Just as fall is neither as blazing as summer nor as chilly as winter, the fall movie season is transitional: a segue from effects-heavy, teen-oriented fare to the prestige pictures that will compete for year-end awards. That means along with the obligatory franchise extentionsa new 007, a new Harry Potteraudiences will get to see some festival favorites (like Roman Polanski’s Cannes prizewinner The Pianist) and indie sleepers (like the intriguingly nasty Bret Easton Ellis adaptation The Rules of Attraction). Even more enticing are the wild cards shuffled into the deck, such as Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s one-take time-travel jawdropper Russian Ark. In the following list of noteworthy fall releases, one thing becomes readily apparent: As the weather gets cooler, so do the movies.
Red Dragon Director Brett Ratner insists that Thomas Harris’ first novel featuring Hannibal Lecter needed to be filmed again because Michael Mann’s 1986 version Manhunter wasn’t close enough to the source material. Uh-huh. Nevertheless, we can’t help but be intrigued because the original story is a good one, and Ratner’s castEdward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and some guy named Anthony Hopkins playing Lecteris frankly astonishing. Oct. 4. N.M.
Welcome To Collinwood The latest pair of filmmaking brothersAnthony and Joe Russoearned the backing of Steven Soderbergh for their second feature: a remake of the Italian caper comedy Big Deal On Madonna Street (itself a parody of slick heist pics like Rififi). Should we mention that Big Deal has been remade as recently as 1995’s winning Palookaville? Nahwe’d rather just enjoy Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Michael Jeter, Isaiah Washington and guest star George Clooney, all playing hapless thieves. Oct. 4. N.M.
Punch-Drunk Love Cinema wunderkind P.T. Anderson returns with a short (!) romantic comedy (!!) starring Adam Sandler (!!!). But fans of Anderson’s sprawling, kinetic character studies Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and Magnolia needn’t despair. Advance word says that the director amps up the splashy technical wizardry to tell the story of a depressed phone sex addict who pursues his feminine ideal (embodied by Emily Watson). Oct. 11. N.M.
Tuck Everlasting A haunting juvenile novel gets the Disney treatment in this PG bid for the family audience. Gilmore Girl Alexis Bledel plays a World War I-era teen who discovers a strange family and a mysterious spring of immortality. I’ll never forget the moment when, as a child reader, I reached the page where the disturbing nature of everlasting life becomes evident. Unfortunately, some insiders privy to early screenings report that the magic doesn’t translate onto the screen. Buy the book for a precocious preteen of your acquaintance, just in case. Oct. 11. D.B.
The Ring Scream 3’s author and The Mexican’s director remake a cool Japanese horror filmjust grab the pliers now and start pulling my teeth. So why hold out any hope for this? It stars Mulholland Drive’s Naomi Watts; it was script-doctored by the estimable Scott Frank (Out of Sight); and the premise is pure gold: a bootleg video results in the deaths of all who watch it. And if it sucks, just track down the Hideo Nakata original. There are countless copies going around on bootleg video. Heh heh. Oct. 18. J.R.
Frida Salma Hayek outlasted higher-powered stars like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez to play Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, whose life of physical and emotional pain (and sexual experimentation) informed her gently surreal self-portraits. Hayek also assumed command of the production, getting boyfriend Edward Norton to help with the script (and to play Nelson Rockefeller!) and hiring dynamic visual stylist Julie Taymor to direct. Oct. 25. N.M.
The Truth About Charlie We adore director Stanley Donen’s colorful, witty 1963 international mystery Charade, but much of its charm admittedly comes from stars Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. No matter how good Thandie Newton and Mark Wahlberg may be, they’re not exactly the classic movie stars that a remake would seem to require. But Jonathan Demme’s long-overdue return to the director’s chair has us excitedwe hear that he’s taken the original material and made something wild (if not Something Wild). Plus we love the idea of Tim Robbins in the Walter Matthau role. Oct. 25. N.M.
Far from Heaven Shifting from glam to glum, director Todd Haynes follows up his Iggy/Ziggy fantasia Velvet Goldmine with a lush Fifties melodrama shot in the blazing palette of a Douglas Sirk weepie. Julianne Moore plays the suburban housewife who seeks all that heaven allows with gardener Dennis Haysbert, which makes her a tarnished angel among her bigoted social set. Sounds close to heaven to us. November 8. J.R.
Femme Fatale Cinematic sleight of hand from writer-director Brian De Palma, in a tricky suspense thriller that’s being hailed as a return to his peerless early-1980s prime. A daring jewel heist during the Cannes Film Festival is just the beginning; the followthrough involves a mysterious bisexual bombshell (Rebecca Romjin-Stamos), a bedazzled paparazzo (Antonio Banderas) and some daredevil narrative twists. By all means check out the amazing trailer, which plays the entire movie from credits to credits at eye-boggling speedthen dares you to watch it again. Nov. 8. J.R.
The Phantom of Liberty One of the late Luis Bunuel’s most playful films: a series of cosmic jests and surrealist japes, on matters ranging from a missing girl to a party where guests excuse themselves from the toilet to eat. Reissued by Rialto Pictures, which also presents a sparkling new version of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s postwar underworld sensation Quai des Orfévres. Nov. 8. J.R.
