Release date: Friday November 20, 2009 (Limited) Genre: Drama Running Time: 109 min. Director: Lee Daniels Studio: Maple Pictures Screenplay: Damien Paul
Producer(s): Gary Magness, Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness Cast: Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Mo’Nique , Paula Patton Official Site:weareallprecious.com Rating:R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language Tomatometer rating: 91% (Certified Fresh) Available film art: Precious movie posters
Synopsis Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child—for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat.
Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources.
Only one movie matters this weekend. 2012, makes its way to a theater near you, this weekend.
Synopsis: Disaster movie maven Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) crafts this apocalyptic sci-fi thriller following the prophecy stated by the ancient Mayan calendar, which says that the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012. When a global cataclysm thrusts the world into chaos, divorced writer and father Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) joins the race to ensure that humankind is not completely wiped out. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, and Oliver Platt round out the cast of this end-of-the-world thriller co-scripted by the director and his 10,000 B.C. writer/composer, Harald Kloser.
Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson; Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Well, actually, you can. Unless they kill you first.
Ever since Patty McCormack’s sickeningly sweet murderess Rhoda Penmark in “The Bad Seed” in the mid-’50s, the horror movie subgenre featuring inherently wicked children has been scaring people no matter their age.
Now along comes “Orphan,” starring Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther, who would be a formidable foe for Damien from “The Omen” movies, those shiny-eyed towheads from “Village of the Damned” or glowering little Billy from “The Twilight Zone,” who controls everyone with his telepathic wishes.
Esther comes across as the near perfect child, with her politeness, painting and piano playing — until she smashes a bird’s head with a rock and forces a nun to drive off a snowy road, just for starters.
The most recent film in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” invokes the evil-child theme as well. It features flashbacks to the childhood of young Tom Riddle, who would go on to become the dark Lord Voldemort; even when Tom was a student at Hogwarts, it was obvious to his professors that he was powerful in a potentially dangerous way.
Evil-kid movies are revered enough that they’ve received the highest form of flattery: being sent up by other movies and TV shows, including “The Simpsons.” And “Family Guy” offers up a regular character: matricidal little Stewie, who wanted to kill Lois for the longest time.
Besides their imitators, such films have their antecedents as well, Seton Hall University film professor Christopher Sharrett points out. All of them build on the “increasing disbelief in the idea of innocence,” he says.
“You see the idea in `Angels with Dirty Faces,’ the Dead End Kids, and in the postwar years, the teenpic or `juvenile delinquent’ film of the Cold War that poses the teenager as internal threat to adult values,” Sharrett explains.
Wheeler Winston Dixon, a University of Nebraska film professor who’s written about evil children in film, says the enduring appeal of demon children in horror films is the fear of the unknown.
“Children are seen as `blank slates’ to a degree, and also as essentially `unknowable,’ because they live in a world very different from the adult world, in which fantasy and reality intermingle,” he says. “Parents wonder what their children will become, and while they wish the best for them, they often feel as if they have no control over them. It is this essential lack of knowledge, and the fear that the children have a secret world which adults can’t enter, which drives our fear of childhood as a separate domain.”
Josh Heuman of Texas A&M University suggests that the movies play “on the dirty little secret that kids aren’t sweet and innocent, and the anxiety that it provokes.”
“They’re little monsters, and not necessarily in the affectionate sense,” Heuman says. “I’m thinking of my wonderful 2-year-old’s outlandish force of will, and then the `It’s a Good Life’ episode of `The Twilight Zone.’ Billy is hyperbole, but not unrealism or irony!”
Yes, even in real life, the little dickens can frighten you.
Dixon notes that Rhoda in “The Bad Seed” was the first mainstream demon child, but the trope really took off with the 1960 British science fiction film “Village of the Damned” and the sequel “Children of the Damned,” in which a mysterious force impregnates all the women villagers simultaneously.
“They simply want to dominate adults, and destroy them if they thwart their plans,” he says. “In a way, this can be seen as a reaction to the nascent rise of juvenile delinquency in the late 1950s — when American youth culture was first firmly established, along with the rise of rock ‘n’ roll, as a perceived threat to then normative postwar values.”
Children were easier to control before the advent of television, which exposed them to “the secret playbook of the adult world,” says Glenn Sparks, a professor of communication at Purdue University, citing a 1986 analysis by Joshua Meyrowitz in the book “No Sense of Place.”
Before television, society was relatively well-defined by widely shared social boundaries, Meyrowitz argued. But when TV took hold in the 1950s, one of the medium’s most profound effects was to break down those well-established boundaries.
The playbook was no longer effective.
“Orphan” screenwriter David Leslie Johnson says he loved the evil-child horror subgenre ever since he saw “The Bad Seed” — which did seem like a revelation in the mid-20th century.
“If you look at the other movies that were coming out at that time, it’s like the movie came from outer space. There was nothing out there like it.”
And it was so horrifying, that the filmmakers — forced somewhat by the Hollywood code that crime should never pay — gave it a deus ex machina ending so Rhoda doesn’t get away with murder. (In the original book and Broadway play, she does.) To further reassure the audience, they even went so far as to break down the fourth wall with the closing credits with a spanking played for laughs.
In many of these films, the father is absent or bamboozled by his precious prince or princess; it’s left to the mother to come to the slow, horrifying realization about her offspring.
