REPUBLIBOT WEEKEND MOVIE PREVIEW: Movies Opening 12-04-09 (and 11-25-09)

Republibot 1.0
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Hi and welcome to this week’s Republibot Weekend Movie Preview. I want to quickly apologize for missing last week and am grateful that you have decided to give me one more chance. I would like to reiterate, though, for those just joining us, I‘m not really reviewing anything here. Unless stated otherwise I’ve not seen any of the movies in this “Preview”. I am really just thoughtlessly passing judgment on films that are scheduled to open this week and that I haven’t researched at all. All of the film information in these previews, 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 we are taking quick looks at: Armored, Brothers, and Everybody’s Fine – among others…

So, take a deep breath and get prepared for frustration and exasperation at me as you make the jump.

Armored
Director: Nimród Antal
Stars: Columbus Short, Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne
Studio: Screen Gems
The Plot: A newbie guard for an armored truck company is coerced by his veteran coworkers to steal a truck containing $42 million. But a wrinkle in their supposedly foolproof plan divides the group, leading to a potentially deadly resolution.

The Republibot Take: Columbus Short? What kinda name is that? Nimrod Antal? He can’t be American and if he is he had very mean and unloving parents. Matt Dillon is okay. So is Laurence Fishburne. This movie looks like it is right out of the factory. Stamped out by underage Asian kids working 18 hour days in an asbestos infested building. With a faux designer label appended just as it goes to market, “With a Twist”.

I guess making these kinds of movies are a good business plan, they can be pulled off relatively economically, they make their money back and do well in post theatrical markets. Who am I talk, really – I mean I am on record as saying that I would love to have my own company that basically makes low budget movies that rip off big budget movies and hit DVD the same time they hit release and have similarly sounding titles. Seriously, that would be a blast company to have. But, even if I did have that company I don't think I would ever feel comfortable greenlighting a movie a called “Armor Car” about a newbie guard talked into stealing a shipment of something valuable, except something unexpected happens and throws everything in the air.

I don’t think that would be very fun.

This gets a Sci-fi Quotient of zip.

Brothers
Director: Jim Sheridan
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire
Studio: Lionsgate
The Plot: Sam Cahill (Maguire) returns from being held as a prisoner-of-war in Afghanistan to find that his ex-con brother (Gyllenhaal) has become the man, of sorts, of the household where Sam's wife, Grace (Portman) had been living under the assumption that she was a widow.

The Republibot Take: Oh joy. The only thing I am surprised about for some reason is that this doesn’t star Naomi Judd or Jennifer Lopez in the Natalie Portman role. We could throw in Morgan Freeman in a elderly friend of the family that could either be sympathetic and help the embattled wife or actually be the true mastermind behind the scenes.

Can you tell I am not really feeling it this week? There are a ton of movies opening and most of them are little independents in limited release or on a slow roll-out, but I am going to have slug through them all. Last week was the good week for movies, but holidays get me down. I was almost through my preview and early when Thanksgiving hit like a mack truck and then nothing got accomplished for the rest of the weekend.

Sci-fi quotient is 2.5 because of Natalie Portman, the Bobsey Twins are just collateral damage.

Everybody's Fine
Director: Kirk Jones
Stars: Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell
Studio: Miramax Films
The Plot: A widower (De Niro) takes an impromptu road trip in order to reconnect with his grown children, only to discover that his family members are living far from perfect lives.

The Republibot Take: This has Kate Beckinsale. Already it is better than the majority of films released this year. Besides the other movies that featured Kate Beckinsale.

Sci-Fi Quotient – does it really matter?

Up in the Air [limited: wide expansion: 12/25]
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Studio: Paramount Pictures
The Plot: Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a corporate-downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he's met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams.

