The crop of summer movies this year were more lackluster than blockbuster. But September is upon us and with it comes the fall film season, a time for Oscar bait and festival favorites and — at least in 2010 — more exciting sequels, remakes (such as “Let Me In,” pictured above) and 3D, sci-fi and fantasy films than those of the prior frame. It almost makes sense that “Machete,” the most satisfying kind of action fluff, which in many ways is also the smartest blockbuster of the year so far (not that it’s been hard), arrived in the transitional weekend of Labor Day. It closes out one season with a bang (and a lot of stabbing and slicing) and opens another with a semblance of grown-up debate.
As a sort of compliment to the indieWIRE Fall Preview, we will look at the more mainstream releases of the next four months, mostly studio fare. There is some overlap, though, as certain accessible indies will likely find their way before general audiences. We’ve structured our preview differently so that instead of listing an order of most anticipated titles, we’re highlighting two films per release week until the new year, each of which we think will have people talking. Basically we see these 34 films being those most worthy of future discussion here at Spout. Dates may change, and some titles may suddenly pop up on our or your radar down the line. So if you’re interested in seeing something else from the season covered on this blog, please let us know.
“Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Screen Gems/Sony)
As someone completely unfamiliar with the video games, I’ve nevertheless always enjoyed the “Resident Evil” film franchise as a guilty pleasure. Now the first installment’s director, Paul W.S. Anderson, returns for more zombie action as Alice (Milla Jovovich) looks for survivors in Los Angeles. More of the same, perhaps. This time around, though, I’m curious to see if this third sequel satisfies the waning interest in 3D. The marketing is really selling the movie on the fact it was shot with the same cameras James Cameron developed for and used on “Avatar.” Will it get me excited about the format once again?
“Heartbreaker” (limited opening; IFC Films)
The first of many limited-release offerings to keep an eye out for, this French import about an irresistible man hired out to break up doomed relationships who meets his biggest challenge is formulaic enough to meet American romantic comedy standards while featuring enough charm and wit to make even the most cynical of viewers smile. See it before Hollywood ruins the premise with its planned remake. Like “Amelie” before it, this has enough wide appeal that it doesn’t need an English-language version.
“The Town” (Warner Bros.)
Ben Affleck’s directorial follow-up to the excellent “Gone Baby Gone,” this appears to be heavier on the action but no less promising of great drama and strong performances. Starring Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper and Blake Lively, “The Town” is based on Chuck Hogan’s novel “Prince of Thieves,” about a crew of bank robbers and the FBI agent looking to take them down. It looks to be the most exciting heist drama since Michael Mann’s “Heat.”
“Never Let Me Go” (opens in limited release 9/15; Fox Searchlight)
This adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s best seller, which stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield as boarding school students who learn they’re being reared towards a terrible fate, looks like a stuffy period-set romantic drama. But it has a dystopian science fiction element that will fascinate the interests of fanboy audiences, too.
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (20th Century Fox)
How has the financial world changed in the 23 years since Oliver Stone’s classic? We’ll find out through the eyes of Gordon Gekko, finally out of prison following his insider trading arrest back in the ’80s, and we’ll likely be reminded that while the economy and banking institutions are run differently, their driving force is still the belief that greed is good. Carey Mulligan also co-stars here as Gekko’s daughter, who’s engaged to a young trader played by Shia LaBeouf.
“Enter the Void” (limited opening; IFC Films)
There are a lot of disturbing moments in Gasper Noe’s psychedelic odyssey about a young man navigating his afterlife in the urban day-glo dreamscape that is Tokyo. But there are also many beautiful and stunning visuals that will stay with you longer.
“The Social Network” (Columbia Pictures/Sony)
Curious about the origins of that website you’re heavily addicted to? David Fincher (“Fight Club”) takes us back to the 2003 beginnings of Facebook with a sure-to-be-star-making performance from Jesse Eisenberg as co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the guy you have to thank for equally making your social life easier and more frustrating. Justin Timberlake also appears as Napster co-founder Sean Parker.
“Let Me In” (Overture Films)
I recommend you just see the original Swedish film adaptation of “Let the Right One In,” a horror tale about a young vampire and the bullied neighbor she befriends, especially since I’ve heard this English-language version is pretty much shot-for-shot the same. But last week I also saw an awesome clip of an unfamiliar murder sequence set at a gas station, and I’m thinking there might be a few new moments to enjoy, even if for the most part the redo is redundant.
“Buried” (opens in limited release 9/24 but expands wider 10/8; Lionsgate)
A movie about a man (Ryan Reynolds) trapped six feet underground, buried alive in a casket, sounds like an unnecessary expansion on a sequence from “Kill Bill,” but the raves out of Sundance about this claustrophobic thriller have had me intrigued for eight months and I’m dying to see how it holds up through 90 minutes of real-time suspense.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” (limited opening; Focus Features)
Zach Galifianakis probably has more of a presence in the trailers for this psyche-hospital dramedy than in the actual film, but that’s okay if he draws a wider audience to the latest from the acclaimed filmmaking team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson,” “Sugar”). Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, the adaptation is worrying some fans who’ve noted that Emma Roberts’ cutter character isn’t scarred up enough, so it will be interesting to hear from those who’ve read the book after they see the movie.
“Red” (Summit Entertainment)
There’s a lot of reason to be excited about this action comedy based on the DC Comics graphic novel from Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer, but the main appeal so far has been the idea of seeing old people with guns. Of course, they’re mainly spry and lively old people like Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich. Save for Willis, though, these aren’t actors you think of as starring in stunt-filled comic book movies. This should be one of the better mindless popcorn flicks of the season.
“Jackass 3D” (Paramount Pictures)
If you still think the “Jackass” franchise is a waste of film screens, you probably haven’t actually seen the prior two installments, with their raunchy, trashy stunts, yes, but also their terrific homages to Buster Keaton and Busby Berkeley. Now that they’re in 3D they’ll have to pay some kind of tribute to William Castle, right?
“Hereafter” (Warner Bros.)
Clint Eastwood again directs his “Invictus” star, Matt Damon, in this supernatural triptych involving three unconnected (at first) characters in separate plotlines concerning people’s connections with death. Damon plays a psychic who can communicate with spirits, Cecile de France is a French journalist who had a near-death experience during the 2004 tsunami and finally there’s the story of twin boys who lose someone close during the 2005 London Underground bombings. Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) scripted what Eastwood is calling his first chick flick — though he assures us guys will like it too.
“Paranormal Activity 2” (Paramount Pictures)
It’s easy to assume this follow-up to last year’s well-marketed sensation will be a let-down. Given how pleasantly surprised and thrilled by the original I was I’m going to take that rare leap of faith and hope for the best. Besides, there’s not much else Halloween-themed that I can see myself enjoying (let’s not forget I’m just occasionally fascinated by the genre).
“Monsters” (limited opening; Magnet Releasing/Magnolia)
The lack of action, bareness of plot, sparse special effects and the very on-the-nose political subtext may disappoint some sci-fi fans out there, but this little film about an accidental alien infection/invasion in Mexico is a beautiful mix of “It Happened One Night” and the sideline sort of monster movies like “Signs,” “Cloverfield” and Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds.”
“The Company Men” (opens in limited release 10/22 and goes wide on 10/29; The Weinstein Company)
A topical drama from “ER” creator John Wells about three men (Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones) laid off during downsizing.
Now head over to the second part of Spout’s Fall Movie Preview, highlighting our most anticipated titles out in November and December.