The Toronto Sun rakes through the pile to pick the top 10 movies of the coming season.
Feeling dissatisfied, uncomfortable, irritated and — let’s face it — a little gassy after this summer’s slate of weak flicks? Sure, we had Spider-Man 2 and Shrek 2, and surprisingly good fare like Collateral, Napoleon Dynamite and The Bourne Supremacy.
But make no mistake: The summer movie season sucked. Suckity-suck-sucked. Virtually all of the big-buzz flicks were colossal disappointments while most of the other films were exercises in mediocrity.
Sadly, we’re the bearers of more bad news: The fall movie season doesn’t seem a whole lot better, and appears to have even fewer surefire hits than the summer. What it does have, though, are lots of cartoons — and plenty of sex goddess Angelina Jolie, who appears in three of our top 10 flicks.
Hmm, maybe this fall’s not so bad after all …
10. BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON
Opens Nov. 19
– WHAT: In this sequel to the 2001 hit Bridget Jones’s Diary, plump and opinionated Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is now happily married to her dream man, lawyer Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). Or is she? Many, many conflicts arise, in the form of Mark’s hot new intern, the worst vacation of Bridget’s life, the return of her ex-boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and Bridget’s discovery that Mark is — gasp! — a Conservative voter.
– HOT: Thankfully, most of the talent arrayed for the first flick has returned, including crack screenwriters Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis. And any excuse to add some meat to Zellweger’s sinewy frame is okay by us.
– COLD: It’s been years since Bridget-mania swept the nation — and the critical reaction to this film’s literary incarnation was less-than-stellar.
– WE SAY: A second helping of Miss Jones should please adult audiences — especially all those lonely, desperate singletons. But we doubt it will be nearly as good as the original.
9. LADDER 49
Opens Oct. 1
– WHAT: When firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) gets trapped inside a burning building, he reflects on his life and marriage. Meanwhile, the other brave men from his firehall — including father figure Chief Kennedy (John Travolta) — try desperately to rescue him.
– HOT: With all its pyrotechnics and macho-man bonding, Ladder 49 is like a summer movie transplanted to the fall — only, it seems, with more brains and heart; it has been a long time since we’ve had an honest-to-goodness firefighter flick (Backdraft, 1991).
– COLD: And it seems almost as long since Travolta has had a bona fide hit. Can we finally disassociate him from the cinematic steaming piles Battlefield Earth and The General’s Daughter?
– WE SAY: Ladder 49 looks entirely predictable, but Phoenix is great in everything he does — and that includes his summer dud The Village.
8. THE POLAR EXPRESS
Opens Nov. 10
– WHAT: In one of several high-profile animated flicks of the season, Tom Hanks lends his dulcet tones — and body movements — to the role of The Conductor, who’s in charge of a magical train that takes kids to the North Pole. The movie uses technology called “performance capture,” which computer-animates the movements of actors on bare soundstages.
– HOT: When Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis team up (Cast Away, Forrest Gump), the result usually means a big pile o’ cash the two probably use to light cigars while laughing uncontrollably; Peter Scolari — a.k.a. the less successful guy from Bosom Buddies — is finally reunited with Hanks, playing a character likely too aptly named “Lonely Boy.”
– COLD: Former Hollywood golden boy Hanks has stumbled recently — The Ladykillers and The Terminal failed to impress audiences and critics.
– WE SAY: All aboard! But kids only — aside from the impressive visuals, there doesn’t seem to be much to appeal at an adult level, unless you still believe Santa Claus is real. And believe us, he ain’t: All we got last year was a “best of” Dan Aykroyd DVD.
Opens Oct. 29
– WHAT: Suddenly hot actor Jamie Foxx stars as legendary soul singer Ray Charles in this biopic that covers his life from an impoverished youth to his rise to the top of the charts.
– HOT: Foxx’s career is set to blast off, what with his terrific turn in this summer’s Collateral and now this big, showy role as a larger-than-life icon; the lavish trailer practically screamed “For Your Oscar Consideration,” as it featured great music and scenes with Charles facing his drug addiction and battling racism, etc.
– COLD: Is Foxx going to be the next Denzel Washington or the next — dare we speaketh his unclean name — Cuba Gooding Jr.? And is it too early to be releasing a picture based on the life of somebody who died so recently (June)? That seems so TV-movie-of-the-week.
– WE SAY: We’re betting this will be a Ray of sunshine through the murk of the fall releases — and that Foxx’s stock continues to rise.
Opens Sept. 17
– WHAT: In this romantic comedy/ sports movie, down-on-his-luck tennis player Peter Colt (Paul Bettany), seeded at the bottom of the rankings, somehow makes the cut at Wimbledon. There he meets hot young American tennis sensation Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) — and, naturally, falls in love with her. Suddenly, Peter starts playing great again — but how long can that last?
– HOT: Wimbledon is served up to us from the fine people who made Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary, which bodes very well for the quality of this flick; both Bettany and Dunst seem on the verge of big things — so why not break out at the same time?
– COLD: Sure, it looks predictable, but what romantic comedy isn’t? But tennis flicks aren’t easy sells — we’re still trying to recover from Carling Bassett’s 1982 grunt-a-thon, Spring Fever.
– WE SAY: Wimbledon looks like it has the potential to ace the competition — oddly enough, experts say it’s already more successful than Anna Kournikova’s tennis career.
