My excellent colleague George Lang of Staticblog and I tag-teamed this story, which also appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Fall movie preview holds promise of more substantial fare
With the blast-furnace heat of summer starting to subside in Oklahoma, the films of fall require more than just movie theater air-conditioning to be cool. The fall movie season looks like a boon for audiences looking for more substance, including new films by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney.
With the blast-furnace heat of summer starting to subside, the films of fall require more than just movie theater air-conditioning to be cool. Starting this weekend, the movies populating the multiplexes start to feel a little more adult as studios position their elite properties for awards season.
But this year, the shift in tone will not feel as abrupt as it has in recent years. August is usually a dumping ground for lowbrow comedies and slapdash horror garbage, but in 2011, the month was dominated at the box office by the heartfelt period drama “The Help,” which is expected to surpass $100 million this weekend. So in the next few months, once viewers get past Nick Swardson’s porn-oriented comedy opening today, the fall movie season starts to look like a boon for audiences looking for more substance, including new films by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney.
Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne face down the consequences of a global epidemic in Steven Soderbergh’s slow-burning, hyper-realistic drama “Contagion.”
The acclaimed indie science-fiction film “Attack the Block” centers on a group of South London gang members who battle invading aliens.
In “Warrior,” Tom Hardy of “Inception” revisits the fight scene he dominated in 2008′s “Bronson” as a mixed martial arts fighter trained by his alcoholic ex-boxer father, played by Nick Nolte.
After playing second-banana in Adam Sandler’s recent films, comic Nick Swardson steps into the spotlight in “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star,” in which a naive man-child from the Midwest discovers that his parents (Edward Hermann and Miriam Flynn) were porn stars. Naturally, he is inspired to follow in their footsteps. Christina Ricci, Don Johnson and Kevin Nealon also star.
In other stand-up news, comedian Kevin Hart’s recent 90-day concert tour is captured in the concert film “Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain.”
Oklahoma City’s James Marsden steps into Dustin Hoffman’s shoes in a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s tense masterwork “Straw Dogs.” In this version, screenwriter David Sumner (Marsden) relocates to the deep South with his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), and they encounter resentment and violence from the local population. Alexander Skarsgard (“True Blood”), James Wood and Walton Goggins (“Justified”) co-star.
Director Nicholas Winding Refn follows up “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising” with “Drive,” in which a stunt driver played by Ryan Gosling gets embroiled in a disastrous robbery. Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) and Bryan Cranston also star, but look for Albert Brooks playing against type as a dark-hearted mobster in this stylish thriller.
Sarah Jessica Parker plays a finance executive who is the chief breadwinner for her family in “I Don’t Know How She Does It.” Greg Kinnear and Oklahoma City’s Olivia Munn co-star in this comedy directed by Doug McGrath (“Emma”).
In “Life, Above All,” the realities of life in modern South Africa are reflected in the relationship between a mother and a daughter (Khomotso Manyaka and Keaobaka Makanyane).
Vera Farmiga of “Up in the Air” makes her directorial debut with “Higher Ground,” a drama about one woman’s lifelong struggle with her faith.
“Lion King 3D” retrofits Disney’s 1994 animated classic with 3-D visuals for a special two-week theatrical release, followed by a Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3-D release Oct. 4.
Based on Michael Lewis’ acclaimed nonfiction book, “Moneyball” stars Brad Pitt as a baseball manager putting together a team based on computer analysis. The film also stars Jonah Hill, Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Taylor Lautner of the “Twilight” films stars in “Abduction,” a thriller in which a young man tries to uncover the secrets of his life after he sees his baby photo on a missing persons’ website. “Abduction” is directed by John Singleton (“Boyz N The Hood”) and co-stars Lily Collins, Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver.
After his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken captive, a retired member of British special forces (Jason Statham) must kill three assassins dispatched by underground kingpin Spike (Clive Owen) in “Killer Elite.”
