By Kevin Finnerty
As vacations end and the kids go back to school so also comes to an end the big summer blockbusters. In their place come films that are hoping to be noticed by Oscar voters and get a nod, as well as the holiday films looking to score at the box office before the year runs out. It’s that time of year – the time for the Fall Movie Preview. What can you expect this fall and holiday season on the big screen? Films about disease, baseball, forbidden romance, spy thrillers, a famous detective’s continuing adventures, and The Muppets.
Contagion [Sept 9]: Starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law
Plot: When a new virus starts infecting people it quickly turns into a worldwide epidemic with the medical community racing to find a way to try to contain it and hopefully find a cure. Meanwhile, around the world people begin to panic and turn on each other.
Outlook: With a very impressive cast and Seven Soderbergh directing, hopes are high that Contagion will be a suspenseful thriller and not the boring, uninteresting mess Outbreak was back in 1985.
Warrior [Sept 9]: Starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton
Plot: Dealing with a tragic past, Marine Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown and joins together with his alcoholic father to train for a mixed martial arts tournament with a huge payoff for the winner.
Outlook: Perhaps coming to the theaters too soon after last year’s big hit The Fighter and focusing on a sport which has not yet become popular with the mass movie going public, Warrior may not have the punch or drawing power to get people into the seats. However, Hardy’s increasing popularity along with strong reviews from preview screenings might make Warrior into the sleeper hit of the season.
Drive [Sept 16]: Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan
Plot: Ryan Gosling stars as a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals.
Outlook: The film’s picked up a lot of buzz on the festival circuit, with critics applauded both Gosling’s strong performance and director Nicolas Winding Refn’s no holds barred action sequences. This one could be the rare film that wins over both critics and audiences.
Dolphin Tale [Sept 23]: Starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd
Plot: Based on a true story of a dolphin named Winter and the group of people who come together to save her life.
Outlook: With a strong cast and Charles Martin Smith directing, Dolphin Tale which sounds like a Free Flipper film, could just be the family movie everyone sees this fall and enjoys.
Killer Elite [Sept 23]: Starring Clive Owen, Jason Statham and Robert De Niro
Plot: An ex-special ops agent is lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor. This puts him up against three expert assassins with a ruthless leader.
Outlook: The film has a solid cast but the action scenes shown in the trailer are uninspired and unoriginal. Most likely a forgettable action film.
Machine Gun Preacher [Sept 23]: Starring Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan
Plot: A born-again former drug addict becomes a fighting champion to orphaned Sudanese children.
Outlook: Inspired by true events, Machine Gun Preacher could just be the crowd-pleaser film of the fall.
Moneyball [Sept 23]: Starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill
Plot: Based on the bestselling non-fiction book written by Michael Lewis, Moneyball tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as he struggles to try to reinvent his cash-starved team by rejecting some of baseball’s most basic ideas.
Outlook: With the film losing two directors, including Steven Soderbergh, over creative differences before finally getting filming under way with Bennett Miller directing, the possibility that Moneyball could come up short is high. Here’s hoping they hit a home run with the film and don’t strike out.
The Ides of March [Oct 7]: Starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling
Plot: During the last frantic days before a Ohio presidential primary, an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself caught up in a political scandal not knowing who to trust and which side is the right side to be on.
Outlook: With a stellar cast including George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood – and already getting buzz as a candidate for Oscar season – the film could be the best political drama since All the President’s Men.
Real Steel [Oct 7]: Starring Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo
Plot: Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a washed up fighter, joins forces with his son and builds a fixer-upper steel fighter robot to enter into fights and take on the more powerful robots in the ring.
Outlook: Fighting robots. Here’s an idea for a match…C3PO vs. The Tin Man.
Footloose [Oct 14]: Starring Julianne Hough and Kenny Wormald
Plot: City boy Ren McCormack moves to the small town where dancing is banned and starts to butt heads with the kids and adults who like their town just the way it is, while he just wants to dance the night and day away.
Outlook: Of all the unnecessary remakes, this film might just take the dancing cake.
In Time [Oct 28]: Starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried
Plot: Set in the near future, people can be almost immortal because the aging gene can be deactivated. To avoid overpopulation, time has become the ultimate currency. The rich can live for centuries while the others struggle to survive. When a young man comes into a fortune of time, he goes on the run trying to save others with all his extra time and upsets the balance of this world.
Outlook: With a slick and stylish look, In Time sounds like a cross between the 1970’s science fiction film Logan’s Run and 2002’s Minority Report. Here’s hoping it’s just as good as the latter.
The Rum Diary [Oct 28]: Starring Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart
Plot: Johnny Depp stars as a journalist who leaves New York behind for a quieter life in Puerto Rico only to find himself caught up in shady business deals that present an ethical dilemma.
Outlook: It’s Depp’s second outing in a film based on a book by Hunter S Thompson, and his first effort – 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – is still considered one of the critically acclaimed actor’s finest performances. Hopefully, The Rum Diary will be just as good.
