Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fall '09 Movies: Cheers, Fears, and Unclears, Part One

The summer's over, which means its that time of the year again: fall, when all of the studios roll out their Oscar fare in hopes of big box office and major awards. This season is no exception, though it has had a few surprises already (most notable: Shutter Island's move to February 2010. Maybe Paramount's hoping for a Silence of the Lambs-esque run at the 2010 Oscars? Or maybe there's just little faith that it will be completely ready for October? Who knows...). However, for me, the beginning of September is way too early to start predicting the Oscars- I'll do that towards December- but it is just the right time to give my preview of the movies I'm most looking foward to, the ones I wish would not get made, and the films that I'm really uncertain about. Let the previewing begin!
- 9, expected 9/9: I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer for this one, I wasn't completely sure about it. The Tim Burton-producing credit excited me (the Timur Bekmambetov-producing credit, not so much), and the cast seemed respectable, but it seemed just a tad too...strange. A bunch of ragdoll-like creatures running around an apocalyptic landscape with mechanical rodent-things chasing them? Really? But after watching Shane Acker's short film of the same name, I was won over. It appears that 9 is set to be an incredibly original film, and with a PG-13 rating, its certainly not aimed at the family crowd. I'm hoping this lives up to my creative expectations, and becomes another great entry in what has so far been a fantastic year for animated movies.
-The Informant!, expected 9/18: Matt Damon. Steven Soderbergh. Comedy. It feels like a lost Coen Brothers movie, and the trailer alone had me laughing out loud. And in this tough economy, a film where the average man has both the government and the company in his control ought to play well. And how can you say no to a film with a poster like this?
-Surrogates, expected 9/25: I'll admit it right now: I'm a sci-fi nerd. Well, sort-of. When it looks well-made and has a certain level of creativity to it, I'll get excited about it. And if there's something metaphorical or allegorical to it, even better. Surrogates, to me at least, carries a certain relevance in it's idea of people living their lives through robots rather than doing so themselves; we as a culture are constantly finding "lazier" ways of accomplishing simple, everyday tasks, and if the possibility of surrogate living ever were to emerge, I wouldn't be surprised to see people jump on board quickly. Hopefully, the film itself will live up to its big ideas, but it looks intense, and the effects are high quality, so I'm not too worried about it.
-A Serious Man, expected 10/2: Honestly, I get excited anytime the Coen Brothers do a movie. They especially excel at dark comedy, which this one definately is. The trailer doesn't reveal too much, just traditional Coen humor. Which, to me, is reason enough to look foward to this one.
-Zombieland, expected 10/9: This looks like the madcap, gonzo zombie comedy we've all been looking foward to. Turning zombie-killing into a sport as well as a way of survival, this looks like an entertaining, bloody film. Hopefully some creative zombie deaths are in store, and with a wonderful cast featuring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin (!), there will be big laughs too.
-New York, I Love You, expected 10/16: Back in 2007, I fell in love with Paris, Je T'aime, a collection of short films from various directors shot around (and about) Paris. The film captured many different people in different situations, and alternated between humorous, heartbreaking, and fantastic. It was a celebration of life, of humanity, of filmmaking, and, of course, of Paris. NY, ILY is the "sequel," and with a cast the features Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, Shia Labouf, Julie Christie, Anton Yelchin, Chris Cooper, Andy Garcia, and Ethan Hawke, and directors such as Mira Nair, Shekar Kapur, Brett Ratner, Joshua Marston, and Natalie Portman (her directing debut), I'm hopeful that this one will match the joy of its predecessor.
