Friday, July 27, 2007

Heads Up: The Top 10 Films to check out in August & September

I know I neglect my movie reviews, but I think I've only seen a dozen films this year. I do seem to see them all twice though, due to having a lot of friends that don't hang out together (I'm not complaining, really). I saw Knocked Up three times, but it's been the best film I've seen this year so far, so that's fine. On the flip side, I wasted six hours of my life on the third Pirates of the Caribbean debacle. That was unfortunate, and now I have to wage a personal jihad against Orlando Bloom. The only movie I've really wanted to see that I missed was 28 Weeks Later..., but it's not a huge loss.

I thought I'd throw this list together, because this time of the year is weird and interesting for the movie business. The execs who decide when to release the studio's projects load August up with wannabe summer blockbusters that they don't think can compete in May & June (Rush Hour 3), but also slip out dark horses that could blow up huge (Superbad, Stardust). Then there's the dreaded Labor Day weekend, notorious as one of the worst release weekends of the year; it's usually chock full of cheesy horror movies and action films high on energy but low on brains (the obligatory Jason Statham movie comes a week early this year)... Of course, this is also my birthday weekend, so I am usually fucked if I want a good birthday movie. September, on the other hand, is for the adventurous execs. It starts as August ended, with barrel-scraping, but ends with the first batch of Oscar hopefuls, films the studios hope are good and memorable enough to resonate with voters until January.

So here's my picks for the Top 10 Most Intriguing Films coming out in August & September:
[All release dates are from, and of course are subject to the whims of scaredy-cat execs that don't want their little arthouse film pummeled by Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, et al.]

10. Across The Universe [September 28th]
Director: Julie Taymor [Frida]
Stars: Evan Rachel Wood & Jim Sturgess, with Roots guitarist Martin Luther, Bono, Eddie Izzard & Salma Hayek
Why it's here: Well, it's intriguing as fuck all. I'm a big music fan, but I hate musicals. And yet, how can anyone not be a little curious about a musical using nothing but Beatles songs? The last time someone tried it, The BeeGees totally screwed the pooch, and this time I would have more confidence in Taymor directing, except her studio head went behind her back, cut his own version, and held test screenings with it. No one knows which version is coming out. But with characters named Jude, Lucy, Max, Sadie, Prudence, Jojo, Mr. Kite, Dr. get the gotta at least see it.

09. Superbad [August 17th]
Director: Greg Mottola [The Daytrippers, TV's Arrested Development & Undeclared]
Stars: Michael Cera & Jonah Hill, and other people who aren't Michael Cera or Jonah Hill
Why it's here: The trailer is one of the funniest in recent memory, and coming off 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, who wouldn't want to see another movie from Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen?
[Very Not Safe For Work Trailer]

08. Wristcutters: A Love Story [limited release, August 17th]
Director: Goran Dukic
Stars: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, John Hawkes, Leslie Bibb, Jake Busey
Why it's here: By the time it's release date rolls around, it might not be here. The title alone has courted controversy, and the release date keeps getting moved. Once you see the trailer though, you will be totally curious.

07. Stardust [August 10th]
Director: Matthew Vaughn [Layer Cake]
Stars: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Peter O'Toole, Rupert Everett, and narration by Ian McKellen
Why it's here: Because it's based on a story by comic book god Neil Gaiman, because Vaughn did a great job with Layer Cake, and because the trailer is spectacular enough to make you think it's the next Princess Bride.

06. Michael Clayton [Wednesday, September 5th]
: Tony Gilroy [directorial debut; wrote all 3 Jason Bourne films]
Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack
Why it's here: Gilroy's Bourne screenplays have been near-flawless, and one look at this trailer shows that he can no doubt inject life back in the courtroom thriller. It doesn't hurt to have one of the best movie stars on the planet as your star, and also that his career profile needs a bit of an caffeinated kick in the pants.

05. The Nines [limited release, August 31st]
Director: John August [directorial debut; wrote Go and Big Fish]
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy [Sookie from Gilmore Girls], Elle Fanning, David Denman [Roy from The Office]
Why it's here: It's sounds positively fascinating! Reynolds, Davis and McCarthy all play three roles in a three-part plot from writer/director August, not unlike his first screenplay, for Doug Liman's 1999 film Go. Reynolds finally gets a role, or roles, he can sink his teeth into, pulling his laser-accurate comic timing out of forgettable low-brow comedies and dropping it into a mysterious drama that Italian critics called "Lynch-ian" (as in David Lynch); he'll get to hone his craft as a troubled actor, a TV writer, and a video game designer all dealing with the creative process from different angles. Entertainment Weekly named it the best movie at this year's Sundance Festival.
No trailer yet, but here's the website: Look For The Nines

04. Trade [limited release, September 21st]
Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner
Stars: Kevin Kline
Why it's here: do you sell a film solely on Kevin Kline, an Oscar winning actor who never really made it to leading man status? He never needed to get there, actually, though the occasional well-chosen starring role never hurts. In that way, he's more like Steve Buscemi or Bill Macy than Kevin Spacey or Bill Murray. Anyway, this movie was supposed to come out back in the beginning of 2007; one look at the trailer will floor you, and word is out that it's Kline's best dramatic performance to date.

03. Into The Wild [September 21st]
Director: Sean Penn
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Stewart, Jena Malone, Zach Galifianakis
Why it's here: Because there's wanderlust in all of us - at some point, everyone has fantasized about giving all your money to charity, and just up and leaving your life, disappearing into the world, with no excess holding you down, and just your smarts to keep you going.

02. 3:10 To Yuma [September 7th]
Director: James Mangold [Walk The Line; Girl, Interrupted]
Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Ben Foster, Alan Tudyk
Why it's here: um...let's see... A western starring Crowe, Bale & Fonda, by the director of Walk The Line. I don't see where it can go wrong. And for once, I don't care that it's yet another remake by Hollywood. Some might also point out that the screenplay is written by Stuart Beattie, who wrote the Pirates trilogy, but I'm looking more in between those films at his brilliant writing on Michael Mann's sorely underrated Collateral.

01. The Bourne Ultimatum [August 3rd]
Director: Paul Greengrass [The Bourne Supremacy; United 93]
Stars: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Edgar Ramirez, Julia Stiles, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine
Why it's here: Because it's going to be the finale to the second best trilogy in movie history (third, if you count the first 3 Indiana Jones flicks). Matt Damon will never get a better commercial-blockbuster-type character than Jason Bourne, and he owns it in every frame, a massive movie star disappearing into his part like the superspy he's playing disappears into the cold night. The previous two films put 99% of the action films of the last two decades to shame and do so with the minimum of CGI. There was a reason Bond had to be reinvented.

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