The Republibot Take: I have heard very good things about this movie. Granted I have heard them in the headlines of geekfilm sites without reading the actual articles, but good buzz is good buzz right? Jason Reitman is a strong director (no, I didn't see Juno – I was afraid it would lessen my estimation of Diablo Cody, but I loved Thank You For Smoking). Having said that, Clooney is a bit of a cipher. He can pick challenging and potentially excellent material, but he is kind of like the anti-Redford in that on projects that he drives he seems to underthink them. The Men Who Start At Goats was like that, and so was the Chuck Barris “Auto-Biography” that he directed… Confessions of A Dangerous Mind (whew, for a second there I didn’t think I was gonna pull that one out of the abyss of my mushy brain).

Anyway, to explain… no, there is too much, just to sum up, great online geek buzz, Clooney, Reitman – most likely won’t suck.

Sci-Fi Quotient is 1.

Transylmania
Director: David Hillenbrand Scott Hillenbrand
Stars: Patrick Cavanaugh, James DeBello, Tony Denman
Studio: Full Circle Releasing
The Plot: A horror comedy that follows a group of college kids who travel to Transylvania for a semester at Razvan University, which isn't as picturesque (or safe) as it appeared on its brochure.

The Republibot Take: Not sure because I never actually learned the names of the filmmakers, but is this made by the same crew that made Epic Movie and Date Movie and etc? Nevermind, doesn’t matter – it will be crap either way.

Sci-fi Quotient is 3.5.

Serious Moonlight [LA/NY]
Director: Cheryl Hines
Stars: Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
The Plot: When a high-powered attorney (Ryan) discovers her husband (Hutton) is planning on leaving her for a younger woman (Bell), she duct tapes him to the toilet in hopes of keeping him hostage until they reconcile. Her plan is complicated by the arrival of the mistress, as well as a pair of burglars.

The Republibot Take: Ok, I know nothing about his movie – I kinda dig Meg Ryan, but that is more for the squinty eye girl next door Ryan when she was in love with Tom Hanks and Martin Short. And Timothy Hutton has always been a sort of interesting actor to me – not sure why I think it is because I have him a bit mixed up in my memory from both Turk 182 and Ordinary People. Turk 182 was a favorite of my friends and me when we were teens and Ordinary People was like the Holy Grail of filmmaking for young aspiring filmmakers like us. Kristen Bell is cute.

So, here is the question. Is this a comedy or a drama or a thriller? Dark comedy? Psychological drama?

Sci-fi Quotient is zero.

The Last Station [LA/NY]
Director: Michael Hoffman
Stars: Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
The Plot: The Countess Sofya (Mirren), wife and muse to Leo Tolstoy (Plummer), uses every trick of seduction on her husband's loyal disciple (McAvoy), whom she believes was the person responsible for Tolstoy signing a new will that leaves his work and property to the Russian people.

The Republibot Take: Uhhhhh…

Sci-fi Quotient is zero.

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So there you go for this week, and now as a special treat here is my uncompleted Weekend Movie Previews for last week’s Thanksgiving Weekend 11-25-09. I am just going to copy and paste what I actually completed and only do some minor housekeeping.

Old Dogs [11/25]
Director: Walt Becker
Stars: Robin Williams, John Travolta, Seth Green
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Plot: Ben (Williams) is a successful businessman whose professional and personal life is altered when an old flame re-enteres his life -- with her two children (twins!) in tow. Finding himself temporarily in charge of their welfare, he enlists his best friend and colleague (Travolta) to co-parent.

The Republibot Take: At the risk of continually revealing too much about my personal taste, I didn’t completely hate Wild Hogs – the movie that was directed by this guy Becker and starred Travolta. Granted it wasn’t great art, or very original, or particularly well done, but man it had Marisa Tomei who I absolutely dig. Completely. So…. She apparently isn’t in this movie though, so not sure how I feel about that. Will she think I am being unfaithful? Will she see it as a roving eye? Will she believe that I am disloyal. I don’t know if I could live with that. I am hopelessly in love with her and worship all that she does. Right after Kate Beckinsale.

This is a close call, on the days that I just show up at the theater and see what is getting ready to start, I could possibly end up seeing this and not feel to terribly troubled by it, but failing the fates aligning and that happening I would probably watch in on Starz or Encore over several sittings.

This gets a Sci-fi quotient of 4 primarily due to Battlefield Earth.

