October 2008 Movies, The Express, How to Lose Friends, Nick and Norah, Body of Lies, Max Payne

2008 Fall Movie Preview: October

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The Express (October 3)

We’ve had innumerable inspirational sports films, and the story of the first black athlete to win the Heisman seems like such a natural fit for the big scree that it seems impossible we haven’t already seen a movie about the life of Syracuse running back Ernie Davis – but here we are, in the fall of 2008, and Universal’s bringing us “The Express.”

Rob Brown stars as Davis, with Dennis Quaid lending a bit of box-office weight as his coach, Ben Schwartzwalder. The best sports movies have a larger social backdrop behind the athletic action, and Davis’ struggles for equality give “The Express” more heft than most. It opens during the most crowded month of the season, but if you’re looking for a little meat to go with your popcorn in the early weeks of October, this is probably your safest bet.

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How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (October 3)

Toby Young’s bestselling memoir about his less-than-fruitful days in the publishing world gets the big screen treatment here, with Simon Pegg recreating Young’s larger-than-life escapades as a member of Manhattan’s upper crust. Strippers, a pig run amok, and Megan Fox are all part of the action. How can you go wrong?

Pegg’s got plenty of fans, but his movies have missed (“Run Fat Boy Run”) as often as they’ve hit (“Shaun of the Dead”); still, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” has been one of the more buzzed-about adaptations to come out of the studio system in the last few years, and a supporting cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Gillian Anderson and Kirsten Dunst never hurts. And did we mention Megan Fox?

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Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (October 3)

One of these days, Michael Cera is going to have to stop playing lovably square teenage sad sack/hipster types, but for the time being, nobody’s doing the fresh-faced, hoodie-wearing straight man thing better than the former “Arrested Development” star, and he brings his youthful Newhart-esque charm to bear on Kat Dennings in “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”

The setup is as simple as it is overdone – boy meets girl in a chance encounter; the two proceed to fall for one another over the course of a single sleepless night in the city – but Cera and Dennings just might have the chemistry to transcend the overly familiar storyline, and the soundtrack is sure to be an iTunes favorite.

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Body of Lies (October 10)

It’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe co-starring in a movie directed by Ridley Scott. Really, what else do you need to know? Not much, we hope, but just in case, “Body of Lies” adapts the 2007 novel, written by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, about a CIA operative working to bring down a suspected Jordanian terrorist.

Yep, it’s the T word – and no, movies about terrorism have not been doing well at the box office. But “Body of Lies” has a sterling pedigree and plenty of star power to combat the public’s disinterest in this sort of ripped-from-the-headlines material. Will it succeed where “Rendition,” “Stop-Loss,” and “In the Valley of Elah” failed?

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Max Payne (October 17)

There was plenty of snickering when Mark Wahlberg signed on to play the lead in this adaptation of the popular videogame – and more still when Wahlberg claimed it was one of the hardest and most complex roles he’d ever played – but once footage and stills started leaking out, at least a few naysayers quit laughing and started paying attention.

At the end of the day, “Max Payne” may end up being just another videogame adaptation – and we all know how well most of those turn out – but yikes, what a good-looking adaptation it’ll be. You don’t need to know much about the plot, either; whether or not you care that Wahlberg plays a cop out for revenge, you should be able to show up, sit down, turn off your brain for 90 minutes, and enjoy all the highly stylized action (and all the Mila Kunis).

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W (October 17)

From the moment George W. Bush was sworn into office, you know Oliver Stone was just counting the days until he’d be able to put together a biopic about the (allegedly) coke-snorting, (allegedly) Armed Services-flouting, (allegedly) compassionate conservative who’s been the chief occupant of the White House for the last eight years.

Well, folks, that day is here – even before Bush departs Washington, as it turns out. Stone lined up a heckuva cast to portray the Bushes (and the Bushies), including Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush, Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell, and Josh Brolin as the Decider himself. It’s hard to imagine who’s going to see this during the run-up to the ’08 election, but whether it’s a hit or a flop, it’s still Oliver Stone – it almost certainly won’t be dull.

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The Brothers Bloom (October 24)

Brothers taking advantage of rich, lonely women. Globe-trotting adventures. Double- and triple-crossings galore. They don’t make movies like this anymore – one of the last family-that-steals-together flicks to make much of a ripple was “The Grifters,” way back in 1990 – but when they’re done right, there’s nothing quite like them, and screenwriter/director Rian Johnson (“Brick”) has lined up an impressive cast for “The Brothers Bloom.”

Two Academy Award winners (Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz), one Academy Award nominee (Rinko Kikuchi), and one of the finest character actors of his generation (Mark Ruffalo) lead the action here, following Johnson’s story about Brody and Ruffalo’s scam against the “eccentric” widow played by Weisz. Yeah, it sounds a little like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," but since when is that a bad thing?

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Saw V (October 24)

They’re as regular as clockwork, and most people claim they’re about as much fun to watch – but someone must be buying tickets to the “Saw” movies, because here we are on our fifth installment in the series. As always, the plot’s being kept pretty tightly under wraps, and as always, the plot is probably pretty much beside the point. Expect plenty of gruesome torture, plenty of negative reviews, and a final box-office tally big enough to justify the inevitable “Saw VI.”

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Changeling (October 31)

Clint Eastwood behind the camera, Angelina Jolie in front of it, and a supporting cast that includes John Malkovich and Amy Ryan? Might as well just cast your ballots now, Academy voters – it’s been a soft year for prestige pictures, but “Changeling” looks to change all that in late October.

Also working in the film’s favor is that it’s based on real events -- J. Michael Straczynski’s script was inspired by the Wineville Chicken Murders of 1928-30, in which the mysterious disappearances of three young boys were compounded by the weirdness surrounding the return of one child whose mother (played here by Jolie) insisted that the son who’d come home to her was not her son at all. “Changeling” earned rave reviews when it ran at Cannes earlier this year; expect a whole bunch more of them come Halloween.

RocknRolla (October 31)

Guy Ritchie returns to his favorite territory – namely, the seedy underbelly of London – for his latest , a cast-of-dozens affair involving the money-grabbing aftermath of a Russian mobster’s crooked land deal. What, you were expecting something different from the guy who brought you “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”?

This time out, Ritchie has lined up another buzzworthy cast, including Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Jeremy Piven, and Ludacris. The movie has been plagued by behind-the-scenes turmoil at Warners, where execs have been quietly trying to offload “RocknRolla,” but all appearances indicate that Ritchie’s fans won’t be disappointed here.

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Zack and Miri Make a Porno (October 31)

His films have always blended the sweetly funny with the outright profane, so in some ways, it seems like “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” – the story of two broke friends who decide to make a skin flick to raise money, only to realize that their relationship might be more complicated than they thought – might be the ultimate Kevin Smith picture.

More important, at least as far as theater owners are concerned, is the fact that “Zack and Miri” stars Seth Rogen, the lovably foulmouthed hero of such Judd Apatow-affiliated comedies as “Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” and “Pineapple Express.” Smith aficionados will light up when they see that Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes are in the cast, but for everyone else, it’s Rogen’s Everydude shtick (and, of course, Elizabeth Banks’ sex appeal) that’ll make or break Smith’s latest. (For the record, we’re betting “make” over “break.”)

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