REPUBLIBOT WEEKEND MOVIE PREVIEW: Movies Opening 11-13-09

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Banniston looked out over the world as it burned. The air was greasy from the smoke and the humidity from the water heavy air. His small gang of survivors stared out, the look of defeat on their faces almost palpable. He had no answers for them, all he knew was that they had to keep moving. Stopping was extinction, as long as they kept going forward, they would keep going forward. He coughed the black phlegm out of his throat and waved everyone over to him so they could hear his cracked voice, “ I‘m not reviewing anything here, so unless stated otherwise I’ve not seen any of the movies in this ‘Preview’. All I am doing is quite thoughtlessly passing judgment on films that are scheduled to open this week and that I haven’t researched at all (I was tempted, but resisted). All of the film information, including the plot summary, has been pulled from the Opening This Week page of IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/nowplaying/). In this week’s installment of the Republibot Weekend Movie Preview we are taking a look at: 2012, Pirate Radio, and Fantastic Mr. Fox – among others….”

A little boy, what was his name again… Miles, Milton… something… looked up at him, his face streaked with dirty tears, and then collapsed on the ground unmoving.

2012
Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Studio: Columbia Pictures
The Plot: Academic researcher Jackson Curtis (Cusack) leads a group of people in a fight to counteract the apocalyptic events that were predicted by the Mayan calendar.

The Republibot Take: Ok – let me take a few minutes and just get this out of the way. I am a fairly unrepentant populist when it comes to movies. I enjoy being challenged by film, but that is not necessarily exclusive to liking big dumb action films. I understand and agree with almost all of the criticisms that have been leveled at Roland Emmerich – but I have still enjoyed almost every one of his movies, including The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, Stargate, The Patriot, all the way back to Universal Soldier and including (yes, brace yourselves because I am going to go on record by saying it), Godzilla. There is just something extremely liberating about a big dumb movie – it relieves you of the need to have to think but still give you the impression that you have been thinking. You get to follow multiple storylines without ever worrying about what will happen to all of the characters, because it doesn’t matter – they all live in a world based on the fundamental principal that Stereotypes and Cliches are the perfect storytelling shorthand. I am embarrassed, but proud at the same time.

I have to give this a Sci-fi quotient of 7.5 – it is up there just based on the speculative genre nature of the plot and the fact it is pretty much an apocalypse film.

Pirate Radio
Director: Richard Curtis
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost
Studio: Focus Features
The Plot: A 1960's comedy about an illegal radio station run by a band of rogue DJs on a ship in the middle of Britain's North Sea. By defying the tastes and laws of the ruling government, the disc jockeys hooked their listeners on pop music and its attendant ideas of love and free will.

The Republibot Take: Love Actually was two thirds of a really really good movie. The problem with these big sprawling romantic ensemble pieces is inevitably you never like everyone enough to care about the parts of the story that are about them – and unlike sprawling epic disaster movies, you can’t be saved from having to suffer through those characters by the possibility that they will be killed off in some spectacular but ultimately fitting way. That was the main problem that I had with Love Actually, the parts that I loved which seriously probably made up about two thirds of the filmed were extraordinarily solidly built, but the characters I was unable to invest myself 5n just distracted me from being fully engaged. Now, having said all of that, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t have high hopes for Pirate Radio – I mean just look at that cast, not mentioned above and just off the top of my head based on my memory of the trailer it also features Kenneth Branagh and…. Well, that’s all that I can remember off of the top of my head. Still, Kenneth Branagh, eh? Did you know that he is slated to direct the Thor movie for Marvel?

Plus, how can you not give a movie a chance that is all about 60’s British Rock and Roll – you will probably be able to ignore the story and the acting and just close your eyes and listen to a ton of awesome music. Played mostly by people that were skilled enough to play their own instruments and sing their own songs without technical assistance.

Sci-fi quotient of 3.75, with special dispensation because it features awesome music, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy and Mr Branagh.

Fantastic Mr. Fox [Limited expansion: 11/20; wide expansion: 11/25]
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Plot: Angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, look to get rid of their opponent and his family. Based on the book by Roald Dahl.

