Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Films to see in 2012: September

September again, and you know what that means. Back to school, the fall festivals, and the full fledged kickoff of the Oscar film season. Today (August 29th) gets things moving in that third category with "Lawless", though it's become rather unlikely for that film to hold interest all the way to nominations morning. Next weekend pulls the month in with just as tepid a slate of releases, mostly (if not entirely) consisting of "The Words", a Bradley Cooper-Jeremy Irons drama about stolen glory. That seems much more sympathetic an awards play than this week's bid, and I can't imagine it prospering in box office or critical interest.

The following weekend should prove profitable in terms of box office returns, as it brings horror-action sequel "Resident Evil: Retribution" and the 3D re-release of Pixar classic "Finding Nemo". Not taking a look at the latter is unimaginable, given not only the emotional rollercoaster it consistently offers on repeat viewings, but to see how the visuals translate to a 3D representation. Another 3D offerings that I confess myself guilty of wanting desperately to see is "Dredd 3D", a film which has every reason to be awful, and yet has a promising genre quality to it. It seems the sort of project which could either turn out like "Legion" or "Immortals", or some conflicted combination of both. I expect the third option, but hope for the second.

The month isn't without an expected flux of typicality, but it's rather unfortunate for Jennifer Lawrence to be in the thick of it. "House at the End of the Street" is an inexplicable turn for the "Hunger Games" actress to take, and I don't expect it to pay off vividly for her. Jake Gyllenhaal too is going the way of oddly bland decisions, taking up crime drama "End of Watch" if only to remind us he's still working on... something. "Hotel Transylvania" offers perhaps the most pandering-to-kids animated flick this year, and "Won't Back Down" doesn't look nearly as interesting as it sounds. But keep an eye out and you will find where the quality is.

3. "The Perks to Being a Wallflower"
Directed by Stephen Chbosky

At the start of the summer I refused to give this film the time of day, which didn't turn out well for me in terms of "Chronicle", so I ended up changing my beat when I decided to turn to the film's trailer. As it turns out, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" may be the sort of sweet indie dramedy that plucks the right heartstrings to present a likable chord. The youthful trifecta of "3:10 to Yuma" cast member Logan Lerman, "Harry Potter" starlet Emma Watson, and "We Need to Talk About Kevin" standout Ezra Miller have a very endearing quality going for them, most especially in the case of Miller. A single line-reading from him is enough to sell me on the film. It's up to writer-director Chbosky to wade through cliche waters to find some layer of honesty.

2. "Looper"
Directed by Rian Johnson

Depending on my press status regarding this year's New York Film Festival, I may have to put this film on the shelf for nearly two weeks before finally catching up with it. Easily worth the extended wait, Rian Johnson happens to be one of the most exciting filmmakers working today, credited with working on two internally explosive episodes of "Breaking Bad" as well as his moody and noir-tinted debut "Brick". When it was announced the man was getting his feet wet in time travel and science-fiction, I was instantly on board for whatever the man was up to. Even now, the film is something of a mystery, with very little concrete knowledge on where it will go by the end. I don't remember the last sci-fi flick that I didn't know how it would end. It's an exciting feeling.

1. "The Master"
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

What is left to saw about the latest film from master filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, besides... well, everything. In spite of a flux of marketing and theatrical gigs in advance of its release, "The Master" is still an utter mystery, and all the better for it. Anderson's films may all come from the same aesthetic pool, but each of them is an entirely unique work from his other films. So too can be expected of "The Master", which seems to be marrying the formalism of "There Will Be Blood" with a bit of the exuberance in "Boogie Nights". Indeed the film is set nearly halfway between the time frames of those two flicks, so if Anderson is bridging a gap in that way, it's enough reason to warrant extreme interest, if none of the films other aspects (70 mm, Scientology, post-WW2 America) already do that in spades.

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