Only one movie being released this Friday, July 17th.
500 Days of Summer
The film tells the story of the relationship between a woman, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who doesn’t believe in true love and a man, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), described as a hopeless romantic, who falls in love with her. Over a span of 500 days, the story moves in a non-linear fashion from the perspective of Tom, who goes from ecstatic giddiness one moment, indulging in a fantasy song and dance sequence at one point, to crippling depression the next. It features two songs (“Us” and “Hero”) by Regina Spektor, and “Sweet Disposition” by Melbourne-based band The Temper Trap.
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Rachel Boston, Minka Kelly; Directed By: Marc Webb
This independent Chinese film is one, which cannot readily transcend to a traditionally American Hollywood movie easily, which is part of its overall appeal. Centering on a divorced Chinese couple, who realize that their 6 year old daughter has leukemia. The movie goes through a series of highs and lows as the couple discovers that one of their daughter’s only chances for survival is for the couple to have another child in the hopes that this baby will be a bone marrow match. The two divorcees are already remarried to other people, which make this seemingly dramatic movie into more of a comedy, as the couples discover ways in which to conceive another baby while keeping their spouses happy.
While still remarkably Chinese in its cultural context, the still in effect one-child policy is a barely acknowledged punitive barrier, while it remains in conflict with the rise of the Chinese urban middle class. Wang Ziaoshuai paints a picture that is both pensive and comedic at the same time, something that is difficult for American filmmakers to grasp. Wang additionally focuses on the different characters that are the prominent figures in the story; by doing this, he can build up to the climactic event in which the parents realize that their child has this life-threatening disease and their subsequent lifestyle and happiness are thereby expendable for the life of one little girl. Wang has mastered the art of nearly bringing the audience to tears, but jerks away before the scene becomes too melodramatic. Furthermore, he has been able to achieve the effect of silent tension within the various characters allowing the audience to view the conflict brimming inside. With a film stocked full of such latent conflict within every scene, that it would seem impossible to portray, Wang has succeeded in reaching this point in his career where such a film would be difficult to produce in any other venue.
This post was contributed by Sarah Russel, who writes for the criminal justice masters. She welcomes your feedback at SarahRussel1234 at gmail.com
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince arrive in theaters, July 15 and you can read the review below.
There are two faces to the story of Harry Potter. The first is that of a young boy forced into the wondrous and oftentimes dark world of wizardry in order to destroy the evil Lord Voldevort who had long-ago murdered his parents. This is the face that bears the saga’s many adventures – magical tournaments and enchanted creatures, harrowing broomstick battles and spells exchanged like gunfire. It is also the face of mystery and intrigue – of secret sects both light and dark, of ministries of magic and old vendettas made new. Then there is the second face – the one of a boy growing slowly and awkwardly into manhood with friends who will prove to be the greatest of his life. It is the face of a boy becoming aware of his abilities and weaknesses, developing a passion for Potions or sports, discovering confidence and virtue, romance and responsibility. It is a face we’ve all worn, and while those of us who’ve followed Harry Potter on his seven-story adventure might never know the joys of conjuring a Patronus or casting some spectacular spell, we’ve all known the joyous — and occasionally painful — experience of growing up.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince knows this, too…
The sixth film in the franchise, Half-Blood Prince finds Harry thrust into a world that has finally, and stubbornly, accepted the return of Voldemort, a world in which Voldemort himself has doubled the efforts of his minions to rid Hogwarts of his many enemies there. The danger, as it does from book to book and film to film, has increased exponentially, and the secret to defeating this constant threat may just exist in a forgotten memory. Tasked by Dumbledore, Harry must befriend the newest addition to the Hogwarts staff, Professor Slughorn, and retrieve this long-lost recollection about a pivotal moment shared with a young Tom Riddle, then a student at the school. A recollection which will, believes Dumbledore, offer the key to the Dark Lord’s ultimate plan. Meanwhile, Snape’s suspicious activities, Draco’s scheming and frequent attacks by Bellatrix and her fellow Death Eaters all point to the inevitable final confrontation which many of you, no doubt, have experienced in the seventh and final book.
