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Let’s Do This: The Fall Movie Preview 2011

August 31, 2011

The Green Lanterns and X-Men have shuffled out of our theaters after a summer of morphing, exploding things and moving things with their minds. Kevin James has stopped talking to a lion voiced by Cher. The apes have done their thing. As we all know, once the blockbuster season closes, fall gives way to more (mostly) thoughtful entertainment: dramas, romances, Halloween horrors and Christmas/Thanksgiving feel-gooders. So let’s settle back as the leaves fall and take a look at a few of the more salivatory digs which await us at the multiplex from now until the new year, shall we?

Contagion (September 9)

Gwyneth Paltrow, fresh out of her upbeat positivity as a Glee special guest star, dies a horrible death. No, seriously. Steven Soderbergh’s disease thriller is a cornucopia of stars: Paltrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet — it all sounds a bit Outbreakish, but on a more global scale. The trailers are eerie enough to garner a look and there’s no precocious plague spreading-monkey in sight; plus under Soderbergh’s direction, there’s likely to be little mercy involved for the cast. Not exactly feel-good, but could be solid.

Drive (September 16) 

Ryan Gosling does his best Steve McQueen as a mechanic/stuntman/getaway driver in the noir-ish drama which features the unlikely though awesome duo of Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman as a couple of gangsters hot on his trail. Early buzz on Drive has been good, with word of some great performances; though if you ask me, Albert Brooks as a nasty villain has to be worth the price of a ticket alone, yes?

Straw Dogs (September 16)

If you’ve seen Sam Peckinpah’s original, bloody Straw Dogs, you know what you’re in for here (though let’s be honest, there’s no way it can be that brutal with this huge of a mainstream release). Beautiful people pretending to be normal people James Marsden and Kate Bosworth move back to Bosworth’s hometown in the deep south, whereupon leering rednecks take the couple to task. Leading the villains is True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard, who plays cold and creepy very well, but I still say this can’t be as good as it hopes to be. 

Moneyball (September 23)

Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane in an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ 2003 book about how Beane used statistics to micro-manage a major league team. Jonah Hill looks to be remarkably snark-free as the numbers guy Beane enlists to help him. I read this book, and loved it, but I have no idea how they’re going to make a movie about it interesting. Still, it’s on my list, and it’ll at least be thoughtful entertainment. Hopefully.

The Ides of March (October 7)

George Clooney’s drama about an Ohio senator running for office has some considerable star power behind it in the guise of Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymoure Hoffman, and let’s be honest — Clooney can pick ’em these days. Look for him to make a big, unsubtle political statement wrapped in a tight, well-constructed drama. But who’re we kidding? It’s going to be huge no matter what it is.

The Thing (October 14)

This is, if you’re counting, the third movie version of The Thing, following the original black-and-white flick of 1951 (then called The Thing from Another World) and John Carpenter’s 1982 awesomefest The Thing. There’s not much to say which hasn’t already been said by our colleague Matt in his excellent take on the remake, but if it hits its marks, it could be good for a ride — even if it can’t top its predecessor. 

Red State (October 18)

Inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church, Kevin Smith goes dark in this torture-porn-ish ode to religion gone bad. When a gaggle of religious zealots kidnap a trio of teenagers after luring them in with an online sex ad, Red State looks to set up a freakish morality play and segue into a showdown between the baddies and the U.S. Government (headed by John Goodman). It’s Smith’s first horror movie, not counting Cop Out (I kid, I kid), but I think we can all agree he’s reliable enough to trust.

The Rum Diary (October 28) 

If you want to know my pick for movie of the fall, here it is: the film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s wild, great The Rum Diary, once again starring Johnny Depp as the Good Doctor running afoul of the law in corrupt Puerto Rico. I’m a huge Thompson fan, and never really felt like the Depp/Gilliam Fear and Loathing hit its true mark, but the trailer alone for this has me giddy. See you there.

Tower Heist (November 4)

Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena star as a troupe of would-be thieves stealing their pension money back from defrocked moneyman Alan Alda, which is a pretty solid premise with a pretty interesting cast. You know Ben Stiller will be Ben Stiller, but the real wildcard here is that Eddie Murphy is playing a very SNL-era character — and that could either be beautiful or a huge misstep. I like Eddie Murphy, I’m rooting for Eddie Murphy, and I want to see this be good. I hope it is, for his sake. He doesn’t have many strikes left, I’m afraid.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (November 18)

Oh. Yeah. There’s that.

The Muppets (November 23)

If there’s one thing the world needs now more than ever, it’s a return of the Muppets. Interestingly enough, Apatow fave and How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel may be just the man for the job. A self-proclaimed Muppet fanatic in real-life, the story of this film is as interesting as the film itself; Segel has been writing and angling to make the movie for several years. Cameos like Lady Gaga, Zach Galifianakis and others are already set in stone, and the movie seems to be a very true return to the old Muppet, “let’s put on a show, guys” motif. This could be the big hit of the holiday season, and I’m sure that like me, everyone over 30 years old hopes it will be.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (December 16)

I’ll cop to wanting to hate Guy Ritchie’s 2009 amped-up remake of the Sherlock Holmes tales, but despite myself I ended up liking it quite a bit. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back as Holmes and Watson, respectively, in a sequel which posits to reveal Holmes’ arch-nemesis Moriarty. Sure, it’s a re-imagining, but it’s really all quite fun, and knowing Ritchie, this one will likely kick things up even another notch or two.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (December 23)

Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. In 3-D. With a world-famous, thrilling franchise. What could go wrong? Tintin is going to suffer initially because an American audience in 2011 is likely not going to know much about the famous Belgian detective, but word of mouth (and, undoubtedly, a massive marketing campaign) should put asses in seats. Plus Spielberg has seemingly put a less creepy edit on the weird, pseudo-humanoids of the Polar Express style of animation. Happy holidays indeed.

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