If I Stay
Of all the YA adaptations this summer, this is the last. Chloë Grace Moretz plays a comatose teenager in the midst of an out-of-body experience. Floating between life and death after a horrific car accident, she must decide whether to return to her body and face a difficult future, or head into the great beyond.
The film is based on a bestselling novel by Gayle Forman; it’s the narrative feature directorial debut of RJ Cutler, whose work as a documentarian includes The September Issue, about Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour. He’s cast an intriguing pair of actors as Moretz’s parents: Mireille Enos, who was one of the bright spots of the spring’s Sabotage as a deranged DEA agent, and Joshua Leonard of Humpday and The Freebie.
The pull quote on the cover of Forman’s novel says it “will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight,” which is surely what Warner Bros. is banking millions of dollars on.
Screenwriter Shauna Cross previously adapted her own YA novel into Whip It, one of the liveliest and most moving teen movies of the last 10 years. If Cross’ screenplay successfully mines a similar vein of young female empowerment, If I Stay might be a sleeper summer hit.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.5
Here’s another one that prompted all-over-the-map responses. Could this be the most divisive movie of the summer since Let’s Be Cops?
When The Game Stands Tall
Based on the true story of a California high-school football team that posted the longest winning streak in the history of team sports (151 games between 1992 and 2003), When The Game Stands Tall stars Jim Caviezel as De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur, who has to get his players to re-focus and overcome personal hardship after the streak is broken.
Director Thomas Carter is a veteran TV and film director who made some terrific episodes of Miami Vice and St. Elsewhere, and has done solid work on films like Swing Kids and Save The Last Dance. He has experience with movies like When The Game Stands Tall, having directed the 2005 sports drama Coach Carter, about a real-life basketball coach who risked his team’s longstanding success on the court when he demanded they rise to his academic standards.
The trailer makes When The Game Stands Tall look exactly like dozens of other movies that use the field of competition as a metaphor for the struggles of life (and overcoming same). The big twist here is that the De La Salle football players aren’t underdogs; they’re one of the most successful teams of all time, recovering from momentary setbacks.
The supporting cast includes Laura Dern as Ladouceur’s wife and Michael Chiklis as his assistant coach. That’s a couple of high-powered actors flanking Caviezel, and they could lend a simple uplifting sports drama a little more depth.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 3.8
Can a team of winners overcome a temporary setback and start winning again? The suspense isn’t killing us.
Life Of Crime
In this adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel The Switch, some lowlife criminals kidnap a wealthy businessman’s wife, with an eye toward a big ransom, unaware that the husband is having an affair and is happy to be rid of her. Jennifer Aniston plays the wife, with Mos Def and John Hawkes as inept kidnappers Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, roles Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro previously played in the earlier Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown.
Leonard was one of the most influential and successful pulp writers of the 20th century. (Between Justified and some other projects, he wasn’t having too shabby of a 21st century either.) His novels have inspired classic films like Out Of Sight, Get Shorty, and Jackie Brown, so while writer-director Daniel Schechter is a relative unknown, he’s working with material from one of our best known and most successful writers.
Life Of Crime picked up solid reviews at the last Toronto International Film Festival, where it was the closing-night film.
Leonard adaptations run a fine line tonally; in the wrong hands, the writer’s demented dark humor and quirkiness can come across as leaden and self-satisfied. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh have done right by Leonard, but Schechter is leagues away from their distinguished company.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.9
Maybe we’re just a little sensitive when it comes to Elmore Leonard these days, and fear that this won’t do right by the author so soon after his passing.