Part 1: Filmgoers look forward to fall
Here's the first in a three-part series looking at fall films.
To label this summer a disappointment is an understatement. Granted, “The Avengers” managed to inexplicably exceed expectations, but so many others either failed to meet them (sorry, “The Dark Knight Rises,” sling it somewhere else, “Spider-Man”) or just downright bombed (“Battleship,” “Dark Shadows,” “That’s My Boy,” “The Bourne Legacy”).
It was the summer of small wonders, from the raunchy Teddy Ruxpin in “Ted” to the magic of “Magic Mike,” to the glowing “Moonrise Kingdom,” tiny budgets turned in big profits.
Enter the autumn slate. Fall is already abuzz with a number of prestigious pictures that are garnering effusive praise at film festivals before launching into local theaters. Here’s a sample of some of the bigger offerings ready to wipe away our dashed memories of the summer of our cinematic discontent.
“10 Years”: Channing Tatum just can’t stay away from high school. After returning to it this summer in “21 Jump Street,” he brings Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, Aubrey Plaza and others to explore how their lives have since changed.
“Finding Nemo” (3-D): Pixar is relaunching its aquatic adventure, retrofitted in 3-D.
“The Master”: Director Paul Thomas Anderson follows up “There Will Be Blood” with this drama starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams that has been deemed brilliant, dense and narratively daunting.
“Resident Evil: Retribution” (3-D): For those keeping track, this is the fifth entry in the film series in which Alice (Milla Jovovich) takes on the Umbrella Corporation and its zombie mutants.
“Stolen”: Nicolas Cage tries to get in on all that Liam Neeson “Taken” action, starring as a New Orleans thief who must rescue his kidnapped daughter.
“Dredd” (3-D): Attempting to make amends for the wretched mid-90s comic adaptation that starred Sylvester Stallone and, yes, Rob Schneider, this hero gets an ultra-violent makeover, with Karl Urban as the Judge.
“End of Watch”: Director David Ayer (“Training Day,” “Street Kings”) can’t get enough of that L.A. cop action, this one starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as partners caught in a particularly nasty turf war.
“House at the End of the Street”: Jennifer Lawrence of “The Hunger Games” moves to a new town (with Delaware’s own Elisabeth Shue as her mom) and falls for the boy next door, who may be hiding a secret.
“Trouble with the Curve”: Clint Eastwood steps out of acting retirement (and chair whispering) to star as a grumpy baseball scout who recruits new talent with the help of daughter Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake.
“The Hole” (3-D): Though this has been on the shelf a while, this scary tale from director Joe Dante is reminiscent of those “Goosebumps”-like thrills he was capable of creating earlier in his career. It’s a great little horror film aimed directly at older kids that is worth the attention of a widescreen release.
“Hotel Transylvania” (3-D): The crew at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison company voices this cartoon, in which a creature resort run by Dracula (Sandler) is happened upon by a clueless human (Andy Samberg).
“Looper”: Another Toronto Film Fest favorite, this sci-fi feature from writer/director Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom”) is being mentioned in the same breath as “Blade Runner” and “Inception” for its visionary tale of a hired killer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt ) who offs criminals sent back to him from the future. Until one day, he realizes he’s been delivered an older version of himself (Bruce Willis).
“Won’t Back Down”: Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal attempt to tackle the issues enveloping their children’s decaying school.
“Frankenweenie” (3-D): Tim Burton takes the short that launched his film career and gives it the feature treatment, following a young boy who attempts to bring his dead dog back to life…with mixed results.
“Pitch Perfect”: Or “Glee Goes to College” as Anna Kendrick leads her university’s a cappella group to the big stage in this musical comedy that’s rumored to have a much edgier side than its television comparison. The film also stars Christopher Mintz-Plasse (forever McLovin), Elizabeth Banks, Brittany Snow and John Michael Higgins.
“Sinister”: The director of the uneven “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” returns to the horror genre with Ethan Hawke, who stumbles on some old haunted home movies in his new dwellings that begin to affect his own family.
“Taken 2”: Liam Neeson gives us this generation’s Charles Bronson with this revenge sequel, which has the father of one of Neeson’s first round of rage victims coming to exact justice for his lost son. This type of setup looks like it can keep the franchise going until either a) Neeson runs out of family members to abduct or b) he has wiped out the bloodlines of all his attackers.
“Argo”: Those who dismissed Ben Affleck’s directorial aspirations may receive the final knockout blow with “Argo,” if rapturous rumors of its recent screening are true. Following the solid and exciting “The Town” comes this real-life story of a covert mission to rescue American civilians from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis by posing as a film crew to retrieve them.
“Atlas Shrugged Part 2”: Despite the fact that exactly five people saw the original (and only one of them liked it), the producers are plowing through with a sequel (with a rumored third on the way.
“Here Comes the Boom”: Kevin James is a schoolteacher who decides MMA fighting is a great way to save his school’s extracurricular programs. Think “Dangerous Minds” with more throat punching.
“Alex Cross”: Tyler Perry drops the Medea fat suit for this big-screen version of author James Patterson’s popular detective in this potential franchise-starter from director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,” “XXX”).
“Killing Them Softly”: Andrew Dominik follows his languid “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” with this mob drama starring Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta.
“Paranormal Activity 4”: More bumps in the night caught on grainy surveillance video.
“The Big Wedding”: Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton continue to completely dump on their cinematic legacy in this rom-com with Katherine Heigl (contractually obligated to be in every third romantic film Hollywood releases).
“Cloud Atlas”: The Wachowskis (the “Matrix” films, “Speed Racer”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) work together to bring a cinematic vision to David Mitchell’s (literally and metaphorically) heavy novel about love, self, revolution and consequences throughout the ages. Stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent and Jim Strugess, who each play multiple roles, genders, ethnicities, etc. This should be an easy sell to the masses!
Read Part 2 of Rob Rector’s fall movie preview in the Friday, Sept. 21 edition.