Autumn Movie Preview 2011
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! Tis autumn and the Oscar season is just around the corner. The Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals – and on their heels, London – will give us a preview of what we can expect in the hype and glory department. Autumn also seems to give permission to distributors to raise the IQ bar a degree or ten.
According to industry wisdom, there is a significant audience that doesn’t mind smart movies but would prefer to enjoy the sunshine… These people (and you know who you are) are ready to put aside those frivolous comic book popcorn blockbusters now and return to the high fibre, low calorie art-house experience at this time of year – including several of the more nutritious pictures that premiered at Cannes back in May.
Don’t worry though, if its mindless entertainment you’re after, the multiplexes won’t let you down. There’s plenty for everyone coming up in the next couple of months. Here are some of the movies we’re most looking forward to…
Contagion (Oct 21)
Will the new Matt Damon movie go viral? Expectations are high even though the last time Damon, director Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns collaborated, The Informant! spluttered at the box office. The impressive cast includes Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, and Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad.
Anonymous (Oct 28)
One of the oddest prospects of the season: blockbuster king Roland Emmerich returns with a seventeenth century thriller based on the theory that Shakespeare’s plays were written by someone else entirely – Rhys Ifans, in fact. It looks a bit like Shakespeare In Love, but no doubt Emmerich is hoping for a Da Vinci Code response. Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson both appear as Elizabeth I.
Straw Dogs (Nov 4)
It takes a brave man – or a fool – to take on Sam Peckinpah, and we’ll have to wait and see which category critic-turned-filmmaker Rod Lurie (The Castle; The Contender) belongs in. The notorious rape revenge film caused quite a stir back in the 1970s, but Lurie has switched the action from Cornwall to the USA (the deep south, of course) and instead of Dustin Hoffman and Susan George we get James Marsden and Kate Bosworth. In other respects, judging from the trailer, it looks to be very faithful.
Crazy Stupid Love (Sept 23)
Ryan Gosling – he’s a busy boy this autumn. Same day as Drive hits the street, so does this tongue in (someone else’s) cheek romantic comedy in which he’s the alpha male mentoring Steve Carell’s middle aged dad in the ways of attracting the opposite sex. (Including Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone.)
Midnight in Paris (Oct 7)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Woody Allen’s latest is a real return to form, his funniest since… the 1920s? That’s where frustrated writer Owen Wilson finds himself hobnobbing with Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds, when moments before he was in twenty first Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. A sleeper hit in North America, Midnight In Paris is fun, frivolous riff on the kinds of whimsical movies Woody used to make in his Purple Rose Of Cairo period.
The Rum Diary (Nov 4)
The triumphant return (we hope) of Withnail and I scribe Bruce Robinson, with what would seem like the perfect raw material: a Hunter S Thompson Caribbean story, Johnny Depp reprising/revising his Fear and Loathing shtick, plus Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Jenkins and Amber Heard.
Arthur Christmas (Nov 11)
Aardman Animation steps into the third dimension with the year’s earliest Christmas present. The bad news: this is yet another movie that thinks the magic of the season is to be found in revealing Santa’s North Pole sweat shop, an idea that has already given us such immortal yuletide yucks as Santa Claus The Movie, Fred Claus and The Polar Express. On the other hand, it is Aardman, so it will probably be fantastic.
Melancholia (Sept 30)
Kirsten Dunst’s nuptials are threatened by a new planet on collision course with the earth. Critics at Cannes were divided by the latest grand statement from perennial provocateur Lars von Trier, though generous in their admiration for Dunst’s performance. Course all that was overshadowed by Lars’ foot-in-mouth press conference, but we’re still hoping Bruce Willis is going to show up and save the day…
The Ides of March (Oct 28)
With a US Presidential election brewing up, George Clooney gets in on the act early with this hopefully compelling drama of conscience. Ryan Gosling (but of course!) is the young campaign manager who thinks he’s on to a good thing with the candidate played by George Clooney, though Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman have other ideas. Clooney directs from a screenplay he wrote with Grant Heslov (Good Night and Good Luck) from Beau Willimon’s play.
