Sunday, October 3, 2010

ArtsPreview 2010-11: The season in film

Jack Black.‭ (‬Illustration by Pat Crowley‭)

By‭ ‬Hap Erstein

We are willing to look ahead at future film releases,‭ ‬but only as far as the end of the calendar year.‭ ‬Even then,‭ ‬the crystal ball gets fuzzy,‭ ‬as these release dates are highly likely to change as Hollywood strategizes and counter-programs.

Nevertheless,‭ ‬there are bound to be Oscar nominees within these subjective picks of what will hit screens in the next three months‭ (‬because there were few award-worthy movies in‭ ‬2010‭’‬s first nine months‭)‬.

Among the A-list directors trawling for statuettes are Eastwood,‭ ‬the Coens and Coppola‭ (‬well,‭ ‬Sofia at least‭)‬.‭ ‬And for some reason,‭ ‬there are several films about family members trying to clear the names of their convicted relatives.‭ ‬No,‭ ‬we have no idea why that would be.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬here is a rundown of what to look for during that small window of time before these are all available on DVD:

Aaron Johnson in Nowhere Boy.

Nowhere Boy‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬8‭) ‬--‭ ‬In‭ ‬1955‭ ‬Liverpool,‭ ‬a young lad named John Lennon‭ ‬(Aaron Johnson‭) ‬is in search of himself and his musical expression,‭ ‬as two women‭ ‬--‭ ‬his influential aunt and his prodigal mother‭ ‬--‭ ‬clash over him,‭ ‬in this cinematic view of the lead Beatle’s early years.

Secretariat‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬8‭) ‬--‭ ‬What,‭ ‬you thought Seabiscuit had an interesting history‭? ‬Wait‭ ’‬til you see the biography of the‭ ‬1973‭ ‬Triple Crown winner,‭ ‬the housewife‭ (‬Diane Lane‭) ‬who inherited him and the trainer‭ (‬John Malkovich‭) ‬who took him to the winner’s circle.

Stone‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬8‭) ‬--‭ ‬The acting lessons begin when Robert De Niro and Edward Norton hit the screen as a corrections officer and the scheming inmate who is under his supervision.‭ ‬Norton is a convicted murderer who has to argue his case for parole to De Niro.‭ ‬Hey,‭ ‬you pleadin‭’ ‬to me‭?

Conviction‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬15‭) ‬--‭ ‬Tony Goldwyn directs this tale of a sister’s‭ (‬Hilary Swank‭) ‬unwavering devotion to her brother‭ (‬Sam Rockwell‭)‬,‭ ‬who has been sentenced to life in prison.‭ ‬So she puts herself through college,‭ ‬then law school,‭ ‬in a quest to have his conviction overturned.‭

The Company Men‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬29‭) ‬--‭ ‬Here’s a tale for our times.‭ ‬Ben Affleck is a rising corporate executive who gets laid off in an economic downsizing move,‭ ‬so he has to learn to redefine his life building houses for his brother-in-law‭ (‬Kevin Costner‭)‬.

Hereafter‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬22‭) ‬--‭ ‬Clint Eastwood tosses his hat into the Oscars race with this supernatural thriller,‭ ‬with a screenplay by Peter Morgan‭ (‬Frost/Nixon‭)‬,‭ ‬about three people touched and profoundly changed in different ways experiences with death.‭ ‬Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard star as individuals‭ ‬whose belief in the hereafter go through a reassessment.

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts in Fair Game.

Fair Game‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬12‭) ‬--‭ ‬Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame,‭ ‬a CIA agent‭ ‬investigating the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.‭ ‬When her husband Joe Wilson‭ (‬Sean Penn‭) ‬decides to blow the whistle and write a‭ ‬New York Times editorial column,‭ ‬Plame is outed and her life put in danger.

Unstoppable‭ ‬(Nov.‭ ‬12‭) ‬--‭ ‬A runaway train carrying toxic chemicals is chased by another locomotive‭ ‬that tries to bring it under control before it derails and spills its deadly cargo.‭ ‬Denzel Washington stars,‭ ‬in a role that sounds awfully similar to the part he played in‭ ‬The Taking of Pelham‭ ‬123‭ ‬remake.