Puss in Boots [Nov 4]: Featuring the Voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek
Plot: Before Puss met up with Shrek, the suave furry cat had adventures with his old pal Humpty Dumpty and his new feline friend, Kitty.
Outlook: Avoiding yet another sequel and doing a spinoff on one of the best characters in the Shrek films, Puss in Boots just might be the animated film of the year. At the very least, it’s looking like a sure candidate for an Oscar nomination for Best Animated film.
J. Edgar [Nov 9]: Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer
Plot: Based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the man who made the FBI the agency it is today: an efficient, crime-fighting organization. Hoover founded the FBI in 1935 and remained its director until his death in 1972.
Outlook: Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring one of the best young actors in Hollywood today (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the title role, J. Edgar seems almost a shoe in for Oscar consideration. Looking over the talent involved, this biopic might wind up as one of the best films of the year if it lives up to its potential.
Happy Feet 2 [Nov 18]: Featuring the Voices of Robin Williams and Elijah Wood
Plot: Mumble, the young penguin star of the first Happy Feet movie, has a son in this sequel, and the little guy can’t dance.
Outlook: The original 2006 animated film won the Oscar as Best Animated Feature Film and brought in $380 million worldwide, so it was real no-brainer that Warner Bros would greenlight a sequel. Penguins are no less popular now than they were in 2006, so it’s likely this second outing of singing and dancing penguins will be just as big of a success as the ’06 hit.
Twilight – Breaking Dawn: Part 1 [Nov 18]: Starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
Plot: Bella and Edward plan their marriage and honeymoon and have to deal with all the dangers and conflicts it brings.
Outlook: The film will be a huge box office hit. It will also still have the same terrible dialogue, ridiculous make-up and horrible acting that’s been in the film series since it began.
Hugo [Nov 23]: Starring Chloe Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen
Plot: An orphaned boy lives a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station.
Outlook: Hugo marks Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s first excursion into the world of 3D feature films. And while audiences have turned against the format, Scorsese’s name might be enough to convince naysayers to give it another try.
The Muppets [Nov 23]: Starring Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy
Plot: Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet gang get back together and join forces with a few new friends (Amy Adams and Jason Segel) to hold the biggest Muppet telethon ever to save their old theatre from being destroyed.
Outlook: Bringing the Muppets back to the big screen has been long overdue. This film has had some of the most original and creative trailers to come along in years, and if the movie is half as funny as the trailers it will be the family film to beat this fall.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [Dec 9]: Starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth
Plot: An intelligence officer is recalled from retirement when there are signs that one of the top-ranking officers of the British Secret Service might be a Soviet mole.
Outlook: Remaking a solid but at times slow-moving 1979 TV spy thriller for the big screen just might work considering the strong British cast. And getting Oldman to play the main character Smiley, the spy hunter, is a brilliant casting choice.
The Iron Lady [Dec 16]: Starring Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent
Plot: The film spans seven decades but focuses on the peak of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s power in the 1980s.
Outlook: With Meryl Streep playing Thatcher, it’s all but guaranteed she’ll be earning her 17th Oscar nomination. Buzz has it that the film’s also worthy of a Best Picture nomination.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows [Dec 16]: Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law
Plot: A new case for the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his closest friend, Dr. Watson. This time they go up against their most dangerous enemy yet: the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty.
Outlook: With the return of Downey Jr. and Law as Holmes and Watson, plus Guy Ritchie back directing, the film should have the special buddy chemistry that made the first adventure so much fun to watch. In addition, with a more grounded plot, loosely based on Sherlock Holmes story The Final Solution, and some of the action happening on a train, the possibility of this sequel matching the original is high.
War Horse: Starring Emily Watson and Jeremy Irvine
Plot: The friendship between a boy and his horse during World War I.
Outlook: With Steven Spielberg once again getting behind the camera and in the director’s chair, the film has the potential to be a huge end of the year hit.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [Dec 21]: Starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara
Plot: Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist and antisocial computer hacker Lisbeth Salander team up to solve an old mystery.
Outlook: Having a close release date to Christmas may not be good timing for this film of murder, drugs, rape and horror. Audiences may be feeling the holiday spirit and not in the mood for such a moody, violent, cruel and dark movie. Anyone remember Tim Burton’s Christmas release of his horror musical Sweeney Todd? Still, some performances may get recognized by Academy members during Oscar season and the film does have a built-in audience thanks to the continuing popularity of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling books.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol [Dec 23]: Starring Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner
Plot: Ethan Hunt and his new team must clear IMF’s name after the organization is implicated in a terrorist bombing plot.
Outlook: Tom Cruise returns for the fourth time to play Ethan Hunt and, if the rumors are true, this could be his last outing before passing the baton on to a younger actor (Jeremy Renner?). If so, then Cruise is probably hoping MI:4 is the best of the series so that he can go out on a high note. Here’s hoping he’s right.