Fall is the best time for movies. All the serious awards-contenders strut their stuff, the thrillers are darker and grittier, and the romances tend to be weepies. Here's a guide to what's coming out from now until the new year.
Never Let Me Go (Sept. 15)
What It Is: The pretty-looking film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's excruciatingly sad 2005 novel stars heir to the British acting throne Carey Mulligan and her unseated countrywoman Keira Knightley. It also features handsome weasel Andrew Garfield, who will soon be swinging (!) into a whole new web (!) of adventure as the new Spider-Man in a reboot of that franchise. We don't want to give away anything about the delicate and terrible (in a good way) plot, but just know that it's a strange and melancholy kind of British science-fiction.
Should You See It: If you're one of the sad tribe of Oscar obsessives, absolutely. This is the first of the serious potential awards contenders, what with its literary pedigree and sad, wise Britishness. The early release could mean its buzz will have faded too much come nominations time, but if it manages to hit the right lasting, resonant notes, look for Mulligan to be on the nominees list once more. If you don't care about the Oscars? Well, read the book first. We entreat you. After you've picked yourself up off the floor, sure, go see if the One Hour Photo guy ruined it.
The Town (Sept. 17)
What It Is: Cambridge-raised Ben Affleck slums it in Boston's shabbier corners yet again, traveling from the Dorchester of Gone Baby Gone to ever-gentrifying Charlestown (take Red Line from Ashmont to Downtown Crossing, transfer to Oak Grove-bound Orange Line, get off at Sullivan Square). He directs and stars in this movie about a grizzled bank robber who falls in love with a hostage (the always sublime Rebecca Hall), much to the displeasure of his partner, Jeremy Renner. Jon Hamm straps on some ham armor as a federal agent on the hunt for the nun-costumed robbers. And Blake Lively shows up as a trashy barfly, which makes complete sense.
Should You See It: Do you like gun fights? Do you like melodramatic stuff about Boston brothahood and whatnot? Are you a fan of Boston-based rapper Slaine? Well then yes, you should see this crime picture. Affleck proved himself to be a capable director with Gone, and this latest picture looks to have less of that film's irksome turgidity and more of the shooty-shooty. Plus Blake Lively with a Boston accent. You can't miss that, can you?
Easy A (Sept. 17)
What It Is: A sorta reworking of The Scarlet Letter has Emma Stone pretend-taking guys' virginities to help their rep and somehow hers? It's unclear. It looks like any typical going-for-warmly-edgy high school comedy, in the vein of 10 Things I Hate About You and Mean Girls. Those are both great movies. Will this be? Find out at a theater near you.
Should You See It: Well, Lisa Kudrow is in it, so yes, absolutely. Beyond that... Hm. A lot of the movie apparently takes place in webcam confessional mode, which sounds hideous. But Emma Stone is likable and that Dan Byrd fellow plays a geigh, which is kind of fun. The whole cast is pretty great, actually. But again, webcam. And the trailer just isn't as funny as we want it to be. But, what the hell. Double-feature it with The Town or something.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Sept. 24)
What It Is: Oliver Stone's accidentally timely sequel to his 1987 hit about the dirty ins and outs of the New York finance scene features cub of the moment Shia LaBeouf fast-talkin' in a suit and getting cozy with Carey Mulligan. Will her just-out-of-jail dad (Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko) or an evil banker played by Josh Brolin derail their love and his career?
Should You See It: Again, it's accidentally timely, so it might be interesting in that regard. Stone hasn't really made a good film in a long, long while so there's no reason to expect this to be any good. The Shia factor irks as always, but Douglas is always fun and Mulligan and Brolin both know how to command attention. People might be talking about this one. Well, until the Facebook movie comes out, anyway.
