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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Film Preview: Part One

Temperatures and leaves may be falling, but the race for awards season is just heating up. Last week I detailed what albums you should look forward to this fall. In this preview, I tackle the topic of film. For part one, let’s discuss blockbusters and Oscar bait.

Entertaining Blockbusters
Two films already out in theaters begin this preview. One film, Contagion, which follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days, made News & Views’ list of top 25 films for 2011.  The other, Drive, which is about Ryan Gosling driving cars, was relatively unknown until trailers started popping up in late summer. Both, though, are making quite the splash this fall.  Listed in pretty much every fall preview—from Entertainment Weekly to Us Weekly—these two flicks have both received rave reviews and performed exceptionally well at the box office.

If a high-speed noir thriller about a driver named Driver can do really well, then why not a flick where Hugh Jackman trains real, live Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots? In Real Steel, director Shawn Levy takes us to the not-so-distant future where the sport of human boxing has been replaced with remote-controlled mechanized brawls. The story is truly about a father-son relationship, though, as robot controller Jackman works with his son, whose mother has just died, to turn an underdog robot into a champion. Every fall preview is pretty pumped about this flick even if the premise seems slightly silly. As iO9 puts it: “If you can take both ‘robot boxing’ and ‘father-son bonding over robot boxing’ seriously, this might be a fun romp.”

Not into Ryan Gosling (yeah right) or robots? There are plenty of other action-packed flicks to satiate your cravings this fall. Taylor Lautner breaks from his werewolf pack to star in Abduction, an actioner about a high school senior struggling to discover his true identity.

Justin Timberlake continues to not make music and instead headlines In Time, a trippy sci-fi thriller set in a future where humans cannot age past 25. To prevent overpopulation, people are only allowed to live one year after their 25th birthday. After that, they have to either earn or steal additional time. Guess who just inherited a century’s worth of time and a giant target on his back? J.T.

Like your action to be psychologically thrilling? Look no further than Dream House starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. In this horror flick, a couple and their two young children move into a quaint New England home with a grisly past. Lots of folks have said the trailer (see below) reeks of spoilers, but film execs swear that’s not the actual plot twist.

Like your action in the form of boot-scootin’? Look no further than Footloose.  No, we didn’t time travel back to 1984. Hollywood has remade the cult classic. Starring Julianne Hough and Kenny Wormald, this new Footloose has updated choreography and a more racially diverse cast. However, the rest of the story remains relatively the same. Call me a skeptic—or just a realist—but I don’t have much faith in this endeavor. Still, the music and choreography should at least be entertaining.

By now you either love or hate the Twilight series, so you’re either really excited for Breaking Dawn: Part 1 hitting theaters on November 18 or you’re quite miffed that there are not one, but two films remaining. Either way, this movie has three things that will pique interests across the board:
  1. Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) is directing.
  2. Bella and Edward get hitched and get down.
  3. The star-crossed lovers have a human-vampire baby in what is sure to be a memorable birthing scene. (Think Alien.)
Awards Season Contenders
Awards season hits after fall, so traditionally autumn is laden with contenders. This season is no different as several heavy-hitting pictures step up to bat.

Remember how much everyone liked The Blind Side? Well, get ready to like Moneyball, another film based on a book based on a true story by Michael Lewis (who wrote The Blind Side). If that isn’t reason enough, Moneyball also combines two things America loves: baseball and underdog success. The film “centers on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who takes over as general manager of the cash-strapped Oakland Athletics baseball team and, through analysis and a new, nontraditional Sabermetric approach to scouting players, creates a competitive baseball team.”² Add Philip Seymour Hoffman and the comedic relief talents of Jonah Hill and you’ve got Oscar bait, my friends.

Ryan Gosling and George Clooney have teamed up—and it isn’t just to stand there and look pretty. They’re starring in a political thriller entitled Ides of March. “Besides directing, co-writing, and producing, Clooney plays Gov. Mike Morris, who is making a run for the Democratic presidential nomination…Gosling portrays his spokesman; Philip Seymour Hoffman his campaign manager. Paul Giamatti is a rival campaign manager,” summarizes the Denver Post.

Based on the book, My Week with Marilyn is the true story of Colin Clark, an assistant working on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, who documents the tense interactions between his boss, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Marilyn Monroe. Oscar Nominee Michelle Williams—who Screen Rant applauds as “one of the most talented actresses working today”—plays the bombshell in all her platinum glory and is rumored to be a knockout in the part.

In J. Edgar, Leonardo DiCaprio plays FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, sporting brown contacts to hide his baby blues and adorning prosthetic makeup to portray the man in his elderly years. Clint Eastwood directs and Dustin Lance Black (Milk) scripts this biopic, tracing Hoover’s life from his childhood in D.C. to his 50-year reign over the FBI.  According to Us Weekly, the film “also examines his private life as an alleged closeted homosexual.”

If Ryan Gosling can put out two films this fall, then why can’t George Clooney? In The Descendants, he plays a Hawaiian land baron and father whose life is upended after his wife slips into a coma and he learns that she was having an affair. According to The Denver Post, “director-writer Alexander Payne understands pain and poignancy. And few directors move so seamlessly between those two moods.” And as proven in his acclaimed Sideways, he can ably walk the line between comedy and drama. Here, in his film The Descendants, he apparently does just that with great results.

That wraps up part one of News & Views’ fall film preview. Stay tuned for part two where we turn our sights on family flicks, comedies, and the offbeat and quirky. In the meantime, we’d love for you to share your thoughts. What films are you looking most forward to and why?

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