Now that Labor Day is behind us, the kids are back in school, and the Toronto Film Festival officially under way, itís time to start thinking about fallóand even winter. Itís an exciting time of year, when the serious cinematic contenders (as well as a bunch of young upstarts) come out of their dark little editing suites to present their latest attempt at The Big O (Oscar, that is). Itís also a time for the usual holiday movies, some comedies to get you through the winter blahs, and a handful of holiday-vacation blockbusters. And, as always, Iíve got them all right here, in my annual award season preview. Iíve broken them down week by week, complete with my notes on my own personal must-sees.
I realize that I may have gone a bit overboard with this yearís preview, so Iím breaking it up into two parts: September/October and November/December. That should give your poor, tired eyes a break halfway through.
Finally, before I dive right in, just a note on release dates: the dates shown, are, of course, subject to change at the whim of the studio, the director, or perhaps the studioís staff psychic. Some of the dates listed are limited release datesówhich means that the film will open somewhere that weekend, while itíll open in other markets at a later date.
Actually, the post-Labor Day season began on the 9th, with the release of 9, the post-apocalyptic animated adventure of nine stuffed dolls in a world of machines. If this is a sign of whatís to come, however, I fear for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, in the chilling (and chilly) thriller Whiteout, Kate Beckinsale stars as a U.S. Marshal whoís investigating Antarcticaís first-ever murder.
Also this week: Rumer Willis headlines a cast of nobodies and reality TV princesses in the horror remake Sorority Row, and Michael Douglas stars in the legal drama Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
Kristinís Pick: After seeing Kate Beckinsaleís stellar performance in last yearís Nothing But the Truth, Iíll give Whiteout my pick for this week.
In Jenniferís Body Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Codyís follow-up to 2007ís Juno, Megan Fox stars as a demon-possessed cheerleader who hunts high school boys. I read an early version of the screenplay for this one, and I canít wait to see how it plays out.
Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston star in Love Happens, the story of a self-help guru whose own life is a messóuntil he meets a woman at one of his sold-out seminars. Who cares about the story? Formulaic and fluffy as it may be, how can you resist Aniston and Eckhart?
For the kids, thereís the animated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Based on the childrenís book by Judi and Ron Barrett, the film follows an aspiring inventor who creates a machine that turns everything into food.
And, finally, in Steven Soderberghís The Informant!, Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre: businessman, dreamer, corporate whistleblower. But as he works with the FBI to expose a price-fixing conspiracy, the facts get tangled in his own imagination.
Also this week: Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron star as a mother and daughter trying to reconnect in The Burning Plain and director Jane Campion tells the love story of British poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) in Bright Star.
Kristinís Pick: So many choices this week! But Iíve got to go with my girl, Diablo Cody and Jenniferís Body. Itís probably not the award winner of the week, but itís sure to be a scream nonetheless.
The sci-fi thriller Pandorum stars Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid as a pair of astronauts who awake aboard their ship without any memory of their past. Once they start to explore, they find that theyíre not alone on the ship. Or, for more sci-fi thrills, adrenaline junkies can live vicariously through Bruce Willis (and his younger, hairier robot) in Surrogates.
On the dramatic side, Clive Owen takes a break from crime thrillers to play a sportswriter and recent widower whoís trying to adjust to single parenthood in The Boys are Back, while another one of my favorite stars from across the pond, Audrey Tautou, stars in Coco Before Chanel, which follows the early days of the legendary couturier.
And one for the fanboys: Based on the classic Japanese cartoon series, Astro Boy follows the animated adventures of a robot boy (voiced by Son of Rambowís Freddie Highmore) who heads out on his own to find himself.
Also this week: Michael Sheen stars as legendary Leeds United manager Brian Clough in The Damned United, John Krasinski makes his directorial debut with Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, a sex-obsessed college kid drags his friends along on yet another mission to get laid in I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and the students of the New York City High School of Performing Arts take center stage in Fame, an updated remake of the Oscar-winning 1980 film.
Kristinís Pick: This week, Iíll go with the fanboys. With voice talent like Freddie Highmore and Nicolas Cageóand a director like Flushed Awayís David BowersóAstro Boy is sure to be a ton of futuristic fun.
Following last Septemberís Ghost Town, Brit funnyman Ricky Gervais returns with The Invention of Lying, a romantic comedy that takes place in a parallel universe where everyone tells the truth all the timeóuntil one guy learns to lie.
Also sure to be good for a laugh or two, the Coen Brothers present their latest fall release, A Serious Man, the not-so-serious story of a floundering 1960s college professor.
