On the wrong side of July

The end of the summer marathon is almost around the corner. It’s raining pretty much consistently both inside and outside your heart, because Iron Man 3 has come and gone; the USS Enterprise has embarked on another adventure; Letty is reunited with Dom; the Four Horsemen are successfully off the grid; and the Kaiju attacks have been thwarted. There are a few more blockbusters in the July roster pending, but the energy is already fizzling.

Worry not. March on, for you may not have heard much of them, but these might just turn out to be the surprise package of 2013…

Paranoia

Post July_Paranoia

Robert Luketic; if you tell me you have never heard of him, it shall be safely assumed that you are no fan of Legally Blonde, and hence would have generally avoided his progress in Hollywood. But then progress he did, from rom-coms (Legally Blonde, The Ugly Truth, Killers) to (meek) heist-thrillers (21) to corporate espionage. His recent do, Paranoia, set for an August release, looks reasonably inviting.

Paranoia appears like a power-packed, two-hour journey of one brains-and-brawn Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), who starts out as a gifted junior employee at Wyatt Corporation and is persuaded by the company CEO Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) into spying for his competitor and mentor Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Needless to say, as oft exhibited in such stories, the small fry always end up at the butcher’s doorstep (this one is based on a 2004 bestseller by the same name authored by Joseph Finder); but our hero Cassidy here, decides (and hopefully) succeeds at flinging himself back in the game.

Now, there have been plenty of movies with a similar plotline you would say, and that certainly makes things harder to set apart a movie like this. The last, truly classic (if such denominations be allowed for movies made in 2007) was Michael Clayton, starring biggies like George Clooney, Sydney Pollack, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson. On the casting front, Paranoia seems to be in the relative safety of Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, both of whom were last seen together on the screen in Air Force One (1997). Gary Oldman, possibly the most  malleable actor of his generation, seems to have revived his lost cockney accent for this movie and is sticking true to the Hollywood tradition of casting the British as the villain (yes, I know there have been exceptions, but of late, John Harrison and Loki would beg to differ). Harrison Ford, though not as versatile, and bald, still manages to glare menacingly, deliver one-liners with a poker face and look the part of a 60-year old business tycoon who can still beat you at cross-country (mind, Harrison Ford is himself 71). I am yet to come across a movie where he has played an all-out anti-hero; Paranoia gives copious hints of grey, in his character.

What should really be the point of concern (or joy, as the case may be), would be the performance of Liam Hemsworth. He is decades younger than both his main co-stars and has less than a tenth in terms of experience (The Hunger Games, The Expendables 2) and is still naggingly mentioned as the kid brother to Chris Hemsworth. Though it might be asking too much to surpass Oldman and Ford, but the young actor seems to have plenty of opportunities to establish screen presence. The story is basically his, and the obvious plotline and the redundancy of minimalistic acting skills required in a movie of this nature seem like a good pad for the youngster to grow further in Hollywood.

Closed Circuit

Post July_Closed CircuitAnother August release bodes well for crime-thriller lovers: Closed Circuit, starring a clutch of the best, delves into the classic nested-doll situation: what seems on the surface, is hardly the truth. In the lead are the immensely talented Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, supported by Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, Bourne series), Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Harry Potter series), Ciaran Hinds (Munich, Road to Perdition, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Riz Ahmed (who recently earned healthy reviews for his part in Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist). Eric Bana has already played a green, bulging monster, a cold-blooded mercenary cum superb cook, the Trojan hero Hector, a face-painted alien baddie, among several others. His facial features allow him to alternate between cold indifference and heart-melting warmth, though in Closed Circuit, he appears to bring forth more of the former. This might not be the best or the most innovative role Bana has played out till date, but rather, this is one of those cases where the character demands a Matt Damon or a Johnny Depp, but neither being available to play the suave, tight-lipped agent who doesn’t let his inner bafflement destroy his rhythm (assuming Matt Damon was busy doing Elysium, and Depp was straightening his stuffed-crow hat to assist The Lone Ranger), Bana seems like a good alternative.

Rebecca Hall, first chosen by Christopher Nolan for a role alongside the likes of Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in The Prestige, has never since failed to impress, proving her worth as the practical but insecure Vicky of Vicky Christina Barcelona, and tolerant, pained girlfriend in The Town. Besides being highly hailed in the British circuit, the last we remember of Hall is as Maya Hansen of Iron Man 3. Closed Circuit runs along the same lines as Paranoia at least in terms of entertainment quotient. Ciaran Hinds and Julia Stiles have often been cast in similar coat-and-dagger movies like this one and hence it wouldn’t be wrong not to expect some edge-of-the-seat action. While the trailer looks promising, we can only keep our fingers crossed and hope that this is not just another John Grisham influence.

The Family

Post July_The FamilyOn a completely different ground, one should have his eyes peeled for The Family. The story revolves around a Mafia family relocated to France under the witness protection programme, after telling on their other Mafia buddies. Robert de Niro plays Fred Blake, the head of the family, who is trying to keep his family at peace in France, an endeavour he not only resents but also thoroughly fails at. Michelle Pfeiffer returns with the Stardust wickedness; she is trying really hard to fit in with the French and a normal social life, but then old habits die hard. Pfeiffer is one of those actresses who can pull off evil with style and she doesn’t disappoint here (note the part where she daintily walks off after setting the supermarket on fire).

De Niro, with slip-ons and long hair unbecoming of an erstwhile Mafia, himself sets a fine example though: he beats the plumber to pulp, but makes sure the poor victim is hospitalised. Another veteran, Tommy Lee-Jones, playing a CIA agent, lives up to his reputation of not smiling, and begs De Niro to lie low; he is tired of finding new places to help settle the Blake family every 90 days. Their ‘unconventional’ handling of daily hiccups causes the disgruntled mob to catch up with them, but it doesn’t look like the Blake family will take that lying down, the kids included. No hi-tech action to be expected here, in fact everyone appears to be extremely handy with weapons; being able to punch and shoot is tantamount to family pride.

For greater comfort, consider the fact that The Family is directed by Luc Besson, who wrote screenplays for the The Transporter series, and the executive producer happens to be one Martin Scorsese. We know what that means and hence requires no further elucidation. Set for a September release, one can be hoped to be entertained in this action-comedy flick.

So once the curtains are drawn on July with The Wolverine, life isn’t going to be all that dull after all. And while these movies need not necessarily win Oscars, they seem set to keep you biting your nails or tickle your funny bone. Or at least give you two-hours worth of entertainment!


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