Fall Arts Preview

Our annual look at the state of the arts.


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Fall Movies

Dark and serious, fantastic and strange, and utterly, utterly dramatic, fall movies come roaring into theaters. We help you separate the Oscar buzz from the total duds.




We’ve seen lots of disasters in films: earthquakes, volcanoes, diseases, The Happening. But what about an epidemic of blindness? Fernando Meirelles’ film, based on the 1995 novel by the Nobel Prize-winning José Saramago, imagines just that, with Julianne Moore starring as the one woman in town with immunity. Blindness was chosen to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival—but left with mixed reception (September 26).
Everybody knows the stories about the mad scientists toiling away in castle-like laboratories—but what about their devoted assistants? You know, the “Igors” who roam around saying, “Yes, Master.” This animated film finally gives the spotlight to one Igor—voiced by perma-underdog John Cusack—who becomes determined to be a scientist in his own right (September 19).



Burn After Reading
Not ones to rest on their laurels after the pitch-black No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers are back in the studio and looking to lighten the mood. The movie—a spy comedy about a CIA agent whose memoir falls into the hands of two clueless gym employees—features a typical Coens cast of alcoholics, crazies, and dimwits played by superstars John Malkovich, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Frances McDormand (September 12).

Also Opening: If you’re a fan of the brutal, cringe-inducing British version of The Office, you’ll be happy to know that star Ricky Gervais has stepped into leading-man territory in Ghost Town (September 19), a dark comedy in which he plays a dentist who sees dead people. Speaking of leading men, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro take turns chewing scenery in Righteous Kill, sharing a bill together for the first time since Heat (September 12). For the ladies: Kieria Knightly takes on another well-costumed period drama in The Duchess, which, in this case, refers to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (September 5). Not into corsets? Try Spike Lee’s Miracle at Saint Anna, about four African-American soldiers in WWII who are trapped behind enemy lines and risk their lives to save an Italian boy (September 26).


Only a movie by Oliver Stone could be called “controversial” before a script was even written. Then again, few directors have the nerve to write, produce, direct, and release a movie about the presidency of a living president—while he’s still president, during a big presidential campaign. Will Bush 43 be given the Nixon treatment? (October 17)

The Brothers Bloom
Director Rian Johnson received raves for his too-little-seen debut feature, Brick, but he returns to the big screen with a few stars in tow—Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz—who will hopefully bring him some deserved recognition. Brody and Ruffalo star as con-man brothers out to cheat Weisz’s heiress—until she becomes part of their scheme (October 24).

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Photo credit: K.C. Bailey courtesy of  2007 Playlist

For all the yearning, heartbroken teens out there who are too young to remember Say Anything comes a movie with all of the adorable awkwardness of a first date. Nick (the puppy-eyed Michael Cera) asks Norah (Kat Dennings) to be his “girlfriend for five minutes” to show up an ex, and it sets off a series of events that unfold at familiar locales across New York City (October 3).

Angelina Jolie, a celeb known for her off-screen mothering, finally gets to show off her maternal instincts on film. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Changeling is a 1920s mystery about a mother who gets her son back from a kidnapping—then begins to suspect that the returned child is not hers. True Eastwood fans should know he’s planning to release a second film, Gran Torino, sometime this December (October 24).

Photo by Francois Duhamel

Body of Lies
American Gangster director Ridley Scott re-teams with Aussie Russell Crowe for another swing at a gritty action movie, only they’re taking it from the streets of Harlem to the Middle East. Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio play CIA agents trying to ferret out terrorists in Jordan. The Departed’s screenwriter William Monahan adapted David Ignatius’s spy novel, so expect great dialogue (but we’ll miss those Boston accents; October 10).


