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Fall movie preview
Autumn movies up prestige factor, but box-office slump will likely go on unabated
The mutha%$#!in’ snakes have been dispatched from the mutha%$#!in’ plane. Superman has made his grand return to a surprisingly lukewarm reception. Johnny Depp has swashed his buckles in an even more bombastic Pirates Of The Caribbean movie.
So now it’s time to get serious. As in, summer fun is over and it’s time for the grownups to come back to the movie theatres.
But even if this fall is offering up the usual array of Oscar contenders, serious dramas and light comedies — you know, basically a bunch of flicks that don’t feature Samuel L. Jackson cursing at a reptile — we’re still not willing to bet the farm that older audiences are going to head back to the movie houses.
Why shell out $11 for a movie ticket, find a sitter for the kids, pay for parking, buy the popcorn and Jujubes and plug your ears while navigating your way through the pulsating, neon hellscape that is the modern multiplex when you can just wait for one of these flicks to come out on DVD in a few months and watch the damned thing from the comfort of your own living room.
It will likely take more than this crop of fall flicks to pull Hollywood out of its box-office doldrums — which seems to have been going on forever now. By our count, there may only be one must-see flick for the mainstream masses who think Atom Egoyan is something they vaguely remember from high school physics classes: The risky reboot of the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale, which stars Daniel Craig, a guy who would likely have been cast as a bad guy if Pierce Brosnan was still wearing the tux and shaking the martini.
While the fall movie slate is dominated by such heavy dramas as the remake of All The King’s Men and Flags Of Our Fathers, there’s a little something for everyone, including sci-fi (The Fountain), horror (The Grudge 2, The Reaping, Jessica Simpson in Employee Of The Month, brrrr!), kiddie flicks (Flushed Away, Everyone’s Hero, Flicka) and comedies (Idiocracy, Jackass Number Two).
As is our custom this time of year, we’ve rounded up a list of the top 10 movies we’re looking forward to seeing as the days grow shorter and the air turns brisker. Nice guys that we are, we’ve also put together a list of other movies coming out over the next few months. Here’s what fall has in store for you:
WHO? Kirsten Dunst, Jason Shwartzman, Rip Torn
WHAT? The story of the 18th-century French queen who — SPOILER ALERT! — got her head lopped off at the height of the French Revolution. The flick was actually shot at Versailles, where Antoinette held court. Meanwhile, director Sofia Coppola eschews the straightforward historical approach by borrowing a page from, of all things, Heath Ledger’s A Knight’s Tale — this Marie Antoinette dances to Siouxsie and the Banshees and sports a pair of sneakers. Eat that cake, snooty French historians!
WHY? The movie was reportedly booed lustily by French audience members at Cannes recently — just more reason to fire up our interest. And while we’re certain Dunst is a great choice for the role of titular queen, we’re really intrigued by the casting of the one and only Rip Torn as her hubby King Louis XV. Coppola has definitely chosen an ambitious project to follow up Lost In Translation — this could either be a massive success or an enormous failure.
9: A GOOD YEAR (Nov. 10)
WHO? Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard
WHat? To follow up their epic, crowd-pleasing, bloody action-adventure Gladiator, Crowe and director Ridley Scott have chosen to go “sideways” with this gentle comedy about bullheaded English investment expert Max Skinner, who inherits a vineyard in Provence — only to find a California woman also laying claim to the piece of land.
WHY? It will be interesting to see if Macho Crowe can gracefully handle a transition into Delicate Russell. If he can pull this off, it may the evidence we need that he may have the wherewithal not to beat the crap out of another hapless hotel concierge with a phone.
8: BABEL (Nov. 3)
WHO? Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett
WHAT? Four different plotlines loosely intersect in this flick brought to us by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who also used a similar technique with 21 Grams. The players in these stories: An American couple (Pitt and Blanchett) struck by tragedy while vacationing in Morocco; a family of goat herders testing out a new gun in Tunisia; a rebellious, deaf-mute Japanese teen and her father; and a Mexican nanny trying to smuggle two American children across the border. We’re guessing we learn something Deep and Profound after all is said and done.
WHY? Really, who’s going to go see this flick because of Innaritu’s exploration of humanity’s dark side or the layers of meaning in the script? Nope, everyone wants to see what Mr. Brad “I-Cheated-On-Jennifer-Aniston-And-Impregnated-Angelina-Jolie-And-Had-My-Baby-In-Africa-And-All-I-Got-Was-This-Lousy-T-Shirt” Pitt is gonna do for his first movie since it all hit the tabloid fan. Our money’s on act woodenly.
