Monday, November 21, 2011

Even More Upcoming Films

2011 has been a great year for films and, from the looks of it, 2012 is going to continue on. AS OF NOVEMBER 23, I ADDED ANOTHER 3 TRAILERS TO THIS POST (The Woman in Black, Rampart, and Gone). This is my third post of trailers I think you might like and should be aware of (and if you missed them, the first one was Some Films I Am Anticipating [Man on a Ledge, Battleship, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Raven, The Avengers, Devil Inside, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo] and the second one is A Few More Upcoming Films [Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror, The Hunger Games, Albert Nobbs]).
Here we go:
The first thing you should be noticing is: it is a silent film.
There is no sound in this film and it's in black and white. Why would this movie be made? Whenever Hollywood puts out a movie about making movies, it's because Hollywood is doing some self-reflecting. I don't think it's a coincidence that The Artist (all ready released in Belgium) reminds me of the 1952 classic Singin' In the Rain which was also about Hollywood's "conversion" from silent films to talkies. Why is this being made? Hollywood is realizing that it is being converted to a "talkie" film industry by talking about problems, politics, the economy, terrorism, what it means to be male and female, class wars, etc., and while this has always been conscious, it has become far more so in the last few years as audiences themselves have been forced by politics to examine their own beliefs and positions on "hot topics" and controversial issues.
But there is another important issue in this film: Hollywood's method of "discovering" new talent.
The film is a cliche, one after another, but we shouldn't let this turn us off: this is part of self-reflection, when you can see patterns of behavior you then get into a position to reflect upon it. The deaths of young stars such as Heath Ledger and Amy Winehouse (granted, she was a musician, but a part of the fame industry) has provided a wake-up call about the wreckage it causes in the personal lives and souls of those making films. The sudden rise to stardom of Peppy Miller and the failing career and marriage of  George Valentin is precisely the self-examination people have been calling for from Hollywood for years.
One last point I would like to make: 1927.
The roaring twenties preceded the Great Depression but the analogy to the economic times of the impending disaster is a ripe formula for the times we are living in today. I hate to say it, or put it in these terms, yet it's a fairly well-accepted thesis in art: when times are troubled, art is great. The Obama administration has been terrible for this country, but it has awakened the artistic spirit of Hollywood to produce great films, and, after all is said and done in The Artist, I think we will find that Hollywood is calling on itself to become "the artist" and not just the capitalist industry of entertainment.
After reading a review, I have discovered that the entire film is silent with the exception of a dream that George has where everyone else can talk except him because he has resisted the "conversion" to talkies; this has an interesting link, in my mind, to Take Shelter (discussed below) where Hannah, the little girl, is deaf and her father is trying to "convert" everyone to seeing the storm that he sees coming.
(Here is a review of The Artist here).
The Skin I Live In  from the Internet Movie Database synopsis: "A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession."  Why would this be important? Well, how important have plastic surgeons become? There are times when plastic surgery is very serious, and the skill of the surgeon helps correct the effects of an accident or birth defects, etc., but that's not what we think of when we hear the term, "plastic surgeon," is it? Like The Lorax below, (from Dr. Seuss), The Skin I Live In is about how much we can change our environment and get away with it before the initial conditions we have altered starts backfiring. 
I doubt that its accidental that Antonio Banderas' Robert Ledgard invokes Nathaniel Hawthorne's story about a scientist who decides to re-do his wife's face and ends up killing her: there is a boundary between science's ability to serve and science's ability to destroy, and the spiritual being of the surgeon decides the outcome (compare, for example, Abraham Van Helsing, the vampire slayer and his employment of science to aid his faith instead of replacing his faith). The mask she wears in the picture above provides a clear indication of which way this film is heading: science today is destroying us, not serving us, and it's because we are becoming the servants of science. It will be interesting to watch these repercussions.