-The Road, expected 10/16: Please, for the love of God, let this be good! The Cormac McCarthy novel on which its based is wonderful, possibly the best book I've ever read. The casting of Viggo Mortensen as the man is very exciting, and John Hillcoat is an inspired choice for a director. This image from the film gives me hope that this will be the devestatingly personal post-apocolyptic thriller it should be:
This, however, worries me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHYZ7xDyBEw
-Where the Wild Things Are, expected 10/16: Finally! Spike Jonze's troubled production seems to have resulted in what is shaping up to be a hip, indie family movie that will tickle the imagination, warm the heart, and make us all feel like children again. Jonze's shown that he can work fantastical comedy before (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), and he seems right at home here. Bonus points for using The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" in the trailers. -Precious, expected 11/6: I'm ready to feel like crap after seeing this one. The story centers on an illiterate, overweight Harlem teenager who's dealing with a second unwanted pregnancy and a home life that could literally kill her. Mo'nique has gotten raves for her performance as the girl's abusive mother, and Mariah Carey shows up in a role that is surprisingly subdued. It looks like powerful stuff, though maybe not feel-good stuff. -Fantastic Mr. Fox, expected 11/9: I love Wes Anderson. Despite what many people said, I loved The Darjeeling Limited. I found it to be a humorous story of spiritual discovery and family bonding. And Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a Roand Dahl book, should include subtlely funny performances from its wonderful cast (George Clooney, Meryl Steep, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray) through '70s-style stop-motion animation. This looks like another Anderson classic.
-Broken Embraces, expected 11/20: There are certain directors out there who have one actor who really gets him, and they end up collaborating in one fantastic movie after another. Martin Scorsese had Robert De Niro (and later Leonardo DiCaprio), Woody Allen had Diane Keaton, and Pedro Almodovar has Penelope Cruz. This is their fourth film together, and perhaps their most personal: Cruz plays an actress who grows close to the filmmaker she idolizes. I'm looking foward to this one to be another great entry into the Almodovar-Cruz anthology.
-Nine, expected 11/25: There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this one. It's a musical based on Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. It centers around a film director and his relationships with the women around him. Those women are Marion Cotillard (so great in Public Enemies earlier this year), Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, and Fergie. It's directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago). And perhaps most intriguing of all: the director is played by none other than Daniel Day-Lewis, who, according to early reports, is actually a really good singer. We'll see about that.
-Brothers, expected 12/4: This one seems like a much smaller film compared to most on this list, despite the fact that it features Jake Gyllanhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. It centers on two brothers, one of whom supposedly dies in Afghanistan. The other brother then moves in with his brother's widow, only to see him return. This looks like the makings of a good drama that seems grounded in a reality of war: when you're presumed dead, how do you handle your world moving on? The fact that it's directed by Jim Sheridan (In America) helps.
-Invictus, expected 12/11: This is the story of Nelson Mandela in the early years of his presidency in South Africa, as the nation was still struggling with its aparteid past and centers on the nation's upset rugby victory in 1995. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood reunite for this one, though this time Eastwood is strictly behind the camera. I'm excited about this one because I'm a big fan of Eastwood, especially as a director.
-The Lovely Bones, expected 12/11: Or, Peter Jackson's return to his pre-LOTR roots. The story of a girl who is raped and murdered, then watches the lives of those around her from heaven, seems like the kind of dark territory Jackson treaded with Heavenly Creatures. And the fact that he has the WETA effects team behind him means there will be some wonderful heaven scenes. I'm hoping this one will be as good as his LOTR films and King Kong.
-Sherlock Holmes, expected 12/25: This reboot of the famous detective isn't your average Holmes: he's now a martial-arts expert on top of brilliant deducer. Guy Ritchie (Snatch) directs, and Jude Law and Rachel McAdams show up in supporting roles. But the real draw here is the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. Honestly, I can't say that I'd really be that interested in this one if he wasn't involved.
-The Tree of Life, expected 12/25: I'm not entirely sure of what the plot of this one is, nor am I sure that it will actually be any good. I do know that it's a fantasy epic starring Brad Pitt and Sean Pitt. And the fact that its only been three years since Terrence Malick's last film (The New World) rather than a decade or two is always welcome.
Part Two will feature the fears, or the films that I'm dreading the release of, and the unclears, the films that I'm kinda hyped about but not really sure if I want to see....yet.

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