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8 Reasons to Believe In Hollywood Again

It's not dark yet, here are some rays of sunshine

By Ken Pasini     October 01, 2009

8 Reasons to Believe in Hollywood Again
© Bob Trate


Movies are typically replete with implausible action flicks or raucous adolescent comedies, often lacking tightly woven, thought provoking stories. This year however, a surprising number quality films harmonized these perspectives, delivering fascinating stories of complex characters embroiled in dramatic, very intense situations, merged with thrilling action and comedic elements. Let’s reflect on a few these, and delve into the actors and filmmakers responsible for this unusual phenomenon.

8. District 9

D9 received exceptional reviews by critics and fans alike. First-time Director Neill Blomkamp (with his mentor Peter Jackson producing), managed to create a film that dramatically reveals the ugliest aspects of humanity, while jointly showcasing a heroes journey. Sharlto Copley portrays Wikus Van De Merwe, a bumbling MNU agent charged with heading up the relocation effort of thousands of ‘Prawn’ aliens stranded on earth for the last 30 years.   This fascinating story is galvanized in the tapestry of emotions Copley so affectively conveys in his character. Considering that this well-crafted story was the brainchild of first-time filmmaker Blomkamp, and that an inexperienced actor served as the stories protagonist, is truly amazing. Copley affectively transforms his character (both emotionally and physically) during the course of the film, and through his rich characterization, causes the audience to empathize with every heart-wrenching obstacle he faces.  A commendable achievement by both director and cast, this was the summer’s hidden gem, outpacing every box office projection.

7. Moon

A carefully crafted story with lone actor Sam Rockwell playing dual roles against Kevin Spacey’s robot voice, delivers this season’s most surprising entry. Directed by newcomer Duncan Jones, the story examines the intricate qualities of being human, and what it means to confront your own mortality. A fascinating character study brilliantly portrayed by Rockwell (for whom the role was written), the story forces the audience to connect the dots as the plot progresses. This rare film avoids the usual genre trappings of standard sci-fi, delivering a compelling, character driven, thought provoking journey that stays with you long after the credits roll. A remarkable achievement by first-time filmmaker Jones, this one should join the ranks of El Mariachi, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks and other respected introductions by notable filmmakers. 

6. Inglourious Basterds

Continuing on the war genre for a moment, those seeking an engrossing movie with outstanding characters (played by equally impressive actors), need look no further than Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering, Inglorious Basterds.  Tarantino demonstrates his brilliant, quirky style and pervasive humor in many scenes, providing several reasons to subscribe to this latest entre’ by one of Hollywood’s most eclectic filmmakers. The story takes significant liberties with historical fact, revealing itself in a riveting, absurd five-act story, each more engrossing than the one before it. Similar in style to Tarantino’s masterpiece Pulp Fiction, this film is more tightly tied together with a satisfying, exuberant, over-the-top ending. Without a doubt, Christoph Waltz (probably unknown to most Americans) delivers one of the year’s best acting performances as Col. Hans Landa. He portrays the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ persona so successfully, that menace appears to ooze from his every pore as he interrogates the characters of the film. Due to his absolutely brilliant performance, we expect to see him clutching a Best Actor Oscar on awards night.

5. Shutter Island

Several excellent films are also on the horizon. Shutter Island (recently rescheduled from October to February of 2010 due to marketing reasons) looks to be a creepy, psychological thriller by legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Working again with Leonardo DeCaprio, Scorsese has adapted Dennis Lehane’s haunting novel for the screen. The story takes place in an asylum for the criminally insane, which in actuality, was shot in an abandoned mental institution. Most films by this auteur generally border on masterpiece, and this one looks to fall within that category. The mystery also stars Ben Kingsly, Mark Ruffalo, Max Von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley and Ted Levine. 

