January 12, 2006

Paramount Unveils 2006 Releases

What follows is a look at a few of Paramount's coming releases for the coming year. What does the year hold? Will it be big bucks, or the dread whammy? Following the downturn in business in 2005, the studios all hope for an increase in viewership in the coming year. The explosion of DVDs and home theater, not to mention the short window between theaters and DVD, are all contributing to this. Well, let's take a look at what Paramount is offering, and see if what they have will be enough to drag us out to the cineplexes.

Kicking off the year is Last Holiday, a remake of a 1950 Alec Guinness film. This new version stars Queen Latifah as Georgia Bird, a shy woman who finds out she has a terminal illness. Upon this discovery, she embarks on a European vacation. This vacation is a liberation, knowing that she does not have long to live, she throws caution to the wind, and in that action affects the lives of all those who come in contact with her. She co-stars with LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Gerar Depardieu, and Alicia Witt. It was directed by Wayne Wang (Because of Winn-Dixie, Joy Luck Club).

I've seen the trailer for it, and it seems to be rather pedestrian. Some light entertainment that a family could partake in. Th one thing it has going for it is Queen Latifah, she just lights up the screen. In all her roles, she has such a charismatic presence that she could make a bad movie watchable. Time will tell how it will fare. It opens on January 13th.

Next up is Failure to Launch, a romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. This one actually hits close to home, so I may just have to see it. McConaughey plays a guy in his 30's who still lives with his parents. His parents, played by Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates, decide to draw a line in the sand. They hire a professional motivator in the guise of a woman who shows interest in their son to encourage him to leave the nest, that motivator is Parker. Of course, the plan does not work quite as it was planned, comedy ensues. It was directed by Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon).

This looks like it could be pretty funny. Like Last Holiday, this looks like it could be some insubstantial fluff, but it could just be the right thing to hit the spot. Whether or not it actually works remains to be seen, but the premise may be enough to draw me out. This launches on February 10th.

Skip ahead a few months and we get one of the potential blockbusters striking early in the season. Tom Cruise reprises his role as Ethan Hunt, action star extrordinaire, in Mission Impossible III. Not sure what the story is for this one yet, but it does reunite Cruise with Ving Rhames, who appeared in the first two versions. The trailer is full of running and shooting and explosions and everything you would expect from a movie like this. I liked both of the other entries, hopefully this will be no different. The promise of big stunts is a pretty good draw for me, not quite as much as the promise of gore, but it works. The movie co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laurence Fishburne, and Keri Russell. JJ Abrams makes his feature directorial debut, after spending most of his time on the small screen with Alias and Lost. This leaps onto the screens May 5th.

Nearly a month after the action drops, we will be treated to the latest Jack Black comedy, Nacho Libre. Black stars as a Mexican priest who works nights as a lucha libre wrestler to earn money for his orphanage. This sounds like one heckuva stretch. But who knows, perhaps those involved will be able to pull off such a ridiculous sounding story. The creative team is centered on Jared Hess who directs and co-writes, he made his debut in 2004 with cult sensation Napoleon Dynamite. Jack Black co-stars with Ana de la Reguera and Peter Stormare. the wrestling action starts on June 2nd.

Leaving the world of fiction, we move into what may be a touchy area for cinema at his time. The movie is World Trade Center. It is based on the true story of two Port Authority policemen – John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, two of only twenty people to b e rescued from the World Trade Center on 9/11. This chronicles what they went through, as well as their families. It was directed by Oliver Stone, who is no stranger to controversy. I am cautiously optimistic as to how the movie will turn out. On one hand, it is sure to draw a lot of attention, and on the other, how many people are ready to see this on the big screen? It could be a tough sell, but I am confident that Stone will do the story justice. It stars Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. It is scheduled to open sometime in August.

October brings with it a computer animated film entitled Barnyard. The real story of what happens on the farm when the farmer isn't looking. I must be honest, the trailer I saw was not terribly impressive, it came across as slightly obnoxious. I do look forward to what the next trailer is like, as there is almost a year before it is due to come out. The mastermind behind the farm fun is Steve Oedekerk, the brilliant mind behind Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, and the writer of Bruce Almighty. The movie features the voice talents of Kevin James, Courteney Cox, Sam Elliott, Danny Glover, Andie MacDowell, and Wanda Sykes. Not a bad group of actors there, so we shall have to wait and see.

Coming sometime this Fall is Babel, the latest film from Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before seeing this listing, I was completely unaware of this film, and after reading the description, I cannot wait. It is reminiscent of his last film, 21 Grams, in that it connects a few disparate groups of people trough one singular event. The triggering event is when two Moroccan boys are looking after a herd of goats and decide to try out their rifle. That sets of a series of events that brings all sorts of people into the mix. It stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, and Elle Fanning. This looks like it could be completely fascinating,but it could also turn into a retread of 21 Grams. I can't wait to find out.

Also coming this Fall is Zodiac, the latest from director David Fincher. Fincher is a fantastic director, after almost ending his career before it got started with Alien3, has followed that with a string films that place him in the top tier of working directors, films including The Game, Seven, and Fight Club. This is also another "based on a true story" film, frankly I think there have been too many of these lately, but I am willing to give Fincher the benefit of the doubt. It is the story of a serial killer in San Francisco who is taunting the detectives on the case leaving behind signs of his work. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Anthony Edwards. Now, we just have to wait until the Fall to see how it turns out.

Closing out the year, just in time for Christmas comes a family film that will definitely have me in the audience, Charlotte's Web. This was one of my favorite books as a little kid. I could not tell you how many times I read it, the adventures of the pig and the wizened spider, and all the other barnyard critters, especially the rat. This is a live action adaptation of the classic children's story. It is being directed by Gary Winick, who was behind 2004's Big redux 13 Going on 30. It stars Dakota Fanning, who is one of th best young actresses I have ever seen. The film is full of talking animals, and being such requires a good deal of voice talent, the lineup they have assembled includes Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Cedric the Entertainer, André Benjamin, Thomas Haden Church, Robert Redford, Reba McEntire, and Kathy Bates. I will be there for sure.

That brings us to a close for Paramount's current 2006 lineup. Looks like a mixed bag for me, a few definites, a couple maybes, and a few no's. New Fincher and Stone films are something to look forward to, and I also look forward to JJ Abrams debut on the big screen. So, do think you'll be seeing any of these?


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