Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris
When Megan Fox looks back on her fabled rise to semi-superstardom, here’s hoping she remembers how much of it was based on her ability to get adolescent males nice and moist. Otherwise, she offers little in the way of polished performance acumen. All of that could change with this Diablo Cody delight, a post-modern smirk scary movie which sees our presold sexpot becoming a literal maneater. With acclaimed director Karyn Kusama back from Aeon Flux exile, a cast including J. K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris, and Amanda Seyfried, and a rock and roll backdrop for the shivers, this could be one of Fall 2009’s biggest surprises. As long as Juno’s momma brings the same burlesque queen hipster spiel that won her Academy gold, things should be very interesting indeed.
Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey
After the brilliant, if oblique The Girlfriend Experience, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is back in big budget mode with this Matt Damon vehicle. The artist often known as Jason Bourne plays Dr. Mark Whitacre, a valuable employee of Archer Daniel Midlands who turns whistle-blower when he discovers some irregularities regarding the company’s pricing. What makes this particular tale of corporate greed and scandal so special is that Damon’s character, based on a real individual, suffers from a bipolar disorder. This lends itself to an entire subplot revolving around Whitacre’s bizarre behavior and its effect on the FBI’s investigation. With Damon slowly developing a brilliant set of starring roles, and Soderbergh happy to play within the mainstream arena again, we could end up with a darkly comic gem.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Phil Lord & Chris Miller
Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Bruce Campbell, James Caan, Bobb’e, J. Thompson, Andy Samberg, Mr. T
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
As Pixar proved once again this year, CG can be much more than a collection of pop culture references and regurgitated sight gags. Apparently, that message has yet to get over to the people at Sony. They’ve decided to take the popular children’s book and turn it into some kind of homage to dopey disaster films like Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, and Independence Day. One look at the trailer and you can tell where this tale of an absent-minded inventor and his water to food conversion machine is headed. A tower ends up a toothpick for a massive BLT. An airborne pizza turns into several attack ‘slice’ ships. A huge pancake engulfs an entire school. Granted, the combination of cartoony design and 3D depth looks really interesting, but one imagines the script is far less inventive than the overall look.
Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue, Eddie Rouse
It sounds like the standard sci-fi horror set-up: a group of astronauts wake up on their ship, suffering from memory loss and wondering where the rest of the crew went. Eventually, they find more people - and an evil presence they didn’t anticipate. With Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster in the cast, as well as German filmmaker Christian Alvart behind the lens, many see the film as a more journeyman take on producer Paul W.S. Anderson’s own Event Horizon. The posters suggest something more along the lines of Alien’s biomechanical menace. However it turns out, audiences will be left wondering how a movie so clearly geared toward a specific dread loving demographic would end up in the cinematic no man’s land of mid-September. It couldn’t have anything to do with the quality of the final product now, could it?
Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Martin Sheen, Judy Greer, Dan Fogler
Who continues to give Jennifer Aniston work? Why is she cast in movie after movie when all she has to show for her talents is the tail end of her success as part of Friends’ fading ensemble? It’s bad enough that her overly tanned tepidness ruins otherwise interesting titles like Bruce Almighty and The Break-Up, but she seems predestined to date every one of her co-stars, denying said status until the tabloids call her out. Some how, Aaron Eckhart managed to elude her challenged charms, coming out fairly unscathed from this drecky-looking drama. She’s unlucky in love. He’s a self-help guru getting over his wife’s death. Together they discover how little chemistry two Hollywood actors can generate. Sounds like a real weeper. Unfortunately, said tears will probably come from how depressed you are over having paid to see this slop.
The Burning Plain
Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Basinger
The Burning Plain
Upon the release of Babel, and the typical pre-Oscars media hype, screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga felt it was time to set the record straight. Instead of continuing his collaboration with acclaimed Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu, he was suggesting that it was he, not said director, who was the true artist behind such celebrated films as 21 Grams and Amores Perros. Their falling out resulted in a filmmaking feud of sorts, and Arriaga is the first to strike. Sadly, the debut of his film at last year’s Toronto Film Festival resulted in more jeers than cheers. While some praised it as a masterpiece, others have suggested it shows how ridiculous Arriaga’s claims really are. With a fractured narrative interweaving several stories and a cast that includes Academy babes Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, it should be good. This may be a case however of ego overriding ambition, and effectiveness.
Eriq Ebouaney, Jessica Haines, John Malkovich
When you read the plot synopsis of this film - filled with illicit affairs, rape, and attempted familial reconciliation, you start to wonder what exactly director Steve Jacobs had in mind. Granted, any plot point taken out of context defies easy categorization, but the actor turned auteur clearly has some contradictory cinematic motives. He is naturally limited by the source material (a novel by South Africa Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee), but that doesn’t mean the movie has to be so oblique. The main narrative follows John Malkovich as a middle-aged college professor caught having a liaison with a student. Disciplined, he heads out into the country to be with his lesbian daughter. From there, things take some unexpected, and unappetizing, turns. Here’s betting few in the filmgoing audience will be lining up to see this come its proposed September release.
Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, David Hewlett
Vincenzo Natali, director of the cult classic Cube, is back with a strange genre effort that invokes images of Species interwoven with The Island of Dr. Moreau. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play genetic engineers who have successfully melded human and animal DNA. The resulting creature, known as a chimera, becomes very attached to her makers. Then things turn deadly. Unless the special effects really sell the subject matter, we could be looking at something very silly. So far, advance word is not very convincing. But Natali managed to make his story of some people trapped in a maze meaningful. Perhaps he can do the same here.