4. Foundation Trilogy

Attending the 2009 San Diego Comic Con to promote ‘2012’, an audience member asked Emmerich what was next for him, now that he’s managed to destroy the world yet again. He shared that they’ve (he and Columbia Pictures) recently acquiring the rights to Isaac Asimov’s classic ‘Foundation Trilogy’. Many have flirted with the idea of bringing this spectacular set of novels to the big screen, but none successfully. Emmerich plans to direct, but could not comment on whether the plan is to film the initial trilogy as a whole (similar to Jacksons approach to ‘The Lord of the Rings’), or if ‘The Foundation’ will be presented as the first of potentially three films. Regardless, this will be a welcomed cinematic event, assuming Columbia can manage to steer their ship into profitable shores long enough to actually see this movie get made.

3. The Lovely Bones

December usher’s in Alice Sebold’s monumental best seller The Lovely Bones, adapted for the screen by none other than Peter Jackson.  It’s encouraging that Hollywood continues to mine stories from novels which obviously resonate with a large audience. Mark Wahlberg plays the tortured father of a slain 14-year-old girl, who watches those she loved from the after-life. Rachel Weisz (the mother), Susan Sarandon (grandmother), and Stanley Tucci help round out the cast. The studio postponed the original release date by nine months, so confident were they in the films Oscar potential. Jackson has certainly proven his ability to helm fascinating, big-budget, action movies (Lord of the Rings, King Kong), so it will be interesting to see how adept he is at handling such emotionally laced material.

2. The Road

October ushers in The Road, adopted from the best selling, Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy. It follows the struggle of a man (played by Viggo Mortenson) and his son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The film has been delayed to allow for additional cinematic work and post-production effects, needed to establish the realistic ruin of the films landscapes. Although the movie was made on a relatively low budget (around $20-$30 million), care was taken to convey the somber tone of the book. Considering the heavy source material, Mortenson’s ability to portray brooding characters, and the film’s outstanding supporting cast (Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Robert Duvall), this could prove to be the sleeper worth seeing. 

Great Movies

1. Avatar

December also welcomes the years-in-development, James Cameron project ‘Avatar’. This arguably was the ‘Bell of the Ball’ at 2009’s San Diego Comic Con International, and the 16 minute 3D teaser has since been shared with a much wider audience during the aptly coined ‘Avatar Day’. This looks to be an amazing 3D wonder, the preview showcasing several affects laden, visually stunning scenes from the first half of the film. This movie could prove to be a masterpiece, possibly heralding in a new generation of 3d Motion Pictures, much the same way Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’ or Cameron’s own ‘Terminator 2’ helped redefine computer-generated capabilities of modern cinema.  Cameron has proven he understands where his sweet spot is (big-budget, in your face action), delivering every dollar spent directly onto the screen. His movies are always worth the cost of a ticket.  
Hollywood will always gravitate towards the virtual money machine of summer blockbuster action flicks, but will occasionally invest in mature, less ROI assured projects. Recognizing that a market exists for intellectually stimulating, character driven stories, these will also garner attention when budgets are allocated. We’ve presented 8 genre focused reasons to renew your faith in Hollywood, but certainly have not exhausted the list. Offer your own perspective, and by all means, support the films crafted by brilliant filmmakers and outstanding actors.  You do have a voice in what Hollywood produces, it resonates with the sound of tearing theatre ticket.



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Chopsaki 10/1/2009 4:06:02 AM

I'm looking forward to seeing Avatar & The Road.  District 9 was gross, wierd yet strangely entertaining. I was rather disapointed with Inglorious Bastards as the movie focused less on the bastards and probably should of been retitled "Shoshanna's quest for revenge". I havn't seen Shutter Island or Moon but will probably catch them on dvd at some point. I'm not familiar with Foundation Trilogy but it sounds wierd and original so I'd check it out. No interest in Lovely Bones though the people involved in making it are quite talented.

tiredjay 10/1/2009 4:34:43 AM

I only see 6 reasons.  Two of the reasons are indie films, and not Hollywood.

hanso 10/1/2009 4:35:29 AM

The list talks about movies that were released this year so I don't understand why Foundation Trilogy is listed and Shutter Island got pushed back to 2010. Not to mention that The Foundation will be directed by Emmerich and that's reason alone to make you not believe.

