Summer's done -- at least the films. The heat? Not so much. But at least we can move on to the more high-minded autumn fare -- or, maybe not. While not covering everything that's coming out, this list is pretty representative of Hollywood and light on the indie and foreign product (there are few firm Tulsa release dates for the smaller films yet). But even so, the Hollywood line-up seems oddly summer-like with lots of genre flicks, blockbusters, action, romantic comedies and not an Inception among them.
So, without further adieu let's get down to some cinematic prognostication...
Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D -- The first film in the franchise based on the venerated videogame series, Resident Evil, was the only one that could arguably be called faithful -- or remotely worth watching. It's been downhill ever since. The fourth installment finds original hack director Paul W.S. Anderson returning to the adventures of Alice (Milla Jovovich), a genetically altered savior leading the last survivors of the T-virus to salvation, while she gets revenge against the vile Umbrella Corporation for their evilness. She's like Jesus, but hotter. Touting the same camera system used for Avatar, it's Jovovich and gruesome zombies and mutants in 3D. I'm there, though it likely sucks.
Legendary -- Patricia Clarkson, the WWE's John Cena and Danny Glover star in this Oklahoma-set (though shot in New Orleans) family drama about an ex-wrestler whose younger brother (Devon Graye) seeks to reunite them with his estranged mother (Clarkson) by deciding to become an amateur wrestler himself. This little indie looks dramatic and inspirational and ... predictable. Given Cena's range (The Marine), it'll be interesting to see how he holds his own against the wonderful Clarkson.
Devil -- Given what a punch line the words "From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan" have come to represent, one has to temper their expectations for this claustrophobic tale of five strangers trapped in an elevator with a malevolent supernatural force which may or may not be one of them (I'm betting on the dude in the suit and red tie). Looks like a no-name shocker made on the cheap, but sometimes these things can be (un)pleasant surprises.
Alpha and Omega -- What would a month (any month) be without a 3D, computer animated, anthropomorphic, talking animal, kid flick loaded with a B-list voice cast cashing an easy check? It would be one without Alpha and Omega. This road film finds lupine protagonists trying to make their way home after they are relocated across the country in a bid to repopulate their species. Along the way they get into adventures and crack shallow one-liners to cap off obvious jokes aimed at those who laugh at the cute. Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere and the late Dennis Hopper (who hopefully got to spend the money) star.
Easy A -- Mousy funny-girl Emma Stone stars in this ode to "The Scarlett Letter." As Olive, Stone uses a white lie about losing her virginity as a way to climb the social ladder until she realizes she can utilize her new level of disrepute to help her fellow misfits by pretending to have sex with them. Stone is a charming enough comedic talent and the film itself looks to be a harmless enough high-school morality play with all the standard archetypes (nerdy friends, judgmental snobs and the guy of Olive's dreams) represented. I bet she gets laid by the end. Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson and Amanda Bynes co-star.
The Town -- Ben Affleck proves to be a triple threat as he writes, directs and stars in The Town. Boston accents abound as The Fleck portrays Doug MacRay, the leader of a group of ruthlessly successful bank robbers who hail from a square mile area of Bean Town. Wanted by the law who are unable to pin the crimes to them, all seems well until MacRay falls for a hostage who has no idea that she's falling for her erstwhile captor. The trailer is great; the cast (including Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlewaite and John Hamm) is great; and the tale feels like something Scorsese would be proud of. Hopes here are high.
