The summer movie season is officially over. Labor Day has passed and that leads us into the fall movie season. Following is a preview of fall's upcoming releases. But first, for those curious, a quick update on what just opened:
Number one on the list to see this week is Mike Judge's fourth feature, Extract. Judge proved to be one of the top voices of middle-class comedy with Office Space and King of the Hill, and Extract has him re-visiting the comic plight of the everyman schlub, this time with Jason Bateman as the owner of a flavor extract factory whose life careens out of control when a workplace accident threatens to sink his company. Ben Affleck plays his slacker best friend who introduces him to various methods of self-medication.
Also opening this week is the futuristic action-thriller Gamer, starring Gerard Butler as a real-life video-game avatar. Think Tron meets The Running Man. It looks much better than it probably is.
All About Steve balances out the testosterone as yet another Sandra Bullock romantic comedy. Bullock plays a hapless misfit who falls in love with weather guy Bradley Cooper and chases him around the country.
Finally, opening at the Circle this week is the documentary Soul Power, an exceptional concert film that chronicles the work and people involved with the historic 1974 concert in Zaire that accompanied the famous Ali/Foreman rumble in the jungle. In addition to extensive concert footage, we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of such larger-than-life characters as James Brown, Don King, B.B. King and the Greatest himself.
To the musicians, entertainers and promoters involved, the concert was a symbolic gesture, uniting a large group of African-American superstars with their homeland for a cultural celebration of their roots.
It's refreshingly straight-forward and the music is fantastic; anyone enamored with the soul, funk and blues of that era should run to the Circle on Friday.
Here are 20 movies coming out this fall that are your time and money, along with 10 more that could be guilty pleasures and/or sleeper hits. Some may be risks, others are sure bets, all are worthy of consideration.
9 (Sept. 11)
What: Shane Acker's animated feature-length debut expands on his Oscar-nominated short with a post-apocalyptic story of dolls versus machines.
Why: Produced by Tim Burton, 9 looks to be a dark, eye-popping adventure with unusual depth and style to spare.
The Informant! (Sept. 18)
What: Steven Soderbergh directs this absurd comedy based on the true story of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a corporate whistleblower with delusions of grandeur who spies on Archer Daniels Midland for the FBI. Think the snarky humor of Ocean's 11 mixed with the muckraking hijinks of Erin Brockovich.
Why: Soderbergh directing a comedy. Damon with a mustache. The stranger-than-fiction story. The exclamation point.
Jennifer's Body (Sept. 18)
What: Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody pays tribute to '80s teen horror with this gore-comedy about a smalltown cheerleader (Megan Fox) who becomes possessed by a demon and proceeds to eat a lot of libidinous boys.
Why: Whether you love Juno or hate it, this is Cody's moment to prove herself not a one hit wonder. It won't win any Oscars, but Jennifer's Body could prove to be a genre classic. Or not.
Capitalism: A Love Story (Sept. 23)
What: Michael Moore is back with his latest piece of agitprop, this time focusing on last year's economic meltdown and what lead to it.
Why: It's common knowledge that Michael Moore is a biased, undisciplined filmmaker whose movies are engineered to push the director's own ideological agendas. Documentarian? Hardly. He's not interested in fact, only preconceived notions. Still, he's a classic rabble-rouser who knows how to entertain, and Capitalism promises to be, at the very least, thought-provoking entertainment.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Sept. 25)
What: Actor John Krasinski (most know him as Jim from The Office) makes his directing debut with this adaptation of the late David Foster Wallace's short story collection.
Why: Wallace is one of those authors whose work defines the concept of "unfilmable." The last time an actor made his directing debut with a literary pet project, we got last year's godawful Choke. But Krasinski got raves at Sundance, and the movie appears to be both coherent and relatively faithful to the spirit of Wallace's stories.
The Invention of Lying (Oct. 2)
What: British comedy genius Ricky Gervais (creator of The Office and Extras) directs and stars in this high-concept laffer about a world where lying has yet to be discovered. Gervais plays the guy who tells the world's first fib, causing all hell to break loose.
Why: Gervais is never less than stellar. Even in last year's Ghost Town, the performer managed to elevate a relatively paltry rom-com by simply being present.
Whip It (Oct. 2)
What: Finally, what we've all been waiting for: a coming-of-age comedy about female roller derby.
Why: Drew Barrymore directs her first movie. Ellen Page stars. The trailer looks surprisingly sweet.
Zombieland (Oct. 2)
What: Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are zombie-hunters in this gruesome horror-comedy.
Why: Internet geek buzz is through-the-roof, and the very thought Harrelson as a redneck zombie killer provokes uncontrollable laughter.
A Serious Man (Oct. 2)
What: The Coen Brothers return to serious filmmaking after last year's goof Burn After Reading with this story about a struggling physics professor trying to balance an increasingly chaotic family life.
Why: Even when the Brothers are off, they're on. And this looks like a return to ambitious Barton Fink territory.
Couples Retreat (Oct. 9)
What: A raunchy comedy starring every great comedic performer not recently in a Judd Apatow film (as well as a few who were).
A bunch of dysfunctional thirtysomething couples go to a marriage counseling resort. Stars Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Malin Akerman, Kristen Davis.
Why: Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau under the guidance of their old pal, actor-turned-producer-turned-director Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from A Christmas Story). Like The Hangover, this appears to be a full-proof comedy.
