In an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s Newbery-award-winning YA classic, a young man named Jonas is given a job he never knew existed in his history-free utopian community: He becomes the apprentice of the one person allowed to remember the horrors of mankind’s past.
The Giver comes with some prestigious names on board: Meryl Streep as the elder of Jonas’ village, and Jeff Bridges as his mentor. It also comes with Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift, and Alexander Skarsgård. Director Philip Noyce is known for glossy, puffed-up thrillers with big-name casts: Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger, Salt, The Bone Collector. His name here suggests a lot about the film’s take on the material, which in the book is more internal exploration than action-adventure. From the trailer, the film looks reminiscent of another YA classic turned recent action-film flop, Ender’s Game.
Fans of the book—and there are a lot of them, given that it was a massive bestseller, and that a generation of kids had it as required reading in school—have been up in arms about the film changing Jonas from a prepubescent boy to a studly teenager (Home And Away’s Brenton Thwaites), and about the obvious additions to the plot. There have also been complaints about the film apparently not being in black and white (which Jonas’ world is in the book, before he learns to see color), but that rumor was apparently wrong.
For many young readers, one of the book’s big draws was its ambiguous lady-or-the-tiger? ending, which let them decide for themselves what happened to Jonas. It’s a memorably depressing ending in a subgenre not often known for them. The next fan uproar is waiting to happen when it’s revealed whether the film definitively resolves the ending—which seems likely.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 6.2
As fans of Lowry’s book, we’re hoping for the best here.
When an amateur singer-songwriter named Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to join an art-rock band fronted by eccentric masked guru Frank (Michael Fassbender), he discovers that not every group of musicians is in it to become popular. It takes a trip across the Atlantic, a gig at the South By Southwest music festival, and several messy confrontations between Jon and the band’s theremin player, Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) before the lesson takes hold.
Irish indie filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson directs a script written by Peter Straughan and participatory journalist Jon Ronson, based loosely on the latter’s experiences playing with the British performance artist Frank Sidebottom. It’s unusual to have an actor of Fassbender’s stature in a role that requires him to wear a fake head (assuming that Fassbender actually is under that head all that time, and didn’t just provide voiceover later), but that only adds to Frank’s mystique.
Frank didn’t come into Sundance with a lot of pre-fest buzz—if anything, people wondered why it wasn’t debuting at SXSW instead—but by the time its emotional final scene ended at the première, attendees were all over social media, spreading the word around the mountain that Frank was a must-see. The film is probably too offbeat to connect as broadly at sea-level. After a strong, funny opening third, it chases its own tail a bit until it reaches that powerhouse finish. But Frank is going to have a lot of devoted fans, drawn to the smart way it dissects fame in the social-media age, and to what it has to say about the tangled roots of true musical inspiration.
Frank starts out cute and quirky, but it has a message that some viewers might find off-putting—that some people might be better off as fans, not artists—and it doesn’t shy away from the sadness and sickness at the core of mad geniuses like Frank. The movie isn’t always as twee as it seems.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 7.8
There’s a lot of enthusiasm around The Dissolve for this one, thanks in part to some kind words from those who have already seen it.
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Like 2005’s Sin City, the cumbersomely titled Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For brings the world of Miller’s noir comic to the big screen. This sequel mostly adapts the Jim Thompson-inspired “A Dame To Kill For” while working a couple of shorter tales, some original to the film, into the mix.
Miller and Robert Rodriguez reunite as co-directors. Also returning: much of the original cast, including Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, and Bruce Willis. That’s all the more remarkable given the long, long time it’s taken to get this movie made. Rodriguez and Miller made plans for a sequel after the original’s success, claiming to have finished a screenplay in 2007. Then there was the matter of casting: Angelina Jolie circled around the central femme fatale role for years before stepping aside, leaving Eva Green to take her place.
Déjà vu. The other returning feature is Sin City’s signature look, a re-creation of Miller’s panels that drops a few, bold splashes of color into black-and-white imagery.
The big question here is one of exhaustion: Sin City was a breakthrough in 2005, but since then, its highly stylized CGI expressionism has been borrowed—most memorably in 300, another Miller adaptation—by others, to the point where it no longer seems so fresh. Also, anyone familiar with Miller’s source material knows diminishing returns set in after a while, even though “A Dame To Kill For” gave the series one of its finer moments. Finally, there’s Rodriguez, who’s ground out film after film in the years since Sin City, mostly playing to fans likely to turn out for anything with Spy Kids or Machete in the title.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 4.7
This rating might reflect our shifting opinions about the original Sin City, which seemed fresh at the time, but clearly hasn’t aged well in our collective consciousness.