Thursday, September 8, 2011
Fall film preview
A funny thing happened on the way to our Fall Movie Preview: The Harry Potter franchise wrapped up its decade-long run, no other high-profile movie emerged to dominate the spotlight, and for the first time in memory the cinematic season seemed wide open and full of promise.
Or disappointment. When a "Twilight" flick is the biggest thing on the docket, that's a little scary ... in a way those emo vampires are not.
So we should approach this season with caution. No 800-pound gorillas means there's room for intimate little films with ambition to find an audience. But it also means we could see one letdown after another.
So here's a look at the months ahead, with my picks for the most promising flicks marked. Please note, release dates are subject to change.
Abduction (9/23) -- Taylor Lautner aims for some non-"Twilight" stardom with this thriller about a high schooler caught up in the world of international espionage. The premise is sly: He spots a picture of himself as a small boy on a missing children website, and realizes his whole life is a lie.
Moneyball (9/23) -- Brad Pitt stars in this based-on-truth story about how computer nerds took over professional baseball, using complex algorithms to select the right collection of players. Was this movie made using the same system?
*50/50 (9/30) -- I'm not sure how many people are dying to see goofball Seth Rogen in serious mode, but he produced and co-starred in this drama based on the real-life experiences of his best friend (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) contracting spine cancer at age 25.
*Real Steel (Oct. 7) -- Looks like a goof at first: In a near future where boxing is outlawed, ex-contender (Hugh Jackman) trains robots to go rock 'em sock 'em in the ring. But it's actually a tender father/son bonding story a la "The Champ."
*The Ides of March (Oct. 7) -- Directed, co-written and starring George Clooney, this may be the first serious Oscar challenger of the season. Ryan Gosling plays a young campaign press secretary who confronts the dirty underbelly of politics when his presidential candidate (Clooney) is threatened with scandal.
The Three Musketeers 3D (10/21) -- Like Robin Hood, the Musketeers are one of those perennial stories that gets remade and retold for each generation. In this case, it's with a bunch of slo-mo explosions and CG swordfights. With Milla Jovovich as a man-eating m'lady.
The Rum Diary (10/28) -- Johnny Depp tackles Hunter S. Thompson again as a journalist flushing his life down the drain in the Caribbean when a big story falls in his lap.
Puss in Boots (Nov. 4) -- A creatively fizzled kiddie franchise attempts a spin-off. Looks like a piece of shrek.
Tower Heist (Nov. 4) -- Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy team up in a comedy about ... aaaand I think that's all we need to know.
Immortals (11/11) -- If you liked the "Clash of the Titans" remake, this action/adventure should be right up your alley. The Greek gods of Olympus are nervous when a human king (Mickey Rourke) seeks a powerful magic bow that could be used to threaten their dominion. Theseus (Henry Cavill) gets the nod from on high to stop him.
J. Edgar (11/11) -- Young and sexy Leonardo Di Caprio may not seem like the obvious choice to play bulldog G-man J. Edgar Hoover. But the latest drama from director Clint Eastwood is a sobering look at the man who was the face of federal law enforcement for more than 40 years.
Machine Gun Preacher (11/11) -- No, it's not an action/exploitation flick. Gerard Butler stars in this drama based on the true story of a drug-dealing criminal who finds his faith in Africa, where he fights against corruption.
Jack and Jill (11/11) -- Adam Sandler plays both brother and sister in his latest assault on comedy. To make things odder, Al Pacino is around, playing ... Al Pacino. Who falls for the sis. Ick.
*The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 (11/18) -- The mega-vampire heavyweight franchise -- which, in fairness, has gotten better as it's gone along -- pulls a "Harry Potter" by splitting up the final novel into two parts. Bella (Kristen Stewart) gets married, knocked up and bitten. Edward and Jacob (Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner) trade sneers.
*The Descendants (11/23) -- Alexander Payne ("Sideways") directs this tragicomedy about a father (George Clooney) whose family always came second, until his wife suffers a serious accident and he's forced to deal with his daughters. Meanwhile, he may have to sell the family's ancestral Hawaii plot.
The Muppets (11/23) -- Twelve years after their last feature film and 21 years after creator Jim Henson's death, the Muppet franchise rolls on with R-rated funnyman Jason Segal as the new guiding light and star. Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang must raise $10 million to save their theater.
Hugo (11/23) -- Martin Scorsese's long-awaited fantasy is about a boy living in a 1930s train station who struggles to pierce the mystery of his long-lost father, and the strange automaton he built.
New Year's Eve (12/9) -- Along the lines of "Valentine's Day" and other holiday-themed hits, an ensemble cast of stars (Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl) celebrate love and other warm weepies. (Up next: "Arbor Day: The Roots of Romance.")
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (12/16) -- Robert Downey Jr. returns as Holmes takes on his greatest nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). It's elementary to deduce that it will be another craptastic blend of fisticuffs, mumbled quips and computer-generated hi jinks.
*The Iron Lady (12/16) -- Do-anything super-actress Meryl Streep tackles British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in this high-profile biopic.
Young Adult (12/16) -- A divorced writer (Charlize Theron) returns to her small Minnesota hometown looking for romance with an old flame. From two of Hollywood's brightest young lights, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (12/21) -- A remake of the Swedish movie based on the smash series of novels. Many (OK, me) question why there even needs to be an English language version. Daniel Craig plays a crusading journalist assisted by a strange but brilliant cyber hacker (Rooney Mara).
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (12/21) -- "Knight and Day" was actually pretty good, but did nothing to stop the perception that Tom Cruise's career is in free-fall. This reboot of the spymaster franchise may be his last shot.
The Darkest Hour (12/23) -- A twist on the classic group fighting to survive during the fall of mankind, Emile Hirsch leads a group of five young people stranded in Moscow when will-o-wisps from outer space treat the Earth as a disposable battery.
We Bought A Zoo (12/23) -- The title pretty much says it all in this new dramedy starring Matt Damon as a dad looking for a new start for his family.
The Adventures of Tintin (12/23) -- Steven Spielberg does cartoon! He directs his first animated feature about the popular star of European comic books. The boy adventurer and his pals go in search of a sunken ship. With the voices of Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig and Andy Serkis.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (12/25) -- A top Oscar contender, this adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock as the parents of a precocious 9-year-old boy struggling to cope with a tremendous loss on 9/11.
*War Horse (12/28) -- Steven Spielberg (again!) directs this drama about a horse separated from his boy by World War I, and the many people who receive equine inspiration during his long trot around the globe.
Carnage (December) -- Director Roman Polanski gathers a knockout cast -- Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly -- in an absurdist comedy based on the Broadway play about two sets of Brooklyn parents who meet after their children get into a fight.