2007 Fall Movie Preview: October
October is traditionally the month when the balance really starts to
shift from louder, less demanding films to the more thoughtful stuff
-- big surprise, with awards season just around the corner -- and this
year is no different: "Rendition," "Things We Lost in
the Fire," and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" are just three
of the month's most obvious ballot-friendly entries. But if you just
want to be entertained, dammit, this October still has plenty to make
you happy -- we've got Ben Stiller reuniting with the Farrellys, all
sorts of kid-friendly magic, and a pissed-off hitman with no name. The
details are below.
Michael Clayton (Warner Bros., October 5)
Starring: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Pamela Gray
Director: Tony Gilroy
The Pitch: Clooney plays -- duh -- Michael Clayton,
a "fixer" at a law firm not above taking well-paying cases
that need some fixin'. Clayton gets more than he bargained for with
his latest case, however, and may wind up paying the ultimate price.
The Buzz: It's got a horrible title, but Clooney ain't one of the world's biggest stars for nothin', and the trailer suggests the kind of pulse-pounding legal/industrial action we haven't seen since "The Insider." That movie wasn't exactly a hit, of course, but you can't have it all.
Trailer Highlight: It's all a tense, well-oiled tease for what will hopefully be a tense, well-oiled film.
Bottom Line: Few actors carry the kind of old-fashioned movie-star charisma that Clooney does, even when he's making questionable films. This seems like one of his safer bets.
Official Site: http://www.michaelclayton.com/
Dark Is Rising (20th Century Fox, October 5)
Starring: Ian McShane, Frances Conroy, Christopher Eccleston, Alexander Ludwig, Jonathan Jackson, Amelia Warner, Gregory Smith, Emma Lockhart
Director: David L. Cunningham
The Pitch: Make a pile of money with movies based
on a series of kids' books and look what happens -- everyone starts
trying to build a franchise out of tweener tomes. Here, 20th Century
Fox throws its hat in the ring with the first installment of Susan Cooper's
"The Dark Is Rising" Sequence, in which a boy named Will Stanton
learns he's the last -- and apparently most bad-ass -- of a group of
warriors dedicated to fighting the forces of darkness.
The Buzz: We're also getting the first installment of the "His Dark Materials" series this fall, in the form of "The Golden Compass," but the market for this stuff is still a ways from being saturated.
Trailer Highlight: "I'm supposed to save the world? I can't even figure out how to talk to a girl."
Bottom Line: Cool cast, cool visual effects, cool (if familiar) story...throw in a few buckets of popcorn, and you've got all the makings of an afternoon out with the kids.
Official Site: http://www.seekthesigns.com/
Heartbreak Kid (DreamWorks, October 5)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman, Jerry Stiller, Rob Corddry, Carlos Mencia
Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
The Pitch: Shallowness and indecision have kept Eddie (Stiller) single well past his sell-by date. Suddenly frantic to find a mate, he takes the plunge with his short-term girlfriend, only to realize he can't stand her -- and fall for another woman on their honeymoon.
The Buzz: Stiller and the Farrellys made another movie together, about ten years ago. You may remember it. It was called "There's Something About Mary."
Trailer Highlight: We aren't sure. We were too busy trying to wrap our heads around the idea that two women as attractive as Akerman and Monaghan would be interested in a loathsome troll like Stiller.
Bottom Line: In terms of keeping us far, far away from the theater, the credits "Starring Ben Stiller and Carlos Mencia" are about as effective as a massive ring of fire around the building. But Stiller's movies make a lot of money, and the whole Farrelly reunion thing will be played up, so this one's probably laughing all the way to the bank.
Official Site: http://www.heartbreakkidmovie.com/
in Real Life (Touchstone, October 12)
Starring: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Emily Blunt
Director: Peter Hedges
The Pitch: Carell stars as a single father whose professional guise (successful advice columnist) masks a private life in various stages of comedic disarray. When he begins to fall for his brother's (Cook) girlfriend, the changes in his carefully constructed routine start coming fast and furious.
The Buzz: Touchstone has been rolling this out quietly, which suits its down-to-earth adult comedy vibe; films like this are built more on word of mouth than balls-out ad campaigns.
Trailer Highlight: It all looks pretty great, really, but for our money, John Mahoney might be the best "gruff dad" in film or television history.