Milla Jovovich's metamorphosis into an actual videogame character continues in Resident Evil: Afterlife (9/10) ... Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover, and John Cena, yes from wrestling, make up the weirdest cast ever in Legendary (9/10) ... Eva Green and Juno Temple do things at a British boarding school in Cracks (9/10) ... We get to find out if Joaquin Phoenix is actually crazy in I'm Still Here (9/10) ... French pastry chefs compete for ultimate deliciousness in Kings of Pastry (9/15) ... Justin Long and others embarrass themselves (or at least their voices) in the dreadful-looking wolf cartoon Alpha and Omega (9/17) ... Catfish is a mysterious "documentary thriller" about Facebook (9/17) ... Phillip Seymour Hoffman is sad and rumpled in his directorial debut, a film adaptation of the play Jack Goes Boating (9/17) ... A pleasant round of LARPing turns dark in The Wild Hunt (9/17) ... Some horrible new thing is coming crawling out of the mind of M. Night Shyamalan and its name is Devil (9/17) ... Woody Allen's latest, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, has Josh Brolin hitting on Freida Pinto (9/22) ... Zack Snyder directs an animated movie about magic owls, because sure, called Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (9/24) ... Trippy ghost movie Enter the Void will fry your brain (9/24) ... James Franco does Allen Ginsberg (and other dudes) in Howl (9/24) ... You will feel horribly depressed about the American education system when you watch the documentary Waiting for "Superman" (9/24) ... Kristen Bell does another ponderously low-budge romantic comedy, this one called You Again (9/24) ... The play-based Nicole Kidman dead kid weeper Rabbit Hole (directed by Hedwig himself, John Cameron Mitchell!) premieres at the Toronto Film Festival and likely gets released later in the season
The Social Network (Oct. 1)
What It Is: Seriously? You don't know what this movie is? Then you are not reading this website. It's the Facebook movie! You know, all about mean Harvard nerds and the ways they screw each over while scrambling like rats for a grab at a billion dollars. Jesse Eisenberg plays ambitious dorkwad Mark Zuckerberg, who became a billionaire at 26 after creating a playground for vain and lonely people. It's a story about the American dream that's really, y'know, a nightmare or whatever.
Should You See It: What're you, a Luddite? Some sort of anti-computer, shack-dwelling hermit weirdo? Yes you should see it. You have to see it, at least if you want to have anything to say at an October beer & wine party on someone's Brooklyn roof. "I thought it was dull, but interesting, does that make sense?" you'll say, shivering in the fall air, taking a drag of your Winston Light, staring off at Manhattan sparkling coldly. And then everyone will nod and drink their Sierra Nevada and pretty soon you'll be talking about Twitter again.
Life As We Know It (Oct. 8)
What It Is: Bland charmer Josh Duhamel and ferocious hell-Wheaton Katherine Heigl star in this Zany and Touching comedy about what happens when someone rips off Baby Boom and casts Katherine Heigl in it. Yeah, it's the old "Oops, you've inherited a baby" routine, made more complicated this time because Duhamel, who Heigl hates, was made the guardian of the child too. So they get poop all over their faces, and we feel like we got poop all over ours, and then they fall in love while we flail on the ground and die and wonder why, WHY??, we keep insisting on seeing Katherine Heigl movies.
Should You See It: Not in the theater, no. Not unless you like writhing in pain on soda-sticky floors for two hours. No, see it when it comes out on the video or on the TV and get drunk and hurl things at the set and scream "I'll see you in hell, Heigl!!!" and you'll be loud and embarrassing yourself, but Heigl will have poop all over her face, so that's got to make up for a lot, plus Josh Duhamel is handsome in a completely boring way, so that's not bad. So yeah. If you want to see it, see it that way.
Hereafter (Oct. 22)
What It Is: Mostly we know that it's a supernatural-tinged film about people facing mortality and loss and that it has something to do with the 2004 tsunami. It's directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Kind, Jay Mohr, and Jenifer Lewis. Yes, you read those last three correct. Richard Kind, Jay Mohr, and Jenifer Lewis are starring in a Clint Eastwood drama in the year 2010. That's probably the supernatural mystery, how the hell that casting happened. Not that we're upset about it! It's a wonderfully intriguing cast. BDH we could take or leave, but Jenifer Lewis?? Take, always.
Should You See It: If that casting doesn't intrigue you, you should see it because it's another potential Oscar movie and it could be interesting to see how Eastwood, such a literalist, deals with supernatural elements. Plus Matt Damon's never not good, and the 2004 tsunami was woefully forgotten too soon, so maybe at least this will pay some small homage to that insane disaster.
