Fall movie preview: September 2011

We’re switching over to the fall movie preview now, heading into award season. September exists in a misty plain between high award season and the dwindling summer blockbuster rush. September tends to be a bit of a doldrums at the cinema, and this year is no different as the slate is mostly crap with but a few notable titles mixed in.

September 2

Apollo 18

There really was an Apollo 18 manned flight to the moon in the early 1970’s, or at least there were plans for an Apollo 18 mission. Apollos 18-20 were cancelled. Apollo 18, the movie, posits that Apollo flight #18 actually went off and while on their top-secret mission, the astronauts discover something or other that lead to ending the of the Apollo space program. Dimension is running herd on this and is advertising like the footage is real, so it’s basically The Blair Witch Project on the moon.


A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

Jason Sudeikis anchors this “comedy” about group of friends attempting to mount an orgy (haha, puns). Eric’s (Sudeikis) father decides to sell the beach house where Eric and his pals lay about, doing nothing and disappointing everyone in their lives, so Eric and his buddies decide to throw one last bender, an orgy. There’s a lot of likeable comics in this movie—Tyler Labine, Martin Starr, Lucy Punch, Nick Kroll, Will Forte—and actors whom I have enjoyed in other funny movies—Leslie Bibb, Lake Bell, Lindsay Sloane—then there’s Sudeikis. I guess he wasn’t completely awful in Horrible Bosses but he’s still the comedy equivalent of a cucumber. He gets the job done or whatever but he’s hardly the most interesting thing on the plate. This movie looks awful but I can’t decide if that’s because it is bad or just because this trailer is shitty.

Update: The movie is bad.

Shark Night 3D

A bunch of no-name kids star in this shameless rip-off of the Piranha franchise. At least Piranha 3D was fun in a bloody, shrieky kind of way. Shark Night 3D just looks like an excuse to remind everyone that sharks are soulless killing machines intent on eating our faces off, and that we’re not safe, no matter where we swim.

September 9

Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star

Dear Nick Swardson:

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Burke & Hare

Andy Serkis makes an appearance as himself, and not a soulless mocap monster, starring alongside Simon Pegg in this movie about Victorian serial killers who murder people and sell their corpses to a medical school. I’m macabre enough to think this sounds hilarious.

Contagion

Gwyneth Paltrow kicks off a worldwide pandemic of a hyper-viral strain of avian flu when she returns home from a trip and coughs on her family in Chicago. Then it’s a race to save what’s left of a diseased, broken human race as the virus spreads. Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Outbreak does look pretty cool, kind of like a worst-case scenario for the flu panic that strikes every fall. Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburn, Marion Cotillard and John Hawkes also star.

Main Street

Colin Firth sports quite possibly the worst Southern accent in the history of cinema in this movie about the grindingly slow death of Durham and how one magical stranger is going to save them all with a factory (that makes hopes and dreams?). A lot of decent talent other than Firth, got suckered into this project, including Margo Martindale (Justified), Patricia Clarkson, Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia) and Ellen Burstyn. Oh, and Orlando Bloom. Which—don’t we all remember what happens when Bloom tries to do “modern guy with a Southern accent”?

Shaolin

Chinese action import Shaolin is about a group of Shaolin monks who kick ass across China during feudal times. Warlord Hao Jie kills another warlord on Shaolin ground, then must take refuge with the same monks whom he previously insulted (including Jackie Chan) when his family is killed. Hao then teams up with the monks and they go on an ass-kicking spree to defeat the warlords that are tearing China apart. God I love Chinese action movies.

Tanner Hall

Tanner Hall premiered at TIFF 2009 and sat on the shelf for couple years, only to get dusted off and have a limited release in 2011, thanks to Rooney Mara’s rising star. The story revolves around a group of girls at a New England boarding school, doing coming-of-agey things like having sex with older men, back-stabbing and abusing No Doz. I’d give this one a pass and see Cracks instead.

Warrior

Estranged brothers (Tom Hardy and the suddenly-in demand Joel Edgerton, Animal Kingdom), square off in the ring/cage/whatever for a mixed martial arts championship and “the biggest purse ever”. One brother is a favorite winner; the other is a scrappy upstart. As they compete the brothers must face the history that divides them and deal with the re…

This is just A League of Their Own for guys, right?

We Were Here

This documentary examines the impact of the arrival of AIDS in San Francisco and is highly likely to make everyone cry. It premiered to generally positive notice at Sundance back in January, and is only opening in New York this weekend and in Los Angeles the following week for Oscar qualifying runs.

September 16

Drive

Ryan Gosling goes for broke in Nicolas Windin Refn’s Drive, which is about a guy, known only as Driver, who is a stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night. He gets tangled up with the mob, and the pretty young mother next door, and then he hammers a bullet into a dude’s skull. Drive has been scoring crazy accolades ever since it debuted at Cannes, where Refn took home the best director prize. It’s a throwback to stuff like Bullitt and Driver and between Refn and Gosling it looks like not-your-average action film. I’m too excited to see this to be snarky.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

Sarah Jessica Parker appears in another shitty movie about upper-class New Yorkers. I don’t know how she keeps getting to make this crap.

