Fall Movie Preview: Part 1
In 2002, the Washington, D.C., metro area was subject to a string of killings. The killers were tracked down, and the attacks have mostly been removed from the national consciousness. “Blue Caprice,” named for the car the killers used, revisits those terrible days. First-time director Alexandre Moors has received rave reviews for his deft control and novel approach to the subject. Far more than a dramatized documentary or biopic, the movie digs deep into the psychology of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo (played by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond, respectively). But rather than vilify them for it, “Blue Caprice” delves into the larger cultural forces that can drive someone to commit such atrocities. It is not an easy film to watch, but critics have raved about it as it has made its way through the festival circuit, especially over the acting of the two leads. Malvo was a minor at the time of the killings and looked up to Muhammad as a father figure, and the movie explores this relationship in depth. The movie is not for the faint of heart; the story alone is haunting, but its basis in reality makes it even more chilling. Still, for the viewer willing to explore the darker side of humanity, this is an indie movie to look out for this fall.
Two young girls are kidnapped from their neighborhood. Sounds like a job for a superhero. Well, Hugh Jackman is playing the father of one of the girls, but his role is not Wolverine or even Jean Valjean (who had superhuman strength and grace). Jackman has top billing, but the movie has a stacked cast, with Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”) playing the policeman in charge of the case, Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) as Jackman’s wife and Terrence Howard (“Crash”) and Viola Davis (“The Help”) as the parents of the other kidnapped girl. The prime suspect is Alex Jones, played by the delightfully greasy Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”). Gyllenhaal’s detective is not effective enough for Jackman’s liking, so the latter takes matters into his own hands. The trailer for the movie indicates at some point that the girls have been missing for four days, and other movies have taught me that after 48 hours, it is usually too late, so Jackman’s distress is reasonable. Chases, mix-ups and scary houses ensue, and either nothing is as it seems or there will be a couple unexpected twists.
If you don’t love Joseph Gordon-Levitt…well, you should because he basically rules. After getting his start on “3rd Rock From The Sun,” Gordon-Levitt cut his hair, grew up and became a star with movies like “Inception” and “(500) Days of Summer.” And now, if you haven’t been sold by his acting chops and heart-fluttering good looks, he’s decided to add two more occupations to his resume: writer and director. Coming out Sept. 27, “Don Jon” tells the story of a New Jersey guy who only cares about a few things in life: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. His life seems pretty figured out. Cue Scarlett Johansson, a “good old-fashioned girl” who loves a good romantic comedy and who, after discovering his addiction, is not OK with his love of pornography. The rest of the movie deals with their conflicting ideas about realistic relationships and hopefully teaches each of them a thing or two about true intimacy. The supporting cast includes Julianne Moore, Tony Danza and Brie Larson, and the trailer includes a scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt rapping “Good Vibrations” while driving. Cue swoon. While the Jersey accents seem a little forced, this comedy opens the door to ask questions about how we consume certain types of media. Do we have unrealistic expectations because of it? Can we expect to see a movie in which Gordon-Levitt directed himself about how to act without a shirt on? Guess we will all have to see it to find out.
‘Short Term 12,’
The 2 1/2-minute trailer for “Short Term 12” is possibly the most emotional piece of filmmaking I have seen this year. Since it’s a story about a young woman working at a foster care facility while simultaneously struggling with relationships and her past, there are understandably a lot of emotions contending within the film. Brie Larson has had various small roles in Hollywood but finally has her chance to shine here as the lead, Grace. The movie won both the Audience and Grand Jury prizes at the South by Southwest film festival, with great acclaim going to Larson and writer-director Destin Cretton. “Short Term 12,” which is his second feature film, is based on his own experiences working in a foster home facility, which helps explain the powerful story told here. Larson is only 23, and this starring role may catapult her into the starlet section of the A-list with Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley. The film is not available on wide-release but will be coming to St. Louis, and I fully intend to see what many critics have thought of as the best movie of the year.
In case you missed it, Formula One racing is cool again. This coolness is based mostly on the incredible documentary “Senna” from 2010, but director Ron Howard (“Cinderella Man” and many others) is reckoning that racecars will continue to bring people to the theater. “Rush” is the story of the rivalry between two of the best drivers of the 1970s, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Hunt is a party boy who gets passed in the rankings by the more dedicated Lauda. A near-deadly crash leaves Lauda with serious burns, but the now-friendly rivalry helps Lauda get back on the track. Hemsworth is almost too obvious for his part, but getting to see Bruhl again (who was so fun to hate as the sniper in “Inglourious Basterds”) makes up for it on the acting side of things. On the directing side, Howard has been hit-or-miss of late, but this feel-good sports story doesn’t offer too many difficulties. If it is a Howard hit, it could be very good. If not, Hemsworth takes his shirt off at least twice in the trailer, so there’s probably even more time with him shirtless in the movie. If nothing else, as a biopic, this certainly belongs in the fall season.