You Again -- Betty White -- I get the idea that even she is befuddled at her new found (and already over) hipness. No matter since I imagine she probably only pulls a cameo in this otherwise pre-menopausal chick flick starring Kristen Bell as Marni, a successful working girl (does she play anything else?) who discovers her brother is marrying her sworn high-school enemy, Joanna (nirvana incarnate Odette Yustman). In a clever twist, their respective moms (Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver) turn out to be similarly adversarial caricatures, too. I'll be OK with that as long as they get into a cat fight, especially if Betty White is involved. Bell is a good comedienne, so she should be fun, even if the film is not. Local girl Kristin Chenoweth co-stars.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole -- The director of Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen might seem like an unlikely pairing with a 3D animated children's fantasy film about an owl who must save his family and kingdom from ruin, but get a gander at the trailer for this and it'll make a lot more sense. Zack Snyder brings a stunning, and artily realistic, visual acuity to the story of Soren, a wannabe warrior whose jealous older brother inadvertently loses their siblings to the evil, Pure Ones. Of course, Soren must go on a hero's journey -- voiced by Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren and Emilie de Ravin among others.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps -- I'm not sure anyone was asking for a sequel to Oliver Stone's 1987 ode to greed, hubris and insider trading, but we got one anyway. A couple of decades after being tossed in the pen, Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko (Michael Douglas) is freed and attempting to redeem himself with his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan). However, when he meets her fiancé (Shia LaBeouf), Gekko sees something of his former self in the up-and-coming businessman that reminds him of the sweet satisfaction of pulling an Enron. Honestly, I don't know what to think about this one since Stone is nuttier than elephant crap, but considering the talent involved I'm erring on the side of yes. Frank Langella and Josh Brolin (of Stone's sympathetic W.) both up the ante.
Let Me In -- Why remake a near perfect film? Is it because you think you can (you can't) do it better? Is it because you have a deep connection to the material and you want to (but really won't) offer a different take? Do you just want to cash in on the (stupid and lazy) audience that would have loved the original if they could be bothered to watch a foreign film with subtitles? I'm going with door No. 3, Monty. Director Matt Reeves (of the likeable Cloverfield) rehashes the story of Owen (nee Oskar), a bullied 12-year-old who meets Abby (nee Eli) a mysterious girl, with an equally mysterious guardian, who may or may not be a vampire (among other things). I swear I'll give it a chance -- I want to like it -- but the original is a near masterpiece of tonal desolation and creepy atmosphere. Swedes.
The Social Network -- Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club) from a script by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), The Social Network spins the behind-the-scenes tale of the birth and rise of Facebook and its creator, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). Apparently taking a West Wing approach, the films tagline, "You don't get to 5 million friends without making a few enemies", should give you a clue to the personal and legal drama that comes with becoming the youngest billionaire in history. Fincher's track record is strong so I expect quality, even though I have to laugh at the meta-level it works on if I become a "fan" of the film.
Secretariat -- I just can't bring myself to care about horse racing. Gamblers are a bummer, the diminutive uniformity of jockeys is creepy, and I'm pretty sure the horses would rather be doing something better with their time. Besides, they're limited as actors (their motivation always boils down to sugar cubes). Regardless, Diane Lane and John Malkovich star in this period re-telling of the famed horse's 1973 Triple Crown win. Lane takes over her for her ailing father who runs a successful stable, while Malkovich helps her avoid the pitfalls of a woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated business. Scott Glenn and Dylan Baker co-star. It could be a good thing, the cast is fine and director Randall Wallace wrote Braveheart. It's just hard to generate tension with a story like this.
Nowhere Boy -- Aaron Johnson portrays the young John Lennon in this biopic that explores the early life of the future icon and the inception of his little known band, The Beatles. The trailer looks fairly standard for this sort of period telling (i.e. soft lighting, production design that's trying too hard, lots of Brylcreem -- reminded me of The Commitments) with cookie cutter emotional beats and earnest declarations to love and glory. You're probably better off reading the memoir it's based on, penned by Julia Baird, Lennon's half-sister. If you are a diehard fan, just do both.
Buried -- The idea of putting an ensemble cast together in a small space to fight for survival has been done many times. Burying a guy alive with nothing but a cell phone and a Bic lighter while supporting an entire movie on it? Not so much. Needless to say I'll be interested in how it all works. Ryan Reynolds is Paul Conroy, a truck driver with a family, who wakes up buried in a coffin and with no clue as to why. I'm guessing he better have Verizon.
Jackass 3D -- Roger Ebert nailed it when he pointed out that one of the key elements of syntax in the language of cinema was its inherent ability to trick the mind and the eye into seeing a two-dimensional image in a three-dimensional way. Hence, 3D is a gimmick. And it is. But having enjoyed Piranha 3D for utilizing that gimmick in the service of gratuitous nudity, I can only shudder at what 3D will add to the Jackass oeuvre. Taking pointless, somewhat homoerotic, traction-inducing, stunts of near genetic-level retardation to an art can really only get better that way.