But if Half-Blood Prince is really about anything, it’s about that singular turning point into adulthood. It’s about the year in which Harry, Ron and Hermione discover romance as something to be embraced rather than embarrassed by…It’s the year in which each character finally seems to come into their own, and after two films heavy in plot and effects-laden action, we’re offered a portion of the story devoted to the development of the characters we’ve truly grown to love. It’s a testament to the brilliant balance of tones struck by director David Yates that the movie is able to shift between dark, somber moments in which characters must ultimately decide their loyalties and lighthearted, carefree exchanges between boys who are, much to their own chagrin, desperately in love with girls.
Yates is aided substantially by a set of actors whose performances continue to get better with each film, as well as a script that brings some of the more supporting characters to the forefront for a refreshing change of dynamics. The re-emergence of Draco and Ginny Weasley underscores both sides of the Harry Potter coin, forwarding the plot while demanding that Harry develop further as a character, never growing stagnant, both confronting enemies and admitting his growing affections. Ron’s interplay with Hermione in the film is also quite moving, allowing for equal instances of comedy and drama. And lastly, Jim Broadbent’s turn as the absent-minded, socialite Professor Slughorn is perhaps the best of the cameos we’ve seen to date – creating an immensely likeable and sympathetic character out of material that might easily have been more disagreeable in less capable hands.
The film’s only real weakness is one inherent to the series itself – that in trying to fill a school-year’s worth of time, most of what occurs in the movie simply feels like filler for the final few minutes. The “Thing That Happens at the End” – an event which we surely won’t spoil for you here – is, in a real sense, the only thing that actually happens, at least in as much as it relates to the continuing story of Harry’s battle against Voldemort. The events of Order of the Phoenix feel almost inconsequential here – just as the tournament in Goblet of Fire felt like something to puff up the page-count before Voldemort could re-appear in the final sequence. Thankfully, the character work is so finely developed in this outing that each of those concerns is quite easily forgiven amidst all the first-rate performances and overall impressive filmmaking. Readers should note, however, that the film cuts down substantially on the Voldemort flashbacks and never does explain the significance of the “Half-Blood Prince” — an odd omission, considering the title — but this is never to the detriment of the film itself.
That said, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a refreshing change of pace from the dynamic set pieces and wizarding intrigue of the last two films, offering up a heartfelt and surprisingly character-driven chapter in the epic saga of Harry vs. Voldemort. It is without a doubt among the very best in the cinematic series thusfar, second perhaps only to Azkaban, which to this critic offered the most skillful and well-executed balance of narrative and character, of momentum and pause, with never a beat of action too far from some honest and human exchange. Half-Blood Prince is a shockingly intimate film, propelled forward by its engaging characters into a few scattered moments of magical mayhem, yet never bores and never slows despite its insistence on following our heroes into their rapidly-approaching adulthood. It is, in a sense, the breath before the battle, setting up viewers for the epic confrontation to come – a battle so dark and so expansive that it’ll take two films to tell the entire story – and if the finale is conjured with all the drama and heart of this chapter, surely any reason to linger at Hogwarts a little longer will leave audiences shouting, “Abracadabra.”
In the tradition of such real-life horror movies as “The Exorcist” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Haunting in Connecticut” tells the astounding true story of one family’s supernatural ordeal. When Sara and Peter Campbell’s son Matt is diagnosed with cancer, they uproot their family to Connecticut for his treatment. As the family settles into their new home, Matt grows increasingly disturbed by paranormal activity that seems to inhabit and possess the house. At a loss to help her frightened family, his mother turns to an enigmatic priest who appears to rid the house of its ghosts– until the boy’s condition takes a sudden and unexplained turn for the worse and their lives are put in grave danger.
Cast: Amanda Crew, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Martin Donovan; Directed by: Peter Cornwell
DVD Special Features:
Two Dead Boys: The Making of The Haunting in Connecticut
The Fear is Real: Re-Investigating the Haunting
Memento Mori: The History of Post Mortem Photography
Release date: Friday August 14, 2009 Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Drama Director: Robert Schwentke Studio: Alliance Films Screenplay: Bruce Joel Rubin Producer(s): Dede Gardner, Nick Wechsler Cast: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston, Jane McLean Official Site:thetimetravelerswifemovie.com Rating:PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality Available film art: The Time Traveler’s Wife movie posters
Synopsis “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is based on the best-selling book about a love that transcends time. Clare (Rachel McAdams) has been in love with Henry (Eric Bana) her entire life. She believes they are destined to be together, even though she never knows when they will be separated: Henry is a time traveler—cursed with a rare genetic anomaly that causes him to live his life on a shifting timeline, skipping back and forth through his lifespan with no control. Despite the fact that Henry’s travels force them apart with no warning, Clare desperately tries to build a life with her one true love.
