Another summer, come and gone in what seems like the blink of an eye. The kids are suffering through the three R's, the nights are getting longer, the mosquitoes are dying off, and -- most importantly -- the annual parade of big-budget sequels has come to its inevitably awkward conclusion.
So what's next? Why, the fall movie season, of course! If superheroes and/or seafaring pirates are your thing, then you're liable to find the next few months somewhat depressing...but if your tastes run to more thoughtful, varied fare, you'll feel blessed relief when taking a look at our rundown of what's scheduled to hit your neighborhood theater between now and when the ball drops in Times Square. Read on to get the lowdown!
Here Comes Awards Season!
Looking at the local listings on any given Friday, it's often difficult to escape the feeling that the major studios think they're dealing with a nation of idiots. How else to explain, for instance, the continuing career of Uwe Boll? Or the production and theatrical release of not one, but two "Garfield" films?
Well, don't take it personally -- the studios think Academy voters are just as dumb, which is why they crowd the fourth quarter with the titles they've deemed most likely to win awards. Release 'em any earlier, says the conventional wisdom, and voters will forget about them by the time ballot-casting season rolls around. (Sadly, the conventional wisdom, in this case, seems fairly accurate.)
What does this mean for you? The last dozen weeks of the year are packed with flicks for grown-ups, including such likely critical favorites as the Christian Bale/Russell Crowe-led remake of the classic Western "3:10 to Yuma," Cate Blanchett's return to the Elizabethian throne in "The Golden Age," Halle Berry's return to real acting in "Things We Lost in the Fire," and the Denzel Washington/Russell Crowe action thriller "American Gangster."
Also sure to net critical raves is the pack of war-themed (and, it's probably safe to say, decidedly Bush-critical) films, including Tommy Lee Jones' "In the Valley of Elah," Reese Witherspoon's "Rendition," the Robert Redford-directed "Lions for Lambs," and the long-awaited adaptation of the literary bestseller "The Kite Runner." If you walk up to the ticket booth hoping to be given food for thought, you can expect a veritable smorgasbord between now and 2008.
Forget Awards. Where's the Action?
It isn't all thoughtful dialogue and tasteful shots of falling leaves, however. Much as they crave awards, the studios know that it's witty dialogue, fast-paced action, and shots of stuff being blown to bits that really put asses in seats, and to that end, they've lined up an impressive slate of action pics for the fall. If it's gunfights and bruises you crave, you won't be left wanting between now and the end of the year.
The fall kicks off with "Shoot 'Em Up," a blindingly paced, Woo-influenced bit of madness that unites Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci against a crazed mobster played by a scenery-chewing Paul Giamatti; later in September, a squad of federal agents (led by Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner) head to Saudi Arabia to investigate an embassy bombing in Peter Berg's "The Kingdom."
Later in the season, action fans can look forward to the videogame adaptation "Hitman," the Mark Wahlberg/Joaquin Phoenix cop drama "We Own the Night," and the Ben Affleck-directed, Casey Affleck-led "Gone Baby Gone." Break out the popcorn!
A Few Laughs
Spring and summer are traditionally the seasons for big, broad comedies, but the studios have been careful not to let the smiles fade from moviegoers' faces this fall -- each month has at least one barrel of laughs for comedy-loving film fans.
The laughs start early, with September's Will Arnett/Will Forte-led "The Brothers Solomon," about a pair of sheltered nincompoops who head out into the world in a frantic attempt to give their dying father a grandchild; October brings us the Ben Stiller/Farrelly Brothers reunion "The Heartbreak Kid" (and yes, for those of you with long memories, this is a remake of the Neil Simon classic). Later, Carl Weathers fans can look forward (or perhaps not) to "The Comebacks." And if it's smart comedy you're looking for, look no further than the Steve Carell dramedy "Dan in Real Life," scheduled for October 12.
And what would the fourth quarter be without a Santa-themed comedy? Thankfully, this year's slate doesn't bring us Tim Allen in the fat suit; instead, we get Paul Giamatti as the jolly old elf, who -- in November's "Fred Claus" -- has to contend with the return of his layabout older brother. If the trailer's any indication, don't expect scintillating laughs, but it's bound to be a less painful experience than "Christmas With the Kranks."
