Oh, by the way, there are a lot of movies coming out this fall. You probably haven’t heard of a lot of them. Take a look:
At last, Martin McDonagh has returned to the film business with his follow-up to 2008’s scathingly funny, unsettlingly dark “In Bruges.” That film scored McDonagh an unlikely but highly deserved Original Screenplay nomination, plus a Best Actor in a Comedy win for Colin Farrell at the Golden Globes. Can “Seven Psychopaths” turn into another dark horse contender? Or will it just be a under-appreciated gem of black comedy, like McDonagh’s brother John Michael’s “The Guard”? Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell both look like they have flashy parts, and both are starved for some proper awards recognition.
I have no clue what is going on here, but apparently this film inspired a few disgusted walk-outs at Sundance, even though it is also completely based on true events (some reliable sources I’ve looked at say that label is no Hollywood exaggeration this time). Ann Dowd is getting most of the praise for her performance as the restaurant manager, but that’s likely a dark horse shot at most. But this is certainly an intriguing, supremely unsettling trailer.
Chicken with Plums
After the massive critical success of the film adaptation of her graphic novel autobiography “Persepolis,” Marjane Satrapi is back with her co-director Vincent Paronnaud to bring another of her books to life. “Chicken with Plums” lacks the personal touch of “Persepolis,” but it’s still an exquisitely melancholic, wistful tale of loss, both emotional and creative. It’s a bold choice to break from animation and move to live action, but there’s still a cartoonish quality to the visuals here that establish an atmosphere of fancy. And I’m always a fan of French actor Mathieu Almaric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “A Christmas Tale”), at least when he’s not shrieking and swinging a fire axe like an insane ferret (see: “Quantum of Solace”).
Won’t Back Down
It’s been a while since we had an inspirational teacher drama, hasn’t it? Let’s fix that! Take pretty white woman X (Maggie Gyllenhaal in Erin Brokovich mode), add minority character actor in desperate need of work Y (Viola Davis) and boom! You’ve got this year’s “The Blind Side.”
It is nice to see Holly Hunter climb out of whatever hole she’s been in since “The Incredibles,” and you know that Viola Davis will be about 500 times better than she has any business being in such a rote genre flick. Who knows? She could very well ride a groundswell of support after last year’s snub to a makeup Oscar win. We know the Academy eats up this kind of material (see: Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts). I’ll just probably be taking a pass.
A Royal Affair
And now for something completely different. Both Mikkel Forsgaard (King Christian VII) and Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Struensee) have been acclaimed for their performances in this film, which has the benefit of a baity period-piece setting to give it American attention despite it clearly being a tight European/Bergman-style character piece. “A Royal Affair” won Best Screenplay and Best Actor (for Forsgaard) at the Berlin film festival in February. Count me in.
Life of Pi
All right, to be honest I wasn’t a fan of Yann Martel’s over-earnestly “spiritual” novel in the first place, so I’m not particularly thrilled by the idea of a film adaptation, even I’m generally an Ang Lee fan. There are some genuinely thrilling and inventive cinematic moments in this trailer, although probably not the ones you think I’m talking about: I prefer that early shot of the zebra swimming through the sinking ship to just about any of the more in-your-face moments on display later on. I’m just getting way too much of a “Lovely Bones” vibe from the dreamy boat sequences. I don’t understand why “spiritual” in movies has become associated with “heavily computer-generated lighting.” I also can’t deal with the obvious fakeness of the tiger. Maybe others will disagree, but I’m not sold yet on this project at all.
Speaking of heavy CGI. I’m not familiar with David Mitchell’s sprawling novel, but I know it’s been accused of being completely unfilmable, and you can tell why from this extended trailer. So it’s small wonder that it took not just one ambitious director but THREE to put this together: Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run,” “Perfume”) and the Wachowski Bros. Who can tell whether these extremely hit-or-miss auteurs will be able to pull off such a monstrous piece (involving at least five or six different storylines, ranging from the distant past to the more-distant future), but this certainly looks like the boldest film in a year already full of daring big-budget pieces. At the very least, “Cloud Atlas” will be a fascinating failure, but it looks like it could be more than that. Love the cast, particularly Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent together (and Tom Hanks, where have you been? we’ve missed you!).
Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden movie finally has an official name and a teaser trailer that reveals…well, basically nothing. But, um, I’m digging the cast! Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt, Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez? Sure!
I have no idea why I can’t find this without German subtitles, nor why this trailer seems to be selling Dickens’ classic as a murder thriller, considering the use of Danny Elfman’s eerie theme from “The Wolfman” (last used to extremely good effect in the trailers for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”). Much as I tire of her, Helena Bonham Carter is probably a good choice for Mrs. Havisham, and Ralph Fiennes should make an excellent Magwitch. It will also be fascinating to see Jeremy Irvine (“War Horse”) getting his first major post-Spielberg role. Can he do more than stare longingly at horses?
Trouble with the Curve
Clint Eastwood apparently took offense to those uppity young hooligans and their “Moneyballs” last year. Eastwood didn’t actually direct this film, but you can bet that Academy voters won’t be able to remember that, so expect pretty much everything here, especially Eastwood and Adams’ performances, to be in play (Adams has the double whammy of this and “The Master” to practically ensure a Supporting Actress nomination this year). On a side note, it’s kind of fascinating to see Justin Timberlake’s career transformation essentially complete so successfully. He went from successful singer to acting alongside Clint Eastwood in approximately 0.05 seconds. How did that happen again?
Killing Them Softly
Andrew Dominik’s debut feature “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” gets better every time I watch it, and is constantly climbing my lists of both the best Westerns of all time and the best films, period. So I’m extremely excited for his mobster follow-up, even if “Killing Them Softly” didn’t set the critics afire at Cannes in May. “Jesse James” took a little while for people to warm up to as well. Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini both back in mafioso mode, Scoot McNairy (go watch indie sci-fi thriller “Monsters” to understand why I love Scoot)… this has to be at least some pulpy fun, right?