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” was directed by Robert Schwentke (“Flightplan”) from a screenplay by Academy Award® winner Bruce Joel Rubin (“Ghost”), based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger. Nick Wechsler and Dede Gardner produced the film, with Brad Pitt, Richard Brener, Michele Weiss and Justis Greene serving as executive producers. The co-producer is Kristin Hahn.
Heading the film’s cast as Clare and Henry are Rachel McAdams (“Red Eye,” “The Notebook”) and Eric Bana (“Star Trek,” “Munich”). “The Time Traveler’s Wife” also stars Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston and Stephen Tobolowsky.
The behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Florian Ballhaus (“Marley & Me”), production designer Jon Hutman (upcoming “My Sister’s Keeper”), Academy Award®-winning editor Thom Noble (“Witness”) and Academy Award®-nominated costume designer Julie Weiss (“Frida,” “12 Monkeys”). The music is by Mychael Danna (“Lakeview Terrace”).
Release date: Friday September 18, 2009 Genre: Comedy, Drama Director: Steven Soderbergh Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns Producer(s): Gregory Jacobs, Howard Braunstein, Jennifer Fox, Kur Eichenwald Cast: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey Official Site:theInformantmovie.com Rating:R for language Available film art: The Informant movie posters
Synopsis What was Mark Whitacre thinking? A rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Whitacre suddenly turns whistleblower. Even as he exposes his company’s multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI, Whitacre envisions himself being hailed as a hero of the common man and handed a promotion. But before all that can happen, the FBI needs evidence, so Whitacre eagerly agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, imagining himself as a kind of de facto secret agent. Unfortunately for the FBI, their lead witness hasn’t been quite so forthcoming about helping himself to the corporate coffers. Whitacre’s ever-changing account frustrates the agents and threatens the case against ADM as it becomes almost impossible to decipher what is real and what is the product of Whitacre’s rambling imagination. Based on the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in U.S. history.
Release date: Friday October 16, 2009 Genre: Horror Director: Nelson McCormick Studio: Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems (Sony Screenplay: J. S. Cardone Producer(s): Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan Cast: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, Jon Tenney Official Site:welcometothefamily.com Rating:PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, mature thematic material and brief sensuality Available film art: The Stepfather movie posters
Synopsis Dylan Walsh stars as David Harris, very much a “family values” man who mysteriously comes into the lives of single mothers with children and becomes the dream man they always wanted. When he woos Susan Harding (Sela Ward) and eventually moves in with her family, her teenage son Michael (Penn Bagdley) begins to suspect that David is not quite the dream man he pretends to be. Along with his girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard) and Susan’s friends (Paige Turco and Sherry Stringfield) they slowly start to piece together the mystery of the man who is set to become their stepfather, but they may be too late in getting to the truth.
Release date: Friday March 5, 2010 Genre: Family, Fantasy, Adventure Director: Tim Burton Studio: Walt Disney Pictures Screenplay: Linda Woolverton Producer(s): Jennifer Todd, Joe Roth, Richard D. Zanuck, Suzanne Todd, Tim Burton Cast: Mia Waskikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Sheen, Crispin Glover, Christopher Lee, Alan Rickman, Eleanor Tomlinson Official Site:disney.go.com/disneypictures/aliceinwonderland Rating:Not Yet Rated Available film art: Alice in Wonderland movie posters
Synopsis Based on the classic Lewis Carroll story, this adaptation will combine live-action footage with performance-capture technology.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – With last year’s surprise box office smash hit “Twilight,” Catherine Hardwicke had the biggest U.S. opening weekend ever, $69.6 million, for a female director of a Hollywood movie.
