The fall movie preview
Time to grow up or sober up, whichever is easiest. After a recession-proof summer (on track to set a record with $4.5 billion in North America) that gave us warring wizards, battling bots, hung-over Thailand tourists and boozy bridesmaids, the fall movie season is upon us.
Traditionally, that means the studios have packed away their pricey toys in favour of classy, mature Oscar bait. And, aside from some notable exceptions, this autumn will be no different.
Here then is our annual fall movie preview, covering what’s coming soon from now until late November, when the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend signals the holiday film season. But that’s another preview. As always, release dates are as tentative as Gerard Depardieu’s bladder.
Moneyball (Sept. 23)
The players: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright; directed by Bennett Miller (Capote)
The plot: Based on true events, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) assembles a winning team on a shoestring budget.
The score: Which baseball cliche would you prefer? Homerun? Grand slam? Going, going “¦ gone? Moneyball is said to be testing into the stratosphere with preview audiences and the Oscar chatter for Pitt is building.
J. Edgar (Nov. 11; wide, after a limited opening Nov. 9)
The players: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas; directed by Clint Eastwood
The plot: DiCaprio is J. Edgar Hoover, the famously loathed FBI director who knew the dirt on everyone, but harboured some scandalous secrets of his own.
The score: DiCaprio, like Pitt, rarely feels much Oscar love. This could change that. Whether filmgoers warm to a period drama about a spiteful, paranoid bureaucrat is another matter.
The Ides of March (Oct. 7)
The players: Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Hoffman, George Clooney; directed by Clooney
The plot: An idealist (Gosling) campaigning for a presidential candidate (Clooney) learns how politics can leave you in need of a hot shower and a bar of soap.
The score: The material is firmly in Clooney’s wheelhouse — both as an actor and director. But can anything convince people, who are sick of politics in real life, to pay to see a downer about Washington insiders?
Paranormal Activity 3 (Oct. 21)
The players: The directors are Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who made last year’s faux-doc Catfish.
The plot: This prequel, set in 1988, promises to shed light on the franchise’s supernatural secrets, exploring how the Featherston sisters first encountered the demon that would later plague them as adults.
The score: Barring “found footage” fatigue, it should pay off like an ATM for all involved.
Drive (Sept. 16)
The players: Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks; directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
The plot: A Los Angeles stuntman moonlights as a getaway driver.
The score: The Fast and the Furious for intellectuals — or at least action fans who prefer Steve McQueen to Vin Diesel.
Puss in Boots (Nov. 4)
The players: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton; directed by Chris Miller (Shrek the Third).
The plot: The pantless swashbuckling feline gets his own spinoff/prequel.
The score: Catnip for families. A recent parody trailer — in which the “bad kitty” explains why he doesn’t wear trousers — generated more than 1.2 million views on YouTube in a week. Who needs Shrek?
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Nov. 18)
The players: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, John Hurt; directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In)
The plot: Adapted from John Le Carre’s Cold War 1974 thriller, Oldman is British agent George Smiley, tasked with uncovering a Soviet mole.
The score: Sensational cast, masterful director, crackling source material — what more do you need? Robots that morph into cars?
Happy Feet Two (Nov. 18)
The players: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Pink, Elizabeth Daily; directed by George Miller (Happy Feet, The Road Warrior)
The plot: Mumble’s son, Erik, would rather fly than dance.
The score: The trailer — in which baby penguins cover SexyBack — makes my brain bleed. But I’m willing to give the sequel itself the benefit of the doubt (the original did win an Oscar, after all).
Real Steel (Oct. 7)
The players: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly; directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum)
The plot: Rocky with robots. Set in the future, Jackman is a washed-up boxer who assembles an underdog contender.
The score: Will moviegoers ever tire of watching big droids pummel each other? No, I don’t think so either.
The Descendants (November TBD)
The players: Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster; directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways)
The plot: Clooney plays a middle-aged father who re-examines his life and his relationship with his daughters after his wife’s boating accident.
The score: Payne — who also directed Election and About Schmidt — is peerless at making smart, resonant comedies about the plights of people who feel real. No reason to think he’s going to stop now.
The Best Of The Rest
From astronauts to Greek gods to dolphins, here’s what else is ahead in the next three months
Apollo 18 (Sept. 2) A found footage thriller about a secret ill-fated moon landing. Think Paranormal Space Activity.
Contagion (Sept. 9) Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Kate Winslet headline this thriller from director Steven Soderbergh about a global pandemic.
Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star (Sept. 9) A small-town kid aspires to be a porn star.
I Don’t Know How She Does It (Sept. 16) Sarah Jessica Parker stars in this adaptation of the best-seller.
Straw Dogs (Sept. 16) A remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic with James Marsden and Kate Bosworth terrorized by rednecks.
Dolphin Tale (Sept. 23) Based on the true story of a family, who rescued a dolphin after her tail was severed in a crab trap.
Killer Elite (Sept. 23) A former special ops agent (Jason Statham) has to rescue his mentor (Robert De Niro).
Abduction (Sept. 23) Imagine The Bourne Identity starring Taylor Lautner. Now imagine yourself not laughing.
Machine Gun Preacher (Sept. 30) Gerard Butler stars as Sam Childers, a real-life criminal who, after finding God, came to the defence of hundreds of orphans in Africa.
Breakaway (Sept. 30) A hockey flick with a Bollywood twist.
Dream House (Sept. 30) Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz discover their new home has a dark past. Naomi Watts co-stars.
50/50 (Sept. 30) Joseph Gordon-Levitt has cancer. But Seth Rogen is there to cheer him — and presumably audiences — up.
What’s Your Number (Sept. 30) Anna Fari
s sets out to determine who her best “ex” was.
s sets out to determine who her best “ex” was.
Wanderlust (Oct. 7) Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd join a counter-culture commune.
Footloose (Oct. 14) Remake of the movie that will follow Kevin Bacon to the grave.
The Thing (Oct. 14) A prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror milestone.
The Big Year (Oct. 14) Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson are bird watchers in this comedy from the director of Marley & Me.
The Three Musketeers (Oct. 21) Buckle your swash — in 3D.
The Rum Diary (Oct. 28) Johnny Depp stars in this adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson novel.
Johnny English Reborn (Oct. 28) Rowan Atkinson spoofs James Bond again.
Anonymous (Oct. 28) Roland Emmerich (2012, Independence Day) takes a sabbatical from blowing up the world to direct this period piece about the origins of Shakespeare’s plays.
Margaret (October TBD) A teenager tries to make amends for her role in a traffic fatality. With Anna Paquin and Damon.
Tower Heist (Nov. 4) Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy conspire to rob the architect of a Ponzi scheme.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (Nov. 4) Dude, the title says it all.
Jack and Jill (Nov. 11) Adam Sandler plays twins. The joke? One of them is a woman.
Immortals (Nov. 11) Mortal Theseus (Henry Cavill) battles bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).
My Week with Marilyn (Nov. 18, limited) Michelle Williams is Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh is Sir Laurence Olivier in this film about the making of The Prince and the Showgirl.