Bye, Bye Blockbusters

The fall movie season brings more serious fare

Sep 26, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Ahh, the fall — the temperature is cooler, the air is crisper and the films are better.

A majority of 2008 has left something to be desired. Only two superheroes (Iron Man and The Dark Knight) and a robot (Wall*E) kept the first half of the year alive.

Now, as usual, the fall/winter season has to pick up the slack. Several films have already gotten the ball rolling with early Oscar buzz, while others have yet to be tested in the awards season frenzy. Here’s a sampling of what this year’s final months have to offer. (Of course, release dates are subject to change.)

Setup: An epidemic has swept across an unnamed city leaving everyone blind except for a woman (Julianne Moore) who follows her not-so-fortunate husband (Mark Ruffalo) to a quarantine zone. Being the only one who can see the heinous crimes that are taking place, she decides to lead her husband and several others out of quarantine.
My 2 cents: So far, Blindness has divided critics and audiences. But don’t be surprised if, when the film goes wide, it hits with the same impact that fellowapocalyptic tale Children of Men did in 2006.

Setup: It’s Bill Maher versus God on the big screen! Religulous, a documentary directed by Larry Charles (Borat), follows Maher as he talks with religious leaders and followers about their faith and why, to him, it all seems so ridiculous.
My 2 cents: Thank God that someone has the guts to question what thou shalt not criticize!

BODY OF LIES (Oct. 10)
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott team up again in this modern-day thriller about CIA Operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his boss Ed Hoffman (Crowe) who must track down a terrorist in Jordan. Tension escalates when Ferris begins to question Hoffman’s tactics.
My 2 cents: Minus the tragedy that was A Good Year, Crowe and Scott are one of the best actor/director duos in the business today. This time they get some added firepower in DiCaprio. The result of this film will be greater than the sum of its parts.

W. (Oct. 17)
Setup: If George W. Bush could decide who got to make a film about his life, chances are it wouldn’t be Oliver Stone.
My 2 cents: One thing is certain: This won’t be your average biopic. After doing his best Ron Howard impersonation (World Trade Center), Stone is back to the controversial subject matter that made him the legendary director he is today. Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men) inhabits the title role. Finally, something comes along that “Dubya” can’t veto.

Setup: Chaos ensues when Christine Collins’ young son goes missing. Months later, a boy claiming to be hers returns. After the storm of press coverage dissipates, Collins (Angelina Jolie) realizes that the boy is not her real son.
My 2 Cents: Even when Clint Eastwood makes a film that is less than stellar (Flags of Our Fathers), he still grabs people’s attention. Whether Changeling will keep his critical streak alive is uncertain. Only one thing is assured — good, mediocre or bad, Oscar voters will be ready to kiss Eastwood’s ass yet again.

Setup: In an effort to solve their financial woes, friends and roommates Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) decide to make an adult film together. Problems arise when the two amateur stars discover they might have more between them than friendship.
My 2 cents: Rogen is due for a critical flop. Kevin Smith is due for a commercial hit. Zack and Miri will kill two birds with one stone.

Setup: Kym Buchman (Ann Hathaway) puts her personal drama and family issues on full display when she reunites with her family for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. Tension rises as Kym’s issues cause rifts among family and friends.
My 2 Cents: Rachel has garnered a fair amount of early buzz thanks in part to Hathaway, but there will be more to this film than her highlight performance. Look for Rachel Getting Married to stick around both in the minds of viewers and Oscar voters.

Setup: Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut centers on Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a theatre director who attempts to build a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse for a new play.
My 2 Cents: A new screenplay by Kaufman is cause alone for celebration, so expectations are even higher with Synecdoche, which will prove whether or not people should also get excited about Kaufman the director. Synecdoche is likely to succeed thanks to Kaufman’s screenplay and another brilliant Hoffman performance.

Setup: James Bond’s 22nd adventure will be his most personal yet. After being betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, Bond (Daniel Craig) struggles to put aside his personal vendetta with the organization that blackmailed her. All the while, 007 must stop a man named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) from taking over a country’s water supply.
My 2 cents: Quantum of Solace is one of the most highly anticipated Bond films ever thanks to the franchise’s reboot in 2006 with Casino Royal. If Solace lives up to the hype, fans will stop discussing whether Quantum of Solace is too weak a title and start debating if Craig is the best Bond in franchise history.

Setup: Prior to World War II, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) inherits a large cattle station in Australia and must protect it from people who plot to take it away from her. Coming to her aid is a stockman (Hugh Jackman) who helps drive her cattle cross-country. The two must overcome all odds, including the country’s harsh landscape and the Japanese bombing of Darwin, Australia.
My 2 cents: It’s been seven years since Baz Luhrmann’s last directorial effort (Moulin Rouge!), but every time a Luhrmann film comes around it always feels fresh and invigorating. Australia is definitely his most ambitious movie yet as he attempts to bring back the sweeping epic that has been missing since the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

TWILIGHT (Nov. 21)
Setup: Based on the popular set of novels by Stephenie Meyer, Twilight follows teenage outcast Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), who opts to live with her father after her mother remarries and moves to Florida. Soon after, Bella meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and the two hopeless romantics quickly fall for one another. There’s just one problem — Edward is a vampire.
My 2 Cents: Twilight had the potential to be one of the years wildest and darkest films … until it got slapped with a PG-13 rating. Now it runs the risk of going down as a missed opportunity to deliver the kind of R-rated goods every vampire flick requires.

Setup: Winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, Slumdog is an underdog story about Adele (Mia Drake), a young boy in India who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
My 2 Cents: Slumdog Millionaire will be Danny Boyle’s best — and possibly last — chance to rise above the title of “the director of Trainspotting.”

THE ROAD (November)
Setup: A father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) must stick together if they want to survive on post-apocalyptic Earth.
My 2 Cents: Adapting a Cormac McCarthy novel worked for the Coen Brothers. If that is any indication, then The Road should succeed. And this could be the second consecutive year that Mortensen will carry an average film (Eastern Promises) to a higher level.

Setup: A remake of the 1951 classic of the same name, The Day the Earth Stood Still centers on an alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) whose visit to the planet possibly signals a disaster of apocalyptic proportions.
My 2 cents: Ever wonder why movie tickets are so expensive? It’s because Hollywood is wasting millions of dollars on unnecessary remakes.

Setup: David Fincher’s latest venture centers on Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a man born old and aging backwards. Problems arise when Button meets and falls for Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who continues to age while he gets younger.
My 2 cents: Pitt and Fincher will place Button alongside their previous collaborations Seven and Fight Club to make a trifecta of modern masterpieces.