2011 Fall Movie Spectacular: Part 1
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As soon as the kids start heading back to school and the temperatures start to cool off, Hollywood starts getting serious. Gone are the effects-heavy thrillers and kooky comedies of summer. With just a matter of months to go before critics and others in the know start voting on the year’s best films, it’s time for the year’s annual parade of award contenders.

So far this year, we haven’t seen a whole lot of obvious contenders. As we look ahead to another award season, the field is still wide open. This year’s Best Picture nominees are still anyone’s guess. So let’s take a look at the movies that will be battling to round out everyone’s top 10 lists this year.


Okay, so, technically, Labor Day weekend is still summer. But John Madden’s The Debt (which actually opens on the 31st) makes the perfect transition from summer action to fall drama—because it’s got a little bit of both. Starring everyone from Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson to Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain, it tells the story of three former Mossad agents forced to reflect on their greatest mission 30 years later.

For more fluffy summer fare, there’s the underwater horror flick, Shark Night 3D, the found footage outer space horror flick, Apollo 18, or Jason Sudeikis’s R-rated comedy, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. Or, on the inspirational side, there’s the golf drama Seven Days in Utopia.

Kristin’s Pick: This week’s pick is a no-brainer. I’ll go with the action, suspense, and drama of The Debt.


By the 9th, the Toronto Film Festival will be underway, marking the unofficial start of another award season. While many of the films showing in Toronto won’t hit theaters until much later in the season, a couple of possible award contenders show up this week—like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, which stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and many others in a thriller about a deadly airborne virus.

Also this week, Tom Hardy stars in Warrior, the story of an ex-Marine who turns to mixed martial arts. And, for some brainless comedy that probably won’t be making this year’s top 10 lists, Nick Swardson stars as a nerdy porn star hopeful in Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.

Kristin’s Pick: Though Warrior is being touted as this year’s answer to The Fighter and The Wrestler, I’ll give the paranoia of Contagion my pick.


Bronson director Nicolas Winding Refn delivers this week’s adrenaline rush with his Cannes-winning thriller, Drive, starring Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver / getaway driver who ends up on the run.

For the girls, there’s I Don’t Know How She Does It, starring Sarah Jessica Parker as a working mom who’s tempted by a handsome coworker (Pierce Brosnan).

Also this week: James Marsden stars in Rod Lurie’s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, Disney releases The Lion King 3D, and (in limited release) Gus Van Sant directs Mia Wasikowska in Restless, the story of a terminally ill girl and her romance with a boy who’s fascinated with funerals and ghosts.

Kristin’s Pick: With so much buzz surrounding Drive, I can’t help but make it my pick.


The stars come out in full force this week, starting with Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, based on the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his attempt to build a baseball team on a budget. Meanwhile, Gerard Butler stars in Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher, another biopic about a rehabbed criminal who sets out to help the children of the Sudan.

On the action side of things, Twilight heartthrob Taylor Lautner stars in John Singleton’s Abduction as a teenager who sets out to discover his true identity after he learns that he was kidnapped as a child. And Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro team up for another thriller, Killer Elite.

For the family, there’s Dolphin Tale, the feel-good story about a boy and his dolphin, starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Harry Connick, Jr.

And, finally, for a little bit of mystery, there’s The Double, starring Topher Grace and Richard Gere as a pair of operatives assigned to investigate the mysterious murder of a senator.

Kristin’s Pick: Honestly, I’d feel perfectly comfortable picking almost any of this week’s new releases. But, since I’ve loved so many of Marc Forster’s films, I’ll go with Machine Gun Preacher.


Newlyweds Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz fell in love while filming Dream House. Only time will tell whether audiences will fall in love with their story about a couple who discover that their New England home was the scene of a brutal murder.

Also this week, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick offer a light take on a young man’s battle with cancer in 50/50. And a single woman (Anna Faris) looks back on past loves in What’s Your Number?

Meanwhile, Fireproof director Alex Kendrick directs and stars in Courageous, an inspirational drama about four policemen who struggle with their faith after they’re struck by tragedy.