The girl from Kick Ass comes and ruins everything in Let Me In, a remake of the elegantly bleak Swedish vampyr movie Let the Right One In (10/1) ... The movie Douchebag should really be aware that that word has been officially banned (10/1) ... A bunch of directors including Morgan Spurlock take on the weird things that happen in the world with Freakonomics (10/1) ... Renée Zellweger really should not have adopted that kid in Case 39 (10/1) ... Nikki Reed slums it in a horror movie about something that doesn't exist anymore called Chain Letter (10/1) ... The kid from that Coke commercial is stalked by a killer in Wes Craven's My Soul to Take (10/8) ... Diane Lane costars with Sarah Jessica Parker in Secretariat (10/8) ... Marshall from United States of Tara is crazy (and straight) in It's Kind of a Funny Story (10/8) Matt Damon narrates a look at how fucked that whole bailout thing was in Inside Job (10/8) ... The remake of the revenge horror film I Spit On Your Grave spits on the grave of the original (10/8) ... Milla Jovoich takes a non-videogame role opposite Eddie Norton and Bobby DeNiro in Stone (10/8) ... Kick Ass's Aaron Johnson makes a pretty sexy John Lennon in Nowhere Boy (10/8) ... A frump turns sexy in the British comedy Tamara Drewe (10/8) ... Grown men do stupid things to their men-parts in Jackass 3D (10/15) ... Helen Mirren and other old people kick ass and take names, and then go to bed in Red (10/15) ... Stupid Swedes keep insisting they can make this movie series on their own, so here's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (10/15) ... Hilary Swank courts more of Annette Bening's rage in Conviction (10/15) ... Javier Bardem stars in Alejandro González Iñárritu's super-dark (does he make any other kind of movies?) Cannes sensation Biutiful (10/20) ... Paranormal Activity 2 promises twice the cameras but half the scares (10/22) ... Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and others are upset about losing their jobs in The Company Men (10/22) ... Dylan McDermott Mulroney tries to solve mysteries in Inhale (10/22) ... Yay, another Saw movie, this time in 3D! (10/29) ... Space monsters attack near Mexico in the hand-held cam horror movie mysteriously called Monsters (10/29) ... The British (Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Ron Weasley) manage to find a gun and shoot it while having a laugh in Wild Target (10/29) ... There's a documentary about kids growing up called The Kids Grow Up (10/29)
Morning Glory (Nov. 12)
What It Is: Rachel McAdams stars in this dramedy (but light on the drama) about a harried young morning TV producer (thankfully her name is not actually Glory) who recruits an old hard newsman (Diane Keaton, kidding, it's Richard Kind, kidding, it's Harrison Ford) to join the show as a coanchor, up against the flighty, news-lite Diane Keaton. Lessons about life and love and living and loving are learned and lived and loved. Jeff Goldblum does his usual Goldblum stuff, Patrick Wilson plays the understanding boyfriend, and Ford... well, Ford seems jittery.
Should You See It: If your mom wants to see a movie with you over Thanksgiving, yeah, probably go to this one. Or if you are hungover and just want to eat a tub of popcorn and drink a (non-diet!) Coke and sit in the dark for two hours, this is not a bad option. If, however, you are saddened by the fact of Harrison Ford's mortality, do not see this. We're totally going to see it if only because that Natasha Bedingfield song in the trailer makes us happy.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Pt. 1 (Nov. 19)
What It Is: Oh, you know, there's a little-read book series about magical kids that a producer really liked so he decided to make them into a series of low-budget films. Basically English children (well, young adults now) roam around a nice little castle casting spells and slowly getting hard-ons for each other. So this is the second-to-last movie, based on the first half of the last book. Get it?
Should You See It: Yeah. So many people die! Although, most of them will die in the second part. But still. There will at least be lusty looks of puppylove between Hermione and Ron, so the first half's got that goin' for it. Plus the trailer is dope. Seriously dope. Take your kids, take your pets, take everyone.
