Ah, fall. The fall movie season is when we film lovers do our very best to shake off a summer’s supply of Transformers, ‘80s remakes, and wilted comic book heroes, and open our arms to the “prestige pictures”: the smart movies for grown-ups that studios trot out as close to Oscar time as possible, so that they can pretend like these are the kind of movies they make all year long.
Of course, those studios still have bills to pay, so it would be a mistake to presume that quality and intellect will be the sole flavor of the season. Too often, your fall movie previews tend to focus on the most promising releases, as though Oscar bait is all we’re going to see this autumn. Make no mistake: there will still be plenty of dumb comedies, mindless action, and copious amounts of 3-D. So in order to present the most complete picture of fall 2011 at the cinemas, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of the major fall releases, good and bad alike. Of course, that’s quite a big list of movies, so we’ve boiled our comments down to the basics: who’s in it, what it is, who it’s for, and if we’re in or out. Break out your calendars and join us after the jump.
Warrior (9/9) THE STARS: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte THE PITCH: No, it’s not exactly like The Fighter and The Wrestler. It’s about mixed martial arts. So it’s a totally different movie. FOR FANS OF: The Fighter and The Wrestler and mixed martial arts. Oh, and of seeing Tom Hardy without his shirt on. IN OR OUT: We’ve seen it, so we’re pleading the Fifth.
Contagion (9/9) THE STARS: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lawrence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, pretty much any actor who had a couple of free days for Soderbergh THE PITCH: Hand sanitizer! Always use hand sanitizer! FOR FANS OF: Outbreak, Irwin Allen all-star disaster movies, watching Paltrow expire on-screen. IN OR OUT: In, way in.
Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star THE STARS: Nick Swardson, Don Johnson, Christina Ricci THE PITCH: Swardson is back, to recapture some of that Grandma’s Boy magic. FOR FANS OF: The supporting players in Adam Sandler movies, things that are terrible. IN OR OUT: Take a guess.
Drive (9/16) THE STARS: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks THE PITCH: Gosling came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubblegum. FOR FANS OF: Antonioni and Cannon Films. Yep, both of ‘em. IN OR OUT: In. Drive is brutal, graphic, strange, and brilliant.
Straw Dogs (9/16) THE STARS: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård THE PITCH: Taking Peckinpah’s most troubling picture to remake town. FOR FANS OF: Class tension, violence, and, um, rape? IN OR OUT: Squarely the middle on this one — good cast, intriguing trailer, but even more unnecessary than the scores of other remakes this year.
I Don’t Know How She Does It (9/16) THE STARS: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer THE PITCH: SJP is both an executive and a mother. OMG HOW DOES SHE DO IT? FOR FANS OF: Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2, root canals. IN OR OUT: Yeah, we’re gonna go ahead and sit this one out.
Restless (9/16) THE STARS: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Jane Adams THE PITCH: He’s obsessed with death, and wouldn’t ya know it, she’s dying. Those crazy kids! FOR FANS OF: Harold and Maude who thought it’d be better if that lady was, say, 19. IN OR OUT: We’ve seen this one, and embargoes are in effect, so we’ll go with a steely-eyed “no comment.”
Moneyball (9/23) THE STARS: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman THE PITCH: The Social Network, but with baseball. FOR FANS OF: Fast talk, MLB stats, and the so-thick-you-can-cut-it-with-a-knife sexual chemistry between Pitt and Hill. IN OR OUT: We’re already in line.
Abduction (9/23) THE STARS: Taylor Lautner, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver THE PITCH: Twilight’s Jacob the werewolf as an action star. No, seriously. FOR FANS OF: Abs, John Singleton’s continued implosion, awkward little gasps. IN OR OUT: Pass, please.
Machine Gun Preacher (9/23) THE STARS: Gerald Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon THE PITCH: The 300 star goes to Sudan, presumably doesn’t yell about Sparta. FOR FANS OF: Hilarious titles. IN OR OUT: We like director Marc Forster, we really do. But c’mon, Machine Gun Preacher?
Killer Elite (9/23) THE STARS: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro THE PITCH: It’s that one with the trailer that uses Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” unironically. FOR FANS OF: Statham, porno mustaches, De Niro’s late-career train wrecks. IN OR OUT: Probably out, in spite of the year’s funniest trailer.
