Part 2: Look ahead at fall films

September 12, 2011

Editors note: This is the second of a two-part installment that takes a look at autumn at the box office.

Wait a minute. That's it? Did I miss a memo or something? Just where the heck did summer go? Well, the box office, despite all the hype, really came down to just two words: Harry and Potter.

The summer of 2011 marked the final entry into the most successful franchise in film history and will be likely be the only marker when future writers reflect upon the box office statistics. All the rest of the films are but footnotes.
Sure, there will be some items of note: the success of women being invited into the R-rated comedy summer sandbox ("Bridesmaids"); the fact that Pixar is, indeed, fallible ("Cars 2"); that 3-D is but a fad; and that Ryan Reynolds is not a headliner ("Green Lantern," "The Change-Up").

But no matter how many spandex-clad crime-fighters muscled into the multiplex ("Thor," "Green Lantern," "Captain America") the boy wizard and his Hogwarts pals are by far the heroes of summer 2011.

The year is far from over. There are still a number of films that may not be vying for blockbuster status, but rather for prestige. Not all will take place in Victorian-era mansions with subtitles and suppressed emotions, though. There are many offerings that are purely for grins and greenbacks, too. So here is a smattering of both for you to choose among wisely:


Puss in Boots: The "Shrek" kitty (voiced by Antonio Banderas) get his own feature and tries to milk any potential laughs left in the unfunny franchise.

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas: Perhaps trying to re-establish goodwill after the sequel that followed this generation’s Cheech & Chong to Guantanamo Bay, this 3-D musical promises that the yule log won't be the only thing ablaze.

Tower Heist: No marquee name above the title (Ben Stiller! Eddie Murphy!) can cover up the fact that "Heist" is a Brett Ratner film. The director takes the "Oceans 11" route on a topical revenge fantasy, as a bunch of working-class schlubs attempt to rob a banking exec who fleeced them in a Ponzi scheme.

J. Edgar: Dustin Lance Black follows his Oscar-nominated screenplay, "Milk," with another controversial public servant. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hoover, who was a feared and revered lawman with closetful of secrets.

Jack & Jill: Adam Sandler does drag. So does the trailer for this film.

11-11-11: Maybe I'm overthinking this, but isn't releasing a horror film about a disastrous day on that very same date going to dramatically shorten its shelf life? Who's going to care enough to see this on Nov. 12?

Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1: Following the Harry Potter lead, the makers of "Twilight” have decided to break the finale into two parts to prolong the union of Ms. Mumblepants (Kristen Stewart) and Bitey McSparkles (Robert Pattinson).

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Gary Oldman stars in this Cold War thriller based on the John le Carré bestseller that is a remake of a cornerstone BBC production which starred Alec Guinness in the lead.

Happy Feet, Part 2: Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) and Ramon (Robin Williams) are joined by some new pals as they discover a penguin who can fly and see their world literally rocked to its core.

The Descendants: Alexander Payne, the crown prince of awkward, serio-comic family ties ("About Schmidt," "Sideways," "Election") casts George Clooney as a wealthy landowner forced to reconnect with his daughters after his wife dies.

The Muppets: Jason Segal takes his puppet love to the limit, serving as writer and star of this latest flick of the fuzzy felt friends. Piggy, Kermit and the crew must reunite to save an old theater destined for destruction by a wealthy businessman.

Hugo: Martin Scorsese tries his hand at kiddie flicks with this book-based tale of an orphan living in 1930s France who lives in a bustling train station and discovers magic within its walls.

Piranha 3DD: Picking up at the conclusion of last year's more-fun-than-it-should-have-been "Piranha 3-D," this sequel follows group of prehistoric mutant fish as they invade everything from plumbing pipes to water parks.


The Sitter: Jonah Hill takes on the Elizabeth Shue role from "Adventures in Babysitting" and splashes in a little "Uncle Buck" as the irresponsible guardian of a gaggle of young kids who gets caught in a number of misadventures along the way.

New Year's Eve: Garry Marshall, whose directorial bucket list must be to work with every living actor available, casts everyone from A(shton Kutcher) to Z(ac Efron). Following his "Valentine's Day" blueprint, the director follows the lives of many during a night of new year bacchanalia.

Carnage: A "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" for a new generation as Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslett star in this play-based flick about two upper-class couples who meet over a discrepancy between their sons.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Chipwrecked? Really? Was "Steaming Pile of Chip" too obvious?

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Holmes and Watson face their greatest adversary: Professor Moriarty.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Ethan Hunt and fellow IMF agents are forced to go underground when they are implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin. Brad Bird, director of "The Incredibles" and "The Iron Giant" takes over in his first time directing live action.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: The best-selling Stieg Larsson book gets an Americanized retooling, courtesy of director David Fincher. Daniel Craig plays the journalist who is aided by a young computer hacker to solve a decades-old missing person case.

We Bought a Zoo: Cameron Crowe, who has been really out of the game since 2000's "Almost Famous," (the less said about "Elizabethtown" and "Vanilla Sky," the better) gets some help from Matt Damon, who purchases a run-down zoo with his family in tow.

Tintin: Steven Spielberg decided that a series of Belgian comics from the '30s would be an awesome source for him to use in stepping into the director's chair. Jamie Bell lends vocals to the lead character who goes on a magical treasure hunt.