7: THE PRESTIGE (Oct. 20)
WHo? Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson
WHat? Erstwhile superheroes Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman and Christian “Batman” Bale star as rival 18th-century magicians who try to outdo one another’s grandiose magical tricks. But when Bale pulls off the perfect magical feat, Jackman is determined to find out how he did it — with deadly results. (Cue thunder rumbling).
WHY? With the fantastic track record he has amassed (Batman Begins, Memento, Insomnia), we’re positive director Christopher Nolan is something of a conjurer himself. The only thing that could make this movie sound any cooler is if both leads inexplicably revert to their comic book alter egos and have an all-out brawl. Okay, maybe that would be the antithesis of the word “cool,” but give a geek a break, eh?
6: FLUSHED AWAY (Nov. 3)
WHo? The voices of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen
WHat? In this CG-animated flick from the good folks who brought us Shrek and the Wallace & Gromit projects, pampered pet mouse Roddy (Jackman) gets flushed down the toilet into the bustling sewer world below. There, he falls for a spunky rat named Rita (Winslet), who tries to get him back to his luxurious home while evading the webbed clutches of the nefarious Toad (McKellen).
WHY? The very funny and charming trailer looks very promising in a way that the trailer for, say, Barnyard and the whole of say, Cars, didn’t. Judging from their previous films, the animation team behind Flushed Away seem to have caught on to the fact that no matter how great your CG looks, it’s the story that counts.
5: ALL THE KING’S MEN (Sept. 22)
WHO? Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet
WHat? This new adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winner by Robert Penn Warren sees Sean Penn star as Depression-era politician Willie Stark, modelled closely after Louisiana governor Huey Long. The flick tracks Stark’s rise as a populist Southerner to his steep fall, precipitated by the inevitable corruption that accompanies Louisiana politics. In other words, you can count on all those kids who spent 13 bucks seeing Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest flocking to see this one.
WHy? Plenty o’ Oscar bait to go around, from Penn to Winslet (as Stark’s love interest Anne Stanton) to director Steven Zaillian (he wrote Schindler’s List and Gangs Of New York). Heck, anything to get Penn away from visiting war zones to pose for pictures while smoking cigarettes is a-ok by us.
WHO? Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford
WHat? After the mammoth success of their last collaboration, Million Dollar Baby, director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Paul Haggis team up again to bring us the story behind the planting of the American flag at Iwo Jima during World War II.
WHy? This movie comes at a time when American foreign policy could use all the help it can get — even if it is a movie reliving a long-past glory. We trust the understated Eastwood not to be too jingoistic with the material. Chalk this one up as a heavyweight contender for multiple Oscar nominations. And you thought Ryan “Mr. Reese Witherspoon” Phillippe’s life couldn’t get any better …
3: THE DEPARTED (Oct. 6)
WHO? Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon
WHat? This remake of the classic Chinese thriller Infernal Affairs sees DiCaprio as an undercover cop who infiltrates the Irish Mafia and Damon as a mobster who does likewise in the Boston police force. Of course, both men’s paths will cross in what will surely leave some bloody consequences.
WHy? The Departed’s astonishing cast not only includes DiCaprio and Damon, but also Jack Nicholson as crazed mobster Frank Costello, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone and great cameo artist Alec Baldwin. To top it all off, Martin Scorsese directs. We’re guessing you’ll be able to see the testosterone drip off the movie screen.
2: THE BLACK DAHLIA (Sept. 15)
WHO? Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank
WHat? When a young starlet (Mia Kirshner) is gruesomely murdered in Hollywood, two L.A. detectives (Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) are on the case in a mystery that takes the darkest twists and turns that could only come from the James Ellroy, the man who wrote the book L.A. Confidential. Swank stars as Hartnett’s love interest — even though she may have been romantically involved with the dead girl. Rowrrr.
WHy? Director Brian De Palma’s last flick was 2002’s Femme Fatale, which featured Rebecca Romijn making out with another supermodel. For that, we thank him. But he was hardly at the top of his game — which, thankfully, doesn’t seem to be the case here. Dahlia looks like it will be the blackest of noirs, and the last time De Palma pulled off a period genre piece, we got the underrated classic The Untouchables.
1: CASINO ROYALE (Nov. 17)
WHO? Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen
WHat? The James Bond franchise gets a reboot by reportedly going back to the British superspy’s gritty roots — so don’t expect any more campy villains like metalmouthed Jaws. Instead, we get a controversial new choice of leading man in the blond and blue eyed Craig, who apparently will give viewers a darker, more human 007 and not the suave ladykiller of years past. The flick’s an origin story and retells the very first Ian Fleming book, with Green as romantic interest Vesper Lynd and the coolly named Mads Mikkelsen as baddie Le Chiffre (although we think Mads Mikkelsen would be a pretty darn cool name for a Bond villain, too).
