy G. Butler
Saving Private Perez [IMDB]
+++++ September 9th, 2011 +++++
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Humans: Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle, John Hawkes, Sanaa Lathan, Elliott Gould
Synopsis: Centers on the threat posed by a deadly virus and a team of doctors who are contracted by the CDC to deal with it.
CHUD Prognosis: Should fill the thriller slot nicely for the weekend with no direct competition in that genre, but Warrior may steal the weekend. The line-up one this movie is ridiculous: four Oscar winners (including three Best Actresses) and three Oscar nominees. It’s looking like the virus version of Traffic. Written by Scott Z. Burns, who has previously written for Damon with The Bourne Ultimatum and The Informant!
CHUD Pull quote: “Yo, this movie is gonna be sick!”
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Humans: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte
Synopsis: Two men with drastically different motivations begin training for an MMA championship with huge stakes. One is fighting to support his financially devastated family, and another fights for much deeper and more personal reasons. As we dig deeper into the history of these men, their connection to each other grows increasingly complicated.
CHUD Prognosis: If you have any trust in my endorsements, then I would suggest you watch not another trailer or ad and read no more words about Warrior, and simply see it at first opportunity. This is another that I’ve been lucky enough to see already, and it would take a hell of a string of great flicks to bump it out of my top ten. It’s an exhilarating, powerful drama that takes a brave slow-burn approach that consistently escalates to and then unarguably earns a powerfully moving ending. Tom Hardy is as great as you’ve come to expect, Edgerton does some remarkable heavy lifting that balances the film, and Nick Nolte’s peculiarities fit so perfectly in between. This is a great one.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Men groaning, slamming, and rolling around on each other has never been more emotionally satisfying.”
Film: Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star
Director: Tom Brady
Humans: Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Steven Dorff
The Deal: A midwestern doofus finds out his parents were porn stars, and despite sporting a tiny cock, he journeys out to follow in their footsteps. We all go fuck ourselves.
CHUD Prognosis: Nothing good is happening here. I like Nick Swardson as a concept, and enjoy his appearances on podcasts and Reno 911, but his stand-up specials and larger movie roles have not shown in his favor. Now that he’s starring in his own high-concept character comedy that looks like a rotting late-90s SNL movie knock-off… there’s little I can say in his defense. This is from the guy behind Rob Schneider horrorshows like The Animal and The Hot Chick, and that’s all that ultimately needs to be said. [ADDITION: A few days after I originally wrote this I found out that he apparently filmed this movie several years ago. I don’t know what to do with that information, but it’s a thing.]
CHUD Pull Quote: “Watch the gay rollerskate guy from Reno further marginalize himself while Christina Ricci cashes a check!”
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Humans: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks
Synopsis: A Hollywood stuntman (Gosling) who specializes in automobile work, and who moonlights as a wheelman for the criminal world, learns that a contract has been put on him after a heist goes wrong.
CHUD Prognosis: If Drive is even half as good as its amazing trailer, it will easily be one of the best films of the year [–from what Renn says, it absolutely is one of the best films of the year]. And it could finally break Refn into the Hollywood big league, where he belongs. This film has everything that makes us here at CHUD weak in the knees — old-fashioned Bullit-inspired car chases, a cornucopia of colorful supporting characters played by a cornucopia of film/TV geek favs, directorial style that doesn’t come at the expense of substance, and the amazing Albert Brooks as a villain. There is already early Oscar talk for Brooks, and Sean Connery has retired, so he can’t swipe Brooks’ Supporting Actor award this time around.
CHUD Pull quote: “Baby Goose finally scores!”
Film: Straw Dogs
Director: Rod Lurie
Humans: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, Dominic Purcell
Synopsis: A dubious remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 controversial thriller and examination of male identity (itself loosely based on Gordon Williams novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm), it tells the story of a David Sumner (Marsden), a Hollywood screenwriter who relocates with his wife Amy (Bosworth) to her hometown in the rural South. Tensions begin to rise with Amy’s ex-flame, Charlie (Skarsgard), and his thuggish friends, until things boil over in a fury of home invasion violence.
