Fall Movie Preview: September 2011

I thought this summer offered some pretty respectable blockbusters. Bridesmaids, X-Men, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Harry Potter, Captain America, and The Help were all a lot of fun, and it comparison to last year’s summer wasteland, things looked pretty good.

But now it’s time for the fall movies. This is typically when the major Oscar contenders start to come out, and things get a little more “serious”. Things are just getting started in September, but even though there isn’t a ton of Oscar bait released this month (just wait for November and December), there are a lot of really interesting-looking films at both the cineplex and the arthouse theatres this month.

= Possible awards contender

= Times Like Those pick

= Probable cash cow

= Indie with breakthrough potential

= Looks like a turd

September 2


Apollo 18

Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

This purposely mysterious film purports to show “recovered footage” from a secret, final Apollo moon mission. Cast info is not available, though the film is being distributed by The Weinsten Company. It’s an interesting premise, and they seem to be taking a Blair Witch-inspired approach to marketing, which is always fun. If it gets good reviews, I’ll probably give it a rental.

Shark Night 3D


Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katherine McPhee, Donal Logue

Director: David R. Ellis

From the director of Snakes on a Plane comes Shark Night 3D! I don’t know what else to say, really. I enjoyed Dustin Milligan in 2009’s Extract, but I doubt I’ll ever watch this movie.


A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Tyler Labine, Leslie Bibb, Will Forte, Lucy Punch, Martin Starr, Lake Bell, Lindsay Sloane

Director: Pete Huyck, Alex Gregory

I have to hand it to Jason Sudeikis, because he’s a pretty ballsy actor. Anyone who would star in a film called A Good Old Fashioned Orgy has to be. And while this film obviously isn’t going to find a huge audience, there’s some good talent involved. The female cast is comprised of women who are, yes, beautiful, but also actually funny (Lake Bell totally won me over in No Strings Attached). However, the trailer was a bit of a disappointment. Despite the…unique…premise, they seem to be settling for easy laughs. (Limited release)

September 9


Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star

Starring: Nick Swarsdon, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson, Stephen Dorff, Kevin Nealon

Director: Tom Brady

Nick Swarsdon is a fairly funny guy when you see him interviewed, yet he always seems to be in awful movies. He is kind of unappealing and difficult to cast, though, so maybe it makes sense that he would star in a film about a well-endowed “kid” who follows in parents’ path into pornography. I’m really surprised this is actually getting a wide release. I do kind of enjoy that Stephen Dorff is in this movie and playing a character named “Dick Shadow”, though.


Contagion

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishbourn, Bryan Cranston, John Hawkes

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Soderbergh’s latest film about the outbreak of a deadly virus has earned major buzz for its star-studded cast (I’m most excited to see Jude Law and John Hawkes). But just as importantly, it looks like a compelling story, though the concept may hit too close to home for some moviegoers. I don’t think it will be a major player at the box office or in awards season, but I imagine Contagion will earn a fanbase nonetheless.


Warrior

Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison

Director: Gavin O’Connor

If there’s one thing we learned at the Cineplex this year, it’s that a movie doesn’t need a slate of A-listers to be successful. Movies such as Insidious, Bridesmaids, and Super 8 didn’t contain a single household name onscreen, yet they all performed well at the box office. And it seems to me that Warrior is poised for similar glory. Co-leads Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton have already earned the respect of critics and also appeared in blockbusters (Hardy made his mark in Inception and Edgerton was in the new Star Wars films), but they haven’t yet claimed the fame to go along with it all. But both are poised for breakthroughs, and Warrior could be the film to get the ball rolling. Warrior doesn’t look like it breaks any new ground, but sports movies are often crowd-pleasers. Nick Nolte has also piqued viewers’ interest as the grizzled veteran fighter. This is a formula that worked very well for The Fighter last year, and I suspect Warrior may also become a slow-building hit.


Beware the Gonzo

Starring: Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Jesse McCartney, Campbell Scott, Amy Sedaris

Thanks to his darkly handsome looks and his upcoming film We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ezra Miller has already earned a rather intense association with his name. But believe it or not, Beware the Gonzo is actually a comedy. In the film, Miller plays an aspiring high school journalist who starts an underground newspaper with his group of misfit friends. I’m all for a film that combines teenage rebellion and print journalism, and judging by the trailer, the film looks potentially promising. (Limited release – currently available in VOD formats)


Tanner Hall

Starring: Rooney Mara, Georgia King, Brie Larson, Amy Ferguson, Tom Everett Scott, Chris Kattan, Amy Sedaris

