The Twilight Saga: New Moon
directed by Chris Weitz
Twilight is back, after only one year, but just one heartthrob would not suffice. (Which is why I hereby patent the adolescent pacemaker; I’m going to make a killing.) Thus Taylor Lautner’s Jacob, all but unnoticed in the first film, returns with a couple of pectorals to challenge Edward for Bella’s affections. And, oh yeah, he’s a werewolf. Original director Catherine Hardwicke infamously left the franchise, and Chris Weitz is now at the helm. Previews seem promising, however, with more action, a lot more forbidden lust and a no longer precocious Dakota Fanning.
directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Penélope Cruz reunites with Pedro Almodóvar after their well-received 2006 film Volver. Fresh off her Oscar win earlier this year for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Cruz seems in no hurry to shed the somber aura that has garnered her such recent acclaim, although she did provide the voice of a guinea pig in this summer’s G-Force. Here, Cruz portrays Magdalena, a young call girl who exists only in flashbacks. Magdalena’s relationship with novelist Ernesto Martel inspires jealousy in the supporting cast and the film follows the lengths they will go to avenge it. Despite the movie’s Cannes selection, though, the Spanish-language Broken Embraces seems to be garnering a more tepid buzz than Volver.
directed by John Woo
John Woo takes us back—way back—to 208 A.D. where a monumental battle takes place at Red Cliff in southern China. The epic battle is the centerpiece of this Mandarin flick, which is now being considered the most expensive Chinese film ever produced. The film looks visually amazing and has even received several awards including the Asian Film Awards’ and the Hong Kong Film Awards’ “Best Visual Effects” trophies. Woo has been making films in China for more than 40 years now, but manages to sneak across the pond occasionally to bring us such action fare as Mission Impossible II and Broken Arrow. This promises to be a more historical epic than his stateside work, but by no means on any less grand of a scale.
directed by Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad & Marcos Martinez
Writer Joe Stillman is no stranger to this genre. After a steady stream of “adult” humor-driven allegories from Shrek to Beavis, Stillman now brings us this fable of an American (Dwayne Johnson) marooned on Planet 51 with crisp, computer-generated panache. The protagonist immediately thinks he has discovered the place and plants a star-spangled flag in the backyard during the natives’ barbecue. Little does he know that the planet is happily inhabited and even more cookie cutters than Kansas. What follows is an upside-down E.T. with more svelte, Shrek-esque characters standing in for the Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore characters. Expect less heart and at least a couple of fart jokes, but a nice holiday diversion for the kiddies. Jessica Biel, Gary Oldman and John Cleese also lend vocal chops.
The Blind Side
directed by John Lee Hancock
Sandra Bullock goes blonde and Southern Belle to portray Leigh Anne Trouhy, matriarch of a WASPy brood and devoted wife of Tim McGraw. When she takes in an underprivileged, nearly illiterate young high school student, both their lives are enriched by the parallels they find in each other. And football. Although billed as a true story, expect a substantial creative license in the vain of Dangerous Minds. This is Bullock’s third film this year following the surprisingly jaunty Proposal and the wretched miscalculation All About Steve. Opening opposite Twilight promises to be a struggle, but skewing slightly older might be this film’s saving grace.
directed by Lukas Moodysson
Lukas Moodysson had already made a pretty grand name for himself (at least in Scandanavia) in 1998 when he released the small adolescent love story Show Me Love to stellar reviews. Eleven years later he remains one of the few Swedish directors who can get a stateside release. Mammoth‘s cast is comprised of mostly unknown thespians (at least in the U.S.) with the glaring exception of Michelle Williams who plays a work obsessed surgeon in a tumultuous marriage. The narrative unfolds in three settings: New York, the Philippines and Thailand where fidelities are tested and familial bonds are unwoven. Mammoth will receive a New York release only.