“Orphan” is similar: Vera Farmiga’s character — troubled by alcoholism, a miscarriage and guilt over the near death of her deaf daughter — figures out there’s something wrong with Esther. Peter Sarsgaard as the father doubts his wife because of her past unreliability and is quite taken in by his newly adopted child. (Even before its release, “Orphan” has provoked anger from adoption advocates.)
“There’s just something really primal in that mother-child relationship,” Johnson says, “so I felt like that was really the best relationship to exploit and corrupt, to take what should be the most natural bond in the world and turn them into enemies.”
Maria Pramaggiore, a professor of film studies at North Carolina State University, has an explanation. Invoking “Rosemary’s Baby,” and the “Alien” franchise, she says: “In our culture, women in films are sexual or maternal. I wish we had moved beyond this dichotomy, but I can’t say we have.”
And then, Pramaggiore says, there’s the “child as replica issue.”
“They are born having inherited things from others and yet they are their own people,” she says.
Johnson can relate to Pramaggiore’s point. The screenwriter’s wife is pregnant with their first child, and he’s reading various books to prepare. The tomes impart a sense of mortality, he says, adding:
“It’s a little bit of `Body Snatchers.’ They look somewhat like you and even act a bit like you and eventually, they come to replace you.”
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.
Synopsis: In the world of high-stakes Las Vegas poker. Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) is a blaster — a player who goes all out, all the time. But in his personal relationships, Huck plays it tight, expertly avoiding emotional commitments and long-term expectations.
When Huck sets out to win the main event of the 2003 World Series of Poker — and the affections of Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), a young singer from Bakersfield — there is one significant obstacle in his path: his father, L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), the poker legend who abandoned Huck’s mother years ago. As these two rivals progress toward a final showdown at the poker table, Huck learns that to win in the games of life and poker, he must try to play cards the way he has been living his life and live his life the way he has been playing cards.
Cast: Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Jean Smart, Debra Messing, Kelvin Han Yee, Charles Martin Smith; Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Karl Urban, right, wages a violent, personal war against marauding Vikings
Karl Urban speaks to Stax of IGN.com about his starring role in Pathfinder. Read on:
IGN recently spoke with actor Karl Urban about his starring role in Fox’s forthcoming historical actioner Pathfinder. The Marcus Nispel-directed film stars Urban as Ghost, a Viking boy shipwrecked on the coast of America centuries before the arrival of Columbus. Although he was raised by the indigenous people who found him, Ghost is not truly one of them and remains torn between two worlds. When the “Dragon Men” return fifteen years later to conquer the Indians and plunder their land, Ghost stands with his adopted tribe against the ruthless invaders.
Urban believes the premise of the film — which, in terms of its look, owes more to fantasy than to straightforward historical movies — has its roots planted firmly in historical fact. “There’s Viking ruins and artifacts right down the east coast of America right into New Orleans,” the New Zealand-born actor explained. “So there is evidence to support the notion that it was indeed the Vikings who first discovered America a thousand years before Christopher Columbus.”
But he is quick to add that Pathfinder “is not a documentary. … In our film, (the Vikings are) really a bad bunch and we’ve really portrayed them that way. And with respect to the Viking culture, I think the Vikings in our film were probably closer to the berserkers than more traditional Vikings. From what I read, they were quite an extraordinary culture in their own right and had so much knowledge and they basically invented a democratic system.”
Although he co-starred in the mammoth Lord of the Rings trilogy, Urban was still struck by the rigors of shooting Pathfinder, which was filmed in frigid Vancouver. “We had one day where we shot on interior and the rest of it was shot 100% on location. That was a very grueling shoot. We were sliding into winter and I had the wardrobe lady outfitting me in a very traditional Indian costume, which consisted of a leather thong. [laughs] It was challenging at the time but, certainly, some locations were very dangerous. Thirteen members of our crew got injured while we were working in the cave system, either smacking into the roof of the cave or twisting their ankles on the slippery rocks. So it was a pretty tough, dangerous set at times.”
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Saw IV will open in theaters next Halloween. Read on:
With Saw III debuting over the weekend to the tune of around $35 million, Lionsgate is expected to move ahead with plans for a fourth installment in the horror film series centering on psychotic killer Jigsaw. According to an Associated Press report, the studio will release Saw IV around Halloween 2007.
Actor Tobin Bell, who plays Jigsaw, has already publicly stated that he’s signed on for fourth and fifth films in the series.
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Spain, 1944. Officially, the Civil War has been over for five years, but a small group of rebels fights on unbroken in the northern mountains of Navarra. Dreamy 10-year-old Ofelia moves to Navarra with her delicate, pregnant mother Carmen, to become acquainted with her new stepfather, Captain Vidal, a Fascist officer under orders to rid the territory of rebels. Ofelia, who is fascinated by fairy tales, discovers an overgrown, tumbledown labyrinth behind the mill. In the heart of the labyrinth she meets Pan, an ancient satyr who claims to know her true identity and her secret destiny. But first, she must complete three tasks before the moon grows full. And no one must know: not her ailing mother, or her new friend, Mercedes. Time is running out, for Ofelia and for the rebels. Both will have to battle hardship and cruelty in order to gain their freedom. But, who can be trusted in a time of lies and danger? Is Pan telling the truth…? And if not, who is?
Cast: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdú; Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
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