The Republibot Take: So, I read a story on the making of this movie and apparently the director, Wes Anderson, was basically a non presence on set. Meaning he rarely if ever came around to check on the day’s shooting – he communicated with the crew via email and they sent him the dailies via email and he wrote back notes to them. I am not sure how I feel about this… actually, that is a lie – if I were Anderson and I were a big time director with a reputation for having a unique vision and approach to the art of film, I would be embarrassed. In CG animated films or even traditional cell animation, you might be able to get away with something like that, especially since you start off with detailed story boards and animatics to layout a pretty clear blueprint and then you can check key frames or adjust lighting sources virtually and change individual frames of the film without having to reshoot whole scenes, but in stop motion animation the movie really is built one painstaking frame at a time. I can’t imagine a more important filmmaking situation in which a director would need to be present to make on set decisions, because if something is wrong in a shot scene - the whole thing basically has to be reshot again, one frame at a time. He might as well have been acting as a meddling studio type rather than the film’s director.

But I loved Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums and Bottle Rocket – I appreciated the Darjeeling Limited even though ultimately I didn’t feel it worked and I was intensely disappointed in The Life Aquatic, even if the sound track was wonderful. And this is still animated and Anderson did drive the adaptation from the original story by Roald Dahl, so I will give it a try.

Sci-fi quotient is a 5 – whaddya gonna do, it is about talking animals.

The Messenger [LA/NY]
Director: Oren Moverman
Stars: Ben Foster, Samantha Morton, Woody Harrelson
Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
The Plot: A soldier (Foster) struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow of a fallen officer (Morton).

The Republibot Take: I can’t begin to tell you what I think of this movie’s potential. Mainly because that Plot synopsis is about as lame as they come. Ben Foster, I think, was in Prince Caspian as the titular Prince… I think… or was he in Stardust as the main male lead that crosses over into Fairie to search for the fallen star to bring back a piece for the one he thinks he loves. No idea right now – I will check it out and get back with you on that in the comments. I like Samantha Morton and Woody Harrelson is pretty solid even when his movie choices are hit and miss.

Actually, I think the only way I could really be interested in this movie is if the main soldier character was the soldier character from Soldier – Kurt Russell is probably a bit long in the tooth to pull off a romantic story about young forbidden love in war time, but it would be great to see him killing genetically perfect human killing machines in search of his love.

Sci-fi quotient is a 1.

Dare [limited]
Director: Adam Salky
Stars: Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer
Studio: Image Entertainment
The Plot: A drama centered around three high school seniors - an aspiring actress (Rossum), her misfit best friend (Springer), and a loner (Gilford) - who become engaged in an intimate and complicated relationship.

The Republibot Take: This is what I hate about weekends with a lot of new movies opening – IMDb front loads their list with the popular movies and then by the time we get to the end of the list we are dealing with everything lame.

Sci-fi quotient is 0.

Women in Trouble [limited]
Director: Sebastian Gutierrez
Stars: Carla Gugino, Adrianne Palicki, Connie Britton
Studio: Screen Media Films
The Plot: Different forms of trouble bring together eight seemingly disparate women over the course of one day in Los Angeles.

The Republibot Take: See, see? I was right, wasn’t I? Lame, lame, lame, lame. Except Carla Gugino – I am in love with her, so I will probably see this when it makes it to TV in a couple of weeks.

Sci-fi quotient is a 2.5 just for Carla.

A mixed bag of a week, wouldn’t you say? Maybe, maybe not? What I think would be interesting would be for me to actually see a couple of the movies and then write some real reviews.The only issue there is that writing real reviews is hard work. I am not Republibot 3.0. I can’t just sit down and knock out 10,000 words on the impact of Zoroastrianism on Far Out Spacenuts over lunch. I just can't do it!! You can’t ask me!! That is inhumane!! No, please, don’t. Please.

Next week, join us as we discuss Planet 51, New Moon, and The Blind Side among others.

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