Burlesque (Nov. 24)
What It Is: Nothing says Thanksgiving quite like two old drag queens rubbing themselves up against each other. That's essentially what this movie is, with Cher and Xtina Aguilera rattling around an LA burlesque nightclub. A burlesque club that involves singing. And Stanley Tucci. And the dead vampire from the first Twilight movie (teen girl spoiler). This movie is going to be so gay you are already gay. You were gay when you typed "gawker.com" into your search menu bar. Before you even clicked on this post! The gayness of Burlesque radiates hot from the core of the internet and it is making everyone everywhere gay forever. Enjoy the Earth when we're all dead from no-babies, all you animals. Children of Men is real, and it's all Burlesque's fault!
Should You See It: Well you're already gay, so you might as well. All the annoying gay kids you know are going to be hissing and giggling about it because it's So Bad, in that annoying way that certain annoying people revel in things that are So Bad (these are, like, Tyra Banks fans maybe?). They are the people who watch shows on E!. They are probably graduates of the musical theater program at the University of Michigan. Those kinds of people will see it. So you're going to hear about the movie anyway. You might as well see what all the fuss is about for yourself. Plus, did we mention Stanley Tucci?
The Tree of Life (???)
What It Is: Terrence Malick's long-awaited, mysterious movie is, according to Wikipedia, set in the 1950s and tells "the tale of a Midwestern boy's journey from the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as a 'lost soul in the modern world', and his quest to regain meaning in life." It stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and the mysterious Jessica Chastain. Who is Jessica Chastain? She's a 2003 Julliard grad who is, all of a sudden, in all the movies. Just all of them. This, The Help, The Debt, other "The" movies, probably. So who knows what the heck is going on here, really. The movie has been delayed for ages while it struggles to hold onto a US distributor, but we've been assured that it will be coming out before 2011, for Oscar eligibility purposes. Other than that, we know nothing.
Should You See It: If it ever comes out, yes, absolutely yes. Malick is a true capital-A Artist who's only made four films in his much-lauded career. His last picture, The New World, was a gorgeous visual poem, but sort of lacking in the plot department. Will Tree of Life have more of a narrative? We can't wait to find out. (Update: Looks as though Fox Searchlight might push it back to 2011. Boo.)
Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt make animated ha-has in the supervillain animated movie Megamind (11/5) ... Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. make road-trip funnies in Due Date (11/5) ... James Franco saws off his masturbating arm in 127 Hours (11/5) ... Tyler Perry's adaptation of the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf stars Richard Lawson (11/5) ... James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo are sad about their dead daughter in Welcome to the Rileys (11/5) ... Naomi Watts is Valerie Plame in a remake of the Cindy Crawford classic Fair Game (11/12) ... An alien movie called Skyline sounds like a boring architecture documentary (11/12) ... Disney appears to majorly stumble with their latest fairytale, Tangled (11/12) ... Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are train conductors on an unstoppable train in a movie called Unstoppable Train! or, y'know, just Unstoppable (11/12) ... Sally Hawkins stars in a ladies-on-strike movie called Made in Dagenham (11/19) ... Russell Crowe is going to break Elizabeth Banks out of prison in The Next Three Days (11/19) ... The "Dwayne Johnson" Rock wants to go faster, but not furiouser, in Faster (11/24) ... Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Colin Firth do old British things in The King's Speech (11/24) ... Jake Gyllenhaal tries to sell penis products to Anne Hathaway in the terribly titled Love and Other Drugs (11/24) ... Supposedly MGM's Red Dawn remake (with Tyra from FNL!) is coming out, but it might also be shelved indefinitely will the dying studio figures its shit out (11/24)
How Do You Know (Dec. 17)
What Is It: James L. Brooks' latest sorta-sad comedy is about a professional softball player (Reese Witherspoon, srsly) who can't decide between two guys: Paul Rudd's indictment-embroiled finance guy (there's that theme again!) and Owen Wilson's dopey Washington Nationals player. Jack Nicholson pops up for some growls as Rudd's dad, and presumably everyone learns a lesson about how not to feel so itchy about being white and upper-middle-class.
Should You See It: Though his more recent movies have been a little off (see: Spanglish), Brooks is usually good for something. Depending on how much sex and naughty talk there is, this could be a good one to see while you're home with the fam over Christmas. Everyone in it is reasonably charming, the D.C. locations look pretty, and it'll be a nice shot of summery warmth during dreary, dark winter. Plus, mom and dad will pay.