5. FINDING NEVERLAND
Opens Oct. 22
– WHAT: This is the story of eccentric Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) and his relationship with widowed mother Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her three young boys. Their experiences would ultimately influence Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan.
– HOT: Not only is this is a Prestige movie with a capital “P,” this is also a Miramax flick, meaning it’s prime Oscar bait. It has an excellent pedigree, including Depp, Winslet and director Marc Forster, whose last acclaimed effort was Monster’s Ball, featuring Halle Berry doing the dirty deed with Billy Bob Thornton. As Beyonce wouldn’t say: Boobylicious!
– COLD: The last Peter Pan flick tanked at the box office at Christmas, leaving us wondering whether the moviegoing public gives a fig about a little boy in tights who flies around the air.
– WE SAY: Too bad this flick wasn’t called Finding Neverland: The Violently Grisly Takedown Of Michael Jackson, because that’s definitely something we’d be excited about. Still, if you want to see what will likely be one of the most prominent Oscar-worthy films of the year, you could do worse than check this out.
Opens Nov. 5
– WHAT: Oliver Stone directs this historical epic documenting the life of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who ruled most of the known world by the time he turned 30. Whereas by the time he turns 30, star Colin Farrell will have gotten drunk and passed out in most of the known world.
– HOT: His bad-boy image aside, we’re anxious to see what the talented Farrell can really achieve if he actually applied himself — and Stone may be the right director to push his buttons; the lovely Angelina Jolie stars as Olympias, Alexander’s jealous mother and, we must declare, the hottest MILF in movie history.
– COLD: Anybody remember Troy, that other sword-and-sandal epic that was supposed to hack up the box office? Didn’t think so.
– WE SAY: Stone seems to be the right man to make the material seem fresh — let’s just keep the conspiracy theories about the cause of Alexander’s death out of it, okay?
3. SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
Opens Sept. 17
– WHAT: In this fantastical sci-fi adventure set in 1930s New York, ace fighter pilot Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan (Jude Law) and sassy reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) must rescue his sidekick Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) and missing scientists from the clutches of the evil Dr. Totenkopf (played, apparently, by long-deceased actor Laurence Olivier through archival footage). Help comes in the very curvaceous form of Capt. Frankie Cook, played by Angelina Jolie in tight outfit and eyepatch: Please put yourself in the upright position, if you know what we mean.
– HOT: The visuals are spectacularly retro-animation. Everything about this film — from the giant robots attacking New York City to the melodramatic dialogue and music — is like an homage to the 1930s and those old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons.
– COLD: Sure, geeks will dig it, but is this going to be another movie where it’s all looks, no story? And will the idea of using Olivier — albeit with a different actor dubbing his lines — prove to be more offputting than inspired?
– WE SAY: This looks like the movie cheesy-serial lover George Lucas has been wanting to make all his life — but is still incapable of even imagining. Sky Captain’s visuals and cast of terrific actors make it look too good to pass up.
2. SHARK TALE
Opens Oct. 1
– WHAT: After little fish Oscar (the voice of Will Smith) takes credit for killing a great white shark, the consequences of his great white lie come catching up to him. Soon he’s in trouble with the shark mafia, led by Don Lino (Robert De Niro), who’s fretting about his meek, vegetarian son Lenny (Jack Black).
– HOT: In case you haven’t noticed, family cartoons are all the rage these days. And while having a star cast is no guarantee of box-office success (Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas, anyone?), this kiddie flick is loaded with top-end talent, including Renee Zellweger, Martin Scorsese and — you guessed it — Angelina Jolie, who might as well have the word Fall ’04 tattooed on her ass. Actually, it probably already is.
– COLD: Let’s see … a computer-animated movie set under the sea and featuring fish protagonists? Wasn’t that called Finding Nemo? The story — which sounds like it would probably star Matthew Perry if this were a live-action flick — doesn’t sound especially original, nor does it seem as though it would resonate emotionally like Nemo and other animated films of its ilk.
– WE SAY: Even if it isn’t caviar, we’re sure this fish story will be a big hit with audiences. But come on, De Niro — get back to cursing at people and swatting them over the head with a baseball bat. Please?
1. THE INCREDIBLES
– WHAT: A family of superheroes led by Bob Parr — a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) — is called out of their self-imposed retirement in suburbia when the patriarch is summoned to a mysterious island for a top-secret mission. Too bad Mr. Incredible’s Spandex tights no longer fit him the way they used to. Also too bad: Angelina Jolie doesn’t make an appearance here.
– HOT: Why did this movie shoot to the top of our list faster than a speeding bullet? Because computer-animation company Pixar can do no wrong. Plus, this marks animation whiz Brad Bird’s first collaboration with Pixar — and judging by his track record (The Iron Giant, The Simpsons), we should expect something really good. And check out that cast, which also includes Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson. Nelson is, fortunately, the only Coach alumnus on the roster.
– COLD: Then again, expectations may exceed what ultimately gets onto the big screen. And this is Pixar’s first foray into rendering mostly human characters instead of loveable fish, wisecracking toys or fuzzy monsters, so there’s an element of risk here.
– WE SAY: This flick will rule the fall season. Because if you want a movie to make a gazillion dollars, you have to make something that will appeal to families — kids AND adults — and get them to return to the theatre over and over again. We’re certain this is one of those movies that has got that special alchemy just right.