And, finally, in limited release, Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and many, many others team up for Margaret, the story of a young woman whose feelings of guilt following a fatal accident compel her to try to make amends. This year’s It girl, Jessica Chastain (who also starred in The Debt earlier this month), stars with Michael Shannon in Take Shelter, the story of a man who’s plagued by terrifying visions. And, in the horror-comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play best buddies whose weekend in the woods turns deadly.

Kristin’s Pick: Again this week, there are a number of great options. While I’ve been looking forward to seeing Tucker & Dale, though, I’m going to have to go with one of my favorite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in the intriguing dramedy, 50/50.


This week, award season regular George Clooney directs and stars in the political drama, The Ides of March, as a presidential candidate who has to teach a young staffer (Ryan Gosling) about the dark realities of politics.

Meanwhile, in Disney’s robot / family / sports drama, Real Steel, Hugh Jackman stars as a struggling robot boxing promoter who deals with family issues while working with a new robot.

For something even creepier, there’s Texas Killing Fields, about a pair of homicide detectives and a New York City cop who work together to solve a series of murders. For those keeping track, this one also features Jessica Chastain (and her The Debt costar Sam Worthington). Or, for something kookier, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd team up for Wanderlust, which follows the couple’s decision to move to a commune.

Also this week, Martin Sheen stars in son Emilio Estevez’s latest, The Way, about a father who travels to France to recover his estranged son’s body.

And, finally, in limited release, Juno Temple stars in Dirty Girl, a road trip comedy featuring a pair of high schoolers.

Kristin’s Pick: Who am I to pick against Clooney during award season? Ides of March gets my pick.


Haul out your dancin’ shoes! This week, the long-awaited Footloose remake finally hits theaters, starring newcomer Kenny Wormald.

Also this week, the surprising comedic trio of Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin team up for The Big Year, based on Mark Obmascik’s non-fiction book about competitive bird watchers.

For something a little edgier, there’s The Thing, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton. Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman play a husband and wife held hostage in Joel Schumacher’s Trespass. And Antonio Banderas stars in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest, The Skin I Live In.

Kristin’s Pick: The cast could be either a comic disaster or pure genius, but I’ll take my chances with The Big Year.


Halloween is right around the corner—and, since the Saw franchise has decided to call it quits, you’ll have to look elsewhere for this year’s scares. Fortunately, another horror franchise has stepped in to pick up the slack, releasing Paranormal Activity 3 this weekend. Or, for something that’s been even more shamelessly publicized, there’s Kevin Smith’s controversial Red State.

Also this week, Paul W. S. Anderson directs The Three Musketeers, Kevin Spacey stars as a struggling inventor in Father of Invention, and Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto battle the financial crisis in Margin Call.

And, finally, in limited release, the other Olsen sister, Elizabeth, stars in the Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene, about a young woman who struggles to free herself from a cult.

Kristin’s Pick: Forget about over-hyped horror! Christoph Waltz’s role in The Three Musketeers (as Cardinal Richelieu, of course!) makes it an easy pick.


Movie lovers are already talking about Andrew Niccol’s sci-fi thriller, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake as a young man who goes on the run after he’s accused of murder. Meanwhile, Jason Statham stars in another high-speed thriller, Safe. And Rowan Atkinson’s comic spy Johnny English returns Johnny English Reborn.

Also this week, 2012’s Roland Emmerich directs Anonymous, a historical / political thriller starring Rhys Ifans as the man who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Emily Browning stars in the Cannes-panned Sleeping Beauty. And Johnny Depp stars in the long-long-awaited adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary.

And, in limited release, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin try to make an inter-continental relationship work in Like Crazy (which, I can only hope, will be better than last year’s Going the Distance).

Kristin’s Pick: Though I’m definitely intrigued by Roland Emmerich’s latest, I’ve got to stick with Johnny—Depp, not English—in The Rum Diary.

Well, now that we’ve taken a quick look at the action, drama, and Jessica Chastain movies that the first two months of this year’s award season have to offer, you’ll probably want to go off and let it all sink in. So let’s take a break for now, shall we? Let’s all have a good, strong drink, take a nice, refreshing nap, and meet back here to dive back in and long look at the big (and little) movies of November and December.

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