What studio suit thought this was a good idea. With four months to schedule your high priced efforts, you instead unload almost 30 overpriced pictures on an unsuspecting movie audience. Not the kind of argument that wins friends and influences ticket sales. Heck, with the economy the way it is, one wonders if it’s possible for Hollywood to recoup its print costs, let alone any errant advertising dollars. Still, the story will be which one of these titles finally breaks out - and which executives will be canned for their regressive release strategies.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox
(Paramount Pictures; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 3 Oct 2008 (General release); 2008)
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
Remember how excited everyone was a few years back when Bette Midler was tagged to take on the oversized legend of bestselling smut peddler Jacqueline Susann. And do you also remember how repulsed everyone was when they saw the final pathetic product, the highly fictionalized flop Isn’t She Great. There is a similar cloud of contempt hovering over this “loose” adaptation of Toby Young’s manic memoirs. Not even the presence of geek God Simon Pegg can elevate the potential problems of this story centering on a small time British journalist trying to make a go at a big city New York rag. It all seems so forced.
Rachel Getting Married
Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger, Bill Irwin, Mather Zickel, Anna Deavere Smith, Tunde Adebimpe
(Sony; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008 (Limited release); 2008)
Rachel Getting Married
Fresh off a recent screening at the Toronto Film Festival, Jonathan Demme’s return to fiction filmmaking (his last few works have been well meaning documentaries) has received some well earned kudos. Comparisons to Casavettes and Altman abound, and the return of Debra Winger to a major studio motion picture is cause enough to celebrate. While the Terms of Endearment luminary is getting her fair shore of awards consideration, it’s her co-star, Anne Hathaway, that’s wowing the critical community. How this will play to a demo down on family dramas as of late will be interesting to see. If anyone can pull it off, it’s the often underrated Demme.
What Just Happened
Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, John Turturro, Kristen Stewart, Robin Wright Penn
(Magnolia Pictures; US theatrical: 17 Oct 2008 (Limited release); UK theatrical: 21 Nov 2008 (Limited release); 2008)
What Just Happened?
Reteaming with Barry Levinson (Sleepers, Wag the Dog), Robert DeNiro also returns to dark comedy in this insider spoof about the filmmaking biz. Based on the book from noted producer, director, and screenwriter Art Linson (Car Wash, American Hot Wax), the plot follows a failed Hollywood hotshot, desperate to get his new film financed and made while going through a literal Hell of a divorce. At one time, Magnolia Pictures was seemingly proud of the end result. They had screenings set up for mid-September. Then, without warning, several of said previews were cancelled, with release information “to be announced later”. That doesn’t bode well for the comedy’s commercial appeal.
Flash of Genius
Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda, Mick Pileggi
(Universal Pictures; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008; 2008)
Flash of Genius
Greg Kinnear has carved out quite an interesting career for himself. In between more mainstream efforts (As Good As It Gets, Invincible), he tends to take on quirky, outsider titles that test his mantle as both a box office draw and an actor. As with Auto Focus and The Matador, Flash promises another small, intimate effort, this time focusing on Bob Kearns, the inventor who claimed Detroit stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper. The vibe created by producer turned director Marc Abraham (Children of Men) goes for a retro throwback to a more nostalgic ‘50s/‘60s ideal. Early word however suggests something minor at best.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Drew Barrymore, George Lopez, Andy Garcia, Jamie Lee Curtis
(Walt Disney Pictures; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008; 2008)
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Disney defies the intelligence of its audience to offer CGI enhanced mutts making fun of racial stereotypes and cultural clichés. If Mike Myers got grief for going Guru, this pack of pooches should have every Mexican American action committee taking up arms. Even the presence of pabulum producer Raja Gosnell won’t guarantee the House of Mouse a kid friendly hit. Some ideas should definitely stay in development Hell where they belong.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Alexis Dziena, Aaron Yoo, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron, Jay Baruchel
(Sony Pictures; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 30 Jan 2009 (General release); 2008)
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
A post post-modern romance combining New York City night life with standard young adult angst, there are only two things that make this movie worth considering—the casting of Superbad‘s Michael Sera as Nick and the potential ‘queercore’ soundtrack. Otherwise, we liked this improbable love story back when it was High Fidelity. Or Some Kind of Wonderful.
Bill Maher, Andrew Newberg, John Westcott, Sen. Mark Pryor, José Luis de Jesús Miranda, Steve Berg, Ken Ham, Jeremiah Cummings, Mohammad Hourani, Rabbi Dovid Weiss, Propa-Gandhi, Ray Suarez, Geert Wilders, Fatima Elatik, Father George Coyne
(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008 (General release); 2008)
Bill Maher has never made any bones about his contempt for organized religion. Here, he teams up with Borat‘s Larry Charles to create a true ‘mock’ documentary—that is, a fact based dissertation on faith in which the comedian ridicules his dogmatic marks. The trailer suggests the ambush tactics of that famed fictional Eastern European reporter meshed with Maher’s typical Libertarian laments. It will have to maintain a delicate balance less it become more screed than satire.