My Afternoons with Marguerite

I swear I’ve profiled this movie before, but I’m too lazy to find it. My Afternoons with Marguerite is a French film about an illiterate man (Gerard “pees on the plane” Depardieu) who finally gets the education he was denied throughout his life when he meets a well-read, elderly woman (Gisele Casadesus) in the park one day. I’m sure it’s a sweet movie, and everyone involved is talented, but all I can think about is this.

Restless

I’m a fan of Mia Wasikowska, don’t get me wrong. And I want to like Henry Hopper, just because of his dad (the late Dennis Hopper). And of course I think Gus Van Sant is a good director. All that said, Restless looks so painfully hipster I can’t stand it. She’s dying! And he likes to go to funerals! And they outline themselves in chalk on the ground! And they meet a World War II ghost! And they play Battleship! It’s seems remarkably absent of Van Sant’s pointed, deconstructive style, impersonal even. There’s a lack of urgency that feels off for a movie about death, dying and young love. New York and LA only.

Straw Dogs

Director Rod Lurie (The Last Castle) remakes Sam Peckinpah’s 1970’s “classic” of the same name. Lurie relocates the action from rural England to the Deep South, recasting the Dustin Hoffman role with James Marsden as David Sumner, a screenwriter, who moves to his wife Amy’s (Kate Bosworth) small hometown. Once there, the locals give David a hard time as they think he’s weak and effeminate, and there’s also Amy’s ex Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), who is a creepy asshole type. Things get predictably worse once David hires Charlie and his buddies to do some work renovating the old farm the Sumners bought. It all comes to a head when Charlie gets Amy alone and violently rapes her, which is why I won’t be seeing this movie. The original drew a lot of criticism because the rape scene was a bit ambiguous, with Amy seemingly enjoying herself at times. Lurie adjusts the same scene in his update to be make it clear that Amy is not having fun at any time and that this is all very horrible. Which is good? I just can’t sit through movies where the whole point is someone getting raped explicitly on screen.

Three

German director Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run) explores the world of a long marriage going stale in Three. Hanna (Sophie Rois, Enemy at the Gates) and Simon (Sebastian Schipper, Run Lola Run) are closing in on twenty years of marriage and are feeling a bit of ennui in their relationship. Enter Adam (Devid Striesow, The Counterfeiters), a young man with whom they each form a relationship. New York and LA only.

September 23

Abduction

I can’t WAIT for this. 1) I’m a huge fan of bad action movies and this looks like a terrible action movie, and 2) finding out if Taylor Lautner will have a viable career after Twilight. Lautner stars as a kid whose life is made of lies and he has to run away from the CIA and some other bad guys while trying to figure out who he really is. Oh! And 3) Lily Collins also stars, and I support my fellow big-browed sister. Also starring Alfred Molina, Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver and Michael Nyqvist, whom we all know as Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

A Bird of the Air

A bunch of people I’ve never heard of star in a movie I’ve never heard of about a guy with a mysterious past who finds a parrot one day and sets out to find its owner. He’s joined by a quirky girl with a basset hound. Oh god, it’s more hipster than Restless. HIPSTER IS NOT A GENRE.

Speaking of quirky girls and indie love stories, though, have you seen this?

Dolphin Tale 3D

At this point, there’s no explaining Ashley Judd’s career. Morgan Freeman I get—pay him and he shows up. He’s supporting that town down in Mississippi so he needs a constant stream of cash. But Judd? Nope, I don’t get it. Anyway, Dolphin Tale is apparently based on a true story about a dolphin that loses his tail in a crab trap and all the people whose lives he touches along the way. As I type this, I’m laughing hysterically, which I KNOW makes me an asshole but COME ON. It’s a dolphin amputee! I laugh every time Flipper Tails comes on screen. And since it’s in 3D, please tell me there’s a scene where Tails’ prosthetic flipper comes off and flies out toward the audience. Because that would be HILARIOUS.

I’m going straight to hell.

The Double

So it seems like the Soviets are coming back as a popular movie villain trope. First Salt, now The Double. Richard Gere and Topher Grace star as a retired CIA operative and an FBI agent, respectively, trying to hunt down an assassin. I like both those guys but I feel like I’ve seen this movie a million times already, and as the buzz for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy continues to build, I don’t want to soil my spy movie appetite before the main course, you know? Really, if you’ve got a spy movie coming out this year that isn’t Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, you should just like, wait. No one is going to stand up against it (I’m looking at you, The Debt).