Somewhere (Dec. 22)
What It Is: Sofia Coppola's latest quiet rumination on lonely isolated rich people has Stephen Dorff as a hard-partying rocker reconnecting with his tween daughter (Elle Fanning) in and around Hollywood's famed Chateau Marmont. There's attractive, sun-lit photography, plenty of melancholy indie pop, and probably not much of a resolution one way or the other.
Should You See It: Well if you like that Coppola thing, sure why not. Again, this a movie that annoying young people will talk about for a while, and rather than sit and listen to them drone on without having an opinion of your own, go see it and join in the conversation and then you can all be miserable people together. That's the fun of the Christmas season.
True Grit (Dec. 25)
What It Is: Joel and Ethan Coen remake (sort of) the classic Western film (based on the classic Western novel) about a teenage girl and her US Marshal pals who travel through dangerous Indian territory while on the hunt for the men what done murdered her daddy. Jeff Bridges plays an old grizzled Marshal (John Wayne in the original, a role that earned him an Oscar for Best Monotone), Matt Damon plays his eager young protege, and Josh Brolin plays the murderous drifter who, yes indeedy, done up and murdered that poor gal's pa.
Should You See It: Sorry, let us run that by you again. It's a Coen Brothers movie with Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin, who've done spectacular things in Coen Brothers movies before. Matt Damon's also there, because he's a good actor. And it's a Gritty Western involving dangerous Indians. How could it not be amazing? You know who else is in it? Genius theater actress Elizabeth Marvel. So that's really getting you raring to go, isn't it? Sure this could be a dark Western debacle like 2003's The Missing, but that was directed by Ron Howard and, no offense to Opie, he ain't no Coen Brothers. Most exciting film of the season (after Tree of Life)? Yes, yes definitely.
Blue Valentine (Dec. 31)
What It Is: Sad hipsters are sad and hipster in this Brooklyn wist-romance starring king and queen of such emotions, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. They meet, they fall in love, they fall out of love, everything crumbles and whimpers away into a blue Brooklyn nothing. Critics went apeshit at Cannes. Oscars for Gosling and Williams and everyone! Whee!
Should You See It: We're beginning to worry about you. Do you only hang out with annoying cinemipsters? They scoffed at Social Network, pretended not to swoon at Somewhere, and swooned more than they really felt at this one. So go see it. Everyone will say "Did you see it yet? No? Oh, you HAVE to see it. You just have to. It's so lovely. It's so, so lovely." And you'll yawn and look out over the skyline (you're at the same apartment, but a different party) and you'll nod and how did it get to be winter already?
Darren Aronofsky's hotly anticipated Black Swan is going to melt your brain (12/1) ... Jim Carrey's gay comedy I Love You, Phillip Morris finally comes out (get it?) (12/3) ... Freida Pinto plays a rebellious schoolgirl in Miral (12/3) ... 1970s urban blight and race relations are tackled in Night Catches Us, with Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington (12/3) ... There's an Asian Western movie that doesn't involve Quentin Tarantino called The Warrior's Way (12/3) ... Apparently they're still making Narnia movies, so get ready for the third one Voyage of the Dawn Treader, featuring hotsy-potsy Ben Barnes (12/10) ... Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale are Boston boxers and Amy Adams is a worried wifey-type in David O. Russell's The Fighter (12/10) ... Julie Taymor directs Helen Mirren as a lady Prospero in The Tempest (12/10) ... Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp's thriller The Tourist is suppooosedly coming out in December, but we won't believe it til we see it (12/10) ... Disney's Tron: Legacy looks sleek and sexy, but it's still about people living in a videogame, so (12/17) ... Oh look, Anna Faris in a live action/animation hybrid version of Yogi Bear, just what you wanted for Christmas (12/17) ... Jack Black does dopey CGI work in a senselessly updated Gulliver's Travels (12/22) ... We are so focking tired of all these Little Fockers (12/22) ... Mike Leigh's latest Another Year, about the quiet lives of a group of friends, is said to feature a devastatingly good, Oscar-bound performance by Lesley Manville (12/29) ... The thriller The Debt (with Jessica Chastain as a young Helen Mirren) dives into some murky Mossad territory (12/29)
OK, that's it! Release dates are, as always, subject to change. Happy viewing!