Again, I'm quite aware that such a post is considerably "late" seeing as we are fast approaching the halfway mark of 2007, but has that ever stopped me before? Better late to the party than not attending at all. Besides, apart from Away from Her, Planet Terror, Spider-Man 3 and some festival leftovers from 2006, there was little to look forward to and celebrate within the January to April period. We all know that the good stuff is reserved for the latter part of the year more often than not, and this is around the time that I start to salivate at the promise of TIFF (the Toronto Int'l Film Festival) and its possible entries. Cannes was rather low-key this year, but that has not negatively affected my anticipation for titles such as Moore's Sicko, Van Sant's Paranoid Park and Sokurov's Alexandra. Like last year, I've organized my selections into four camps (dreading/interested in/honourable mentions/the top fifteen), so here we go...
WILL PROBABLY AVOID (DREADING):
Ocean's Thirteen (Steven Soderbergh) - Honestly, who asked for this sequel? Raise your hand, so I can physically hurt you. It's not as if the aging franchise has been super-successful of late, and I'm surprised that the filmmakers didn't take the hint from the second film's poor critical reception. 2004's dull Ocean's Twelve had its inspired moments, but I certainly didn't walk away from it desiring to spend any more time with these characters (as much as I enjoy the supporting actors like as Don Cheadle and Scott Cann.) In fact, I'd rather see a sequel that brings these sideline characters to the forefront and banishes the tiresome trinity of Clooney/Pitt/Damon to the margins. At the very least, one good thing will come out of this - everyone involved will be forced to move on. Hopefully. I pray. Ocean's Fourteen to follow? (EDIT: I wrote this entry before the film opened, so I realize my thoughts are a little dated.)
Stardust (Matthew Vaughn) - Although I was initially glad that the successful Lord of the Rings trilogy re-introduced fantasy to the public and industry suits, the current situation has me a little less gung-go about its future (see recent adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia and Eragon, for example.) Granted, the unofficial trailer that was released recently is still a work-in-progress and features unfinished material, but the whole thing still looks extremely cheesy to me. Perhaps as the release date draws closer, I will warm up to the whole idea; that cast is certainly attractive regardless of my reservations!
Hostel Part II (Eli Roth) - I like horror quite frankly, but there's a limit to how much gore I can take in a film. It's not that the depiction of blood and guts upsets me, but I find it ungainly and lazy in this context - too easy (shock value.) The much-publicized scene in which Heather Matarazzo is hung upside town and tortured is even more worrisome to me. I don't know what lame justification Roth is offer for this, but I'm not too sure I care enough to make the trek to the theatre, or even watch it free later in the year on my movie network channel. I have better ways to spend my time that to watch young women be disemboweled for entertainment.
Rush Hour 3 (Brett Ratner) - Another story that I had (more than enough) closure with on film number one. And the less said about 2001's sequel, the better. Chris Tucker's high-pitched squawking and Jackie Chan's surprised expressions can work for only so long, and I think I've given Brett Ratner enough opportunities to impress me. Pass.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (Dennis Dugan) - A call for tolerance packaged in a buddy comedy in which gay panic is played up for laughs? Yawn.
Good Luck Chuck (Mark Helfrich) - Jessica Alba + Dane Cook = toxicity for Ali.
The Eye (David Moreau, Xavier Palud) - Jessica Alba + yet another Japanese horror film remake by Hollywood = toxicity for Ali.
Leatherheads (George Clooney) - I enjoy the Cloons in small doses, but his mug has been plastered everywhere I turn these days, and I'm quickly losing my love. Even more unnerving? Miss Zellweger plays his character's love interest (!), and I'm genuinely scared. But the inclusion of John Krasinski from the American "Office" series will be enough to get me in the theatre.
Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton) - Oh good grief, where do I even begin with this? Just as I'm having issues with the Scott-Crowe pairing (see below), Burton and Johnny Depp need to break up creatively for a little while. And Burton needs to stop casting his wife in all of his projects; it's getting seriously embarrassing for all involved. Pretty much all the actors seem miscast (minus Rickman and Spall), and the musical elements also have me worried. Will Depp and Bonham-Carter be able to pull it off? Will Burton deliver and make us forget about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/The Corpse Bride?