An American Carol
Kevin Farley, Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen, Jillian Murray
(Vivendi Entertainment; US theatrical: 3 Oct 2008; 2008)
An American Carol
Taking the other side of the political debate is recent Republican convert (and one of the ZAZ masterminds behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun films) David Zucker. Hoping to take down the man he sees as the root of all liberal evil—Michael Moore—the co-writer/director of Carol adapts Dickens to a Fox News mentality. Featuring Chris Farley’s brother Kevin doing his best Jim Belushi, there are some who suggest there is some actual wit in between all the Neo-Con jingoism.
Body of Lies
Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman, Alon Aboutboul
(Warner Brothers; US theatrical: 10 Oct 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 21 Nov 2008 (General release); 2008)
Body of Lies
What makes this spy story any different than the dozens of genre examples from the last few years? Well, for one, it features Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, and a screenplay from Departed Oscar winner William Monahan. Add to this the presence of one Sir Ridley Scott as producer and director and you’ve got enough star power to light up the darkest Cineplex night. Of course, there are those who saw the filmmaker’s last effort—the crime drama American Gangster—as a failed opportunity given its list of luminaries, and Scott does seem to have abandoned the visionary stance of his earlier films for a more forced, staid stylization. Still, with this caliber of talent both behind and in front of the camera, we’re keeping our filmic fingers crossed.
City of Ember
Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadway, Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Toby Jones, Lucinda Dryzek
(Fox; US theatrical: 10 Oct 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 10 Oct 2008 (General release); 2008)
City of Ember
For his first live action film, animator Gil Kenan has decided to abandon all things Monster House for a trip into the young teen novels of Jeanne DuPrau. Based on the first of The Books of Ember, City tells the story of a dark drenched metropolis that starts losing its only source of light—electricity. It is up to two adventurous adolescents to save the day. With a cast including Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, and Toby Jones, and some positive publicity from this year’s Comic-Con, this may be the one film that beats the dreaded Harry Potter curse—you know, the same box office blight that killed potential franchises like last Fall’s The Golden Compass.
Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Omar Benson Miller, Nelsan Ellis, Charles S. Dutton
(Universal Pictures; US theatrical: 10 Oct 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 5 Dec 2008 (General release); 2008)
It’s time for another uplifting sports film, once again based on a true if mostly forgotten famous figure. This basic bio-pic follows the story of Ernie Davis, the first African American ever to win the Heisman Trophy (College Football’s highest honor). Of course, there’s the ever-present undercurrent of racism, and the Caucasian coach (Dennis Quaid) who bucks the system to support his socially unacceptable star. Here’s hoping it’s not as hackneyed and hooky as it sounds.
Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough, Sinead Matthews
(Miramax; US theatrical: 10 Oct 2008 (Limited release); UK theatrical: 18 Apr 2008 (General release); 2008)
Mike Leigh’s latest has been out in Britain since April, but we are just now getting a taste of his latest improvised marvel. This time, the UK maverick tells the tale of Poppy, an eternally optimistic Pollyanna type and her cheerful interactions with everyday life. Some have suggested it’s a real return to form for the man responsible for Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake. Looking over his recent filmography, such comments are ludicrous at best. Leigh’s never really been away.
Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech
(Sony; US theatrical: 10 Oct 2008; 2008)
One of this Summer’s most effective horror films, Spain’s [REC] is getting remade for American audiences—and so far, the results seem respectful of the found footage fright fest. A TV reporter on a routine night shoot finds herself locked in an apartment building with her cameraman, a group of scared residents, and some authority figures screaming about an “outbreak” of some sort. True terror ensues—at least in the original. Here’s praying the revamp is equally unnerving.
Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris
(Fox; US theatrical: 17 Oct 2008; 2008)
It’s time for another video game adaptation, this time focusing on the popular title from 2001. Featuring Mark Wahlberg as a cop who seeks revenge when his family and friends are murdered, dork nation didn’t hold out much hope for this big screen translation. Once the trailer arrived, however, messageboard debate began with a frenzy. On one side are those suggesting that filmmaker John Moore (Flight of the Phoenix, The Omen) managed to rescue what seemed like a doomed project. Others see the visual finesse and voice over narration and suggest Payne is poised to fail. Either way, they’ve got the potential demo talking which is more than most movies being released this fall can claim.
Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Ioan Gruffudd, Richard Dreyfuss, Thandie Newton, Scott Glenn, Jeffrey Wright, Jason Ritter, Toby Jones
(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 17 Oct 2008 (Limited release); UK theatrical: 7 Nov 2008 (Limited release); 2008)
Ever since it was announced, this Oliver Stone look at the life and high/low times of our current Commander in Chief has been rife with ridiculous speculation. Some have suggested the controversial auteur is simply out to destroy the Republican’s chance at a repeat visit to the White House this election year. Others (who’ve actually read the script) see a similarity between this project and Stone’s previous look at a much maligned leader, his near masterpiece Nixon. With some highly clever casting and a no punches pulled approach, the director states his intent to humanize an already flawed leader. This promises to be October’s most overheated hot button opus.