Director: Francesca Gregorini, Tatiana von Furstenberg

Tanner Hall is actually a couple of years old, but it is just now getting distribution thanks to Rooney Mara’s rising star status. It looks like a harmless coming-of-age tale about life at a girls-only bording school. My expectations aren’t huge, but the trailer has a nice mood about it, and this seems like a film that I will probably enjoy. (Limited release)

September 16


Drive


Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn

I know that everyone loves Ryan Gosling, but I don’t know if this movie is going to connect with a huge audience. I think it may end up being a film like The American, which turns out to be less action-packed and more “arty” than a lot of people expect. This is just based on its success at Cannes, so I could be off the mark, but either way, it looks like an interesting film. Gosling plays a Hollwood stunt driver whose night-time gig as a getaway driver becomes complicated when he gets tied up in a heist. The tone of the movie looks moody, and it’s great to see Gosling getting complex roles.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Pearce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks, Kelsey Grammer

Director: Douglas McGrath

Take a look at this plot synopsis and tell me that this isn’t a completely misogynistic concept for a movie:

“A comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy, a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids.”

WHAT? How is that the plot of a movie? If the roles were reversed and the film was about a man who provides for his wife and two children, there wouldn’t BE a movie. Last time I checked, many women hold jobs in our society today. If that paper-thin premise is all this film has, then it was made about 50 years too late.


Straw Dogs

Starring: Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Alexander Skarsgard

Director: Rod Lurie

Maybe I’m just imagining things, but it seems like I have been hearing about this damn movie FOREVER. It’s where Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard met and started a serious relationship, and they have since broken up. But anyways, this is based on the 1971 Dustin Hoffman film, and right down to the posters, it looks like a lazy remake. But if you want to watch Alexander Skarsgard ride around in a pickup and terrorize James Marsden and Kate Bosworth, be my guest.


Restless

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Harry Hopper, Shuyler Fisk

Director: Gus Van Sant

I’m interested in any film made by Gus Van Sant (Milk, My Own Private Idaho) but this story of two teens falling in love especially catches my interest. As the trailer reveals, Wasikowska’s character is terminally ill, and Hopper’s character has a penchant for crashing funerals, so all of this could lead to a sappy, overly-cutesy weepy. But I have a lot of faith in Van Sant, and at the very least, this should at least be a visually beautiful film. (Limited release)

September 23


Abduction

Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Sigourney Weaver

Director: John Singleton

When I was a tween, I read a book called The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney. In the book, a teen girl spots her on own mug on a milk carton, claiming her to be a “missing child”. From there, she has to revaluate her entire childhood, and uncover who the people who claim to be her parents actually are. This is basically the premise of Abduction, a film which has the misfortune of starring Taylor Lautner. However, I do like Lily Collins, and the film has a very interesting supporting cast (can Jason Isaacs just be in every film?). The Face on the Milk Carton was a book that really stuck with me at that age, so if this film is lucky, it may find a similar appeal for today’s youngsters.


Dolphin Tale

Starring: Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson

Director: Charles Martin Smith

I’m not going to trash this film sight unseen, because I’m sure it’s a heart-warming film, and if I was 10 years old, I would be the first in line to see it. It has a charming cast, and if the director handles the material right (and how far wrong can you go with a film about a boy who befriends an injured dolphin?), it will probably be decent family fare.


Moneyball


Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Director: Bennett Miller

Brad Pitt hasn’t had a true “vehicle” film since Benjamin Button, so it will be kind of nice to see him back in all of his swaggering, heroic glory. This time he plays the manager of a struggling baseball team who turns to technology to draft his ideal players. Normally, I would want to fall asleep after hearing that premise, but I’m giving Moneyball the benefit of the doubt for two key reasons. First of all, it was written by Aaron Sorkin, whose last project – The Social Network – won him an Oscar. As well, it was directed by Bennett Miller, who added some real visual flare to his last project, Capote.

Killer Elite

Cast: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert DeNiro

Director: Gary McKendry

Jason Statham has been making the same film for ten years (with the notable exception of Gnomeo & Juliet), and I never watch any of them (the only movie of his that I’ve seen is The Italian Job). Things probably won’t change with The Killer Elite, despite the fact that it co-stars Clive Owen (who has strangely been getting a bit typecast himself recently) with a villainous moustache. Throw in Robert DeNiro as a kidnapped mentor that Statham has to rescue, and you’ve got a pretty impressive cast. Yet this film is only getting a limited release, perhaps due to its first-time director. It’ll turn out to be surprisingly good, or completely forgettable.