WHy? It’s a risky move by the studio, but it was clear Bond needed a spiffier, new tuxedo. By going the more realistic Bourne Supremacy route and giving us a more relatable superspy, we foresee a successful franchise reboot along the lines of Batman Begins.
Luke Wilson awakes 1,000 years later to find himself the smartest man on the planet in Idiocracy (Sept. 1) … Nicolas Cage investigates the disappearance of a little girl in the remake of The Wicker Man (Sept. 1) … Adrien Brody and Ben Affleck star in Hollywoodland, about the circumstances surrounding TV Superman George Reeves’ death (Sept. 8) … The Rock teaches juvenile delinquents valuable life lessons through football in Gridiron Gang (Sept. 15) … Zach Braff is a man on the verge of 30 who has an affair with a teen girl in the remake The Last Kiss (Sept. 15) … The CG flick Everyone’s Hero features a boy who travels 1,000 miles to help the Yankees win the World Series (Sept. 15) … Kevin Costner is the heroic Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer and Ashton Kutcher his cocky young charge in The Guardian (Sept. 15) … Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and the gang are back with more crazy shenanigans in Jackass Number Two (Sept. 22) … Jet Li is back with more martial arts action in Fearless (Sept. 22) … A sheltered grizzly bear has his life turned upside down by a fast-talking mule deer in the animated movie Open Season (Sept. 29) … Clive Owen tries to deliver the baby of the last pregnant woman on Earth in the apocalyptic Children Of Men (Sept. 29) … Ricky, Julian and Bubbles make their big-screen debut in Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (Oct. 6) … Sarah Michelle Gellar and Amber Tamblyn face more creepy Japanese ghosts in the sequel The Grudge 2 (Oct. 13) … A girl (Alison Lohman) befriends a wild horse in the family movie Flicka (Oct. 20) … A young girl retreats into her own mind after being moved to a rural farmhouse from the big city in Terry Gilliam’s surreal Tideland (Oct. 20) … Jigsaw serves up more blood and guts in the horror sequel Saw 3 (Oct. 27) … Joseph Cross is a young man sent to live with an eccentric psychiatrist and his wacky family in Running With Scissors (Oct. 27) … Eric Bana goes up against his father Robert Duvall at the poker table in the gambling drama Lucky You (Oct. 27) … Unfunnyman Tim Allen takes a third kick at the can as the titular fatso in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (Nov. 3) … A Kazakhstani broadcaster (Sacha Baron Cohen) is dispatched to America with a documentary crew in Borat (Nov. 3) … A novelist (Emma Thompson) tries to kill off her main character (Will Ferrell), but she doesn’t know he’s really alive in Stranger Than Fiction (Nov. 10) … Nicole Kidman is photographer Diane Arbus in the biopic Fur (Nov. 10) … The CG flick Happy Feet is about a young penguin who is a terrible singer but a fantastic tap dancer (Nov. 17) … Christopher Guest gives an indie film the Best In Show treatment in For Your Consideration (Nov. 17).
FALL RELEASE SCHEDULE (All release dates subject to change)
The Quiet
The Wicker Man
The Covenant
SEPT. 15
Gridiron Gang
The Black Dahlia
The Last Kiss l Haven
Everyone’s Hero
SEPT. 18
SEPT. 22
All The King’s Men
Jackass Number Two
Fearless l Confetti
The Science Of Sleep
Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles
A Sunday In Kigali
SEPT. 29
Children Of Men
Employee Of The Month
The U.S. Vs. John Lennon
Manufactured Landscapes
Keeping Mum l Open Season
Flyboys l The Guardian
OCT. 6
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie Shortbus l Kardia
The Departed
OCT. 13
Infamous l Man Of The Year
American Hardcore
The Grudge 2
The Marine
OCT. 20
Marie Antoinette
The Prestige l Starter For Ten
Flags Of Our Fathers
Into Great Silence
Flicka l Tideland
OCT. 27
Saw 3 l Trade
Running With Scissors
Catch A Fire l Lucky You
NOV. 3
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Flushed Away
NOV. 10
Stranger Than Fiction
We Are Marshall
A Good Year l Fur
NOV. 17
Casino Royale
Slow Burn
The Return
Happy Feet
For Your Consideration