Wondrous worlds and Wild Things permeate a prestige movie season.
Extract September 4
Nobody does hangdog characters better than Mike Judge, the mind behind Office Space and King of the Hill. For this movie, Judge hones in on another dysfunctional office at a flavor-extract plant. Only this time, instead of sticking with the drones, Judge focuses on the bedraggled factory owner (Jason Bateman), whose life is derailed when an accident takes place on the job. It seems that, for Judge, working is rotten no matter which side of the coin you’re on.
Coco Before Chanel September 25
Everybody knows that Coco Chanel “invented” the little black dress, but who knew that she began sewing while at a convent school? And who remembers her stint as a nightclub singer? The doe-eyed Audrey Tautou (Amélie) takes on the role of the unconventional fashion legend in a biopic that begs to be seen while wearing a spritz of No. 5.
Surrogates September 25
This one should appeal to all the misanthropes out there. In the future world of Surrogates, people stay shut in their houses and interact only through their (more attractive) robot counterparts. This peaceful passivity is interrupted, however, when a cop (Bruce Willis) has to venture out into the cold, scary world to investigate a murder. The movie comes from the team that made Terminator 3, so there’s obviously a lingering robot paranoia there.
➤Fame September 25
Also Consider: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, and Christopher Plummer all provide voices for 9, an animated film about rag-doll-like characters on a world-saving mission in a dark, bleak future (September 9) // Forget raining cats and dogs—it rains pasta and pancakes in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, an animated film based on the beloved children’s book (September 18) // Juno scribe Diablo Cody returns with Jennifer’s Body, a horror flick about a possessed, murderous cheerleader played by Megan Fox—so it is, indeed, a nice body (September 18) // Hell is other amnesia-riddled people—in space—in the creepy sci-fi thriller Pandorum (September 18).
Shutter Island October 2
Now that Martin Scorsese finally has an Oscar for directing, he can go back to making awesome genre movies that the Academy doesn’t care about. He re-teams with Leonardo DiCaprio for this chilling film, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, about a ’50s-era investigator looking into a disappearance at an Alcatraz-like hospital for the criminally insane. It’s hard to tell who is more frightening, the barbarous inmates or the unethical doctors—and both do a number on our poor gumshoe.
An Education October 9
It’s not quite a May-December romance—think of it as more like May-September. A bright, privileged high school student, on track for academic success in the 1960s British suburbs, becomes distracted by a fling with an older, thirtysomething gentleman (Peter Sarsgaard). Which would you choose: romance or Oxford?
Zombieland October 9
Zombies are the hot new thing, popping up everywhere from comedy films to re-imagined Jane Austen novels. In this movie, a small band of survivors of a zombiepocalypse have gotten pretty good at killing the undead brutes. It’s the other survivors who become the real nuisance.
➤ Where the Wild Things Are October 16
It might seem like Maurice Sendak’s children’s book classic is impossible to adapt into a feature-length movie, but leave it to a couple of hipsters: Being John Malkevich director Spike Jonze and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius writer Dave Eggers have come up with a big-screen version that actually looks faithful to the spirit of the book. Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O. stirs up the wild rumpus by providing original music.
Also Consider: Even with a title like A Serious Man, it’s hard to take the characters in Coen Brothers movies—especially the bumbling academics—very seriously (October 2) // For his second outing this year, director Steven Soderbergh turns Matt Damon into an agribusiness whistle-blower in The Informant (October 9) // After many delays, we all finally can be terrorized and depressed by a big-screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Road (October 16) // Hilary Swank flies the friendly skies—then disappears—in Mira Nair’s Amelia (October 23).
[What’s Hot] 2012 November 13
The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure have nothing on the spectacular disasters in Roland Emmerich’s near-future cataclysmic tale. (We estimate that more national monuments are destroyed per second in this film than in any other movie in history.) In 2012, it’s a writer (John Cusack), not a scientist, who tries to save humanity from the earthquakes, tsunamis, and other special-effects-driven occurrences by using his knowledge of the ancient Mayan culture that foretold the destruction to begin with. (Let that be a lesson: always trust writers.)
Nine November 25
Chicago director Rob Marshall is comfortable staying in his strike zone, returning to the movie musical. But can the stars of his newest effort—Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, and Sophia Loren—really sing? If not, he’s still got himself a good-looking chorus there.
The Princess and the Frog November 25
Disney returns to hand-drawn animation for a story that was born on a bayou. The classic fairytale of a princess who kisses an enchanted frog to turn him back into a prince is given a Cajun twist, moving the story down to New Orleans to imbue it with the spirit of the Big Easy. The movie takes another unexpected turn when the fateful kiss actually turns the princess into a frog, and the amphibian couple must brave the bayou to find away to become human again.
Also Consider: Everyone from Alastair Sim to Scrooge McDuck has taken on the hearty role of Ebenezer Scrooge, but in Robert Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol, the magic of motion-capture animation lets Jim Carrey become Scrooge and all three of the visiting spirits (November 6) // Festival favorite Precious, like many indie movies, tackles heavy, distressing issues from obesity to incest (November 6) // Yet another terrific children’s book hits the big screen courtesy of a hip director when Wes Anderson makes a stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox (November 13) // Teens will howl over the shape-shifting in New Moon, the next film in the Twilight saga (November 20).
[What’s Hot] Avatar December 18
Nine years after Titanic, director James Cameron is finally returning with another feature film, a wildly anticipated science-fiction epic about an inhospitable but resource-rich planet that humans want to exploit through the use of genetically engineered avatars. The making of the film is almost a sci-fi movie in itself: Cameron blends live-action with computer-generated animation and will project the whole thing in 3D. The planet of Pandora should also get the geeks riled up, since the natives have a language that, Cameron tells Entertainment Weekly, will “out-Klingon Klingon.’’ Get your sci-fi convention costumes ready.
The Lovely Bones December 11
Only director Peter Jackson could shift from making movies about the Orcs of Middle Earth to films set in suburban Pennsylvania. Then again, there is an otherworldly element to the film: The main character, played by Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan, is in heaven when the film starts, looking down to see how her family is coping with her murder.
Brothers December 4
Of course, we couldn’t get through prestige season without a movie about Afghanistan. Directed by My Left Foot’s Jim Sheridan, this film is about a young soldier (Tobey Maguire) who disappears in Afghanistan, leaving his ne’er-do-well brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) to comfort his young wife (Natalie Portman). Talk about brotherly love.
Photo by Alex Bailey
➤ Sherlock Holmes December 25
The first of two planned Sherlock Holmes movies bursts out of the gate on Christmas, teaming up a Holmes played by Robert Downey Jr.—currently on a hot streak—and a Watson played by Jude Law. (The other Holmes movie, still in production with a tentative date of 2011, pairs Will Ferrell’s Holmes with Sacha Baron Cohen’s Watson.) Guy Richie is directing, so expect the two to be capering around a gritty London similar to the one in Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Forget elementary deduction—Holmes is going to have to get out of situations using serious fisticuffs.
Note: Studios are notoriously shifty about film release dates, and some of these may have adjusted after press time.