Bottom Line: If you were tempted to write off Carell as a film actor after "Evan Almighty," this might just change your mind.
Official Site: http://www.daninreallife-themovie.com/
Hitman (20th Century Fox, October 12)
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Michael Offei
Director: Xavier Gens
The Pitch: It's like the videogames, only bigger. Agent 47 (Olyphant) is a ruthless killer without a name who gets caught between Interpol and the Russian military in a fight for his life.
The Buzz: Videogame adaptations are almost always universally panned by critics and ignored by moviegoers, but they keep coming anyway, because they tend to be inexpensive and thus quick to recoup their budgets (particularly in the video market). This one looks to be a cut above the rest, but still.
Trailer Highlight: That one part where a guy gets beat up and something explodes.
Bottom Line: Maybe if it shows up on cable late one night when we're sort of drunk and can't fall asleep. But for $10, we expect a little more from our movie assassins.
Official Site: http://www.hitmanmovie.com/
Golden Age (Universal, October 12)
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish
Director: Shekhar Kapur
The Pitch: Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush reprise their roles from "Elizabeth" in this sequel, which finds the queen battling her love for Sir Walter Raleigh (Owen) and a challenge to her throne from Spain's King Philip II (Jordi Molla).
The Buzz: This is a phenomenal cast, and the movie's sure to be at the top of the list of every Merchant Ivory fanatic who has worn out her copy of "The Remains of the Day." The rest of us may end up wondering, again, what all the fuss is about.
Trailer Highlight: Blanchett losing her pale, redheaded shit in a confrontation with a Spanish emissary.
Bottom Line: The first film won seven Academy Awards, but if quills and bodices aren't your thing, you probably never even thought about watching it. And you won't think about seeing this one, either.
Official Site: http://www.elizabeththegoldenage.net/
We Own the Night (Columbia, October 12)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes, Alex Veadov
Director: James Gray
The Pitch: The late '80s war between the Russian Mafia and the NYPD draws a line between two brothers (Phoenix and Wahlberg). Their father (Duvall) is the chief of police and one of them has followed in his footsteps, rising to lieutenant; the other is a club owner caught between maintaining his lifestyle and showing loyalty to his family.
The Buzz: Lots of acting talent on board for this one, no? The trailer looks solid, even if we're starting to think Wahlberg has an unnatural fascination with cop roles. And speaking of looks, there's Mendes...
Trailer Highlight: Robert Duvall, long may you run.
Bottom Line: If you have to choose one gritty cop movie to see this fall, we'd recommend "Gone Baby Gone"; if you're going to see two, however, add this to the list.
Official Site: http://www.weownthenightmovie.com/
Days of Night (Columbia, October 19)
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Manu Bennett
Director: David Slade
The Pitch: In a small Alaskan town, the sun's annual monthlong departure means the arrival of a pack of bloodthirsty vampires. The town's sherriff (Hartnett) must help the dwindling group of survivors last until dawn.
The Buzz: This may be just a temporary hiccup in our ordinary cynicism talking, but the plot actually sounds like a pretty cool idea. Whether the filmmakers can bring it to the screen without screwing it up beyond repair is another question, of course.
Trailer Highlight: "From producer Sam Raimi."
Bottom Line: Is anyone else having a really hard time buying Josh Hartnett as the sherriff of anywhere?
Official Site: http://www.30daysofnight.com/
(New Line, October 19)
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard, Christian Martin
Director: Gavin Hood
The Pitch: An Egyptian-born businessman is "detained indefinitely" by the American government, then extradited (the "rendition" of the title) to a secret prison where a rookie CIA agent (Gyllenhaal) is sent to observe his interrogation. Meanwhile, the prisoner's wife (Witherspoon) sets about trying to secure her husband's release -- or just find out where the hell he is.
The Buzz: Hot-button politics aside, fall was made for pictures like this one -- and it looks a helluva lot better than its closest competitor, "Lions for Lambs."
Trailer Highlight: Streep's brief appearances are chillingly compelling, but it's Witherspoon's pained scream at the end of the trailer that really breaks your heart.
Bottom Line: Expect an avalanche of great reviews for the cast, and a whole lot of squawking from right-wing pundits who can't understand why anyone would question the need for the greatest country on Earth to sanction torture.