The great Margaret Thatcher is a personal heroine of mine; I doubt that Ronald Reagan could have brought down the Berlin Wall without "the Iron Lady" standing beside him and "standing on principle" as she did throughout her administration. The Iron Lady, like The King's Speech and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of a growing number of films of the British Empire exploring its identity as an empire in today's world, how it got here and why, and quite frankly, whether or not it wants to stay. I expect this will be a strongly anti-socialist film, firmly rooting the time of Thatcher politics in a capitalist atmosphere and attempt to boost British morale after the protests and riots of this summer. I have just found a not-so-complimentary review of The Iron Lady from Time-Out London here.
The extraordinary attention In the Land of Blood and Honey is receiving is partly because the film is both written and directed by famed actress Angelina Jolie. The atrocities of the Bosnian Wardifference, as the French term it, is present everywhere and always, just sometimes more evident in one culture over another the question will be, will the well-trained Miss Jolie be able to not only incorporate appropriate techniques to tell her story, but give us a story worth telling in the language of today? I'm willing to give her the chance. 
Mr. Clooney is currently on my good-guy list for making The Ides of March (please see my posting The Ides of March: Assassinating the Democratic Party).  The Descendants has received rave reviews from critics who have so far caught the film (especially for Mr. Clooney's performance). Despite this, I want a reason to watch the film and this is it: Matt King (Clooney) reminds me of the westerns of John Wayne, in which the characters he portrays symbolize the Founding Fathers at odd with the way(s) America has been developing. That he's a land baron trying to sell real estate in Hawaii (the newest of the 50 American states) and he is estranged from his wife, translates, to me, as a political agenda (if his wife symbolizes the U.S.). His two daughters remind me of How the West Was Won, the two separate possible developments for the United States, between the agricultural life and the urban, industrial life. I am expecting pretty great things from this film, I will hate to be disappointed.
I have yet to see Anonymous, the film about Shakespeare's identity (my local theater assures me we will be getting it in...) but, the way Shakespeare is iconic to England, Marilyn Monroe is iconic to America, and just as Anonymous questions Shakespeare's identity, so My Week With Marilyn questions the identity of America's most famous actress:
This really isn't about Marilyn Monroe; this is about America. In the life of the icon, America is seeing its own story, its own troubles, its own heartbreak. If we want to have an idea about what's wrong with America today, we should watch this film. There is another important aspect of it, one I refuse to let die down: it takes place in Great Britain, like Cowboys and Aliens and Captain America, My Week With Marilyn is making a point of keeping strong the U.S.-British Alliance, or, in this case, the U.S.-British love affair.
There's really only one detail about The Darkest Hour which intrigues me: it takes place in Russia. This is an example of movies educating us, because when I saw the trailer for it, all I kept thinking about was a line from the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace: "The Russians aren't selling to us." That might not have been the line exactly, but the Russians not putting their vast reserves of oil and energy on the market is probably the whole purpose of this film given they spend some time in this trailer showing us how Moscow has "fuel to burn." Who are the aliens attacking to get that energy? It could be any one of us... but this is a serious film about a serious problem in international politics which could effect each of us directly.
I've seen actual weather shots like that on the Weather Channel lately.
A film like this can't succeed in reaching audiences unless there is something that everyone is actually seeing, but no one is talking about (in reading a review of the film, I just found out that his daughter, Hannah is deaf, so this adds, like The Artist [discussed above], a sense of not being able to communicate). The audience has to be able to identify with the main character; if he's going insane, that's not going to draw audiences in because we can't and don't want to identify with a lunatic, so there has to be a basis, real or symbolic, by means of which we can understand what he's going through. The important line of this is: "I missed you in church today."  This could be taken as a film of "the rapture" theology, but if he's stopped going to church, the question is, where will he take shelter? (For a review of the film, please visit Static Mass reviews here).
I'm interested to see it.