If you were going to include 2010 entries then the list can't be complete without Nolan's Inception.

From the current list, Foundation Trilogy should've been replaced with The Hurt Locker, an excellent film released this summer.


shadowprime 10/1/2009 5:04:18 AM


INGLORIOUS left me cold, mainly for its celebration of torture (and for making the Basterds little better than terrorists) but I have to agree that Waltz's performance was utterly amazing.

And DISTRICT NINE reminded me of some of the great sci-fi from the 60s and 70s (and that is meant as a compliment). Unfortunately, haven't had the chance to see MOON.

No point in trying to fight change - it is inevitable - but it does seem that, in large part, the movie business today is all about a huge opening weekend, a few fast weeks of making $, and moving on. Movies aimed at smaller niches don't seem to have a lot of opportunity in that kind of set-up, and few movies are going to get the opportunity to develop word of mouth over time.


PS - The previews for SHUTTER ISLAND didn't do much for me. Perhaps totally unfair, but the preview looked, to me, like the movie was very much a "buy the numbers" affair. Lets see... might the asylum director have a sinister secret? Think Ben Kingsley's creepy head doctor might be up to no good? And so forth...  The movie itself MAY be very good, and there may be plot twists that put a lie to the preview... just saying that the preview itself didn't make ISLAND look like it is going to offer any real surprises.

I wish Hollywood would, more often, cast "against type". For example, this past week, "THE FUGITIVE" was on TV (Harrison Ford / Tommy Lee Jones movie).  I recall seeing it in the theater, and enjoying it. However, as soon as I saw who was cast as Ford's "good friend" at the hospital, I figured the character was going to turn out to be a creep. Why? Because the actor playing the friend almost always plays the creep - and often the kind of creep who appears friendly and decent at first. He is, undeniably, very good at it. I could totally see someone saying - "Hey, lets cast X in this role... he is great as the apparently friendly guy who turns out to be bad!"... but the problem is that as soon as he pops up onscreen, you ASSUME he is no good.

Okay, so Ben Kingsley was Ghandi, granted... but as soon as I saw him in his white lab coat, talking in a chilly voice about the important work at the asylum, etc...well...LOL (hey, for all I know, he will turn out to be a swell guy! )...




Thorn 10/1/2009 5:12:36 AM

I think it's dangerous to put so much hope in films that haven't been released yet, no matter how much potential it seems to have. I simply say this out of personal experience - how many times did I hear of an upcoming project, then see an amazing trailer, just to be disappointed as I walked out of the theater. I think I can safely say that we have all done this.

District 9 is not a Hollywood film, by the way.

oh, and everyone should go see Zombieland. Saw it last monday and it was hilarious, a real treat :)

okonomiyaki4000 10/1/2009 6:04:56 AM

 You can take number 4 off that list. It's Emmerich. No chance of it being even slightly watchable. 

LittleNell1824 10/1/2009 6:06:46 AM

I find it funny when people say the 80's were a great time for movies. I can tell you that it didn't seem like it at the time. I went to a lot of movies in the 80's because I was  a teenager, and mostly it was crap. If I happened to catch a future classic in the theater it was a nice surprise.

We take our chances when we go. Mostly it's disappointing. I loved District 9, but it was an odd movie and I don't know if it has staying power - I think it does. Didn't see Inglorious (kind of sick of Tarantino right now). I will see Shutter Island, The Road and Lovely Bones. And I'll probably see the Foundation trilogy if it ever gets made.

thorin02 10/1/2009 8:02:57 AM

I was starting to get excited about The Foundation trilogy until Emmerich's name showed up.  

Wiseguy 10/1/2009 8:55:04 AM

You are right about #1 AVATAR will shake the foundations of movie making. It already has as a matter of fact

FrozenFear 10/1/2009 9:34:51 AM

As I was told before seeing the preview on "Avatar Day":

"Avatar will be the greatest thing ever witnessed by the human eyeball. Jesus Christ himself has planned the Second Coming to coincide with opening day just so he can catch a screening."

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