American Gangster (Ridley Scott) - Scott and Russell Crowe teaming up again? I like it fine when proven talents re-assemble for more projects, but there has to be some space in-between the films. Where they, you know, work with other people? Take Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for example: enough time has passed since the Titanic hysteria that I'm really looking forward to seeing them paired up again. This team though? Not as much. I'll be seeing it for Denzel though, who thankfully is not playing a cop for the first time in a while.
SO FAR, I'M COOL ON THE FOLLOWING, BUT AM KEEPING AN OPEN MIND:
My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar-Wai) - The director's 2046 left a bitter aftertaste, but not so much so that I can't recall the strengths of In the Mood for Love and Happy Together. I'm honestly sick to death of Jude Law (take an extended sabbatical please!), yet I'm interested in watching Norah Jones in her acting debut; plus, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman make appearances. Word at Cannes was divided, but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.
Across the Universe (Julie Taymor) - I love Taymor and the passion she always brings to creating a visual experience for her viewer; still, I wish she'd pay more attention to everything else. Frida was a feast for the eyes, but rocky in scripting and even more problematic in performances (for the record: Alfred Molina deserved the nomination, not Salma Hayek.) This looks like more of the same with scrumptious eye candy and awkward... everything else.
The Other Boleyn Girl (Justin Chadwick) - Two likable but regularly uneven actresses in two extremely difficult roles. While Johansson has proved herself once before in period (Girl with a Pearl Earring), she has been... less impressive recently (The Black Dahlia), and as much as I adore Natalie, I can't say I'm a huge fan across the board. However, one casting decision I can fully get behind is Eric Bana as Henry VIII; he looks much more convincing as the figurehead than Jonathan Rhys-Meyers for sure.
Reservation Road (Terry George) - More downer dramas about accidents and post-trauma healing? Good cast with a potential comeback part for Mira Sorvino, but I feel like I've seen this film already. Five times.
The rest of them very quickly: Evening (great cast but that trailer is just a string of cringe-worthy moments), Southland Tales (I had Kelly's follow-up to Donnie Darko on my most anticipated list last year; but how will it hold up now following the disastrous Cannes reception?), The Darjeeling Limited (I enjoy Wes Anderson usually, but his last film did not click at all with me), The Golden Compass (again, too much fantasy of late, although the Kidman-Craig pairing sounds delish), The Brave One (Jodie Foster and Neil Jordan together is a tempting proposition, but the trailer all but gave us the final scene), Michael Clayton (the Cloonster again!) and The Invasion (Kidman plus Craig again, only this time with troubled production buzz... oh my.)
LOOKING FORWARD TO (INTERESTED IN):
The Kite Runner (Marc Forster) - The popular book by Khaled Hosseini provides solid source material, so that's in Forster's favour already (although Troy's David Benioff acting as screenwriter? Ugh.) This director's filmography doesn't sit well with me, but I'm interested in how he keeps defying genres and trademarks. And I keep hoping he'll make the film that actually deserves the praise everyone lavishes on him (no, not even last year's Stranger than Fiction really clicked despite good intentions.) I pray that this doesn't turn into a Memoirs of a Geisha-like disaster where exotic culture is "performed" and displayed for North American audiences though.
The Nanny Diaries (Shari Springer Bergman, Robert Pulcini) - Two words: American Splendor. Plus, the combined talents of Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti are enough to place my butt in that theatre seat.
Rendition (Gavin Hood) - Gyllenhaal and Witherspoon drama aside, look at the supporting cast: Arkin, Streep, Sarsgaard and Simmons. Plus the concept sounds pretty neat, even if it might lead to sermonizing of the "Middle Easterners are people too" variety.
The rest of them very quickly: Youth Without Youth (the return of Coppola Senior), The Savages (it's the year of La Linney), Margaret (another holdover from last year with strange word-of-mouth, but it's Lonergan!), Hairspray (I know, I know, but it still looks like a lot of fun), Cassandra's Dream (McGregor and Farrell - 'nuff said), and Charlie Wilson's War.
See Part Two here.