Official Site: http://www.renditionmovie.com/
The Comebacks (Fox Atomic, October 19)
Starring: David Koechner, Carl Weathers, Matthew Lawrence, Brooke Nevin, Jackie Long, Jesse Garcia
Director: Tom Brady
The Pitch: There's a nominal plot here, about a washed-up football coach named Lambeau Fields (Koechner), but for the most part, "The Comebacks" looks like a series of allegedly funny vignettes, kind of like "Kentucky Fried Movie."
The Buzz: ...Kind of like "Kentucky Fried Movie," only it's PG-13, so there's none of the raunchy humor and gratuitous nudity that these films thrive on...and therefore no reason to see it. It's nice to see Carl Weathers getting a paycheck, but still.
Trailer Highlight: What is this "highlight" you speak of?
Bottom Line: Fucking hell.
Official Site: http://www.foxatomic.com/comebacks/
Gone Baby Gone (Miramax, October 26)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris
Director: Ben Affleck
The Pitch: Ben Afflect adapts and directs a novel by Dennis Lehane, author of "Mystic River," and casts his brother Casey in the lead role. Sounds like a recipe for embarrassment, no?
The Buzz: Think again. As he reminded us in "Hollywoodland," Affleck is more than the sum of the parts on display in films such as "Reindeer Games," "Paycheck," and "Pearl Harbor," and if this trailer is anything to go on, the man knows how to direct -- "Gone Baby Gone" looks like a tenser, higher-stakes version of "Mystic River," and Casey is as good as we've ever seen him.
Trailer Highlight: Hey, you've got Freeman and Harris. That's enough.
Bottom Line: We'll see it, and we're betting plenty of others will, too.
Official Site: http://www.gonebabygone-themovie.com/
Woodcock (New Line, October 26)
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon, Ethan Suplee, Amy Poehler, Emily Wagner, Evan Helmuth
Director: Craig Gillespie
The Pitch: A self-help guru (Scott) pays his mom (Sarandon) a visit and discovers she's dating the sadistic gym teacher (Thornton) who made his youth a living hell.
The Buzz: Watching Thornton play a dick is getting a little old at this point, but hey, at least he's good at it, and Scott couldn't have chosen a more un-Stifler role if he'd tried. (Come to think of it, maybe he did try.)
Trailer Highlight: "Well, it looks like I'm gonna be your new dad."
Bottom Line: If this thing is any good, it'll be because of the cast, not the tired material.
Official Site: http://www.woodcockmovie.com/
IV (Lionsgate, October 26)
Starring: Tobin Bell, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Costas Mandylor, Lyriq Bent, Athena Karkanis
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
The Pitch: Another year, another "Saw" movie -- and even though the series' criminal mastermind and his apprentice died in the last film, Jigsaw is somehow still around to torment another victim.
The Buzz: You know the drill (literally). People are gonna get hurt, and you're supposed to squirm and applaud. Bousman apparently upped the ante for thsi installment -- he was reportedly so grossed out by one scene that he puked on the set. What else do you want?
Trailer Highlight: N/A
Bottom Line: If you're a fan of this stuff, nothing's going to keep you away. If you aren't, nothing will change your mind.
Official Site: N/A
Things We Lost in the Fire (DreamWorks,
Starring: Halle Berry, Benicio del Toro, David Duchovny, Alison Lohman
Director: Susanne Bier
The Pitch: Grief and loss bind together a widow (Berry) and a drug addict (del Toro) who use their common connection -- Berry's dead husband -- to heal their broken places and move on with their lives.
The Buzz: This is the kind of "little picture" that used to be in short supply in Hollywood, and as much as they seemed like a breath of fresh air ten years ago, the field is awfully crowded now. And having said that, the trailer makes this one seem for all the world like one you very much need to see.
Trailer Highlight: Berry and del Toro -- both Oscar winners, and each at the top of their game.
Bottom Line: It's a tearjerker, no doubt, and full of the sort of heartache, romance, and cute kids that a lot of us are allergic to. But if you can set aside your overwhelming need to see stuff blow up, this looks like a fine way to spend a couple of hours.
Official Site: http://www.thingswelostinthefire.com/