BOP 25 of Fall: Selections 15-6

By BOP Staff

September 5, 2007

I sure could go for some Tang. 15) In the Shadow of the Moon

July 20, 1969 is a momentous day in history for mankind. It was the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men ever to set foot on the moon. In the decades since that remarkable achievement, interest in space travel has waned in our society. Potentially unsafe machinery and soaring budgets have caused many people to sour on space exploration. But there was a time - a glorious time - when men walked on the moon and people were incredibly inspired by the feat.

There are still occasional signs that there might still be a spark in our eyes when it comes to taking to the stars. Wallace and Gromit journeyed to the moon in a homemade rocketship in search of the perfect cheese. Billy Bob Thornton inspired his family to follow an impossible dream in The Astronaut Farmer. We still dream of what's "out there", and In the Shadow of the Moon explores the very real men who achieved that dream.

Winner of the Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, In the Shadow of the Moon gives us the story of the Apollo missions in words of the members of the various Apollo missions. Of the participants, Neil Armstrong is notably absent, but nonetheless the men who do speak take the audience through the philosophies and ideas that led to the moon landings. Much of the footage in the movie was filmed by the astronauts themselves.

With incredible buzz and subject matter that is appealing to all ages, In the Shadow of the Moon has a great chance at being the standout documentary of 2007. We're looking forward to reclaiming that feeling of wonder that the world once had with regard to space travel when it comes to theaters in our hometowns. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
It's a book. People of my generation read them. 14) In the Valley of Elah

No other film in the BOP 25 of Fall is as topical as In the Valley of Elah. Perhaps accidentally or maybe intentionally, the story is eerily similar to that of Pat Tillman. The former Arizona Cardinal gave up fame and glory in order to serve his country during a time of crisis. Tragically, he was killed during his time served. Early reports indicated he had fallen in the line of duty. It was only afterward that the truth came out. Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, possibly even assassinated. A cover-up was created in order to hide the truth from American citizens who would later prove to be horrified by the circumstances surrounding his death.

Imagine a story like that but with a slew of Academy Awards winners and contenders involved in the production. That is what we have with In the Valley of Elah. Tommy Lee Jones, former roommate to Al Gore, headlines this heavily pedigreed cast. He stars as a proud father who sees his son go off to serve in the military. When the young man's unit returns without him, his father sets out to uncover what has happened. In the process of his dogged hunt for the truth, Jones' character unearths a secret with an existence that the government had desperately sought to hide.

This movie may yet prove too much of a sore spot for North American audiences to handle. Upon viewing the trailer, however, BOP is of the opinion that In the Valley of Elah is a serious Academy Awards contender. The inevitable controversy may limit its box office, but it does nothing to dampen our excitement to see if the film is as good as its trailer. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I still think I did a good job as Batman. 13) Michael Clayton

Fourth year Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Michael Clayton may be an odd choice for a sports biography film, but his inspiring story is...wait... I am being told that is not who this film is about. OK... I see now that this is actually the semi-annual "George Clooney is socially conscious" film. I apologize for any confusion. The latest in his series of collaborations with Steve Soderbergh (producing here), Michael Clayton stars Clooney as a "fixer" – a lawyer/investigator brought in to solve the toughest legal problems. Although he's slowly becoming burned out, bitter and jaded about his role in life, he's called on to handle a multi-billion dollar class action case after the lead defender has a nervous breakdown. Clayton discovers that the case is bigger than anyone could have realized, and not just his reputation, but his freedom, his life, and his conscience are at stake. This film reminds us nothing so much as the run of legal thrillers in the early 1990s, most notably The Firm. And while Grisham is something of a dirty word these days, the cast, which includes Sydney Pollack, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton, among others, and its writer and director Tony Gilroy (who was writer or co-writer for all three Bourne films) has us hoping for a superior example of a legal potboiler. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)

He needs to kill someone but he also absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. 12) Shoot 'Em Up

"I'm a British nanny and I'm dangerous."

These should have been the words that kept Jude Law from cheating on Sienna Miller. Instead, they are the words Clive Owen espouses in his latest action film we have to accept in lieu of him as James Bond, Shoot ‘Em Up. This time, he plays a former English super-soldier who now spends his days taking care of small children. As the world's most dangerous as well as snoggable nanny, Owen's character, Mr. Smith (presumably not the Brad Pitt one), finds himself forced to protect the child of Italy's greatest national export, Monica Bellucci. It seems that one Paul Giamatti is after the woman and her child, and only Killer Nanny stands in the way of his succeeding.