Red -- Every time I notice a movie called Red I'm reminded of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's amazing Three Colors Trilogy, a series of films born of Aristotelian deconstruction. This Red is born of a comic (by the esteemed Warren Ellis). Not a diss; just a sign of the times -- maybe a good sign since some graphic novels have taken their rightful place in the literary realm. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a former CIA agent who finds himself at the receiving end of some unfinished business just when he's ready to settle down. So he assembles his crack team of old (Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich) to help him live to collect his Social Security. Nothing as transcendent as Kieslowski, however, this Red has Helen Mirren blasting assassins with automatic weaponry. That's amazing.
Hereafter -- This should be going wide. It's directed by Clint Eastwood, stars Matt Damon (sans rugby ball) and already has a rating. But nevertheless there is no trailer, official website or even early reviews. That's because it's set to release in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, going wide soon thereafter. Hereafter tells the story of three people affected by death in different, perhaps supernatural, ways. I have no idea if it'll be good or bad, though Eastwood is a workman-like director who generally makes the message apparent. Richard Kind (A Serious Man) co-stars with the not undead Bryce Dallas Howard. Is there a Team Victoria?
Paranormal Activity 2 -- Because Paranormal Activity made ten metric tons of money.
Night of the Demons -- I'm all for gory, cheesy, sex-filled horror romps but the trailer for this Shannon Elizabeth-starring remake of the 1988 original (a film whose main claim to fame were Linnea Quigley's amazing breasts, a tube of lipstick and a truly inventive visual gag) looks like 31 flavors of awful. That it has been sitting on the shelf for two years is a bad sign. That Edward Furlong is in it, an even worse sign. A group of kids holds a séance/party on Halloween in a New Orleans haunted mansion that is home to a bunch of demons that need to possess seven horny, drunken victims to break an ancient curse. I'm very forgiving of this genre but I'm not sure even Shannon Elizabeth's possible nudity can help something that looks this craptacular. That said it could be hilariously bad, at least.
SAW 3D -- I checked out of the Saw franchise like a bad motel right after the first one. Sometimes I wonder if I need to wade through them all just to be up to date -- you know, for cultural relevance. Then I remember that I haven't seen many of the great works of cinema yet, so why should I squander that much life? If I have to review this, I will catch up through the miracle of Wikipedia. Apparently, the survivors of Jigsaw's traps form a support group. Seriously. The film's producers are also pimping the fact that this is not just in 3D but shot with the "cutting edge SI-3D digital camera system". Would that really be a consideration in your decision to see this? "I know, honey, you hated the last 20 of these flicks, but it's in 7.1 DTS!"
Due Date -- Due Date appears to have everything going for it: director Todd Phillips coming off the massive success of The Hangover; ditto Zack Galifianakis and the great Robert Downey Jr. in rolled into what looks like an ode to Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This should be a slam-dunk. Then why is the trailer leaving me cold? Downey plays Peter Highman, a father-to be who wants nothing more than to be by his wife's side to share the blessed moment. Unfortunately, he meets Ethan (Galifianakis) a self-absorbed nutjob who Highman is forced to ride with, on a cross-country road trip. Maybe they saved the goods for the film, but the trailer didn't do much to inspire mirth. I'll hold out hope.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf -- Try saying that one five times fast. Despite a dearth of information on this Tyler Perry vehicle, it appears to be akin to The Vagina Monologues with a longer title. An all-star cast performs a series of poems dedicated to love, abortion, rape, abuse and abandonment. Origianlly conceived as a 1975 award-winning play the film stars Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and Macy Gray, among others.
Morning Glory -- You know the last comedy Harrison Ford was in was Hollywood Homicide. At least I think it was a comedy; maybe it started out that way. So it's with some trepidation that the deconstructed personality that was once Han Solo co-stars with Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory. McAdams plays an out of work TV news producer who lands a job at a last placing early morning fluff news show. When she decides to bring in a legendary broadcasting vet (Ford), his curmudgeonly demeanor causes havoc on set and off. And hopefully some laughs. Jeff Goldblum co-stars.