Daniel Radcliffe,‭ ‬Rupert Grint and Emma Watson
in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,‭ ‬Part‭ ‬1.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,‭ ‬Part‭ ‬1‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬19‭) ‬--‭ ‬Harry,‭ ‬Ron and Hermione,‭ ‬before checking into an old age home,‭ ‬head off from Hogwarts to battle the Horcruxes,‭ ‬on their way to a final battle with the Dark Lord,‭ ‬Voldemort.‭ ‬Either to encompass everything in the series‭’ ‬final novel or just to squeeze every penny they can from the book,‭ ‬the filmmakers have divided this last adventure into two halves.‭

The Next Three Days‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬19‭) ‬--‭ ‬A college professor‭ (‬Russell Crowe‭) ‬makes a last ditch effort to save his wife‭ (‬Elizabeth Banks‭)‬,‭ ‬who was wrongly convicted of murder,‭ ‬plotting to break her out of the prison where she is incarcerated.‭ ‬Hey,‭ ‬that’s what good husbands do.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬it sounds hokey,‭ ‬but the movie is directed by Paul Haggis‭ (‬Crash‭)‬,‭ ‬so it probably plays better than its synopsis.

The King’s Speech‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬24‭) ‬--‭ ‬King George‭ ‬VI‭ (‬Colin Firth‭)‬,‭ ‬whom history buffs know gained the throne after his brother Edward‭ ‬VIII‭ ‬abdicated,‭ ‬has to learn to be an orator,‭ ‬so he is assigned an Australian speech therapist/vocal coach‭ (‬Geoffrey Rush‭)‬,‭ ‬who succeeds so well that he eloquently leads Great Britain into war.‭ (‬Gee,‭ ‬didn’t George W.‭ ‬Bush do the same without any speaking ability‭?)

Tangled‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬24‭) ‬--‭ ‬Disney dips its toe again into the pond of animated musicals with this fractured fairy tale version of Rapunzel and her adventures with a daring bandit.‭ ‬Mandy Moore supplies the voice of the lass with‭ ‬70‭ ‬feet of magical golden hair and Alan Menken‭ (‬Beauty and the Beast‭) ‬supplies the original score.‭ (‬Relax,‭ ‬Toy Story‭ ‬3,‭ ‬the Oscar is still coming your way.‭)

The Fighter‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬10‭) ‬--‭ ‬A drama about Irish boxer Mickey Ward‭ (‬Mark Wahlberg‭)‬,‭ ‬who works his way up to the world lightweight championship,‭ ‬and his half-brother‭ (‬Christian Bale‭)‬,‭ ‬who chooses a life of crime,‭ ‬then goes straight and helps Mickey win the title.

TRON Legacy‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬17‭) ‬--‭ ‬A follow-up to the first digital live-action film,‭ ‬25‭ ‬years ago,‭ ‬in which Jeff Bridges was sucked into a world of computer programs and gladiators.‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬his‭ ‬27-year-old son investigates his dad’s disappearance and is pulled into that same world.‭ ‬The original movie is generally acknowledged to be ahead of its time,‭ ‬but is the sequel behind the time‭?

Gulliver’s Travels‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬22‭) ‬--‭ ‬Your English lit teacher would probably be appalled,‭ ‬but Jack Black has been cast as Jonathan Swift’s oversized traveler.‭ ‬With improvements,‭ ‬of course.‭ ‬This time around,‭ ‬Gulliver is a mailroom clerk who accidentally lands in the Bermuda Triangle and finds that among little people he is a relative giant.‭

Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning in Somewhere.

Somewhere‭ ‬(Dec.‭ ‬22‭) ‬--‭ ‬Do not be turned off by this plot,‭ ‬which is something about an out-of-control actor‭ (‬Stephen Dorff‭) ‬who has to change his lifestyle when his daughter‭ (‬Elle Fanning‭) ‬unexpectedly arrives at the Chateau Marmont to stay with him.‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬it sounds like it was tailor-made for Dwayne‭ ‬(“The Rock‭”) ‬Johnson,‭ ‬but we reassessed and got interested when we heard it is directed by Sofia Coppola.

True Grit‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬25‭) ‬--‭ ‬Joel and Ethan Coen love to defy our expectations,‭ ‬as they do again with a remake of the‭ ‬1969‭ ‬John Wayne vehicle about an aging marshal and a‭ ‬14-year-old girl who travel to hostile Indian territory to track down her father’s killer.‭ ‬That is what the earlier movie was about.‭ ‬Any resemblance to what the Coens make of it‭ ‬--‭ ‬with a cast that includes Jeff Bridges,‭ ‬Matt Damon and Josh Brolin‭ ‬--‭ ‬is likely to be mere coincidence.

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