Okay, admittedly, this sounds all sorts of awful in terms of storyline. In our defense, take a look at the three people above frontlining the movie. That's a pretty strong trio of talent, but the real selling point of Shoot ‘Em Up is the action. The sole reason this film ever made it into production was the meticulous detail spent in explaining the novel battle sequences. For the first time since perhaps 2001's The Musketeer, the Hong Kong take on Alexandre Dumas'classic, the film has worked backwards from the stunts to the story. The result will probably be dialogue that would make George Lucas roll his eyes, but we are an eclectic bunch at BOP. We love visceral action sequences so much that we created the Best Scene category four end-of-year Calvin Awards. The idea of a movie with action stunts so complex that they had to be hand drawn in order to allow for their complete visualization is...arousing. We'll check our brains at the door and go with it on the combat. We already did it with Ong Bak and The Protector. We can do it again here. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Weirdest. Threesome. Ever. 11) Across the Universe

"Is there anybody going to listen to my story? All about the girl who came to stay."

This lyric is the one that starts out the Across the Universe trailer, and what a trailer it is. With accompanying Beatles music (sung by various members of the cast), we can see that this film is going to be a journey through the 1960s - from the anti-war effort to the struggle for civil rights, the sexual revolution and the growth of rock 'n' roll. From Julie Taymor, who previously directed Titus and Frida (as well as the Broadway production of The Lion King), Across the Universe promises to be a visually stimulating project that probably has its closest kin in Moulin Rouge! - and even that may be a stretch.

We're guessing that Across the Universe will be a love it or hate it affair. In fact, this is already bearing out with just the trailers and previews, as our staff is fairly divided amongst people who are truly excited to see the film and those who believe it has all the appeal of a root canal. No matter what, any Taymor project should be highly original, and we look forward to seeing what the reaction to the film ultimately is. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
The Girl Next Door must be so proud of him. 10) Into the Wild

After his 1990 graduation from Emory University, Christopher McCandless changed his name, ended all communications with his family members, donated all of his money ($25,000 in cash) to OXFAM and then disappeared. Later, he would leave behind his car and burn every bit of money he had in his wallet. Eventually, he made his way to Stampede Trail in Alaska, where his odyssey would truly begin.

This true story was introduced to the world with an article by Jon Krakauer in the magazine "Outside". That 9,000 word article eventually expanded into a best-selling non-fiction book. Now, that book has been adapted to film by director Sean Penn, who previously was behind the camera for such stuff as The Crossing Guard and The Pledge. Emile Hirsch, a young actor we have enjoyed since his star turn in the underrated The Girl Next Door, stars as Christopher McCandless, and there are supporting turns from William Hurt, Vince Vaughn, Marcia Gay Harden and Catherine Keener. With the level of talent involved, there's a lot of reason to be excited, and given what we know of the story, it's not just another "man survives in nature" film. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
I wonder what Justine is doing right now. 9) The Kingdom

The scene is a horrifying and all too-familiar one – a bombing of a facility in the Middle East, leaving scores dead and injured for a motive poorly understood. The Kingdom is a look into the process of going after a mass-murderer in this region, in one of the most restrictive countries in the world – Saudi Arabia. After an American complex is bombed there, a special FBI task unit is called in to investigate and bring the killers to justice. They are more than hampered, however, by local officials who are less than thrilled to have foreign investigators on their turf, and may even be working against them. It's a race against time as evidence grows cold, and an increasingly hostile situation on the ground puts their lives in danger.

Direction is in the capable hands of Peter Berg, who impressed us with The Rundown and Friday Night Lights, and is making his first foray into thrillers. Another reason that we're excited about this film is producer Michael Mann, who has been a BOP-favorite for some time. Let's not forget a really solid cast that includes Jaime Foxx (even if we are getting a bit sick of him) as the lead investigator, along with Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman and Jeremy Piven. Although it's not the cheeriest subject matter, the talent involved could make one of the more interesting pictures of the fall. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Pegg finally deduces what T.F.U. stood for on Spaced. 8) Run, Fatboy, Run

To say we're pleased with the career output of Simon Pegg so far would be a bit of an understatement. To say we're mildly obsessed with his career output would also be a bit of an understatement. The actor and creative mind behind the cult TV series Spaced and the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz weighs heavily on our minds. However, the letters from Mr. Pegg's legal representation have made it perfectly clear that some of our efforts to show our... appreciation with his work are inappropriate, and while we're working at finding more socially acceptable ways of expressing it (think: collages), we have his latest film to tide us over.

