The summer of 2009 was Hollywood’s most profitable ever, with studios raking in over $4.3 billion. Of course, most of the movies sucked. From the obnoxious “Wolverine” to the soporific “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” right on through wholly unnecessary sequels to both “Ice Age” and “Night at the Museum,” this past season has seen more than its fair share of dogs. And that’s without even getting into the talking gerbils.
But all is not lost… The fall movie season looks to be aimed at a higher quality. Here are some of autumn’s more promising (mainstream) releases.
“Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs:” I know, I know. “Cloudy” might not seem like a great movie, but I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. The hip vocal cast including the likes of Andy Samberg, Anna Faris and Bruce Campbell (!) is appealing, but the real draw here is the writer/director duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The last time these two dabbled in animation they made “Clone High”, a TV show that single-handedly legitimizes the last 10 years of MTV crap. Get there early to buy popcorn and avoid the dreaded munchies.
“A Serious Man:” I actually know nothing about this movie. I have avoided trailers, reviews and interviews. Why? Because The Coen Brothers have my complete and total trust. These guys made “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Burn After Reading,” “Raising Arizona,” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Hell, they even edited “The Evil Dead.”
“An Education:” This festival darling has a better than average chance of breaking out, thanks to a fairly accessible plot and the fresh face of star Carey Mulligan. The film tells the “Lolita”-tinged tale of a teenage girl in ’60s suburban London, whose life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age. Audiences loved it at Sundance and one friend of mine even saw it twice at the Telluride Film Festival. The buzz is strong on this one. It’s considered an early frontrunner for best picture, moreover, it actually looks good.
“Where the Wild Things Are:” The last time Spike Jonze made a movie it was “Adaptation.” Before that it was “Being John Malkovich.” Now he’s adapting one of the most famous and enduring children’s books. Though the production was troubled and the release date was pushed back by a full year, “Wild Things” looks like a winner. The trailer itself is more satisfying than half the movies I have seen this year. Save an extra seat for your inner child.
“Antichrist:” Lars Von Trier made a horror film and it pissed off a bunch of stuffy journalists. Sounds like a winner to me. Be forewarned, this is not a date movie. The violence is apparently very upsetting.
“A Christmas Carol:” I saw footage of this Jim Carrey and Robert Zemeckis motion-capture experiment at Comic-Con, and wow… This movie is going to scare the pants off little children. Were it not a Christmas movie, it would have made a great Halloween release.
“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire:” Another awards darling, “Push” might have the backing of Oprah and Tyler Perry, but it’s not the same old schmaltz. Look for a painful, but ultimately uplifting story of a morbidly obese inner-city girl who struggles with life, love, and an unwanted pregnancy. Bleak to be sure, but also transcendent.
“Up in the Air:” Jason Reitman’s follow-up to “Juno” stars George Clooney as corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he’s met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams. It’s also got Jason Bateman and Danny McBride going all actorly.
“Nine:” Not to be confused with the animated “9” that already came out, this Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) film tells the story of Fellini’s “8 ½”… with music! Because, as we all know, Fellini’s movies are just too mundane. If nothing else, this movie could prove to be a great freak-out. Also, it’s been a while since Daniel Day-Lewis was in something.
“The Princess and the Frog:” It’s a Disney princess movie. You’re going to go. Either your mother, your kid sister or your girlfriend is going to drag you to see this loose retelling of the classic fairytale. The good news is the 2-D animation looks gorgeous. It will be interesting to see how Disney deals with its first minority princess.
“Avatar:” The internet keeps claiming that this movie will “fuck your eyeballs”. While I doubt this is true, the footage I saw at Comic-Con looked like a whole lot of fun. Think “Dances with Wolves” but, you know, with aliens and space battles. James Cameron (“T2,” “Titanic”) has been talking about this film for a decade. Here’s hoping it’s worth the wait.
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus:” This movie looks like a compendium of everything Terry Gilliam (“Brazil,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) has ever played with in cinema. The visuals will be otherworldly, the romance spellbinding, the plot… nonsensical. This film might be Gilliam’s first hit in years because it features the final performance of Heath Ledger. Despite the odd title, this is not one to miss.