50/50 (9/30) THE STARS: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick THE PITCH: A 27-year-old gets cancer. But it’s funny, promise. FOR FANS OF: On-screen head shavings, Rogen’s stoner laugh, Kendrick’s perfect teeth. IN OR OUT: It’s so much better than you think it sounds.
Dream House (9/30) THE STARS: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts THE PITCH: We knew that asking price was too good to be true. FOR FANS OF: Movies where the stars fell in love off-screen, trailers that give away the whole film. IN OR OUT: Director Jim Sheridan is reliable. We’ll give it a look.
What’s Your Number? (9/30) THE STARS: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Martin Freeman THE PITCH: Young woman is afraid she may have slept with too many men to find happiness; revisits her affairs to see if one could be “the one.” FOR FANS OF: Watching Anna Faris fall down — which, we’ll admit, includes us. IN OR OUT: The premise is trite, and the trailers aren’t promising. On the other hand, the supporting cast (including Andy Samberg, Joel McHale, Chris Pratt, Anthony Mackie, and Zachary Quinto) is aces. We keep waiting for Faris to do a film as wonderful as she is — maybe this is it.
Margaret (9/30) THE STARS: Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Allison Janney THE PITCH: Kenneth Lonergan’s litigiously long-awaited follow-up to You Can Count on Me FOR FANS OF: How young Paquin and Damon looked six years ago. IN OR OUT: But we kid Margaret’s way-extended post-production period. We’re totally in.
Real Steel (10/7) THE STARS: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Hope Davis THE PITCH: Jackman plays a robot boxing promoter re-connecting with his 11-year-old son. We are not making this up. FOR FANS OF: I dunno, Battle Bots? IN OR OUT: Is this part of that Ben Stiller fake trailers movie we’ve been hearing about?
The Ides of March (10/7) THE STARS: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei THE PITCH: Good Night and Good Luck meets Obama ’08. FOR FANS OF: Political drama, schlubby character actors, guys who look great in suits. IN OR OUT: It’s Clooney directing the year’s best ensemble cast. Do you really have to ask?
The Thing, Footloose (10/14) THE STARS: Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton, Kenny Wormald and Dennis Quaid THE PITCH: Hey, remember these things you liked in the ‘80s? You’ll like ‘em again, right? FOR FANS OF: Unnecessary prequels/unnecessary remakes. IN OR OUT: Take a wild guess.
The Big Year (10/14) THE STARS: Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin THE PITCH: Funny guys go bird-watching. FOR FANS OF: Birds, comedies with soft underbellies, maybe Three Amigos? IN OR OUT: We’re torn — we like all three of its stars, and not a one of them can be trusted anymore. We’re in, but tentatively.
Texas Killing Fields (10/14) THE STARS: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Moretz THE PITCH: Serial killer on the loose in a small town. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. FOR FANS OF: Drawling accents. IN OR OUT: We love Chloe Moretz, so we’re sure she’ll forgive us for waiting for Netflix.
The Skin I Live In (10/14) THE STARS: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet THE PITCH: Banderas and Almodóvar, together again. FOR FANS OF: Creepy thriller, handsome Spaniards. IN OR OUT: We’ll repeat: Banderas and Almodóvar, together again.
Trespass (10/14) THE STARS: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Cam Gigandet THE PITCH: Funny Games — as envisioned by the director of Batman & Robin. FOR FANS OF: Home invasion, Nicolas Cage’s overacting, actors with unpronounceable last names. IN OR OUT: Well, let’s see; it’s Nicolas Cage in a Joel Schumacher film that hits DVD less than month later. There’s a chance this movie isn’t very good!
Paranormal Activity 3 (10/21) THE STARS: Katie Featherston THE PITCH: Hmmm. Maybe we squeeze a few more bucks out of it if we go back to when they were little girls? FOR FANS OF: VHS camcorder cinematography, things that go bump off-camera. IN OR OUT: They should’ve quit while they were ahead.
The Three Musketeers (10/21) THE STARS: Christoph Walz, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich THE PITCH: Sure, you’ve seen The Three Musketeers a million times before — BUT NOT IN 3-D!!! FOR FANS OF: Okay we give up — we have no fucking idea who this movie is for. IN OR OUT: If there is one movie this fall that represents all that is wrong with Hollywood, here it is.
