A Most Wanted Man
One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last screen performances comes in A Most Wanted Man, where he plays a Hamburg intelligence agent, keeping watch on a newly rich Russian (Grigoriy Dobrygin) with terrorist ties. Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, and Daniel Bruhl help fill out a cast of characters representing the weary faces of modern international policing.
The John le Carré novel on which this film is based is typically muted and detail-oriented, which fits with the sensibility of the movie’s director, Anton Corbijn, a famed photographer whose first two narrative films, Control and The American, were also stylish and quiet.
Reaction to A Most Wanted Man at Sundance was mixed, perhaps because Corbijn’s reserved approach tends not to excite people who are watching four movies a day and getting roughly four hours of sleep a night. But the movie does have its devotees, who admire the way Corbijn elucidates le Carré’s criticism of post-9/11 paranoia, which leads officious men and women to violate human rights in the name of following procedure.
Hoffman, Corbijn, and le Carré will get all the attention here, but it’s worth taking note of the screenwriter, Andrew Bovell, an Australian playwright best-known for writing the script for Lantana (based on his own play Speaking In Tongues). He’s a writer accustomed to using stories about crime as a way to explore deeply flawed characters.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.7
If nothing else, another opportunity to see Hoffman in action is welcome. And while le Carré doesn’t make the most screen-dynamic adaptations, his stories tend to be complicated and rich enough to foster unusual interest.
In this “revisionist take on the classic myth,” Dwayne Johnson stars as the mighty Hercules. Not much else is known about the storyline at this point, but the cast also includes Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and John Hurt, and the trailer features the demigod fighting a three-headed serpent, a lion, and a giant boar. Hercules was apparently not a big animal lover.
The film is allegedly based on the hero of Greek myth—but really it’s based on the same thing all movies in 2014 are based on: a comic book. Specifically, Hercules: The Thracian Wars from Radical Studios. It’s Brett Ratner’s first feature since 2011’s Tower Heist, and just his fourth in the last 10 years (The other three, After The Sunset, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Rush Hour 3, are beloved by masochists everywhere.)
More than four months out, there’s no advance buzz on Ratner’s Hercules, but it will have to be historically bad to be the worst-reviewed Hercules movie of the year; January’s The Legend Of Hercules, only got a 3 percent approval rating (two out of 71 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes.
The lion Johnson wears as a hat in some of the film’s marketing materials. It looks like Simba is choking on a professional wrestler. It might be difficult to take this movie seriously if Johnson has that thing on his head the entire time.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 4.3
Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live is the only revisionist Hercules we acknowledge. Besides, amid Clash Of The Titans movies and Percy Jackson movies, it’s been a while since a Greek-myth movie inspired us to anything but boredom.
A couple (Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz) who’ve been married for 10 years decide to spice up their flagging love life by making a sex tape—the 21st-century version of one, anyway. But their iPad-recorded tryst does what sex tapes tend to do and gets out, via a hazily defined technical glitch involving the much-feared, little-understood cloud. (Ooooh, the cloud…) Facing humiliation, they must scramble to keep the video from being seen by their family, friends, and bosses, a task that involves, judging by the red-band trailer, taking cocaine and falling off balconies. Odd are good they’ll learn something about each other, and about love, in the process.
The screenplay was written by Kate Angelo,who put in time as a writer and producer on sitcoms like Will & Grace and The Bernie Mac Show before breaking into film with the little-seen, little-loved 2010 Jennifer Lopez rom-com The Back-Up Plan. Director Jake Kasdan has a slightly more distinguished filmography that includes Orange County, The TV Set, Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story, and 2011’s Bad Teacher, which also starred Diaz.
So far, just that red-band trailer, which also indicates Sex Tape will include a fair amount of nudity and a lot of technology-aided misunderstandings.
The trailer’s Siri- and cloud-based gags already feel pretty tired at this point, and a good decade-plus of celebrity sex-tape scandals have robbed that device of most of its shock value. The onus is on Sex Tape to find a fresh angle on what looks like some pretty stale material.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.4
That said, lingering positive feelings toward the director and stars here prevent us from giving up on this one without giving it a chance.