Solaris In the past two years, Steven Soderbergh won an Oscar fighting the drug war in Traffic, transformed the unwieldy Ocean’s Eleven and spent his spare time sending up Hollywood in Full Frontal. Now he takes on critic’s darling Andrei Tarkovsky, remaking the Soviet master’s staggering, hushed sci-fi classic. Based on a Stanislaw Lem novel, it’s the story of psychosis on a space station that progressively grips the psychologist sent to investigate (Soderbergh frequent flier George Clooney). The original rivals 2001 for majestic creepiness, a daunting task for any filmmaker to match. But we wouldn’t put anything beyond Soderbergh while he’s in the zone. Nov. 27. D.B.
Ararat Atom Egoyan’s recursive drama about the lingering legacy of the Armenian genocide recently opened the Toronto International Film Festival. Using the shooting of a movie as his framework, Egoyan continues his exploration of family dynamics and the mystery of relationships, adding the elusive children of The Sweet Hereafter to the troubled marriage and Armenian setting of Calendar. Even as his movies grow more complex, they exhibit increasing clarity, like a deepening crater filling with water. Nov. 29. D.B.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Oh boy! Gandalf returns! In the second installment of the mammoth trilogy, everything gets darker and more hopeless. The armies are bigger, the orcs are meaner, Frodo is falling under the ring’s swaybut one look at Ian McKellan in those white robes and that Edgar Winter hairdo, and light may yet dawn. Mostly, we’re just eager to reenter the hyper-real fantasy world that director Peter Jackson created for us last Christmas. On to Mordor! Dec. 18. D.B.
About Schmidt Jack Nicholson stars as a recently retired man who takes a cross-country odyssey to reconnect with himself and his soon-to-be-married daughter in the latest observational comedy-drama from director Alexander Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor (the team behind Election and Citizen Ruth). Adapted loosely from two novels by Louis Begley, the movie incorporates ideas from an old screenplay by Payne, who again investigates Americana by studying a desperate character. Dec. 25. N.M.
The 25th Hour Taking his first plot-driven genre assignment since the underrated Clockers, director Spike Lee hopes to regain a little commercial heat with the story of an upper-class drug dealer (the ubiquitous Edward Norton) who uses his last night before starting a prison sentence to settle some old scores. Among those to be confronted: Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, and Norton’s Red Dragon co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Dec. 25. N.M.
Catch Me If You Can The last time we heard about Frank Abagnale Jr., he was speaking on security issues before a civic group in Murfreesboro. Oopswe gave away the climax of Steven Spielberg’s biopic, based on the master con man and impersonator’s autobiography. The movie details the cat-and-mouse game between Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his FBI-agent pursuer (Tom Hanks). It sounds likehey, where’s my wallet! Dec. 27. J.R.
Chicago After several stalled attempts, featuring everyone from Goldie Hawn to Madonna, the delectably tawdry Bob Fosse-John Kander-Fred Ebb musical finally reaches the screen. Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones shake their spangles as convicted murderesses vying for headlines in Jazz Age Chi-town; Richard Gere is the shyster smoothie who can get any woman off. Dec. 27. J.R.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind If game-show loony Chuck Barris hadn’t seized the title for his twisted autobiography, it could easily have been claimed by Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who adapted the Gong Show host’s book for George Clooney’s directorial debut. Sam Rockwell plays Barris, and Julia Roberts plays a secret agentbut what we really want to know is, who’s the Unknown Comic? Kaufman’s also represented this month with the Meryl Streep-Nicolas Cage comedy Adaptation, which started as the movie version of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief but mutated into a whole new species. Dec. 27. J.R.
Friday After Next The heartwarming Yuletide story of how Craig (Ice Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps), in their third Friday outing, team up to ass-whup the thieving Santa who robbed their rent money and Christmas presents. Think of it as Miracle on 34th Street with hogleg blunts. Nov. 22. J.R.
Gangs of New York A 25-year dream project for director Martin Scorsese, Herbert Asbury’s immersive history of vice, graft and street warfare in 19th-century New York has enough bloodshed and intrigue for 10 movies. This one focuses on the mid-century battle between resident and immigrant gangs for the Five Points neighborhood, a conflagration that made the Civil War look...civil. In his second movie opening the same day, Leonardo DiCaprio plays an Irish immigrant looking for the man who killed his pa: the notorious Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis). Watch for Maura O’Connell. Dec. 27. J.R.
Gods and Generals 1993’s epic-length Gettysburg, financed by Ted Turner and based on Michael Shaara’s classic historical novel The Killer Angels, didn’t spawn a rash of four-hour Civil War copycat projects. But it cleaned up on cable and video, and this sort-of posthumous prequel by Shaara’s son sent Ted back to the battlements. The result is a movie currently clocking in at 225 minutes, with writer-director Ronald Maxwell and much of Gettysburg’s cast returning. The new film follows Confederate legend Stonewall Jackson’s rise to fame, and as fans of Turner’s Folly and warfare-history geeks, we can’t wait for what amounts to the most expensive public reenactment ever. Dec. 27. D.B.
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