Run, Fat Boy, Run sees Pegg branch out from working with long-time collaborator Edgar Wright (not to mention his sidekick Nick Frost). From a script by Michael Ian Black (formerly of The State and Ed) and directed by... David Schwimmer (wait, come back!), Fat Boy stars Pegg as a slacker 30-something who manages to land Thandie Newton and impregnate her. For some reason, this unsettles him, and he ditches her at the altar. Flash forward a little while later and he realizes he's made an awful, awful mistake, but she's moved on to an American executive (played with full on smarm by Hank Azaria) who happens to be a marathoner. Pegg's character decides that the only way to win her back is to beat her new guy at his own game and run his first marathon (or run any real distance, actually) to prove that he's the guy for her. Comic zaniness ensues, as Pegg has to pick himself up from his colossal mistake and prove that he's a real man.

This ranges more into the date movie area than we're used to for Pegg, but as one of the funniest humans on the planet, we're more than willing to make the stretch and sacrifice for this film. I mean, after you've mailed the guy a finger (ours? Someone else's? Does it matter?), this is nothing. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Figure out which one of these people doesn't suck and win a prize! 7) Dan in Real Life

BOP likes Steve Carell. We adore him as the clueless Michael Scott on The Office, and his portrayal of the innocent and sweet Andy in The 40 Year-Old Virgin endeared him to us forever. With his terrific supporting turn in Little Miss Sunshine, he cemented a place in our hearts as a guy we'll give a chance in just about anything. We even forgive him for Evan Almighty.

This fall, Carell teams up with an amazing cast that includes Juliette Binoche, John Mahoney, Dianne Wiest...and Dane Cook. Well, all of those people except for Dane Cook sound just great, and every now and then an actor we hate can surprise us (see: Craig Bierko in the most recent season of Boston Legal). So we'll just hope for that where Cook is involved.

As for the film itself, it is directed by Peter Hedges, who co-wrote About a Boy (one of our favorite films of the decade) and wrote and directed Pieces of April. Carell plays a widowed advice columnist who seems to think of everyone but himself. That all changes when he meets the woman of his dreams (Binoche), but there's just one little complication. She's dating his brother (Cook). Yes, we'd totally dump him for Carell, too.

Dan in Real Life looks as though it could be as sweet as Little Miss Sunshine and Carell appears perfectly suited to the role. Here's hoping the film is a lot closer to his earlier work and stays far away from the foibles of Evan Almighty. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Brad Pitt does his best Val Kilmer-as-Johnny Ringo. 6) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse James has been a source of fascination for more than a century now. There have been numerous books and films about the man, primarily dealing with his larger-than-life persona and exploits. In movies and television, James has been portrayed by a number of notable performers, including James Coburn, James Dean, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, James Keach, Kris Kristofferson, Tyrone Power and Roy Rogers. Brad Pitt will add his name to this storied list as he portrays the infamous outlaw in the awkwardly titled The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

When Jesse James was actively heading up the James Gang in the 1870s, many people viewed him as a kind of Robin Hood. He was a tragic figure, a former Confederate soldier who was avenging the wrongs commited by a Union that had destroyed his life. He was a free spirit who also came to be a symbol of the Wild West, an inspiration for people who lived everyday, ordinary lives. One such person was a young man named Robert Ford, who had dedicated his life to riding alongside his idol. In the end, of course, he'd be remembered instead for being the dirty coward who shot James in the back.

Along with Pitt, the film features a strong cast, including Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, Sam Shepard, Sam Rockwell, Mary-Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel and Garret Dillahunt (who is no stranger to the Western genre, having played *two* characters on Deadwood). "Assassination" is written and directed by Andrew Dominik, who previously helmed the excellent crime drama Chopper. There is some cause for concern given that the film has seen its release delayed for a year, but the premise and cast definitely have our hopes high nonetheless. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

BOP 25 of Fall: 25-16
BOP 25 of Fall: 5-1



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