Fall Movie Guide: September 2011 – Week 4

Week 1: September 2nd, 2011

Week 2: September 9th, 2011

Week 3: September 16th, 2011

Week 4: September 23rd, 2011

Title: Abduction

Writer: Shawn Christensen

Director: John Singleton

Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins and Alfred Molina

“A thriller centered on a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing person’s website.”

Straight from the Twilight craze, Taylor Lautner is at his career’s real launching point. If he wants to be a serious actor and not just eye candy, here is his first shot. However, the action thriller Abduction doesn’t seem too far out of the realm of Twilight, at least in terms of believability.

When Nathan (Lautner) and his buddy find a baby picture of Nathan on a missing person’s website, he starts to dig into his past. When the cops show up at his “mother’s” house, she gets physical with the police, beating them down. Nathan suspects the people he knew his whole life as his “parents” might not actually be who they say they are. Things get complicated when Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) shows up; claiming to be a friend of Nathan’s father, his real father, and Nathan learns there is something mysterious in his past for sure, while the pervasive Frank Burton (Alfred Molina) tries to track him down.

From sometimes-acclaimed (and at other turns, critically panned) director John Singleton, this is an action thriller for the PG-13 crowd, and they’re a strong bunch, elevating films like Eagle Eye above and beyond their genre ceilings by drawing crows from every age group. With Lautner as the star, I expect this to do some of the same, although the quality of the film itself will inspire the word of mouth toward a positive or negative tilt. Without the built-in fan base of Twilight, this is the first real test of Lautner as a star. We’ll see how it fares outside of the teenage girl demographic.

Abduction is rated PG-13, and it releases from Lionsgate on September 23rd, 2011 in theaters nationwide.

Title: Dolphin Tale (in 3D)

Writers: Karen Janszen & Naom Dromi

Director: Charles Martin Smith

Starring: Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd

“A story centered on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.”

America holds a lot of strange things fascinating, and children especially have a certain attachment to dolphins that I can’t quite explain or understand. I understand the fascination with dogs, and the cinema output that features them. Many people keep dogs as pets and therefore hold the species dear to their hearts. However, not many people own dolphins, but they’re just as fascinated with them. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they’re the next most intelligent mammal behind humans, or maybe it has to do with the fact that they’re fun to watch. Whatever the case, the producers of Dolphin Tale have a pulse on the American obsession with dolphins, and they’ve managed to corral some stars like Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd into appearing in the film to buy it some acting credibility.

Early word on the film is positive, with family audiences responding strongly to it, and the true story behind it. The cinematography is supposed to be very vivid and full of life, and so far it is being praised as quality family entertainment for the whole family.

Like Free Willy it is about a boy who becomes friends with a wounded sea mammal, helping it to full health and growing as a person along the way. As with many family films, Dolphin Tale may not be highly original, inventive, or groundbreaking in any way, but at the same time, it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be heartwarming family fun to be successful, and based on the trailers and early word of mouth, it seems to satisfy those needs, and I’m sure it will be a successful film in the long run, capitalizing on both America’s love for dolphins, and their love for happy family films.

Dolphin Tale is rated PG, and it releases September 23rd, 2011 from Warner Brothers nationwide.

Title: Killer Elite

Based on the novel “The Feather Men” by Ranulph Fiennes

Writers: Matt Sherring & Gary McKendry

Director: Gary McKendry

Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro

“When his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken captive, a retired member of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service (Jason Statham) is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader (Clive Owen).”

A “serious” action movie starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro? Many will count themselves in based on the cast alone, even if De Niro’s output has been less than stellar the past few years. Anchored by two of the best British-born action actors alive, the film advertises quality and visceral action as its two main selling points. In the past, this has worked, like in the Clive Owen starrer Shoot Em Up, which was a fun, silly action flick. Here, they’ve gone serious.

The trailer looks solid, and although the story isn’t the most original one, it could be the backdrop to a lot of kick ass action. Jason Statham has proven himself a capable action actor on many occasions, and this looks like he’s kept up the pace since the first Transporter film. With the addition of De Niro, it will draw an older crowd rather than the one that has gone to see films like the Crank movies, so Killer Elite may end up being a surprise hit in the vein of The Expendables. One can only hope the two are not too similar, but Killer Elite seems to have a more serious tone from the outset, hopefully that means it won’t end up as silly as The Expendables, which worked for that movie, but for this it would seem oddly out of place.

Because of the pedigree of the cast, if the film is anything less than stellar, it will undoubtedly flop. There hasn’t been a very huge marketing campaign for this film, but if it’s quality, word of mouth will spread quickly, as it did with The Expendables. For the time of year, this is going to be one of the more action packed films of the season, so you action fans can get your fix until the big Christmas releases.

Killer Elite is rated R, and it releases September 23rd, 2011 from Open Road Films nationwide.

Title: Moneyball

Based on the book by Michael Lewis

Writers: Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin

Diretor: Bennett Miller

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman

“The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.”

Being both a lifelong baseball fan, and in particular a lifelong Oakland A’s fan, I immediately snatched up Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball as soon as I first heard about it. The book is an astounding documentation of Billy Beane(Brad Pitt), the man. A failed ballplayer, Beane made his money in real estate before returning to the game as the General Manager of the Oakland A’s.

After years of struggling, and repeating his playing days, Beane gets frustrated to the point of wanting to quit. He is a fan of the baseball statistician Bill James, whose methodology threw out many of the old baseball beliefs, such as the belief that the batting average tells you a lot about the player. James managed to devise a system that didn’t rely on out of date stats, instead showing the mathematical equation to which an at-bat can account for either an out or a run.

When Beane meets Paul (Jonah Hill), all his beliefs are confirmed when Paul shows him his computer program that is able to find little known players with high on base percentages which turns into more runs. The more runs you score, the higher your probability of winning.

With this simple mathematical fact, he sees a new direction for his team, and ultimately, a new direction for baseball as a whole. Throwing aside anachronistic stats like batting average, the old school scouts think he’s gone crazy, while Paul knows he’s the only one that’s sane. Going against teams with two and three times the budget the A’s have, Billy starts to win, and eventually changes the game of baseball forever.

Meanwhile, he endures personal turmoil over his family situation and longing to be the best at what he does. He goes toe-to-toe with the A’s uncooperative manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is part of the old guard of baseball that doesn’t want to see it change, and sees Billy’s vision as a fantasy.

As I said, I’ve read Lewis’ book, and I’ve also had the chance to check out Sorkin’s screenplay. The two are different on certain elements, but the overall theme is kept intact, despite the pruning of a few key dramatic concepts. With a great cast and a strong screenplay, Moneyball should be a success, coinciding with the end of the baseball season; I hope it’s the baseball movie that the new generation needs, for the genre has been stale for at least a few years.

Moneyball opens September 23rd, 2011 from Columbia Pictures in theaters nationwide. (Read Jeremy’s review here)

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