The Killer Elite

Another bad action movie! September is my month. Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro (another whose career I increasingly don’t understand) star in this movie about…assassins? I think? And they’re trying to kill each for the money? You know what, who cares. Statham + Owen + DeNiro + shitty action = I’m there. It will suck, it will make no sense, but it maybe it will be fun. Like, I’m not sure Abduction will be any fun, but I’m pretty sure this one will be. Also, Clive Owen. He’s dreamy.

Moneyball

Brad Pitt stuck with this project for a long time and his perseverance paid off as Moneyball looks really good. It’s the story of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager who applied sabermetrics in the early 2000s to turn the A’s from a horror show into a perennial contender. Moneyball traces Beane’s struggle to make the A’s a going concern given their bargain-basement payroll, particularly the introduction of sabermetrics via Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is a fictionalization of Beane’s real-life assistant at the time, Paul DePodesta (now with the Mets). I love baseball, so I’m not going to care if this movie is really basebally, but I can see where this might not have quite the broad appeal one would expect from a Brad Pitt movie. It’s basically about math and how math changed baseball, a sport a lot of people already think is boring. Still, I loved the book so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Puncture

This movie looks terrible but it does feature Chris “Captain America” Evans in a muscle shirt and tie, which makes me laugh. I still like Evans, though his physical appeal has lessened as his Captain America body is basically a side of beefcake. I kind of forget that he goes off and makes these little dramas in between bouts of trying to become an action star (though now that he’s succeeded in that at last, maybe we won’t see a film like this from him for a while?). He’s usually pretty good in this kind of thing, even if the movies themselves end up disappointing (see also: Fierce People and The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond). In puncture he plays a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a healthcare company that is blocking the introduction of “safety syringes” meant to help protect doctors and nurses from infection via dirty needles. If I bother with this at all, it’ll be on DVD.


Red State

Red State is, of course, Kevin Smith’s masturbatory self-distributed “horror” movie about a group of teens who think they’re in for a night of anonymous sex but instead get taken hostage by a group of fundamentalists, or something like that. Everyone says Michael Parks (Kill Bill) is really good, but I cannot stand Kevin Smith these days, or these asshole movies he keeps making. He’s so offended that everyone says he makes crappy movies (dude, you made COP OUT) that he goes out and makes…another crappy movie. There once was something charming about Smith but now he’s just a douchebag, which makes me sad because I love Mall Rats.

September 30

50/50

I can’t write about it until the embargo is up in a couple weeks, but 50/50 is really, really good and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a helluva performance as Adam, a 27 year old guy stricken with a rare form of cancer. Seth Rogen is also particularly effective as Adam’s best friend—his range is limited but what Rogen does well, he does really well—and Anna Kendrick is charming as a young therapist. You will laugh AND cry—buckets—so take tissues with you.

Bunraku

I keep seeing this title all over the genre film sites. It’s some kind of samurai/spaghetti western and though I do like my bad action movies, this one holds no appeal for me, not even for Josh Hartnett and his little mustache. The trailer is a mess and looks oddly cheap. It also reminds me of The Spirit, which is a movie I’d really rather forget. Pass.

Courageous

This is one of those fake movies where you initially think you’re watching a movie but then you realize it’s just a message piece. There’s nothing wrong with the message (in this case, be better fathers), but the delivery irks me.

Dream House

The movie that brought us Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, husband and wife! This movie set spawned an all-time hot couple to obsess over, so it’s too bad it looks like total crap.

Margaret

Cripes, how many movies does Matt Damon have this year? Well, this is another one starring Matt Damon (and Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Allison Janney, Olivia Thirlby, Jean Reno, Keiran Culkin and Matthew Broderick), and this time he’s partnered with director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me). Margaret is about a high-schooler who witnesses a traffic accident and feels partly responsible for it, and what the emotional fall out of her experience is. Sounds sad, and Lonergan is a Grade A “gonna make you cry” guy, so Margaret gets a tissue warning, too.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

This movie is SO GOOD. If you haven’t seen it yet on demand, make time to find it in theaters. It’s so funny. Here’s my full review.

What’s Your Number?

Anna Faris and Chris Evans star in this romantic comedy about a girl who discovers if she sleeps with any more men her chances of getting married drop drastically. So she sets out on a quest to revisit all her old boyfriends to see if she can marry one of them. Or something like that—logic is obviously not this movie’s strong suit. Faris is funny, though, and this is Chris Evans like I like him—not a side of beefcake and snarky. Pus there’s a host of people I enjoy, undoubtedly playing the exes, including Joel McHale, Chris Pratt (Faris’s real-life husband), Anthony Mackie, Andy Samberg, Martin Freeman and Zachary Quinto. When this movie was made, Evans and Faris were both “on the cusp but not quite delivering”. Well Evans has since made good on his promise, thanks to Captain America, and now it’s Faris’s turn to live up to her reputation as “the modern Lucille Ball”. Err…sure.

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