Just as the trees are being shoved out of the environment in The Lorax, so we are shoving the very stuff of our human nature out of us. While it will appear to many to be a "green," pro-environment film, I'm going to try seeing the trees through the forest: I think this more aptly describes the state of our souls; why? How is the boy in the trailer communicating with the girl? Through objects, a ball and then a model airplane, but she's communicating with him through a story, the legend of the trees, a growing and living thing instead of his world of technology (and there's nothing wrong with tech, I couldn't be talking to you now if there was) but, as in The Skin I Live In, we have to examine the life we create for ourselves and make sure that it's sustainable for our souls.
The cult of the warrior princess is an important part of femininity: there's a difference between women trying to be men and women fighting the actual battles that women are uniquely called to fight. Disney's Brave appears to be undermining masculinity (as many films do) and taking those virtues to put on a young girl, i.e., girls are better at being men then men are. This is not only a travesty to femininity, but to masculinity as well (in the perverse gender wars, no one is winning). If the symbols of this film can be read as spiritual ones, then this could be a good film, but don't kid yourself, just because it's animated doesn't mean that it's a Christian friendly film. There are definite battles that women are uniquely called to fight, does Disney realize and uphold that?
There are only two words which make me have any interest in this film: Steven Soderbergh.
It's not that I want Soderbergh to be Christopher Nolan, but I want Soderbergh to do more Soderbergh. This doesn't look like the great stuff I saw in Contagion.  There must be a reason why he would agree to make Haywire, I'm just not seeing it from the trailer, in terms of technique or story. The worst thing the great Soderbergh could do is to "play it safe": he should be taking every risk he possibly can, because that would not only be good for him, but for the film industry as well.
Don't let this film fool you: this is serious stuff.
I know I haven't posted on the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and now I can tell that's a serious fault of mine, but The Pirates! Band of Misfits takes place in Victorian England, the "cult of failure" (they are misfits) is being celebrated and, just like pirates themselves, this is a very underhanded film that will make you identify with a pirate captain and make you want him to succeed in his "quest" to excel in robbing, pillaging, raping, and generally undermining the values of civilization of which pirates are at odds against. I know I sound like a stick in the mud, but when a entertainment company like Disney is celebrating everything that undermines society, we have to ask, who are the pirates and what values are they attacking? When a film like this succeeds in making fun of culture (Victorian culture, specifically) that's a first step in not taking ourselves seriously (we believe we deserve to be made fun of) so we won't stand up and defend our values and our faith (against gay marriage, for example). There is a lot going on in this, the actual film may be different, but this potentially could be dangerous.
"Places to pillage and people to skewer," this is the thesis of the film, and the foundation of the contemporary "heroes" of films. The actions and ideas which are inherently against civilization--and Christianity--are being celebrated and glorified.
This is the dangerous point: heroes are no longer the heroes of films because a hero is someone who practices virtue; exhibiting virtue in a film will drive away a large portion of the audience who themselves will not exercise virtue, so it's easier to make a villain--someone who exercises vice--a hero, that way, everyone can identify with them and no one is offended.  The cult of mediocrity is itself a mediocre road to take because film makers can't make films about heroes if they know nothing about it themselves, and everyone loses when that choice is made.
 Everyone knows I am not a fan of the Harry Potter series, and that's probably what turned me off fro the trailer of The Woman in Black to be released February 2012, but I am very much liking what I am seeing in this trailer, and a few others I have seen for it. The house is always a symbol for the soul, and when you have a haunted house, that means the separation of the soul from the body (I have to be intentionally ambiguous here because stories do different things, so we have to allow room for creativity). But a haunted house is a way of discussing the soul and sins that are haunting the soul, and symbolically, it's the weight of sin keeping a spirit earth-bound because it can't lift up its heart to God, the weight of sin pulling it down to keep it attached to whatever worldly thing dominated it to begin with.
This film gives us toys and children, and both are important.
One of the trailers gives us some very explicit images of "toy" monkeys playing instruments, and that is a direct reference to Darwinism, which still dominates the American mind-set as being the correct understanding of man's development. Those toys are going to be an imperative symbol in this film but, as I have mentioned elsewhere (for example, in discussions on The Sixth Sense) children are great to have in horror films because they haven't learned to "look away" or bury contradictions like adults have: when children see bad behavior, they know it better than adults do, and that's the irony of children "teaching" adults how we should behave. I am very excited about his film and grateful that I only have to wait until February to see it!