Among her follow-up projects, she has been picked to reteam with her “Lords of Dogtown” star Emile Hirsch on what has been called a supernatural version of “Hamlet” at a liberal arts college. It is being developed by Overture Films.
Hardwicke, whose other films include teen coming of age tale “Thirteen” and biblical drama “The Nativity Story” spoke to Reuters about connecting with teenagers and life after “Twilight.”
Q: Your previous films centered on vampires, skateboarders, biblical figures and students. The common denominator is the main characters are all teenagers. Why is that?
A: “It’s definitely a time in everybody’s life that’s extremely memorable, painful and exiting. It’s one of our most dramatic times where we suddenly grow breasts or hair on our chest. We are able to kiss a boy or a girl and drive a car, drink and figure out who we are as a person and where we fit in the world. Great dramatic material happens in a coming of age story and there are so many possibilities. Plus teenagers are also the people who will actually get up off their couches and go to a movie theater.”
Q: You obviously have a knack for dealing with teens.
A: “I respect all the teenagers I work with and feel that everything they have to say is just as valuable as anything I have to say. My first movie was written with a 13-year-old girl (Nikki Reed on “Thirteen”). It was about her life so she knew more about that than I did. We can learn from everybody.”
Q: You must become like a surrogate mother to them, no
A: “Well Nikki is kind of like my fake adopted daughter and so is Sarah Blakely-Cartwright, who is in all my movies in smaller parts. When they were teenagers, they’d hang out with me, we’d do slumber parties and surf camps. One of my nephews lives with me in one of my back (apartment) units right now and my nieces lived there too. I always say, “Whoever needs a place can come stay with me.’ I like the open door policy.
Q: Are you like a big kid yourself?
A: “I hope I haven’t grown up. The cliche for all artists is that you don’t want to lose that child inside. I think when you get sedentary and set in your ways you can lose a lot of that spontaneity and creativity. I hope I’m holding on to that. I live in (Los Angeles beachside community) Venice, I surf on the weekends, I ride my bike and try to be in an active world where people around me are of all ages and all economic levels.”
Q: “Twilight” cost $37 million and made nearly $382 million worldwide. Do you feel pressure to top yourself?
A: “I don’t think that’s possible, and I don’t think that’s a healthy way to think. “Twilight” was a phenomenon — the stars just aligned on that film. Thank God (director) Ridley Scott didn’t stop after “Blade Runner.” He made “Thelma and Louise” and “Gladiator” and a million other interesting movies. I still want to make other good films that won’t lose money.”
Q: Do you have a process you go by when it comes to developing projects?
A: “I’ll literally pay three Hollywood readers who don’t know me to read my scripts under the radar and give cold comments. And at the early screenings of my movies, I’ll hand out questionnaires that can be filled out anonymously so people can be brutally honest because to your face they won’t be. I’ll take the papers home, read them by myself, cry and go ‘My God, that was the coolest scene and everybody hates it!’ But that’s fine because my goal is to always make it better.”
Q: How have things changed for you since “Twilight”
A: “Right now I can say in a meeting: ‘Well on ‘Twilight’ this is how we did it and this is how we made it work.’ And people go, ‘Oh wow, that movie made money.’ They listen to me a little bit more than before.”
Release date: Friday July 24, 2009 Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Drama Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes Director: Jaume Collet-Serra Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Screenplay: David Leslie Johnson Producer(s): Erik Olsen, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Joel Silver, Susan Downey Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder Official Site:orphan-movie.warnerbros.com Rating:R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language Available film art: Orphan movie posters
Synopsis The tragic loss of their unborn child has devastated Kate and John, taking a toll on both their marriage and Kate’s fragile psyche as she is plagued by nightmares and haunted by demons from her past. Struggling to regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives, the couple decides to adopt another child. At the local orphanage, both John and Kate find themselves strangely drawn to a young girl named Esther. Almost as soon as they welcome Esther into their home, however, an alarming series of events begins to unfold, leading Kate to believe that there’s something wrong with Esther–this seemingly angelic little girl is not what she appears to be. Concerned for the safety of her family, Kate tries to get John and others to see past Esther’s sweet facade. But her warnings go unheeded until it may be too late…for everyone.