Machine Gun Preacher

Cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan,

Director: Marc Forster

Clive Owen used to be the guy who got the good roles, while his twin, Gerard Butler (am I the only one who confuses them?), toiled in action snoozers and rom-coms. But it seems like the tables will turn this week at the cinemas. Gerry’s all grown up, you guys! In fact, he’s even gaining serious Oscar buzz for his role as a reformed biker who turns his efforts towards saving African child soldiers. But my question is this: am I bad person for rolling my eyes every time I hear about this movie? When I first heard the title, I thought it was some kind of tongue-in-cheek Machete-esque flick, and the poster could be much more obvious. I’m sure the filmmakers’ intentions were very good, but this whole movie just smacks of overly-earnest, “important” filmmaking to me (see also: The Reader). Is the “bad-boy-turned-saviour” genre the new “nice white lady” movie? (Limited release)


Red State


Cast: Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, Nicholas Braun, John Goodman, Melissa Leo

Director: Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith has been busy hyping Red State in a cross-continent tour, so a lot has already been said about this movie. But for those who don’t know, it’s the story of three boys who (during a search for sex gone horribly wrong) are basically abducted by members of a fundamentalist church. This is clearly a movie designed spark controversy and discussion, but it also looks like really entertaining filmmaking. If the trailer looks like something you’d enjoy, check the film out in one of the many formats that it will be available in (as well as a limited release, I believe the movie will also be available on-demand). (Limited release)

September 30

50/50


Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogan, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Houston

Director: Jonathan Levine

Whether or not the world is prepared for it, we’re getting a cancer comedy. And it’s getting a wide release, surprisingly. But seriously, this does look like a well-handled, affectionate dramedy. And if any young actor can pull it off, it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s brilliant at both comedy and drama, and he’ll certainly have to balance the two here. Anna Kendrick is also an appealing as Levitt’s therapist, and Seth Rogan (who’s getting surprisingly serious lately) should provide an extra comedic touch.


Dream House

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts

Director: Jim Sheridan

Jim Sheridan is a solid director (I really liked last 2009’s Brothers) so I have a bit more faith in what looks like a glossy Hollywood mystery/thriller. It also features some good actors. But from the poster to the plot description (a family moves into a new house and learns about the violence committed against former residents) it seems pretty typical. There could be more to it, though, and to be fair, I haven’t watched the trailer yet, as I heard it was rather spoiler-y.


What’s Your Number?

Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Joel McHale, Zachary Quinto, Andy Samberg, Anthony Mackie, Martin Freeman

Director: Mark Mylod

Everything about this film looks utterly predictable, yet it’s still kind of appealing to me. I think Faris is a really, really talented comedic actress, so it’s always nice to see her get leading roles. And Chris Evans (who has been growing on me a lot as an actor) seems utterly charming, judging by the trailer. I also love a lot of the actors playing Faris’ long line of “exes”. The film looks mediocre (it even has a cheap look to it, to be honest), but I think the comedic talent involved will elevate the material.


Margaret

Starring: Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Allison Janney, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin, Olivia Thirlby

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Kenneth Lonergan first feature was the heart-warming and acclaimed 2000 film You Can Count on Me. Now, over ten year later, his next project will finally see the light of day. The film, which stars Paquin as a woman who witnesses a horrific bus accident, has been in development for years. It’s also the final film produced by Sydney Pollock and Anthony Minghella (who both passed away in 2008) to be released. The director alone is enough to get me interested, and the cast seals the deal. Long delays are never a good sign when it comes to the quality of a film, but I’m willing to give Margaret the benefit of the doubt. (Limited release)


Take Shelter

Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Wingham

Director: Jeff Nichols

I like to think of Another Earth, Take Shelter, and Melancholia as a doomsday-eque, sci-fi-twinged trio. And I’m not sure what it says about me that I’m hotly anticipating all of them. But anyways, in Take Shelter, Michael Shannon plays a man who is haunted by apocalyptic visions and becomes obsessed with building a shelter in his backyard. If anyone can pull off a teetering, volatile character, it’s Shannon, who’s proven his talent for playing characters on the edge in films like Revolutionary Road and The Runaways. It’s a fascinating concept, and the trailer looks just as off-kilter and freaky as you’d expect. (Limited release)

2 responses to “Fall Movie Preview: September 2011

  1. Pingback: Fall Movie Preview: September 2011 (via Times Like Those) « The Cineaste's Lament.

  2. Drive is exceptional. They got the tone just right but partly because they mixed it with a really creative soundtrack. I hope it gets an audience. I haven’t seen anything better in film in a very long time.

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