Is it safe to go back to the movies yet?
After a season so odious that everybody from die-hard populist Roger Ebert to The New York Times’ A.O. Scott penned editorials about how the sky is falling because their ignorant readers supported dreck like Transformers 2 to the tune of $400 million, might we put this summer of discontent behind us and look forward to more promising autumnal offerings?
Fall releases tend to have lower financial stakes and more of an eye toward award season prestige, which basically means your chances of running into appalling racist caricature robots are dramatically decreased. Here’s a few of the hopeful highlights.
Capitalism: A Love Story (10/2)—Michael Moore is back—sigh. This time he tackles the current financial crisis. It will undoubtedly be full of gross over-simplifications, snarky music cues, broad generalizations and pseudo-populist sloganeering. And before those outraged emails start rolling in again, let me explain one more time, for the record, that I personally side with Moore on several political issues. I just resent the way he makes my stances sound stupid and easily dismissible.
Surrogates (9/25)—Or, if Facebook was an action movie. Bruce Willis, overdue for another comeback, stars in this tale of a not-too-distant future where folks stay inside all day and only interact through their online avatars. But the first murder in 10 years compels our grizzled, hard-boiled detective to unplug from the ’Net and get out in the sun for a change. Maybe I should try that.
A Serious Man (10/2)—After No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading, those gleefully misanthropic brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are in such a golden zone they no longer need to bother populating their movies with anybody you might recognize. The cryptic, compulsively watchable trailer hints at sinister fates for a cast of unknowns, heavy on that mordantly funny, apocalyptic “Barton Fink feeling.” I couldn’t be more excited.
The Invention of Lying (10/2)—Perhaps seeking to atone for his paycheck gig in last year’s hacky, personality-free Ghost Town, the original Office genius Ricky Gervais has written and directed a farce with a fool-proof premise. Positing an alternate universe where nobody has ever thought to bend the truth, our portly schlub is the first man to ever tell a lie. Somehow this lands him in bed with Jennifer Garner.
Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (10/2)—The only way these movies could possibly have been any better is if they were in 3-D. Oh wait, now they are for this special re-release? Thanks, Pixar! Maybe now you guys can go back in time and find a way to make Cars not suck.
Couples Retreat (10/9)—Yeah, Iron Man is fine and all, but some of us are still beating the drum for Jon Favreau’s Made, perhaps the most uncomfortably hilarious comedy of the decade, proof that John Cassavetes didn’t die in vain, and the true measure of Vince Vaughn’s epic obnoxiousness. Favreau and Vaughn reteamed to write this screenplay (directed by the dynamic duo’s longtime producer, Peter Billingsley—Ralphie from A Christmas Story!) about four couples on a “therapeutic” getaway. Vaughn needs to redeem himself for Fred Claus and Four Christmases. Please let this be the one.
Law Abiding Citizen (10/16)—Throaty Scottish macho man Gerard Butler’s wife and daughter are brutally murdered, sending him on an elaborate mission of vengeance, reeling in upright district attorney Jamie Foxx and his ever-present sunglasses. But it was shot in Philly. So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
The Road (10/16)—Jesus, how can anybody even try to make a movie out of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? The relentlessly bleak post-apocalyptic tome that psychologically traumatized millions of Oprah Book Club readers is making a long-delayed journey to the big screen, courtesy of The Proposition director John Hillcoat, who has already proved he knows his way around some scorched-earth misery. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron, it’s been a long, famously troubled production. But how could it not be, really?
Where the Wild Things Are (10/16)—Speaking of troubled productions, Spike Jonze’s years-in-the-making adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s storybook classic, which blends Jim Henson Creature Shop puppets, CGI, and a rough-hewn handheld landscape, initially caused a panic in the Warner Bros. studio offices. But the fascinatingly weird, strangely emotionally resonant trailers then inspired such glee upon their eventual release, you’d think the Internet was melting for a day or two. Everything about this movie just looks so damn right, I’m still trying to ignore the fact that self-regarding asshat Dave Eggers scripted the adaptation.
The Stepfather (10/16)—Because folks in Hollywood these days will not rest until they have made a crappy new version of every last horror movie you ever watched on HBO at three o’clock in the morning during the 1980s.
Antichrist (10/23)—Fresh from terrorizing audiences at the Cannes Film Festival, Lars Von Trier’s latest cinematic electroshock treatment stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe as a couple grieving the loss of their only child. I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers amid the swirling rumors and outrage that followed the film’s first screening, but apparently talking foxes and genital mutilation come into play somehow. Depending on who you’re talking to, Von Trier is either a genius or a dickhead, and for the past decade or so I’ve gone back and forth. Maybe he’s just both?
Saw VI (10/23)—A word of advice: If you happen to know people who are still going to see these things every October, it’s probably time to extricate them from your life. You’ll thank me later.
Michael Jackson: This Is It (10/28)—I imagine anyone who died so many hundreds of millions of dollars in debt is going to be lingering in the pop cultural consciousness with these sort of grave robbing repackagings and cash-ins for many years to come. So, no, it’s most definitely not it. Comprised of backstage footage from the comeback tour that never happened, the first of many MJ documentaries focuses on the final days so that his concert promoters might finally have a chance to recoup their investments.