Margin Call (10/21) THE STARS: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey THE PITCH: The financial collapse, as recreated by some of your favorite character actors. FOR FANS OF: Financial jargon, snazzy suits, the recession. IN OR OUT: There’s a killer Boiler Room-meets-Inside Job vibe to the trailer; we’re genuinely looking forward to this one.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (10/21) THE STARS: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes THE PITCH: Creepy indie happenings in the woods. FOR FANS OF: Winter’s Bone, things that are unsettling, the Olsen acting dynasty. IN OR OUT: Totally in. The trailers thus far don’t tell us a thing, except that we’re going to see this come October.
In Time (10/28) THE STARS: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy THE PITCH: Another 15-minutes-into-the-future science fiction pic from Gattaca director Andrew Niccol. FOR FANS OF: Idea-based scifi, the more closely-cropped Timberlake, Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser playing rich assholes. IN OR OUT: In, in, in.
Anonymous (10/28) THE STARS: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis THE PITCH: What if all those Shakespeare plays were written by… somebody else? FOR FANS OF: Debunked literary conspiracy theories, seeing what kind of a nightmare you get when the director of Independence Day and 2012 takes on Shakespeare. IN OR OUT: Oh, he also directed Godzilla and 10,000 BC. Does that answer your question?
The Rum Diary (10/28) THE STARS: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins THE PITCH: Depp drinks and growls his way through another Hunter S. Thompson adaptation. FOR FANS OF: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Depp on the beach. IN OR OUT: Depp has gone back to the Jack Sparrow well so many times, we have to say we’re looking forward to seeing him return to Gonzo-land.
Johnny English Reborn (10/28) THE STARS: Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West THE PITCH: Hey, remember Johnny English? No? Well, here’s the sequel anyway! FOR FANS OF: Bond spoofs, Mr. Bean, sequels to eight-year-old movies. IN OR OUT: Hard to guess, because we never saw the original. More to the point: who did?
A Very Harold & Kumar 3-D Christmas (11/4) THE STARS: Kal Penn, John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris THE PITCH: Well, c’mon. How explanatory a title do you need? FOR FANS OF: White Castle, Santa-slaying slapstick, and weed. Lots of weed. IN OR OUT: We’ve spent plenty of time complaining on these pages about Hollywood’s unceasing string of sequels and 3-D movies. So does the fact that we’re absolutely seeing this make us hypocrites?
Tower Heist (11/4) THE STARS: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda THE PITCH: Ocean’s 11 meets Chasing Madoff. FOR FANS OF: Unimaginative titles, pretending like Eddie Murphy is still funny, justice for fictionalized Madoff characters. IN OR OUT: On one hand, a screenplay by the guys who wrote Ocean’s 11 and Catch Me If You Can. On the other, directed by Brett Ratner. That, friends, is a tough call.
Puss in Boots (11/4) THE STARS: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifiankis THE PITCH: You didn’t really think the final Shrek movie was the final Shrek movie, did you? FOR FANS OF: Catnip jokes, sexy accents, characters that have worn out their welcomes. IN OR OUT: We’ll admit to enjoying the title character’s first appearance, in Shrek 2. Two more Shrek sequels and this spin-off later, we’re pretty sure the joke has been told.
My Week with Marilyn (11/4) THE STARS: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson THE PITCH: Behind the scenes with Marilyn (Williams) and Olivier (Branagh). FOR FANS OF: Movie gossip, circa 1957. IN OR OUT: You heard us say that it’s Michelle Williams as Marilyn and Kenneth Branagh as Olivier, right?
J. Edgar (11/9) THE STARS: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts THE PITCH: Leo as J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood. FOR FANS OF: Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black doing closet, Eastwood doing epic, DiCaprio doing still unable to age. IN OR OUT: Eastwood’s stumbled with his last couple of efforts, but we’ve been hopeful about this one since it was announced.
Melancholia (11/11) THE STARS: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland THE PITCH: Lars von Trier meets his ideal subject: the apocalypse. FOR FANS OF: Von Trier’s unsettling yet indisputably effective visions of everyday horror and despair, Kiki’s comeback. IN OR OUT: There are things in von Trier’s previous movies that we can’t unsee (and we have tried). But the buzz is that a) it’s brilliant, and b) Dunst is remarkable. We’ll sign on for both of those notions.
