Cole Smithey's Fall 2012 Movie Preview
Autumn is the best season for moviegoers. Oscar-bait movies from all corners of foreign, independent, documentaries, and of course Hollywood, are pitted against one another in an ever more crowded series of weekly release windows than usual. Choosing ten must-see movies for audiences to mark on their calendars is like shooting fish in a barrel – albeit some incredibly large fish in a very big barrel. Some lower-profile films, such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” (September 14), David Ayer’s “End of Watch” (September 21), or Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly” (October 19) didn’t quite make the list but are definitely worth checking out.
Sharpen those pencils and get out your calendar. Here we go.
Although he said he’d given up acting for good after “Gran Torino” (2008) Clint Eastwood returns to the big screen for what could actually be his last performance. Eastwood plays Gus, an ailing legendary baseball scout whose eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Gus brings along his adult daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) on a road trip to Atlanta to help him get a look a prospective player. Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, and Clint’s son Scott Eastwood star in this auspicious family drama. If you’re a Clint Eastwood fan, you don’t want to miss the master in action.
Tim Burton brings his trademark creepy and ghoulish style of animation to bear in his latest effort. In a movie about a boy and his recently deceased dog, young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) has a plan to bring little “Sparky” back to life. The trouble is that Victor’s reanimated version of Sparky isn’t exactly the same canine he was before he died — he’s more of a monster dog. Burton’s classically composed stop-motion black-and-white animation pays homage to James Whale’s original “Frankenstein.” Burton also references other classic horror films such as David Lynches “Eraserhead.” Keep your ears peeled for vocal performances by Martin Landau, Christopher Lee, Martin Short, and Winona Ryder. [In a whispering aside] “FrankenWeenie” could just be the best animated movie of the year.
You’ve got your Brad Pitt. You’ve got your James Gandolfini. The endlessly watchable actors star in “Killing Them Softly” as hired assassins. Writer-director Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) oversees the action. The setting is post-Katrina New Orleans. Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, a prudent hitman working in economically depressed America. The media might not admit we’re in a Depression, but it’s taken as fact in the movie. Jackie has to call in for reinforcement in the guise of Gandolfini’s killer Mickey to assist with a double killing that needs doing. All nuance, social commentary, and neo-noir style, Domink’s movie is based on Geroge V. Higgins’s 1974 novel. Higgins is big in the cult movie fan club for writing “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” “Killing Them Softly” made waves when it premiered in Cannes this year. You say you like serious adult crime drama that oozes with social and political subtext — you’ve got it. Sam Shepard and Ray Liotta also star in this gritty potboiler.
The first movie from the Wachowski Brothers since Larry Wachowski’s sex-change transformation to “Lana” finds the duo teaming up with co-director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”). “Cloud Atlas” is a macro-micro “exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” Heady stuff. The all-star international cast includes: Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Jim D’Arcy, and Zhu Zhu. Last year’s “Tree of Life” has nothing on “Cloud Atlas.” This is not a movie to watch at home. Get thee to the big screen and don’t be late.
Sean Penn plays his age as Cheyenne, a 50-year-old former Goth rock star who has lived in seclusion for the past 30 years. He once sang with Mick Jagger, or perhaps it was the other way around. Cheyenne lives a luxurious existence in Dublin from his still incoming royalties. He and his wife (Francis McDormand) play handball in their emptied-out swimming pool. Penn’s deeply introspective [read moody] character maintains his teased-out hairdo. He still wears eyeliner. News of his Jewish father’s death brings Cheyenne around to the idea of hunting down the America-dwelling Nazi who victimized his dad in Auschwitz. The first English-language film from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (“Il Divo”), “The Must Be the Place” is a trippy road movie that should give audiences plenty to chew on. Given the Weinstein’s track record at the Oscars, their oddball movie might just “be the place” come February.
“Quentin Tarantino presents” is the name above the title. That fact alone tells you all you need to know, since everything that the master-of-all-things-tasty touches turns to gold. In this case, a character actually does turn into a gold-shielded warrior. Tarantino’s frequent collaborators RZA and Eli Roth team up as co-writers — RZA directs. Feudal China is the setting for a blacksmith who makes crazy weapons for his small village. A battle-royal explodes when seven clans come together in a blood-splattering fight for power, gold, and ultimate bragging rights. Kung-Fu super-action will hit epic heights in this fast-twitch bloodbath that stars Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Pam Grier, and Rick Yune. Get the popcorn ready, and plan on seeing “The Man with the Iron Fists” more than once — if you’ve got the stomach, that is!