CHUD Prognosis: Remaking a film like Straw Dogs just seems bizarre. What is exceptional about Peckinpah’s film is how it is executed; the script and story are rather secondary. So even if it pulls off the story, it seems unlikely that Rod Lurie’s remake will have the electrical, provocative feeling of the original. Deeper yet, even if Lurie wanted to recapture the controversy of the original, which many labeled as misogynistic and a debasement of women, I can’t imagine that investors/distributors would allow him to do so. He lacks Peckinpah’s artistic clout. Best case scenario: we wind up with something comparable to the Last House on the Left remake — respectable and entertaining, but lacking the spark that kept people talking about the original for decades to come.
CHUD Pull quote: “Everybody’s favorite sexy vampire rapes everybody’s least favorite Lois Lane.”
Film: Tanner Hall
Directors: Tatiana von Fürstenberg and Francesca Gregorini.
Humans: Rooney Mara, Brie Larson, Amy Ferguson, Georgia King, Tom Everett Scott, Amy Sedaris, Chris Kattan, Shawn Pyfrom
Synopsis: Coming of age drama revolving around the boarding school experiences of four girls.
CHUD Prognosis: Screened it (review over at guy on September 9th) and found it to be middle-of-the-road, with a lot of familiar boarding school cliches such as the teenager (Mara) who falls for the married man (Scott), the teenage temptress (Larson), the tomboy who discovers she’s a lesbian (Ferguson) and the spoiled rich bad girl (King). Falls squarely into Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants territory…sans the impossible-fitting denim.
CHUD Pull quote: “For all the guys who remember what it was like to be teenage girls discovering their bodies…”
+++++ September 23rd, 2011 +++++
Director: Bennett Miller
Humans: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Kathryn Morris, Tammy Blanchard
Synopsis: Based on the true story of Billy Beane (Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who uses a new scouting technique called sabermetrics to make the A’s competitive with a limited budget.
CHUD Prognosis: Trailer got some really good buzz, plus Pitt can open almost anything. Jonah Hill is still generally a bankable sidekick. I know a certain bearded webmaster baseball fan who will probably be in line for this one.
CHUD Pull quote: “It can’t possibly be as boring as real baseball!”
Director: John Singleton
Humans: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs
Synopsis: A young man sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website. And then everybody has guns.
CHUD Prognosis: Bullshit. This film begins and ends as Lautner’s big post-Twilight vehicle. I’ll admit the premise starts off interesting (Lautner be damned) but once the kung-fu and pistol waving starts it gets really generic really quickly. I’ll give Singleton credit though – he certainly has a penchant for pulling some fun out of thin air and this may very well be a case of marketing for the masses, but I’ll be MORE surprised if this ends up being good.
CHUD Pull quote: “The Official Film of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”
—Jeremy G. Butler
Film: Machine Gun Preacher
Director: Marc Forster
Humans: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon
Synopsis: A former drug-dealing biker finds God and heads to Sudan to do some good. He start looking for ways to apply his old talents towards helping a greater cause.
CHUD Prognosis: Could go either way, but definitely treads that pandering “whitey saves the day” line. It’s got some good names, but director Marc Forster has already moved on to World War Z and this feels like a dump. Forster isn’t a director that gets anyone excited, and actually pisses others off. No sign of Michael Shannon in the trailer, or much of anything besides basic plot and explosions so hard to call. Certainly not a priority in a month so jam-packed with greatness.
CHUD Pull quote: “TONIGHT. WE DINE. IN HELL! ON FOOD. I FOUGHT WARLORDS. TO IMPORT.”
Directors: Adam Kassen and Paul Kassen
Humans: Chris Evans, Mark Kassen, Vinessa Shaw, Brett Cullen, Michael Biehn, Marshall Bell
Synopsis: Centers on real-life Houston personal injury attorneys Mike Weiss and Paul Danziger who pursued a case against a large medical purchasing conglomerate that was barring the introduction of a safety needle that would reduce needlestick incidents on medical staff – which numbered around 800,000 per year in the late ’90s – to practically none.
CHUD Prognosis: Screened this one also. Well-made whistleblower / small crusading lawyers vs. corrupt big shot lawyers drama in the tradition of Erin Brockovich, The Rainmaker and The Insider. Chris Evans gives a great performance as Weiss, who was a brilliant lawyer dedicated to the cause, but also a functioning drug addict. Only getting limited release, but Evans is hot from Cap and that could lead to some interest.
CHUD Pull quote: We got a real pull quote for this one! “Puncture echoes Erin Brockovich and The Insider. Chris Evans continues to impress.”
Film: Killer Elite
Director: Gary McKendry
Humans: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert DeNiro
Synopsis: When his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken captive, a retired member of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service (Jason Statham) is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader (Clive Owen).