Immortals (11/11) THE STARS: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt THE PITCH: The director of The Cell does CGI mythology. FOR FANS OF: 300, Clash of the Titans, Mickey Rourke being miscast. IN OR OUT: We want to support director Tarsem Singh (he also did the odd and beautiful The Fall), but this just. Looks. Awful. Speaking of which…
Jack and Jill (11/11) THE STARS: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino THE PITCH: Sandler plays his own twin sister! Hilarity ensues! FOR FANS OF: Terribly-executed bad ideas. IN OR OUT: We’ll let George C. Scott answer that one.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 1 (11/11) THE STARS: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner THE PITCH: Pretty much all they have to pitch is the title, right? FOR FANS OF: Sparkly vampires, girls who chew on their lips, virginity loss. IN OR OUT: Your author has yet to see a Twilight film. I ain’t startin’ now.
Happy Feet Two (11/11) THE STARS: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Pink THE PITCH: More dancing animated penguins. Yay? FOR FANS OF: The aforementioned dancing animated penguins, sequels that weirdly spell out the word “two” in their titles. IN OR OUT: Oh, out. But this as good a place as any to mention how strange it is that these movies are directed by Mad Max mastermind George Miller.
The Descendants (11/23) THE STARS: George Clooney, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard THE PITCH: Director Alexander Payne follows up Sideways. Finally. FOR FANS OF: Heart-wrenching comedy, Hawaiian scenery, Clooney looking desperate. IN OR OUT: The Clooney-Payne match-up is one of the fall movie season’s most promising.
The Muppets (11/23) THE STARS: The Muppets, Amy Adams, Jason Segel THE PITCH: What say we forget about those last couple of Muppet movies, eh? FOR FANS OF: Charming ad campaigns, things that make you happy. IN OR OUT: Co-writers Segal and Nicolas Stoller’s puppet musical scenes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall were more entertaining than anything Muppet-related since the mid-‘80s, so go ahead and mark us down for “yes.”
Hugo (11/23) THE STARS: Chloe Moretz, Asa Butterfield, Sacha Baron Cohen THE PITCH: Scorsese does a kid’s movie. In 3-D. FOR FANS OF: Great filmmakers taking on family material (see: Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox), Borat doing silent comedy. IN OR OUT: Look, we’ll see anything Scorsese does. But let’s be honest: if pretty much anyone else’s name were on it, we’d probably pass.
The Artist (11/23) THE STARS: John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller THE PITCH: You know how they say they don’t make ‘em like they used to? This time, they really made one like they used to. FOR FANS OF: Black and white cinematography, silent movies, John Goodman chomping on cigars. IN OR OUT: Making a real, period silent movie is an utterly irresistible move; we can’t wait to see how it comes out.
A Dangerous Method (11/25) THE STARS: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen THE PITCH: Cronenberg takes on Jung and Freud. FOR FANS OF: Knightley being bad, Fassbender being worse, men in impeccable mustaches. IN OR OUT: The Cronenberg/Mortensen collaborations (this is their third consecutive film, following A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) have yet to disappoint.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (12/9) THE STARS: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong THE PITCH: A master class of British thesps do John le Carré’s tense spy thriller. FOR FANS OF: British accents, crisply-tailored wardrobes, Oldman underplaying. IN OR OUT: In, in, in, in.
New Year’s Eve (12/9) THE STARS: Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Robert DeNiro THE PITCH: It’s just like Valentine’s Day… but on New Year’s Eve! FOR FANS OF: God knows. IN OR OUT: If a Contagion-style pandemic swept the nation, and the only place to get the serum was in a theater screening New Year’s Eve, we still wouldn’t go see it.
Young Adult (12/9) THE STARS: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt THE PITCH: The writer and director of Juno reunite, do dark comedy. FOR FANS OF: Charlize Theron finally being in a good movie. IN OR OUT: Look, we know both Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have their detractors… but your author is not among them. Theron is due for a juicy role, and adding in Oswalt — one of our best working comedians — makes this one utterly irresistible.