Skyline -- Most of the details are under wraps but we do have the rather tense and cool looking trailer for Skyline to go on. A year ago NASA sends out a signal deeper into space than ever attempted in order to make alien contact. They get an answer when massive spacecraft park themselves over L.A., carpet bomb the city and suck up a bunch of human plankton like some interstellar Dustbuster. All I can say is it looks cool, particularly for a modestly budgeted film. Eric Balfour and the lovely Brittany Daniel star.
Unstoppable -- Ridley Scott's lesser half Tony cranks up the action in this inspired by true events story about a runaway, unmanned, train that's towing eight cars worth of toxic chemicals that could take out an entire city. Not content to rest there, the film adds another layer of suspense by putting the missile on tracks on a collision course with a train full of kids. Tony Scott knows what he's doing but his films never reach the level of his elder siblings work. Plus his highly saturated, jittery camera work is sometimes ostentatious. But he can do action, so maybe this will be fun, if forgettable. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine star.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Pt. 1 -- Do I really need to say anything here? The final installment of the internationally successful film franchise has been broken in two, so you'll have to wait till next year for Potter vs. Voldemort. I haven't read the books but I generally like the films, though I've not seen any of them twice. All the principals return in IMAX 3D.
Burlesque -- Christina Aguilera steps off the bus in Los Angeles with big dreams and a voice to match. When she discovers The Burlesque Lounge with a Pussy Cat Dolls-style show she aims to work her way from cocktail waitress to the stage. I detect conflict with Kristen Bell, love with Eric Dane, smarmy humor from Stanley Tucci and Cher delivering the inspiration. You've seen this before.
Faster -- Finally! Dwayne Johnson puts aside the kid flicks and claims his action badass throne in the R-rated action/revenge tale Faster. Johnson plays a newly released convict bent on avenging the death of his brother after the botched bank robbery that landed him in the clink. And he has a wicked car. Really not much more to say (based on the short teaser), but Billy Bob Thorton co-stars. Looks like it might be a blast, though.
Tangled -- Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, "Rapunzel," this animated fable finds a roguish charmer looking for a hideout when finds a perfect solitary tower. Little does he know it already houses Rapunzel, a cute chick with very long, magical hair. She was kidnapped years before by the evil Mother Gothel and now their chance encounter could prove her liberation, reuniting her with her real parents. I've seen this trailer a couple of times and it looks like harmless fun for the kids. Disney seems to have that effect on them. Mandy Moore, Ron Perlman and M.C. Gainey lend their voices.
Red Dawn -- Wolverines! Yes, Red Dawn was another paranoid '80's Cold War movie, but it was fun enough to remake and contemporize, replacing the hordes of Cubans and Russians with the Red Chinese. No trailer yet so I have no idea what it looks like but if I had to take a guess I would say red, white and blue. Seriously, I remember people cheering like mad every time we jacked up some Russians when I saw the original back in 1984.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader -- The latest installment of the beloved C.S. Lewis fantasy series finds Edmund and Lucy sucked back into the magical world of Narnia, teaming up again with Prince Caspian to save their world. I enjoyed the first film well enough, though it felt oddly light for all its dense production design and high budget adventure. Lewis was a contemporary of Tolkien and it shows. And even I will gobble up Christian allegory when you load it with enough eye candy, weird creatures and Tilda Swinton. The long list of screen writers is probably not a sign of Rings level greatness, though. The kids return with Liam Neeson co-starring as the voice of Aslan.
The Tourist -- No trailer and only a hint of the story but The Tourist does star Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as possible lovers sucked into danger in Venice. That's probably enough to get asses in seats.
TRON: Legacy -- You know how you can tell I'm a geek? I'm looking forward to this more than anything else on this list. The first film, 1982's TRON, is not even a particularly good film, but it was one of a kind and it made a deep impression on me with its neon-glowing, minimalist Syd Mead art design and its then use of nascent computer graphics technology. Now it comes off like it was written by a 14 year old. Hopefully, Legacy does better. Twenty years after the disappearance of genius programmer Kevin Flynn, his son Sam discovers the clue that leads him to the virtual world where his father has been trapped. The trailer looks amazing, though I have no idea whether or not the film will actually live up to the promise of its ultra-cool visuals: in IMAX 3D of course. Still, considering I wrote a treatment for a TRON sequel myself ten years ago (as far as I got thanks to Disney's legal department) this feels like a pretty sweet Christmas gift.
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