Fall Movie Preview 2012: Action/Thrillers

The action films of this fall range from horror-action to sci fi to martial arts, but a good chunk of them are “people go missing and revenge is the solution” flicks. Perhaps that’s inspired by one particular sequel in bunch…



The Cold Light of Day (Sep. 7)

Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri
Written by Scott Wiper, John Petro
Starring: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver

Summary: A family unites for a vacation in Spain. The eldest son Will (Cavill) suddenly finds they’ve disappeared. He later finds his father (Willis) who it turns out is CIA. He must then make a choice when some higher ups propose to trade him his family’s return for something his father has of theirs.

The Word: Pushed back from April when I already previewed it “Cold Light of Day” stars Henry Cavill, who will be known to the world as Superman in a year’s time, but that probably won’t help him here, though it’s solid to be alongside a reliable vet in Willis. Director El Mechri previous made the unique Jean-Claude Van Damme film “JCVD.”

My Thoughts: Here’s a chance to see how Cavill can perform as a more traditional action star, but the pushed release date and the general corniness of the trailer have me more than skeptical.


Resident Evil: Retribution (Sep. 14)

Written and Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez

Summary: The “Resident Evil” franchise “goes global” in its fifth installment, as Alice (Jovovich) wakes up in the Umbrella Corporation and learns more and more about her mysterious past with the organization. She takes the fight to China, Russia, Europe and more.

The Word: By the looks of it, Anderson has upped the scale and the ante as far as action is concerned for “Retribution.” Fans of the series will no doubt be excited by this one, and the resurrection of a couple key characters, including the one played by Michelle Rodriguez, suggests something out of the ordinary.

My Thoughts: The series should pull in its usual legion of fans, but there’s no reason to believe that it will suddenly become more appealing or cater to folks who haven’t stuck with the series through the first four installments.


Stolen (Sep. 14 – Limited)

Directed by Simon West
Written by David Guggenheim
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Malin Akerman, Josh Lucas

Summary: A former bank robber (Cage) discovers his old partner (Lucas) has kidnapped his daughter and stuffed her into the trunk of a taxi. He has a mere hours to get him money or save his little girl.

The Word: Yes, it is what you’re thinking: the basic premise behind “Taken” has been redressed to fit the world of theft and been slapped with a title that makes those comparisons obvious. Simon West, who directed Cage in maybe his best action role in “Con Air,” directs with a script from “Safe House” writer David Guggenheim.

My Thoughts: On the Nic Cage spectrum, “Stolen” looks to be pretty middle of the road, which might seem like a compliment, but given how far into the depths of decrepit that that side of the spectrum goes where his resume is concerned, it doesn’t say much for the outlook on this film. I like West in charge as he just helped improve “The Expendables” with its superior sequel and Guggenheim seems reliable, but the conventions and clichés look to have taken this one over, no pun intended.


Dredd (Sep. 21)

Directed by Pete Travis
Written by Alex Garland, Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner (characters)
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

Summary: In the future, the population lives in giant cities and the police (known as judges) have the authority to be judge, jury and executioner. When Mega City One gets hooked on a new drug controlled by one woman (Headey), it’s up to Judge Dredd (Urban) and a rookie judge (Thirlby) to restore law and order.

The Word: After Sylvester Stallone’s derided 1995 adaptation of this “2000 A.D.” comic book character, revisiting “Judge Dredd” quickly became risky film territory. Pete Travis (“Vantage Point”) gives it a try with the excellent Urban (“Star Trek”) starring. Screenings at Comic-Con went over surprisingly well despite what appears to be an uninspired premise.

My Thoughts: I was excited at the prospect of an Urban-led “Dredd,” but the fall release date (shouldn’t this be a summer movie?) cooled my jets. The buzz from Comic-Con, however, suggests this could be properly executed mindless fun. Let’s hope, as the fall doesn’t offer much of that.


Looper (Sep. 28)

Written and Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

Summary: “Looper” imagines a future in which time travel exists but is illegal, used only by the mob to send its hits back in time to be offed by guys called Loopers. JGL plays one such Looper, but things get complicated for him when his future self appears (Willis). Failing to kill his target a.k.a. himself, his whole world is turned upside-down.

The Word: Adored indie director Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom”) makes a big jump with “Looper,” which felt initially like a smaller sci-fi project, but given the way Sony has marketed the film, it appears to be more like a cornerstone of the fall. Given all the promotional materials, it looks like we could have the closest thing to excellent original sci fi since “Inception.”

My Thoughts: I’m a sucker for time travel movies, but I’m not in the minority for being intrigued by this film. All the talent here is top notch and the trailers have been exciting while not giving away much of anything either. The big questions in this film also appear to go beyond time travel.


Taken 2 (Oct. 5)

Directed by Olivier Megaton
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija

Summary: Retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) meets his family for a little getaway in Istanbul only to discover that the men who he killed for kidnapping his daughter (Grace) have been planning their revenge.

The Word: The Luc Besson action family delivers this sequel to the surprise 2008 hit that launched Neeson into the action star stratosphere. Olivier Megaton (“Transporter 3,” “Colombiana”) takes over directing duties from Pierre Morel, who has been sought after for countless projects since “Taken” took off.

My Thoughts: “Taken” was obviously not a film that anyone expected would get a sequel, but here we are. The big draw is Neeson being a badass again, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but is there enough of a premise here to make it worthwhile? I’m not so confident, but how bad can it be to find out?


The Man with the Iron Fists (Nov. 2)

Directed by RZA
Written by Eli Roth, RZA
Starring: RZA, Cung Lee, Lucy Liu, Russell Crowe, Jamie Chung

Summary: A blacksmith in feudal China who makes the finest killing weapons must defend himself as seven clans vie for a shipment of gold.

The Word: Consider this modern, stylized kung fu movie a child of the “Kill Bill” films. RZA, who appeared in and wrote music for Quentin Tarantino’s two-parter gets the spotlight and some help from the Tarantino family tree. Tarantino produces and Eli Roth co-wrote the script with RZA. “Kill Bill” star Lucy Liu appears and Russell Crowe provides the gravitas.

My Thoughts: For kung fu movie purists, I can’t imagine “The Man with the Iron Fists” will be anything but insulting; for people into creative blood-letting and the kung fu aesthetic, however, perhaps this will do the trick. Having the Tarantino name suggests a certain degree of badass-ness, and the November release says something about Universal’s confidence in it.


Skyfall (Nov. 9)

Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, Ian Flemming (characters)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris

Summary: Things are rough at MI6. M (Dench) has lost a drive containing the identities of her agents and Bond ends up killed — or not. After deciding to return as 007, Bond must go after the fearsome Raoul Silva (Bardem).

The Word: MGM’s financial woes nearly shelved Bond for a good chunk of time, but Sony saved it soon enough and retained its Oscar-winning talent: Sam Mendes as director (“American Beauty”), John Logan as writer (“Gladiator”) and supporting actors Bardem and Ralph Fiennes. Gritty dramatic Bond as played by Craig is most certainly back.

My Thoughts: “Skyfall” looks like an absolute knockout. The talent is off the charts and the previews suggest nothing short of a thrilling Bond adventure. While Mendes — like “Quantum of Solace” director Marc Forster — has no serious action credits to his name and that was a criticism of the 2008 film, Mendes’ films are always breathtaking and “Skyfall” looks to be just that.


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