Based on a true story, “Dolphin Tale” is about the heroic efforts of a prosthetics doctor (Morgan Freeman) to give an injured dolphin a new tail. Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson also star.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a 27-year-old man dealing with his cancer diagnosis and leaning on his best friend (Seth Rogen) to help conquer the disease in “50/50.” Anna Kendrick of “Up in the Air” plays his therapist, and Angelica Huston stars as his mother.
Director Jim Sheridan (“In America,” “My Left Foot”) ventures into scary territory with “Dream House,” in which a couple played by Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz discover that their beautiful house in rural New England was the scene of a grisly murder.
“What’s Your Number?” features Anna Faris (“Observe and Report,” “The House Bunny”) as Ally Darling, who is revisiting the scenes of her last 20 relationships and wondering if one of them was her true love. Chris Evans stars as her neighbor, who is enlisted to help sort through the men in exchange for Ally keeping his exes away.
And in the faith-based film “Courageous,” directed by Alex Kendrick (“Fireproof”), four policemen deal with unique fatherhood challenges.
In the road trip movie “Dirty Girl,” Juno Temple stars as an Oklahoma teenager dealing with both her titular reputation and the impending marriage of her mother (Milla Jovovich).
Based on the Richard Matheson short story “Steel,” “Real Steel” stars Hugh Jackman as a boxer who misses the chance to become a champion when robots take over the sport in 2020. The film represents a departure for director Shawn Levy, who is known mainly for comedies such as “Night at the Museum” and “Date Night.”
In his first directorial effort since 2008′s screwball comedy “Leatherheads,” George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” follows a hotshot adviser (Ryan Gosling) working on the presidential campaign of an idealistic governor played by Clooney. The film is based on the 2008 play “Farragut North,” which was loosely based on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential run.
“Machine Gun Preacher,” directed by Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland”), chronicles the true story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), a former member of a biker gang who dedicated his life to helping child soldiers in Sudan. Michelle Monaghan also stars.
Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd star as a couple forced to leave behind their elite Manhattan life due to job losses and relocate to rural Georgia in “Wanderlust.” The comedy is directed by David Wain (formerly of the comedy teams Stella and The State), who also directed “Role Models” and the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer.”
And in Gus Van Sant’s “Restless,” a terminally ill teenage girl (Mia Wasikowska of “The Kids Are All Right” and “Alice in Wonderland”) falls in love with a boy (Henry Hopper) who is obsessed with funerals.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald takes on the rebellious dancing machine role that made Kevin Bacon famous with the long-delayed remake of “Footloose,” co-starring Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid, co-written and directed by Craig Brewster (music-oriented films “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan”) and featuring a new version of the iconic theme by Oklahoma country music star Blake Shelton. The 1984 movie is loosely based on real-life events that happened in Elmore City in 1980, and the do-over seems to be dancing closely in those same footsteps.
A group of international scientists uncovers a stealthy and deadly alien being on a research base in Antarctica in “The Thing,” the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 horror classic of the same name.
The real-crime thriller “Texas Killing Fields” follows two detectives (Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hunting for a serial killer who dumps his victims’ mutilated bodies into a nearby marsh. Their investigation gets more urgent when a well-known local girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) disappears.
In “The Big Year,” Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin star as avid bird watchers vying to spot the rarest birds in North America as part of an esteemed competition.
Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman play the heads of a wealthy but troubled family held captive in a home invasion in “Trespass,” the latest from director Joel Schumacher (“Batman & Robin,” “Phone Booth”).
Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson and Mads Mikkelsen are part of the international cast of director Paul W.S. Anderson’s (the “Resident Evil” franchise) take on Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale “The Three Musketeers.”
Since the first low-budget iteration yielded megabucks returns in 2007, a new “Paranormal Activity” movie has practically become a pre-Halloween box-office tradition; “Paranormal Activity 3” is expected to serve as the series now-obligatory origin story.
Set at an investment bank in the early stages of the 2008 financial meltdown, the thriller “Margin Call” stars Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore.
In “The Way,” Martin Sheen plays an American doctor who travels to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to collect the body of his grown son, who was killed while walking The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James. The grieving father decides to make the pilgrimage himself in this drama written and directed by Sheen’s son Emilio Estevez.
