Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fall Foliage: November


I am not American but the majority of films I review are. For Americans, and I say that in a very broad sense, November is a month for thanks. It is also a month for spending and one of the last chances for Hollywood to unleash its big guns before the jolliest of holidays the following month. This doesn’t just mean big blockbusters like the new James Bond or that vampire movie all the kids are talking about. November is also the perfect occasion to platform potential award contenders, otherwise known as Oscar bait. And so, there is something for everyone at this Thanksgiving feast. So let us be thankful for all that we will receive.

In 2006, we gave thanks to director, Martin Campbell (GOLDENEYE), when he gave the world the new face (and body!) of Bond, Daniel Craig, and they both made it look so easy. CASINO ROYALE was smooth and satisfying to both Bond fans and neophytes alike. For the first time, Bond is back in a sequel instead of an entirely separate story. Now we give thanks for the next chapter, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and while Craig is back for his second at bat, Campbell has bowed out to make room for Marc Forster (FINDING NEVERLAND). From the trailer, it would seem as though Bond is on his own to fight injustice and that his character is increasingly in question. I needn’t divulge any information on the plot (not that I have any really) because with stunts and shots as exciting and dynamic as the ones featured in the teaser, what does it even matter?

In 2005, we gave thanks to Ang Lee for giving the world a benchmark for not just gay themed cinema but all cinema, with his masterpiece, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. It was expected that Hollywood, as it always does, would jump on the film’s success and begin pumping out the gay stories for the masses. Only the complete opposite happened; what happened up on Brokeback, stayed up on Brokeback. Now, we can thank openly gay director, Gus Van Sant, for breaking the silence with his biographical account of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to political office. MILK is set is the late 70’s and features potential powerhouse performances by the young Emile Hirsch and James Franco as well as the Milk man himself, Sean Penn. Van Sant is not often overtly gay, thematically that is, in his films (the most notable and breathtaking exception would be his 1991 classic, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO) but if he can pull MILK off, than I can perhaps think of forgiving him for PARANOID PARK. (No trailer available yet.)

It has been seven years since director, Baz Luhrmann, gave those that enjoy a good musical a great reason to be thankful with MOULIN ROUGE! While that film was a delightful overdose of colour and love, his latest, AUSTRALIA, is simply epic, if that can even be possible. To describe it, it sounds quite plain. Nicole Kidman plays a British aristocrat who has inherited an enormous cattle drive. When her land is threatened, she travels across 2,000 miles of terrifying terrain, only to end up in the middle of the second world war. The good news, she has handsome Hugh Jackman at her side for protection. To watch it though, is nothing plain at all (except in YouTube quality, of course). Luhrmann seems ready to stake his own claim as a serious director with a drastic departure and masterful turn of style (much like Paul Thomas Anderson did last year with THERE WILL BE BLOOD). The best part I’m sure is that he’s doing it all on his home turf.

I am personally thankful that I have not had to sit through a Jamie Foxx film of late. I marveled like the rest of the world at his compelling turn in RAY and enjoyed the understated counterpart performance in COLLATERAL. Then it all changed. He was everywhere and he was downright cocky about it. Now though, thanks to director, Joe Wright (ATONEMENT and PRIDE & PREJUDICE), I am ready to let him back in. In THE SOLOIST, Foxx plays a musical genius who ends us schizophrenic and homeless. While busking for change, he meets a journalist that will change his fate, played by 2008’s comeback kid, Robert Downey Jr. While it all sounds like it has no edge at all, I have total faith in Wright as he has yet to do any wrong and had the gall to cast actual homeless and mentally ill people as extras to ensure he had both authenticity and the most humble of performances from his cast. (No trailer available yet.)

And lastly, I am thankful that I grew up in the time of Anne Rice’s vampires and not those of the iPod generation’s, Stephanie Meyer’s vampires. After Harry Potter abandoned the Thanksgiving weekend spot for a tentpole position next July, TWILIGHT swooped in for the kill. The books are international successes and the film is highly anticipated but if it truly is a teen sensation, I suspect it will retreat back into the dark of night before the light of the following box office weekend. Can it play outside the teen market? Watch the trailer and judge for yourself.

Also in November … Ooh, Jason Statham in TRANSPORTER 3! What could possibly be more useless and uninteresting … Oh, right. How about Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and David Schwimmer all coming back to lend their voices to MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA … Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott search for deeper meanings to life in the testosterone driven comedy, ROLE MODELS … Both Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes recently passed away on the same weekend and eerily enough will be appearing in the same film, SOUL MEN … It’s a family Christmas in Chicago for John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodriguez and Debra Messing in NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS … John Travolta and Miley Cyrus lend their voices to Disney’s BOLT, in which a TV dog believes he’s the real deal … THE ROAD features Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron in a film based on a Cormac McCarthy novel? Stop, you got me … And finally, there is FOUR CHRISTMASES, where Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan (who apparently struggled to get along on set) have to trek a trek I’m all too familiar with to visit four separate families on one joyous day.

I thought of one more thing to be thankful for … You, for reading.

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