15 Flicks for Fall 2009

On the pop-cultural calendar, the climax of the year is supposedly the summer blockbuster season. Fall is when we begin the year again with new TV and more serious cinema (leading up to the Oscars). After a lacklustre summer (where even the stalwart Harry Potter franchise left me disappointed), we could really use some fresh, creative excitement at the multiplex. Once again I have chosen 15 movies that sound interesting (listed in no particular order).

Avatar – Probably the most anticipated movie of the fall, king-of-the-world director James Cameron returns after a long break to bring us a stunningly otherworldly sci-fi/fantasy adventure using the latest movie-making technology. As long as the movie isn’t all sound and fury, it should be amazing. Plus, it stars my favourite new action hero, Sam Worthington.

Sherlock Holmes – This revisiting of Conan Doyle’s beloved hero looks intriguing and fun. So Holmes is into bare-knuckle boxing (who knew?)! Star Robert Downey Jr. is possibly facing his umpteenth time on the brink of over-exposure, but if anyone can play Holmes as an intelligent, quirky character with a touch of mania it’s him. I feel kind of bad for Jude Law, relegated to playing sidekick Dr. Watson, though. I almost forgot to mention that Guy Ritchie (of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) directs this one (hence the boxing).

The Lovely Bones – Continuing the trend of supernatural-yet-sentimental movies based on books (see also Time Traveler’s Wife), this movie is about a young woman who is brutally murdered, but doesn’t quite move on as she watches over her loved ones dealing with her death. This sounds like a big downer, but it’s written and directed by Ring-master Peter Jackson, and features the incredibly delightful actress Saoirse Ronan (look her up) in the ghostly lead.

2012 – Another apocalyptic blockbuster, this one is probably no deeper than The Day After Tomorrow, Knowing, Deep Impact, or any number of others, but who knows? Direction by the none-too-subtle Roland Emmerich (who also did The Day After Tomorrow) doesn’t make for a good sign but I guess nuanced characters and sensitive dialogue are not what you’d expect from a movie about the world-ending disasters predicted by the end of the Mayan calendar anyway. Let’s just hope it’s a fun ride.

Nine – A movie-musical from Rob Marshall, director of Oscar-winning Chicago, is already enough to get me into the seat. Add to that an Oscar-friendly cast including: Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, and Marion Cotillard, and the Nov. 25 premiere cannot come soon enough. The musical is loosely based around Italian director Fellini’s 8 1/2, about a director struggling to make his ninth movie. The many women in his life seem to be the focus of the story.

9 – Not to be confused with the aforementioned movie-musical, this animated film has me even more atwitter with anticipation. Produced by such creatives as Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, 9 is the story of a group of living rag-dolls who are out to save the world after we humans have left it in ruins. This looks like the kind of imaginative visual story-telling that the box office sorely needs these days.

The Road – A bleak post-apocalyptic drama with literary roots (a best-selling book by Cormac McCarthy) seems more like the kind of thing we’d expect in the fall. Viggo Mortensen lends his gravitas to the lead role of a father trying to survive with his son in this inhospitable environment.

Antichrist – Continuing the theme of bleakness, Danish director Lars von Trier is definitely one who can make a movie so depressing that it’s actually very interesting. Try as I might I did not make it through his last big movie, Mandalay, but I loved Dogville and Dancer In The Dark (Bjork rocks!). The title alone makes me think that this film will not be an easy one to enjoy, but it might really be worth the effort.

Zombieland – In such a dark box-office context, is it any wonder that even the comedies might involve the undead? Woody Harrelson (remember him from Cheers?) stars in an American zombie-killing comedy. My excitement about this movie (even though I hate zombie movies) is purely residual good will from the British zombie-comedy Shaun of the Dead. I’m hoping that this one will strike the same hilarious chord.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant – With the recent slew of vampire in pop culture, it’s about time for someone to poke a little fun at the genre. To save his buddy’s life, a teen becomes the assistant to a vampire, working in a freak show. The premise and the title both sound lame, but with a cast that includes John C. Reilly (as the undead boss), Salyma Hayek (as the bearded lady), and Jane Krakowski also among the freaks, we have the makings of something both bizarre and funny.

The Informant! – Matt Damon plays a bungling corporate whistle-blower in this truth-based movie. Director Steven Soderbergh has a flair for styling straight-laced movies with a bit of humour and I’m sure he’ll do that same excellent balancing act here. Let’s just hope the extra weight and subtle humour needed for Damon’s role will fit him better than the ridiculous fake nose in Ocean’s 13!

Surrogates – Bruce Willis stars in this sci-fi thriller about a world where people use other bodies as surrogates for their own, letting their living avatars act and interact for them. As is typical of these utopian concepts, I’m guessing that something goes horribly wrong. Let’s watch…

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – When an inventor creates a device to turn water into food, I’m sure hilarity ensues. I’m still not certain if this animated movie will be too kiddie even for me. However, I’m hoping it will be more than just one big cinematic food fight.

Where The Wild Things Are – This classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak is surprisingly being adapted into a live action film by none other than off-kilter indie director Spike Jones (remember Being John Malkovich?). While the original story suggested primal and deep ideas beneath its simple surface, I’m still wondering whether this is going to be a kids movie or something more grown-up. Either way, I’m intrigued.

New Moon – Lastly, the beautiful vamps of the Cullen family return in part 2 of the Twilight series. Even though I am not a 13 year old girl, I am excited for this movie because 1) it includes werewolves, 2) we get to meet the creepy-cool Volturi (an ancient family of Italian vampires who rule all others. Dakota Fanning’s not so cute anymore, is she?!), and 3) Chris Weitz replaces director Catherine Hardwicke, who helmed the first melodramatic installment (plus I hear that Edward sparkles less in this one!).

A little bonus: The worst title for a fall movie (and I’m not just speaking in defense of Alvins everywhere): Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. The best title for a fall movie: The Men Who Stare At Goats.

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