Also Opening: Skip the movies with titles that aggravate your poor self esteem—How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (October 3), He’s Just Not That Into You (October 24), High School Musical 3: Senior Year (October 24)—for something that makes everybody feel good: pornography. In Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno (October 31), Knocked Up’s Seth Rogen and The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s Elizabeth Banks are lifelong friends who finally decide to take the plunge and produce an adult movie together. If you’d rather go for the mindless, stylish violence, try RocknRolla (October 31), the newest complicated gangster movie from the warped mind of Madonna hubby Guy Richie. For another view of violnce, The Lucky Ones (October 24) follows three injured Iraq War vets—played by Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins, and Michael Peña—on a tear-jerking road trip to return a soldier’s guitar to his family.


The Road
Just like the Coen Brothers, Cormac McCarthy also is looking for a follow-up success to No Country for Old Men. The big-screen adaptation of his post-apocalyptic novel, about a father and son vying for survival against refugees and cannibals, is directed by John Hillcoat—who, with 2005’s The Proposition, showed he is unafraid to take on tough material—and stars Eastern Promises’ Viggo Mortensen (November 26).


Australia Photo by James Fisher

This movie reunites Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann and star Nicole Kidman, but there’s nary a sparkly musical number in sight (which is rare for the director who made Strictly Ballroom). Instead, Luhrmann gives us a gorgeous pre-WWII period piece about an English aristocrat, a stock man (Hugh Jackman) willing to help her save her newly inherited livestock, an epic cattle drive, and the Japanese bombing of Darwin, Australia (November 14).



Photo by Karen Ballard

Quantum of Solace
If you can only say one thing about Daniel Craig’s take on James Bond, it’s this: he keeps you guessing. First, he made a scene for being, well, blonder than most Bonds—and now the next film has that wildly inscrutable title. But following the delightfully dark Casino Royale and with Finding Neverland’s Marc Forster at the helm, prospects of another martini-drinking, globe-trotting, mole-hunting success look pretty good (November 7).


Also Opening: The book series may be over, but if you just can’t let it go, relive the excitement of the sixth installment with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (November 21), and be thankful for loads of screen time with Alan Rickman. If you’re looking for a children’s story you haven’t reread a million times by now, Disney releases its newest animated offering, Bolt (November 26).



Milk photo by Phil Bray

Sean Penn is Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, in the first non-documentary about Milk’s life and tragic murder. The film is directed by Gus Van Sant, who received an Academy Award nomination for Good Will Hunting, but has since gone on to make more daring, experimental films like Elephant, a searing drama about school shootings (December 5).


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Fight Club director David Fincher pretty much figured out the only way to make Brad Pitt unattractive: by casting him in a movie in which he ages in reverse. (Gross!) Based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Button tries to figure out how love can exist between a man who gets younger as he ages and a woman (Cate Blanchett) not cursed with such an anomaly (December 19).

The Spirit
Comic-book legend Frank Miller takes his first turn at solo directing, adapting Will Eisner’s sinister noir about a rookie cop who comes back from the dead to protect his beloved Central City. With a dark and stylish look similar to his pervious Sin City—and characters with names like Silken Floss, Sand Seref, and Plaster of Paris—this movie promises to be as dark and strange as Miller’s own graphic novels (December 25).

Frost/Nixon photo by Ralph Nelson

When the New York Times reviewed the stage production of this play—about the televised face-off between a talk show host and the resigned president—Ben Brantly wrote: “Let it be proclaimed, with drums and fanfare, that theater decisively trumps television in the production that opened last night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater.” Now, where does the film adaptation fit in? Our guess is that Brantly would approve, since director Ron Howard imports the same cast from the Broadway outing, including the Tony-winning Frank Langella as Richard Nixon (December 5).


Also Opening: It’s nice to see old lovers reunite, and Titanic’s unstoppable force of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is a couple once more in Revolutionary Road, in which they play a suburban couple in the 1950s that moves to France in order to escape their marital problems (December 26). And, for all of you lab owners out there—and we know there’s a lot of you—the big-screen version of puppy-love flick Marley and Me comes to theaters December 25.

Note: Studios are notoriously twitchy about film release dates, and some of these may have adjusted after press time.

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