The Sitter (12/9) THE STARS: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell, J.B. Smoove THE PITCH: Adventures in Babysitting, but with a guy and an R rating. FOR FANS OF: Pre-weight loss Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor having an orgasm, bad behavior around children. IN OR OUT: We’re as confused as anyone by the career choices of director David Gordon Green (who went from All the Real Girls and Snow Angels to Your Highness and this), but facts is facts: the trailer made us laugh. There’s no accounting for taste.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (12/16) THE STARS: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris THE PITCH: You remember that last Sherlock Holmes movie. More of that. FOR FANS OF: Homoerotic tension, Downey in drag, how great Jared Harris is on Mad Men, that aforementioned last Sherlock Holmes movie. IN OR OUT: Sherlock Holmes was one of 2009’s most purely enjoyable movies, and who knows, maybe they’ll blow it this time (that’s an awful quick turnaround). But we’ll pony up our $12 to find out.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (12/16) THE STARS: Jason Lee, David Cross, sunglass-clad CGI chipmunks THE PITCH: They’re on an ocean liner, and they get ship-wrecked, but they’re chipmunks, so they’re chip-wrecked, and — oh, fuck it, I can’t even finish this one.
The Iron Lady (12/16) THE STARS: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant THE PITCH: Streep IS Thatcher — and reteams with her Mamma Mia director. (Wait, what?) FOR FANS OF: Pearls. Lots and lots of pearls. IN OR OUT: Definitely in — we love Meryl Streep. We’re a little worried, though: can she do accents?
Carnage (12/16) THE STARS: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly THE PITCH: Polanski does the Broadway sensation with an Oscar-friendly cast. FOR FANS OF: Really good actors getting to yell a lot. IN OR OUT: This looks like the closest thing we’re gonna see to Virginia Woolf anytime soon. So in, definitely.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (12/23) THE STARS: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård THE PITCH: David Fincher does those books everyone’s always reading on the subway. FOR FANS OF: The suddenly-hot Scandinavian crime subgenre, Fincher suddenly being all prolific and stuff, altogether inappropriate Christmas Day movie outings, controversial movie posters. IN OR OUT: Definitely in.
Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol (12/23) THE STARS: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Ving Rhames THE PITCH: Whether Cruise wants to admit it or not, he’s almost 50, so hey, how’s about that Jeremy Renner? FOR FANS OF: Stuff blowing up, Simon Pegg appearing in every big-budget studio tent-pole movie possible. IN OR OUT: We’ll admit, both Cruise and the franchise are getting a little long in the tooth. But bringing in Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) was a stroke of genius.
The Adventures of Tintin (12/23) THE STARS: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig THE PITCH: Oh hey look, Daniel Craig is in another movie. FOR FANS OF: That creepy motion capture stuff, Belgian children’s icons that aren’t the Smurfs, more work for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. IN OR OUT: The stars here are behind the camera: Spielberg directs, Peter Jackson produces, Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) are among the screenwriters. That’s an exciting group of filmmakers, even if the trailer is, well, just a little underwhelming.
We Bought a Zoo (12/23) THE STARS: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church THE PITCH: No prizes for guessing from the title. FOR FANS OF: Zoo-based comedy that doesn’t include Kevin James, appealing couples, Cameron Crowe making a comeback after the still-stinging Elizabethtown. IN OR OUT: Hell, we didn’t even think Elizabethtown was all that bad. In.
In the Land of Blood and Honey (12/23) THE STARS: Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic THE PITCH: Anjelina Jolie’s writing/directing debut. FOR FANS OF: Bosnian war drama, multi-hyphenates. IN OR OUT: We’re ready to support Ms. Jolie, even if the movie itself sounds like a full meal of broccoli.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (12/25) THE STARS: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn THE PITCH: Jonathan Safran Foer’s 9/11-inspired bestseller gets an Oscar-friendly cast. FOR FANS OF: Precocious kids, more work for Viola Davis, crying. IN OR OUT: We’ll be there.
The War Horse (12/30) THE STARS: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Jeremy Irvine THE PITCH: Spielberg’s other Christmas movie. For grown-ups. FOR FANS OF: British actors, Tony awards, horseys. IN OR OUT: We trust Spielberg (mostly), but that trailer’s a snooze.
So there you go — 61 movies in four months. What are you seeing? What would it take a pack of wild dogs to drag you into? Let us know in the comments.