Weekend Movie Preview: August 26, 2011

From riveting action to heartfelt family humor, the weekend movie preview runs the gamut this last weekend of the blockbuster summer movie season.

Bailee Madison in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Colombiana stars Zoe Saldana as a hit woman on a mission of vengeance. As a young girl, Saldana’s character witnessed the murder of her parents and his lived her life training for the moment when she can extol justice.

Our Idiot Brother features Paul Rudd as a, well, an idiot brother. Ned (Rudd) has just been released from jail for selling pot and his three sisters weave in and out of his life as he tries to find his way in this family centric comedy.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a horror film from the mind of Guillermo del Toro that gives a delightful new take on the haunted house genre.

Higher Ground also lands in theaters this weekend, is a film that feels like a fall Oscar-bait flick and is Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut.

Colombiana: The action thriller gets a shot in the arm as Saldana’s fierce portrayal reminds us of a Sarah Connor type killing machine coupled with the right amount of vulnerability and sensitivity. Movie Fanatic found it pulse pounding and downright terrific.


Colombiana Trailer

Our Idiot Brother: The ensemble comedy Our Idiot Brother follows Rudd’s character as he navigates the mine fields that are sibling relationships. His twenty-first century hippie could actually be the glue that holds this dysfunctional family together rather than what they believe he is: The thing that is tearing them apart.


Our Idiot Brother Trailer

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is from the delightfully twisted mind of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce are parental figures to a young girl who is hearing the things that go bump in the night. Is she imaging the tiny creatures of terror, or is the entire family in for one bumpy ride in what appears to be a dream home?


Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Theatrical Trailer

Also in limited release:

Higher Ground: Vera Farmiga stars and directs this story that is a rarity in Hollywood: A film about religion. Higher Ground follows Farmiga’s character from high school to married parent of two children grappling with life’s ups and downs while clinging to her faith for support. Check out our video interview with Vera below!


Vera Farmiga Exclusive Interview

Our Idiot Brother Movie Review: A Family Affair

Our Idiot Brother is equally a typical dysfunctional family film and a heartwarming comedy. Not an easy combination for any flick, but because of its star — Paul Rudd — it actually works more than it does not.

Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks in Our Idiot Brother

Rudd shines, as usual, as Ned, the only boy in a family full of sisters. Elizabeth Banks is Miranda, an uptight journalist willing to sell her soul for a big break. Meanwhile, Zooey Deschanel is Natalie, a stand-up comedienne with questionable talent and Emily Mortimer stars as Liz, a mother of two whose husband is less than honest.

The family dynamic is top notch and as anyone with siblings can attest, it possesses as much loving as loathing. This should be hardly a surprise given the fact that director Jesse Peretz turned to his sister Evgenia Peretz to write the script with David Schisgall.

The supporting cast too is game for the family hijinks with two Parks and Rec stars shining the brightest, Rashida Jones and Adam Scott.

Our Idiot Brother follows Ned, an organic farmer who sells his wares at the local farmer’s market. When a uniformed police officer shows up saying he’s had a bad week and is in need of some marijuana, the always affable Ned obliges and winds up in jail. The story picks up as Ned is released, and with nowhere else to go, he turns first to his mother — then when he realizes he’s too old to stay with his mother, he arrives on his sisters’ doorstep.

Immediately Ned impacts all of their lives. He always means well and his life motto is honesty first. As you can guess, that doesn’t necessarily result in the most comfortable of situations. As Ned bounces from sister to sister’s couch, to them, he becomes the man of the title increasingly with each successive stop.

The problem with Our Idiot Brother is that it is a lot like cotton candy — delicious going down and then completely forgettable once it’s over. That is a strange thing to find in an independent film. Usually that feeling is reserved for big budget blockbusters. In a story about four siblings and their family dynamic, the story should pop with resonance and in Our Idiot Brother, it never quite gets there, which is disappointing. Movie Fanatic really wanted to love this film, but it needs more power to its punch and mostly swings and misses.

Our Idiot Brother does remind that no one can ever understand us quite like a sibling. If after the film, the audience is compelled to phone a sister or brother, don’t be surprised. The film is warm enough to warrant that response, yet hollow enough to make you forget the movie itself a half hour after leaving the cinema.

Apollo 18 Releases Two New Clips

Dimension Films has debuted two more clips from the science fiction-horror film Apollo 18.

Apollo 18 Poster Image

Many sci-fi flicks, in its lead up to release, ask questions. Apollo 18 immediately answers one in its trailers and clips: Why did we not head back to the moon after Apollo 17 launched in December of 1972?

In the film Apollo 18, in December 1974, two U.S. astronauts secretly head back to the moon and the movie utilizes the video captured by those men to tell the story of what happened and why we never returned to our only moon.

Two new videos have been released by Dimension Films, the first is Footprints and the second is simply titled Flag. Try not to be too scared! The film opens September 2.