From a fake auction to anti-protest protests, writer-director Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) has labored mightily to draw attention to his action-thriller “Red State,” and now moviegoers finally get to see his tale of a group of party-hungry teens who get entangled with a well-armed fundamentalist group. The film features Oscar winner and former Tulsan Melissa Leo, Michael Angarano and John Goodman.
Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy star in auteur Andrew Niccol’s (“Gattaca,” “The Truman Show”) thriller “In Time,” set in a world in which people stop aging at 25 but are genetically engineered to live only one more year unless they can buy an extension.
Johnny Depp again takes on a tale by the late gonzo author Hunter S. Thompson with “The Rum Diary,” based on Thompson’s debut novel about a freelance journalist who flees Eisenhower-era America but finds all kinds of trouble when he takes a job at a crumbling Puerto Rican newspaper. Depp starred in 1998′s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” based on another Thompson book.
In “Anonymous,” a fine English cast — Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson and David Thewlis — star in a political thriller that plays out one proposed scenario in the ongoing debate about who wrote the beloved plays attributed to William Shakespeare.
A bumbling British secret agent (Rowan Atkinson) is assigned to protect the Chinese premier from international hit men in “Johnny English Reborn,” the sequel to the 2003 comedy “Johnny English.”
Don’t expect a fairy tale with writer-director Julia Leigh’s “Sleeping Beauty,” about a college student (Emily Browning, “Sucker Punch”) who takes a job as a sexual submissive.
The holiday movie season gets an early kickoff — and presumable sendup — with “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas,” the third film featuring the titular stoner best pals (John Cho and Kal Penn) on a hilarious hunt for a replacement for the prized Christmas tree they accidentally burn down. Yes, Neil Patrick Harris as himself will get involved in their latest adventure.
Antonio Banderas’ swashbuckling cat gets his own movie with the “Shrek” spinoff “Puss in Boots.” Set in the time before the flamboyant feline meets Shrek, the animated fractured fairy tale also will feature the voices of Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.
Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck and Alan Alda star in director Brett Ratner’s (“Rush Hour”) action-comedy “Tower Heist,” about a group of working stiffs who set out to rob the Wall Street charlatan whose Ponzi scheme has destroyed their pensions.
Before he dons Superman’s cape as “Man of Steel,” British actor Henry Cavill plays Theseus, a mortal man tasked with saving humanity from power-hungry King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who seeks to unleash the Titans, in “Immortals.” Seeing imaginative director Tarsem Singh’s (“The Fall,” “The Cell”) vision of Greek mythology is intriguing.
Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black examine the life of controversial first Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover with the biopic “J. Edgar,” starring three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts.
In “Jack and Jill,” Adam Sandler does double duty, playing a successful advertising executive and family man in Los Angeles who must endure a protracted visit from his needy New Yorker sister (also Sandler).
Lest you think this date looks lucky, director Darren Lynn Bousman (“Saw” installments II-IV) presents the horror-thriller “11-11-11,” set on the 11th day of the 11th month and centered on a being from another world that passes into the earthly realm through heaven’s 11th gate.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the supernatural hybrid baby in the baby carriage, as director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) splits the fourth and final novel in Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular romantic tale into two installments. In “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” human heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire fiance Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) tie the knot — to the consternation of her werewolf best friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) — and then find themselves expecting a paranormal infant.
“Happy Feet Two,” the sequel to the 2006 Oscar-winning animated hit, features tap-dancing penguin Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) trying to help his son discover his talents, and a star-studded vocal cast, including Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Pink, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara, Common and Hugo Weaving.
Also for fall
In “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a traumatized young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) struggles to readjust to life with her family after fleeing an abusive cult in this Sundance Film Festival favorite.
Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar (“Talk to Her”) adapts Thierry Jonquet’s 1995 novel “Mygale (Tarantula)” with “The Skin I Live In,” about a grieving, unscrupulous and brilliant plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who invents a type of durable synthetic skin that he tests on a mysterious woman.
Academy Award winners Anna Paquin and Matt Damon and Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo star in the drama “Margaret,” about a young woman (Paquin) who is haunted by the feeling that she inadvertently played a role in a deadly traffic accident.