The Help (Oct 28)
A big hit with middlebrow audiences in the US despite mixed reviews, this could wind up with Oscar nominations for Viola Davis (a maid in Mississippi in the late 50s) and conceivably Jessica Chastain (poor white trash with a heart of gold). It’s sentimental, manipulative and completely predictable but at least it knows that racism is wrong.
Moneyball (Nov 25)
Well, yeah, it’s about baseball. And no, I don’t know a thing about baseball either. So why am I looking forward to this movie so much? Because it’s the true story of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s manager who revolutionized the sport by ignoring the stars and concentrating on the stats… his theory is now encroaching on football too. Oh, and there is a bumper package of talent attached to this movie… Bennett Miller (Capote) directs a screenplay by Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network). If you still need stars, how about Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill and Robin Wright?
Tyrannosaur (Oct 7)
A big hit at Sundance in January, the first feature directed by Paddy Considine is a harrowing film about a Christian woman who meets a raging, violent widower (Peter Mullan), a man who leads her to question her own marriage to the troubled James (Eddie Marsan). Potentially a career-changer for actress Olivia Colman (Peep Show), just don’t expect dinosaurs.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Oct 21)
The long-awaited return of Ratcatcher/Morvern Callar director Lynne Ramsay, who has been AWOL for nearly ten years now. Lionel Shriver’s novel about the mother of a teenage killer is the ultimate tough subject matter, but Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly (as her estranged husband) racked up great reviews at Cannes.
My Week With Marilyn (Nov 18)
Can Michelle Williams convince as Marilyn Monroe? If the early buzz is anything to go by this could lead to a third Oscar nomination for the Blue Valentine star. Kenneth Branagh is Lord Olivier, Julia Ormond is Vivien Leigh, and Judi Dench (who else!) is Dame Sybil Thorndike. Inevitably, Harvey Weinstein has snapped up US rights, which won’t do Williams’ chances any harm at all.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Oct 7)
Although he didn’t direct it himself, Guillermo del Toro’s fingerprints are all over this remake of the fondly-remembered 70s TV chiller (he produced and wrote the screenplay). A family renovates an old mansion, but the little girl is the only one who realizes the basement is already occupied, by creatures who don’t necessarily appreciate the intrusion.
Paranormal Activity 3 (Oct 21)
It’s Halloween, must be time for the third found footage Paranormal Activity flick – or should that be “Paranormal In-activity”? It’s hard to get excited about this prequel, though it’s kind of amusing to note that the directing now falls to those dogged documentarians Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, of Catfish fame.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Nov 18)
Whether or not you find the imminent arrival of the next instalment in the Twilight franchise frightening, depressing, or the most exciting prospect of the season is entirely up to you. But it is directed by the talented Bill Condon, who made Gods And Monsters and Kinsey before biting off more than he could chew with Dreamgirls. So we have some hope it will surpass the previous tearjerkers. One question though: who is Dawn?
Big Screen Contenders
The Three Musketeers (Oct 12)
Our own Paul WS Anderson hopes to do for Dumas what Guy Ritchie did for Conan Doyle in this roistering CGI swashbuckler. Or perhaps he’s hoping to muscle in on Pirates of the Caribbean territory. The trailer is fun, and the cast (including Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Christoph Waltz and top-billed Milla Jovovich) is willing. But is there a Johnny Depp/Robert Downey lurking in the wings to make this a must-see? And without him, will the Americans bite?
Footloose (Oct 14)
The 1984 hit might prove more relevant than ever, next year, if the US gets an evangelical President Bachman or Perry. But this year, the best thing gong for the remake is writer-director Craig Brewer, who flexed his musical muscles in Hustle and Flow. Newcomer Kenny Wormald steps into Kevin Bacon’s sneaks.
From director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson: a 3D computer animated take on the classic boys’ own hero. Oh yes, and the screenplay is by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Joe Cornish (Attack The Block) and Steven Moffat (Doctor Who). If the technology doesn’t kill it, this should be a blast.
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