The Road [11/25]
Director: John Hillcoat
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Studio: Dimension Films
The Plot: A father (Mortensen) and son (Smit-McPhee) walk for months across a ravaged, post-apocalyptic landscape in search of civilization.

The Republibot Take: I had a really good friend recommend the book by Cormac McCarthy to me. He flat out stated it was the best book he ever read, and after sharing the basic premise of the story with me I was ready to believe him. The one thing he forgot to mention was the unbelievably pretentious way in which the thing is written?

I couldn’t get through it. I am not totally against eclectic use of punctuation and grammar, but c’mon!! Really? Can’t add some simple quotation marks once in a while, and possibly some simple dialogue attribution? I have read some challenging, challenging works of literature in my day – I got through the Old and New Testament and let me tell you that was no picnic. I trudged slowly and endlessly through the first half of Fellowship of the Ring before anything remotely interesting happened. I pretended to understand all of the colloquialisms and period specific references in Shakespeare. But this was just too, too much.

It still sits on my bedroom floor to this day waiting for me to quit pouting and finish and pretend to be one of the cool people that have placed this book on a pedestal. Don’t think it will happen soon though, I just go Under the Dome by Stephen King, and still need to read the new James Rollins.

The movie looks pretty good though.

Sci-fi quotient is a 9.

Ninja Assassin [11/25]
Director: James McTeigue
Stars: Rain, Rick Yune, Naomie Harris
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
The Plot: Raizo (Rain) is a rogue ninja who comes to the aid of Mika Coretti (Harris), a Berlin-based Interpol agent who has linked the shadowy Ozunu Clan, a secret society of assassins who trained Raizo, to a series of murders. Most dangerous to them both is Takeshi (Yune), Raizo's former ally and the assassin leading the charge of Ozunu killers to Berlin.

The Republibot Take: I am half-Asian – not sure if I have ever come out and said that flat out on this site. My mom is from Taiwan and my dad is from Oklahoma. Growing up we would eat sweet and sour possum. (Ok, that is a joke that I actually use quite a bit in my stand-up act, just wanted to see how it would go over in a written presentation in the midst of a serious dialogue on film – however, my mom did use to make a killer stir-fry cheeseburger).

I wasn’t a big fan of the original comic V is for Vendetta. I am pretty sure I am on record as saying that the esteemed and overly venerated Alan Moore is very hit and miss for me. The Watchmen books were a mixture of brilliant and self-important. V is for Vendetta had the same problems in addition to being super preachy. The movie had only one of those things, it focused on the preachiness and left out the brilliance.

It was a great visual treat though for the most part – hopefully they bring that aesthetic to Ninja Assassin, and drop any pretentions to something more than a movie about a bunch of awesome, unreal martial arts dudes killing each other with super-human skill and just go crazy.

Sci-fi quotient is 6.75.

Me and Orson Welles [11/25 -- LA/NY]
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Zac Efron, Claire Danes, Christian McKay
Studio: Freestyle Releasing
The Plot: NYC, 1937: A week in the life of aspiring actor Richard Samuels (Efron), where he finds himself cast in Orson Welles' staging of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and falling for an older woman (Danes).

The Republibot Take: One of those things that I have on my to-do lists that just keep getting pushed back for more pressing things is to read a good auto-biography on Orson Welles. Right after Aviator came out I finally got a great book on Howard Hughes and was deeply gratified to have read it. It cleared up a ton of popular misconceptions about that man that I had learned from just passively participating in our countries popular culture. I would like to do that with Orson Welles, too, though I don’t think this is the movie that will motivate me to see that happen. It isn’t the dedicated film to the character that the Aviator was, it seems that Welles is a bit more of a secondary character in this than focal.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee [LA/NY]
Director: Rebecca Miller
Stars: Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin, Mike Binder
Studio: Screen Media Films
The Plot: Pippa Lee (Penn) moves with her much older husband (Arkin) from New York City to a suburban retirement community. Cracks in her facade reveal past experiences, while she steers herself toward a quiet nervous breakdown.
The Republibot Take: …

And there you go!! See you next week when we get back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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