Thrills and Chills
Okay, so the year's most straight-ahead horror flick -- that would be Rob Zombie's "Halloween" reboot -- debuted in August. But the fall still has plenty of goose-pimplin' action for folks who like to be scared out of their seats. Whether it's vampires you seek, zombies, or things that merely look and act an awful lot like zombies, when it comes to sources of terror, you'll have your pick this autumn.
Among the highest-profile entries in the genre is "Resident Evil: Extinction," the third (and supposedly final) entry in the critically reviled series of videogame adaptations. This time around, Milla Jovovich and her crew take the fight into the desert, determined to make their way to the virus-free north. If high-tech gore is your thing, "RE:E" might be your most highly anticipated title of the season.
Come October, horror fans can look forward to a bloodthirsty flock of vampires descending on a small Alaskan town in "30 Days of Night," which finds Josh Hartnett helping bring the popular series of graphic novels to the big screen -- oh, and then there's a little flick called "Saw IV."
Playing out the string in November is "The Mist," which reteams director Frank Darabont with the stories of Stephen King. Darabont, who previously brought "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" to the screen, decided to tackle one of King's scary short stories this time out; ticket-buyers can expect a horde of nasty, fog-dwelling creatures for their money.
Kids are People Too
Much as we'd all like to spend our entertainment dollars on explosions and gratuitous nudity, every once in awhile life dictates that we have to take someone's stinky kid to the movies, so we'd be remiss if we didn't give you an idea or two for child-friendly trips to the neighborhood megaplex this season -- and fortunately, this year's fall slate looks like it'll be far less painful than some we've seen in the recent past.
For the tween set, it's Amanda Bynes to the rescue in September's "Sydney White." The apple-cheeked starlet plays a college freshman who ditches her legacy status at her sorority to lead a group of seven dorks in a charge against the established social structure. Formulaic? Absolutely, but it beats the pants off crap like "Bratz: The Movie," and Bynes is decidedly easy on the eyes.
How about a little fantasy magic? Inspired by the recent success of such films as "The Chronicles of Narnia" and the "Harry Potter" series, studios have lined up a host of magical book adaptations for the remainder of the year, including October's "The Dark Is Rising" -- which features enough adolescent questing and glittery special effects to keep your kids starry-eyed all the way home.
And let's not forget "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," which puts Natalie Portman behind the desk of a magical toy store owned by Dustin Hoffman, or "Bee Movie," which heralds the return of Jerry Seinfeld after a nine-year absence from screens both big and small.
One movie which might look like it's aimed at kids -- but is decidedly not -- is "Beowulf," which uses the same motion-capture technology used to create "The Polar Express" (and Angelina Jolie's curves) to bring the Old English epic poem to life. We haven't seen a cartoon with this much of an adults-only focus since "Fritz the Cat."
No, Honey. What Would You Like to See?
Last but not least (well, maybe least), we've got the films that you stand a good chance of being dragged to if you have a woman in your life -- or those you might want to bite the bullet and just buy tickets for, if you feel like scoring (or need to score) some points with said woman. We're entering the estrogen zone here, gentlemen. Proceed with caution.
September brings us "Dedication," the latest adorable romance starring adorable Mandy Moore. It's all about love and trusting your emotions and not being afraid -- you know, chick stuff -- and given Mandy's track record, it's probably going to suck a lot, but it has all the appearances of a good date movie, she's awfully fun to look at, and Billy Crudup is in it, so there might be hope for it yet. Either way, both of you won't have any problems staring at the screen.
For the aggro woman in your life, there's "The Brave One," in which Jodie Foster uses a random act of violence as a launchpad into a life of vigilante justice. We like Jodie, we really do -- but we don't recommend seeing this after an argument with your girl. Particularly one you won.
Not to be forgotten in the chick-friendly crowd are "The Jane Austen Book Club" and "Feast of Love," ensemble romantic comedies that look to teach lessons about life and love, or something. And there's always the outside chance that you can use the presence of George Clooney to see "Michael Clayton," a corporate espionage thriller, as a way of sneaking in an action flick that the lady in your life will be happy with.
And there you have it -- from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, all the stuff that's fit to see. All in all, a pretty varied schedule of films for the last four months of the year, wouldn't you say?