CHUD Prognosis: You know, I dunno. There‘s a part of me that wants to stand up and cheer for this movie just from the way the trailer‘s cut, but I can‘t. I love Statham as much as the next guy, but something about seeing these guys (especially Clive Owen who always seems so out of place to me in movies like this) run the Action Movie Trailer Obstacle Course to the strains of “Rock You Like A Hurricane” that just screams “MEDIOCRITY!” Even the title is boring and lifeless. And since both writer and director are playing the Debut Feature card, there’s not even a pedigree to go on. I’m not saying it won’t have a few moments or a few defenders, but at the end of the day it’ll be a blip and then we’ll all forget about it.
CHUD Pull quote: “I‘ll be over here watching Crank.”
—Jeremy G. Butler
Film: Thunder Soul
Director: Mark Landsman
Humans: Houston’s Kashmere High School Stage Band
Synopsis: Presented by Jamie Foxx, it centers on alumni from Houston’s Kashmere High School Stage Band who reunite 35 years later to celebrate their “Professor” who made history by breaking the color barrier and transformed the school’s jazz band into a world famous funk ensemble in the 1970s.
CHUD Prognosis: This is one of those small films that gets (and has gotten) some awards and good word of mouth on the film festival circuit. These include SXSW – Audience Award (Lone Star States), Heartland Film Festival – Crystal Heart Award, Hot Docs – Audience Award, Los Angeles Film Festival – Audience Award, Dallas International Film Festival – Audience Award, Aspen Film Festival – Audience Award, Indie Memphis – Best Documentary Feature, Pan African Film Festival – Best Documentary Feature. It’s going up against some big dogs in Moneyball, Killer elite and Abduction, but it’s not really the type of film that would contend against those kinds of films anyway. Good word should carry over into some more good reviews in a limited release.
CHUD Pull quote: “You’re a jive turkey if you miss it.”
+++++ 9/30/2011 +++++
Director: Jonathan Levine
Humans: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick
Synopsis: When Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with cancer, his best friend Kyle (Rogen) helps him cope.
CHUD Prognosis: The trailer looks fantastic. JGL is always top shelf and, even though I never really caught the Rogenhate Fever, this looks like it might have the potential to turn a little bit of that around. Plus Anna Kendrick who is perpetually cute as a button and seems really comfortable in her role. Behind the camera you got Jonathan Levine who gave us the wonderful The Wackness and the (sorta) divisive All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The only relative unknown here is writer Will Reiser, but even if his script is middle of the road, I trust everyone else involved to elevate it. Basically, there‘s no way this won‘t be great.
CHUD Pull quote: “Your enjoyment won‘t go into remission!”
—Jeremy G. Butler
Film: Take Shelter
Director: Jeff Nicols
Humans: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain
Synopsis: Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
CHUD Prognosis: After pushing awkward creepiness as far as it could go in Revolutionary Road, Michael Shannon managed to be quite the creepy agent of the Lord last year on Boardwalk Empire, and he’ll soon be demanding that a dude in tights kneels before him in Man of Steel. Despite a long history of playing characters on the fringes of society and sanity, we’ll be asked to empathize with him as a man who could be losing his mind, or could just be ahead of the curve in Take Shelter. The trailer is captivating, and the film also features the aforementioned Jessica Chastain, who is really having a hell of a year.
CHUD Pull Quote: “Look, you have to give the guy that always plays crazy the benefit of the doubt that he might not be crazy even though he’s probably crazy. Just roll with it.”
Film: Tucker & Dale Versus Evil
Director: Eli Craig
Humans: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden
Synopsis: A comedic inversion of the backwoods horror subgenre, which finds two well-meaning chums – Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) – attempting to restore a cabin in the woods, while being farcically mistaken for murderous hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, partying college kids.
CHUD Prognosis: TDVE is potentially over-hyped as a motherfucker at this point. Up until now, the lack of distribution for the film had routinely been utilized by concerned/angry fans (myself included) as an example of what is completely wrong with the current state of theatrical horror movies. Now it is finally hitting the big screen, and may suffer the same sort of hype-bubble message board backlash that hit Trick r Treat, which will be unfortunate and unfair. TDVE isn’t a masterpiece but it is a lot of fun and worthy of future lesser-classic status.
CHUD Pull quote: “You will learn to love Tyler Labine.”