If your sense of humor tends to take a slight twist, try the horror-comedy Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson as a man whoís found a way to survive in a world thatís been taken over by zombies. Also stars Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, and Jesse Eisenberg.
Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut in Whip It, starring Juno star Ellen Page as a timid Texas teen who trades beauty pageants for roller derby.
Or, for sports fans, thereís More Than a Game, the documentary that follows a young high school basketball player named LeBron James. Perhaps youíve heard of him. All I can say is that filmmaker Kristopher Belman seriously lucked out when he was just a college kid making a short documentary about a high school basketball team.
And, finally, in-your-face documentarian Michael Moore is at it againóthis time, with Capitalism: A Love Story, which searches for the root of all economic evil.
Also this week: Pixar releases Toy Story and Toy Story 2 as a 3D double feature, Jason Ritter stars in the time-skipping romance, Peter and Vandy, and some private school girls try to save their school in St. Trinianís.
Kristinís Pick: Iíll admit that Iím totally geeked about both Whip It and Zombieland, but Iíve got to go with the sure thing: the Coensí A Serious Man.
In director Peter Billingsleyís feature debut (though you may remember him as Ralphie in A Christmas Story), Couples Retreat, four couples head to a tropical paradise for sun, fun, and marriage counseling. The cast includes writers Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, along with Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell.
Already buzz-heavy, An Education is the 1960s tale of a teen who falls for a much older, sophisticated suitor (played by Peter Sarsgaard). With a screenplay written by Nick Horby, itís certainly worth a look.
Also this week: High School Musicalís Corbin Bleu stars as a motocross racer in Free Style, and Michelle Monaghan plays a trucker mama in Trucker, and Chris Tucker takes an inside look at the black communityís hair-raising obsession in the comedy/documentary Good Hair.
Kristinís Pick: Iím a sucker for a period dramaóso Iíll go with An Education.
Based on the beloved childrenís book by Maurice Sendak, director Spike Jonzeís Where the Wild Things Are is the story of a young boy who escapes to another world, where he can be king. With its beloved story and a talented cast, itís sure to be an exciting adventure for audiences of all ages.
Delayed for a yearóbut once again picking up award season momentumóThe Road stars Viggo Mortensen as a father whoís trying to care for his son in a post-apocalyptic world.
Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx team up for Law Abiding Citizen, the story of a man who decides to take the law in his own handsóby targeting the district attorney who let his familyís killer get off easy.
Also this week: Gossip Girlís Penn Badgley stars in the horror remake The Stepfather, and 10 directors take a romantic look at the Big Apple in New York, I Love You.
Kristinís Pick: Early trailers for Where the Wild Things Are are truly enchanting. Iíll take that over the apocalypse any day.
Though Halloween weekend has always been Saw weekend, this year, Saw VI comes out a week early.
MeanwhileÖSalma Hayek as The Bearded Lady? John C. Reilly as a vampire? Youíll find it all in Cirque du Freak, based on the series of young adult novels by Darren Shan.
And, in a less terrifying release, two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank goes for number three in Amelia, the Amelia Earhart biopic.
Also this week: Uma Thurman plays a mother trying to plan her daughterís birthday party in Motherhood, Thai director/martial artist Tony Jaa stars in Ong Bak 2, Robin Wright Penn stars in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg team up for yet another horror release, Antichrist.
Kristinís Pick: Since Margaret tends to be a fan of Darren Shanís novelsóand since the trailers are strangely fascinatingómy pick for the week is Cirque du Freak. But, after that, I think Iíll be pretty much done with vampires, thank you very much.
The week jumps to a start on Wednesday, the 28th, with the release of This Is It, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Michael Jackson comeback concerts that, sadly, fans never got to witness.
Jared and Jerusha Hess (of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre fame) are back with another lovable loser comedy, Gentlemen Broncos, about a young novelist whose story is stolen and turned into a horrendous independent film. (Gosh!)
And, finally, the wartime tear-jerker, The Messenger stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as two soldiers assigned to bring the worst of news to military families.
Also this week: Indie darling Michael Cera stars in Youth in Revolt, writer/director Troy Duffy returns (10 years later) with his sequel, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, and a college kid takes a horrifying babysitting job in The House of the Devil..
Kristinís Pick: Ever since MJís death in June, Iíve been feeling a bit nostalgic. So Iíll be pulling out my old cassette tapes and checking out This Is It.
Congratulations! Youíve made it through half of this yearís bigger and badder fall movie preview. Now go rest upóthen move on to Part Two.