On the heels of a less than stellar movie-going season in 2010, it appears as if Hollywood is gearing up to give us another mediocre batch of flicks. From Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon to Bridesmaids, theaters have been filled with a glut of vacuous, idea-free diversions that are completely devoid of both substance and style.
Having said that, there have been some interesting smaller films released in the last few months and there appear to be a few more on the way. So as a occasional screenwriter and as a lover of film, I offer these to you in the hopes that you might give them a chance.
The Adjustment Bureau (Available on DVD / Blue Ray). A highly stylized and very enjoyable look at the “free” choices we make and the powers that lie behind them. It was nothing like what I expected; and far better than I would have imagined.
The Ides of March (Currently in wide release). Set during the frenetic last days of a heavily-contested presidential primary race, this is an intimate look at one man’s choice to become part of the machine or to reject it. Quite possibly, the finest political thriller I have seen in recent memory.
Source Code (Available on DVD / Blue Ray). This is the second major film by Duncan Jones, and an excellent entry point into the work of a promising young director. Entertaining, tense, and surprisingly filled with questions surrounding issues related to the quality of life and the right to die.
The Tree of Life (Available of DVD / Blue Ray). Without a doubt, this will be the most ambitious, poetic film on this list, due to one reason and one reason only: Terrence Malick. In two-and-a-half hours, Malick explores all of the major God-questions through a coming-of-age story interspersed with extensive, meditative shots of nature. In all honesty, this will be a film unlike anything you have likely seen before.
The Descendants (Nov. 16). Already being touted as a front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar, George Clooney stars as a man whose life begins to fall apart after learning that his wife, who is in coma, is in the middle of an affair. Of course, the true start may be Alexander Payne, director of such notable works as Sideways, About Schmidt, and Election.
Hugo (Nov. 23). Based upon the acclaimed chidlren’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this is the latest film from the legendary Martin Scorsese. Added bonus: several inspired casting choices including Chloe Grace Moretz, breakout star of Kickass and Let Me In.
The Muppets (Nov. 23). If you don’t understand why this is on the list … well, what more can I say? I pity you.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Dec. 9). My wife and I have a mutual love of well-crafted spy movies. This film, starring the incomparable Gary Oldman, is based upon the classic Cold War novel by the master story-teller, John le Carre. While I suspect Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol will clear more money on opening weekend, true lovers of spy fiction will know where the wise money is to be spent.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Dec. 9). Based upon a novel by the same name, this psychological thriller explores the divide between nature and nurture, as a mother (Tilda Swinton) struggles to come to grips with her son’s evil inclinations.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21). David Fincher, the director of Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network gets to play with the source material by Steig Larrson. And if that doesn’t excite you as a film afficianado, I don’t know what will. (Warning: This film wrestles with the notion that our society dismisses and then legitimizes violence against women. Some content may be highly offensive and/or disturbing.)
Finally, I give you three more films that show some promise, but for one reason or another, haven’t fully caught my attention just yet.
Rampart (Nov. 23). The main draw here is Woody Harrelson, an underrated actor, in the role of a Vietnam veteran-turned-L.A. cop. As for the main concern: it’s Woody Harrelson, a man not always known for judicious choices.
The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21). The pedigree is impeccable. Based upon a popular comic book series, the film is produced by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame and directed by Steven Speilberg, the acknowledged master of the modern day blockbuster. Still, I’m not there yet.
We Bought a Zoo (Dec. 23). This film intrigues me for one reason and one reason only: Cameron Crowe. Back in the day, he wrote and directed such films as: Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous. But more recently, he’s given us the far more lackluster: Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown. Will this be a return to form?