Saturday, September 8, 2007

The 2007 CSR Guide to Fall Movies, Part 1

Welcome to Raz's film festival...or something...
I had to split the list in half because it was getting too huge, and I want everyone to actually read it. So, September and October today, November and December next Saturday.

This fall looks to be packed with brilliant films from high profile directors and actors, but there are only 17 weeks until the New Year (and you need to fit in Football too). How will you ever know which movies to see so that you don’t waste your time and money?? Don’t worry. I got you covered. I have planned out your entire fall for you, so you know which films to see and when to see them, in order to cram in all the blockbusters, art-house fare, and of course, the Oscar hopefuls. Not everyone’s the same, so feel free to switch movies around or omit a few of the lesser picks, and as usual, pay close attention to word of mouth, whether it’s from the big paper critic or the old woman in the cubicle next to you; you should know by now whose opinion to trust...well, other than mine. I’ll guide you through week by week, and then at the end give you my top 17 must-see films. Get out your pens & paper, or um, I guess you could just warm up your printers. Enjoy. Oh, and click on movie titles for the trailers.
[All info from - You better recognize.]

[Week One]
Friday, September 7 – Thursday, September 13
Friday night, you should have been rushing out to see James Mangold’s 3:10 To Yuma, a gritty western starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale which should be one of the best films of the year (I'm seeing it tonight). Mangold is a pretty solid bet, having the underrated Cop Land and Girl, Interrupted on his resumé before hitting a grand slam with Walk The Line. Because of that film’s success, he was able to snatch up Crowe and Bale. If Russell Crowe is such an asshole in real life, then it’s about time he played a villain again, and as far as Bale, if you know someone who doesn’t like him, then you should stop being that person’s friend, like seriously right now. If you have time in the rest of the week and are fixing for another film, check your local art-house for I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin wrote, directed and stars in this romantic comedy, and he makes the odd but potentially hilarious choice of casting Sarah Silverman as his leading lady.
See: 3:10 To Yuma is a must.

[Week Two]
Friday, September 14 – Thursday, September 20
This week is kind of a free-for-all. The big commercial picture is going to be The Brave One with Jodie Foster, but I’m skipping that one since they pretty much give away the whole movie in the trailer. Instead, I’m pointing you in the direction of two releases that look interesting. The first is Across The Universe, the troubled Beatles musical that is finally coming out, and curiosity should at least be worth a matinee. The second is Eastern Promises, another collaboration between director David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen, who worked together on A History Of Violence. In this film, Naomi Watts stars as a midwife who gets wrapped in a Russian Mob conspiracy when she investigates a baby born to a teenage girl who died during child birth. Both these films should be released semi-wide, as far as I know, as should the last film that might be worth checking out, as a substitution or addition to your schedule: The Hunting Party, a black comedy/political drama starring Richard Gere and Terence Howard. It’s a true story about the American news media in the warzones of Bosnia in the 90’s, and it’s directed by the guy that did The Matador with Pierce Brosnan.
See: Across The Universe or Eastern Promises

[Week Three]
Friday, September 21 – Thursday, September 27
This week you have an excellent choice of three movies, and any one should be worth your cash. Into The Wild is Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book. The trailer sells it perfectly, from the wonder of the locations to the deep cast including Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden. But it will be Lords of Dogtown’s Emile Hirsch that benefits the most, getting to show his range and maturation from kid actor. Next you can check out The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, opening in NYC, LA, Toronto and Austin. It's the second of the three big westerns reaching for the gold statue this fall. You’d think I’d be crazy to say the draw here is not Brad Pitt, but one look at the breathtaking trailer shows you that Casey Affleck is bringing his A-game this fall. Last is the under-the-radar Trade, in limited release, a film that was supposed to be released at the beginning of the year, but got pushed for Oscar contention. Kevin Kline is looking for another statue, this time playing against type as a cop in this abduction thriller that has the same international feel as recent greats like The Constant Gardener, Babel, and the Bourne films.
See: All three, but if it can only be one, I’d go with Into The Wild.