Footprints:


Apollo 18 New Clip: Footprints

Flag:


Apollo 18 Clip: Flag

Colombiana Movie Review: Riveting

Zoe Saldana establishes herself as a superstar in Colombiana. She brings a quiet brutality that is part animal pursuing its prey and all woman with vulnerability and viciousness when wronged. Saldana, as Cataleya, is a killer yes, but given her life’s beginnings, expecting anything less from her would be naïve.

Colombiana Star Zoe Saldana

Saldana’s character Cataleya begins the movie at the age of nine witnessing a tragedy that will haunt her entire life: Her parents are murdered right in front of her. It sends her on foot evading the killers in a chase scene through the barrios of her Colombia hometown. It is in those opening moments that it becomes immediately clear that Colombiana is from the mind of French filmmaking team Luc Besson and Olivier Megaton.

There’s a fervor to the race for Cataleya’s freedom that is not usually seen in U.S. thrillers. It feels very Jason Bourne and rightfully so as the two films share a stunt and fight coordinator.

Once Cataleya lands in Chicago, far from harm’s way, the film allows for character development as the young girl is mentored by her uncle. She may be only nine, but she lets it be known what she wants to do with her life. “I want to be a killer,” she coolly says. And the revenge story is off and running.

The action sequences are electric. By the 15 minute mark, the astounding work of young actress Amandla Stenberg is handed off to Saldana and audiences witness her take as a hit woman working a job within the claustrophobic confines of a jail. You won’t hear a peep from us about the scene or any more of the action, for it will ruin its power. Just know this: It sizzles.

Colombiana is Zoe Saldana

Director Megaton has captured lightning with the casting of Saldana as Cataleya. The Avatar and The Losers star establishes herself as a go-to actress with the expansive performance she exhibits in Colombiana. Through her work, we see her fierceness — a cold-bloodedness born on the streets of Colombia. But filmmakers also allow our heroine to show a crack in her armor with a love story. She and Danny (a perfectly cast Michael Vartan) have something special, but Cataleya cannot let him get too close, for his and her safety’s sake. Screenwriter Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen with director Megaton have woven the love interest storyline that allows the audience to see Cataleya’s vulnerabilities as she battles with her never-ending effort to keep those walls of emotion firmly erected and not slip into love’s grasp.

In the end, Colombiana is an action film of the highest order. It is a revenge tale, but so much more. Colombiana is also a female empowerment movie. No, the film is not in the vein of Erin Brockovich or Norma Rae in their dramatic scope and power, but it inspires in the sense of witnessing a character such as Cataleya in her relentless pursuit of justice.

Higher Ground Movie Review: Vera Farmiga’s Fine Directing Debut

Vera Farmiga told Movie Fanatic exclusively that Higher Ground would not have secured financing if she did not attach herself as director. That is a rare move by producers given the fact Farmiga has never helmed a picture. But after witnessing the subtle film’s depiction of one couple’s journey through Christianity, it is a pure unadulterated blessing.

Higher Ground star Vera Farmiga

Farmiga has a firm grasp on her cast and utilizes them in an impeccable manner. Higher Ground follows Corinne (Farmiga) and Ethan (Joshua Leonard) over decades and for any director, that is not an easy task. The film begins with two younger actors portraying the couple (Vera’s sister Taissa Farmiga and Boyd Holbrook, respectively) and the performances they establish in the film’s opening act seamlessly move through the adult actors.

Making a Hollywood film with religion at its central core is a difficult and frankly, thankless task. Yet, Higher Ground doesn’t hit its audience over the head with Christianity preaching. It is merely a method of storytelling about one woman’s journey through life and the choices she makes and how they dictate the person she becomes by the closing credits.

Higher Ground stars Farmiga and Leonard and each actor brings their best. But, the film is truly an ensemble piece and Farmiga the director has one killer cast helping her achieve a directing debut triumph. Oscar nominee John Hawkes is Corrine’s father CW, while Tony Award winner Donna Murphy is her mother Kathleen. As the film progresses, audiences meet the church congregation that is not only central to Corrine and Ethan’s spiritual world, but also their social circle as well. The group has a classic theater ensemble feel, with Dagmara Dominczyk’s Annika serving as its heart.

If there are any faults with Higher Ground, they are minimal. The first act is a little clumsy, but then again, Corrine and Ethan are stumbling on their life path. The film truly takes off when the pair find Christ and Farmiga and her cast are then off to the races.

Farmiga’s directing chops are solid. She has definitely taken a page from her fellow co-stars turned directors including George Clooney (Farmiga’s partner in crime in her Oscar nominated turn in Up in the Air). Clooney acted and directed in his first foray into filmmaking in Good Night, and Good Luck. There’s an art to being able to straddle both sides of the creative street and Farmiga simply nails it in Higher Ground.