The Road (Oct. 16)
What: A big-budget adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer-winning novel. The Man (Viggo Mortenson) and his son, The Boy, travel across post-nuclear holocaust America in search of the shoreline.
Why: The pedigree behind this project is top-notch, and director John Hillcoat was last behind the camera for the near-perfect outback western The Proposition. McCarthy purists are watching closely, and with The Road's Oprah-approved status, that means most of the country.
Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)
What: The long-gestating adaptation of Maurice Sendak's beloved children's book finally makes its way to the big screen, courtesy of director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) and novelist-cum-screenwriter Dave Eggers (Away We Go).
Why: Jonze and Eggers have dared to make a heavy children's movie that should challenge viewers of all ages. If the trailer is any indication, this is an instant classic.
New York, I Love You (Oct. 16)
What: The companion piece to Paris, je t'aime, wherein a handful of directors pay homage to the Big Apple with gotham-centric short films.
Why: Paris was a solid anthology film that provided the opportunity to see the work of directors like Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuaron and Christopher Doyle under the same roof. This could be equally successful, though the inclusion of hack Brett Ratner alongside the likes of Mira Nair and Joshua Marston is more than a little confusing.
Youth in Revolt (Oct. 30)
What: A dark comedy about a lonely trailer park kid (Michael Cera) obsessed with losing his virginity. Based on the cult novel.
Why: Cera is always enjoyable, and this looks to stretch the actor's muscles a bit as he ventures into a more demented realm of comedy.
The Box (Nov. 6)
What: A couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) receive a box on their doorstep. Inside the box is a button; if they press it, they will receive a million dollars, but someone in the world will die. They have 24 hours to decide.
Why: Wacky indie director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) reigns in his stoner dormrat tendencies just enough to make something with the chance of commercial success. Darko was overrated, Tales was unfairly maligned. Hopefully The Box will be good enough to please fans of both.
A Christmas Carol (Nov. 6)
What: Robert Zemeckis continues to be on a CGI kick with his third straight computer-animated 3D feature. This time out, it's an adaptation of Dickens' holiday classic, with Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and his respective ghosts.
Why: After the enjoyable but clumsy Polar Express, Zemeckis improved drastically with the more adult Beowulf. Now, he's back in family territory, but with understanding of the format refined, it's safe to assume that A Christmas Carol will be the holiday movie of the season.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (Nov. 6)
What: A comedic satire with Ewan MacGregor as a reporter investigating the existence of a paranormal unit of the U.S. military. George Clooney is a whackjob soldier who acts as MacGregor's entrance into a bizarre world where soldiers use their psychic powers fight the war in Iraq.
Why: The trailer evokes memories of another great Clooney war comedy, Three Kings. Kevin Spacey as a smarmy General and Jeff Bridges as The-Dude-Goes-To-Iraq should seal the deal.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 13)
What: Wes Anderson makes a foray into stop-motion animation with his take on the Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach) children's story. George Clooney voices the titular Fox.
Why: To see the by-now predictable Anderson step out of his comfort zone for once.
New Moon (Nov. 20)
What: The second in the Twilight Series. Vampires, werewolves, high school romance, etc.
Why: Because it'll be at least another year before the next Harry Potter.
Nine (Nov. 25)
What: Not to be confused with 9, Nine is a film adaptation of a stage musical adapted from a play based on Fellini's semi-autobiographical film 8 ? . Yup.
Why: Sounds convoluted, but with a leading man in Daniel Day-Lewis surrounded by a cadre of classy dames including Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Sophia Lauren, It's hard to imagine Nine not raking in the Oscars.
Ten More to Watch
The Fourth Kind (Nov. 6)
"Based on a true story" creeper about a psychologist (Milla Jovovich) whose specialty is victims of alien abductions.
2012 (Nov. 13)
Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow) capitalizes on end of the world fears yet again with this special effects extravaganza featuring John Cusack outrunning converging natural disasters on the eve of the end of the Mayan calendar.
Precious (Nov. 6)
Tyler Perry and Oprah produce this urban drama about an obese teenage mother trying to survive through the harsh reality of school and home in the inner city.
The Boys are Back (Oct. 2)
Scott Hicks (Shine) returns to Australia to direct this bittersweet drama about a single dad (Clive Owen) raising his sons.
Pirate Radio (Nov. 13)
Richard Curtis (Love Actually) directs Philip Seymour Hoffman in this comedy set in the '60s about an illegal radio station in the North Sea.
Fame (Sept. 25)
Another musical remake, this one about a bunch of drama and dance nerds singing and dancing and such.
Law Abiding Citizen (Oct. 16)
Gerard Butler is a disgruntled father and husband who goes vigilante on the attorney (Jaime Foxx) responsible for letting the killers of Butler's family go free.
Amelia (Oct. 23)
Hilary Swank plays Amelia Earhart, the legendary pilot who inexplicably disappeared while flying around the world.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (Oct. 16)
Chauvinist blogger extraordinaire Tucker Max gets the big screen treatment with what looks like a ridiculously stupid, but possibly funny, adaptation of the d-bag's lurid exploits.
Surrogates (Sept. 25)
Bruce Willis in another futuristic thriller, this one about humans who live in isolation and interact with each other through surrogate robots. Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) directs.
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