Why would Rampart be an important film?
Well, maybe it won't. The truth is, our fragile society exists upon the law, and when those who are supposed to enforce the law are those very vices the law is supposed to protect us from, we are in trouble; this is the basis of most cop films, but they really aren't about cops, they are about us, and how we ourselves are breaking the laws, but just because we aren't getting caught with cameras or going on talk shows, doesn't mean that we can get away with it. How many of your co-workers, for example, have you seen get verbally abusive or be verbally abused? When someone has done that to you, you know how violent and painful that can be, but what is the punishment? We willing point our fingers at people and say they are the problem, and willingly excuse our own faults, as if the Sicilian mafia were the standard of morality by which the Lord will judge our actions. Rampart might not be good, or it might be very good, about showing us ourselves.
There is one specific reason I am interested in Gone: it's about who is abducting woman and killing them. This specifically reminds me of the important line from the upcoming film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that I am not going to go see. Women have been spiritually being killed by various forces in our culture which is militarizing them and converting them into men; I am hoping Gone, being released in February, will validate what Christian culture already knows.
I hate to mention this, but, like a lot of fans of J.R.R. Tolkeins The Lord of the Rings, I was sorely and gravely disappointed in director Peter Jackson's adaptation; I was relieved to hear that the director of Pan's Labyrinth (2006)Guillermo del Toro, had replaced Jackson, hoping The Hobbit wouldn't suffer as badly as The Lord of the Rings, regrettably, that appears to be a rumor only and this, too is Jackson's work... it will be released in a year. What I am upset about is, Tolkein was a devout Christian, and in Jackson's hands, I feel that this monumental work of Christian art is, frankly, butchered of all its real and intimate beauty, whitewashed for a secular audience that has enough heroes while Christians have one of their greats basically decapitated. I don't mean to be so down and grumpy, but I am down, and I am grumpy.
If Christopher Nolan does it, I'm there.
When Nolan takes a risk, everyone benefits from it: he's thoughtful and methodical and plans out everything to maximize everything. Nolan can take a basic comic book story like The Dark Knight Rises and make it a historical event. He brings out the best in special effects and, even better, he brings out the best in actors, which is far more difficult to do. Like Paranormal Activity 3, the details of this plot are being closely guarded and that will probably intensify the experience for audiences. Nolan can bring out the best in a hero and the worst in villains, while showing us how we have to choose which we are going to be, we can't sit on the bench and not participate; he brings us into his action world. Speaking of action worlds, this is starting to remind me of his thriller Inception, check out this mega-star cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy (my favorite actor in the world right now) Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Christian Bale, of course, returning to play the Batman and Michael Caine his devoted butler Alfred, . . . and Anne Hathaway. This is an interesting article on Christian Bale discussing Anne Hathaway's casting as Catwoman. There are much better trailers on YOUTUBE but I couldn't load any of them.
I have come across considerable information on the film, for anyone who might care. It has been confirmed by Nolan and Bale that this will be the final Batman both of them do. Nolan, who resists all attempts at filming in 3-D, has successfully won the battle to film The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX instead. Past villains, the Joker, Mr. Freeze, the Riddler and Two-Face will not be returning, although other characters from the past will (as evidenced by the list of actors). Nolan has stated that this will conclude the trilogy because he will complete the Batman story in this film.
The newest installation of the James Bond franchise Skyfall has been shooting since November 10 (you can follow the official Twitter feed at James Bond 007). According to information released, Mr. Daniel Craig has confirmed that the events of Skyfall are not related to the two previous story lines of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.  It is being rumored that with director Sam Mendes  (ex-husband of Kate Winslet), this Bond is going to go for an Oscar. It's due to open October 2012 in London.