[Week Four]
Friday, September 28 – Thursday, October 4
You get a little break this week, since the only major film of interest is Peter Berg’s massive The Kingdom, boasting a great lineup of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, and Jeremy Piven. At first, I was skeptical, but here’s two reasons why you might want to check out this Middle East terrorism drama:
1) It was originally slated to be an early summer popcorn flick, but it got pushed for Oscar season. That means either it tested really well, or the studio heads have a lot of faith in it. That has to equal it rising above its just-OK action movie trailer.
2) Director Peter Berg has quietly been building up to this kind of big Hollywood statement film. After starting out with some black comedies, he made The Rundown, cramming it full of good camerawork and great comedic timing, resulting in a fun adventure movie which is way better than any of the comparable Arnold or Sly throwaways from the 80’s. Then he followed it up with the great football chronicle Friday Night Lights, which had a spectacularly stark look and one of the best soundtracks ever. He’s definitely due for his breakthrough.
See: The Kingdom.
Of course, if it’s not your cup of tea, then you can always catch up on one of the films from the previous weeks.

[Week Five]
Friday, October 5 – Thursday, October 11
This is a weird weekend because, as of right now, there are no movies really worth seeing coming out (you can keep your Ben Stiller reuniting with the Farrelly Brothers). However, on Saturday, September 29th, Wes Anderson’s new film, The Darjeeling Limited, premiers at The New York Film Festival. The early word is that it would also have a limited release, but it seems crazy to me to be opening a film on a Saturday. I would look for it on October 5th. Keep in mind that whatever effect lead Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt might have on promoting the film, it seems that the release might be at the mercy of nervous studio execs. The only thing I can be absolutely sure of is it will be out by New Year’s Eve, to qualify for Academy eligibility. Also in limited release, on Wednesday, October 10th, is Anton Corbijn's Control, the story of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, which looks absolutely fantastic.
See: The Darjeeling Limited and Control are both musts. Seek them out.

[Week Six]
Friday, October 12 – Thursday, October 18
In 2000, James Gray made a great little film almost no one saw with some big name actors; The Yards was a dark drama about conspiracy in the railroad union, and it featured excellent performances from Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, James Caan, Faye Dunaway & Ellen Burstyn. Seven years later, Gray has finally returned, reuniting with Wahlberg and Phoenix, and adding Eva Mendes and the immortal Robert Duvall, for We Own The Night, sure to be another great crime thriller. It’s already being compared to last year’s Best Picture winner, The Departed. Your second choice for the week is the courtroom drama Michael Clayton, which was bumped from September. It may sport a top-notch cast including George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson, but the draw here is that it’s the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy, who wrote the three Jason Bourne films.
See: We Own The Night. Fit in Michael Clayton if you have time.

[Week Seven]
Friday, October 19 – Thursday, October 25
This is by far the most crowded week of the season, but Week Eight is pretty empty, so you can carry some of these over. The definite must see this week is Gone Baby Gone, the directorial debut of Ben Affleck. Affleck was smart when picking this project; he adapted a story by the guy that wrote Mystic River, set, of course, in Affleck’s hometown of Boston, and then he cast his brother Casey in the lead, along with trusted support men like Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. If the trailer is any indication, this should be a huge hit. The other film this week that I've been watching out for is Wristcutters: A Love Story, which looks wonderfully twisted. Beyond that, you have the popcorn vampire flick 30 Days of Night, adapted from the award-winning graphic novel by Sam Raimi and Hard Candy director David Slade, and two big-name Oscar dramas; Reservation Road (Phoenix! Ruffalo! Connelly!), from the director of Hotel Rwanda, and Rendition (Witherspoon! Gyllenhaal! Streep!), from the director of '06 Best Foreign Film winner Tsotsi.
See: Gone Baby Gone

[Week Eight]
Friday, October 25 - Thursday, November 1
Saw 4...yawn, no thanks. Steve Carrell has this Dan In Real Life, which looks painfully unfunny, which is sad following the obvious failure of Evan Almighty. Like I said, this is a slow week, so it's good to catch up with anything you missed. There are a few small films of interest, but only one that looks like it might be worth a matinee. Run, Fatboy, Run, is the directorial debut of David Schwimmer, and he's lucky enough to have gotten Hot Fuzz star Simon Pegg to fill the lead role. I wasn't really sold on the film until I saw the teaser trailer, which had me in hysterics. Other than that, if you're looking for more, and maybe you want a scary movie for Halloween, search for the limited release of Michael Haneke's brutal hostage thriller Funny Games, the English-language remake of his own 1997 cult classic, this time starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Michael Pitt (sorry, no trailer yet).
See: Run, Fatboy, Run

And that's the end of Part One folks. Come back next Saturday for Part Two. Don't be late cuz we're gonna start with a BANG!

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