The name is Bond — James Bond. For all of the meaningless flack Daniel Craig has caught for his lean-and-mean interpretation of everyone’s favorite 007 agent, Craig is the real deal. “Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond franchise movie — for anyone who’s keeping count. In “Skyfall,” Bond’s MI6 agency is under attack. Only he can track down and destroy the threat. Impossibly sexy women, edge-of-your-seat chase sequences, and sleek style spilling out like there’s no tomorrow, come together in an action spy movie that should put “The Dark Knight Rises” to shame. “Skyfall” is for the big kids. Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem play opposite Helen McCrory and Berenice Marlohe in this seriously badass movie. Sam Mendes (“Road to Perdition”) directs.
Director Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") will make your eyes pop with this groundbreaking 3D movie about an Indian boy named Pi who survives a terrible disaster at sea and is hurtled into an “epic journey of adventure and discovery.” The movie is based on Yann Martel’s bestselling novel. You may have seen the film’s poster that alludes to the Bengal tiger — named Richard Parker — that accompanies our hero as the only other survivor on a lifeboat they must share in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Ang Lee is a master filmmaker whose work in a diverse range of film genres always proves fascinating — his version of “The Hulk” notwithstanding. “Life of Pi” has been chosen as the opening film for the 50th New York Film Festival. Grab a cocktail with your date before the movie and know that you’re in good company when you go see it.
Hyde Park on Hudson (December 7)
It wouldn’t be December without a little highbrow historic drama to brighten the intellectual mood of the season. Bill Murray angles for Oscar attention as the wheelchair-bound President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in director Roger Martin’s (“Notting Hill”) period piece about a love affair between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Suckley aka “Daisy” (Laura Linney). A spring 1939-weekend meeting in upstate New York with Britain’s King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) gives FDR an opportunity to spend some quality time with Daisy. The event marks the first time a British King has ever visited America. Britain is verge of war with Germany, and its Royals are seeking FDR’s crucial support. Juggling the demands of his wife, (Olivia Williams), mother and mistress, FDR has a weekend social calendar that is very full. How Murray’s FDR divides his time amid so many demands and so much desire is the stuff of one very witty romantic drama.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14)
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has been so long in the works that many audiences have all but forgotten about Peter Jackson’s promise to finish what he started with his impressive cinematic rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (2001 – 2003). The time has finally arrived for Tolkien’s tale of Bilbo Baggins to enchant new and returning fans of Peter Jackson’s unique vision. The hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Lonely Mountain and its treasure, which was “long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug.” The dragon still lurks. Bilbo teams up with 13 dwarves to journey into the Wild where Goblins, Orcs, Wargs, Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters, and Sorcerers await. Naturally, Gollum (Andy Serkis) plays a key role with a certain gold ring that holds the fate of Middle-earth. Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee), and even Frodo (Elijah Wood) are in attendance for this extraordinary trip into the enormously popular fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Django Unchained (December 25)
Christmas day 2012 promises to be a great time at the movies. Whenever Quentin Tarantino has a new film out, it is automatically an “event.” His seventh film — if you count “Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2” as one — is a period piece set two years before the Civil War. Think exploitation-spaghetti-western-Southern-style. Yum. Jamie Foxx plays Django, an abused slave who gets a shot at reaping vengeance on his former owners thanks to Dr. King Schultz, a German-born bounty hunter played by the always scene-chewing Christoph Waltz. Dr. Schultz acquires Django to lead him to his prey. Django and Dr. Schultz develop a working rapport that keeps them on the hunt for racist exploiters such as Leonardo Dicaprio’s Calvin Candle, the owner of a plantation where slaves are trained to battle one another. Django searches his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), whom he lost to the slave trade many years ago. Indisputably the most exciting American auteur working today, Quentin Tarantino keeps upping his game to cinema’s loftiest heights. If you only see one movie this year you’ll only have a week to catch “Django Unchained” before the ball drops in Times Square.
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