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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall Film Preview

Written by Kirk Baird

With the myriad fall films headed our way, below are 14 movies to look forward to in the coming months.

Oct. 12: Argo: A strong indicator of a film's Oscar chances is the critical buzz it has coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival from mid-September. Argo has that kind of favourable enthusiasm. Ben Affleck directs and stars as a CIA operative who helps lead a crazy rescue operation of U.S. citizens in hiding at the Canadian ambassador’s home in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis by pretending to be a Hollywood film crew. It also stars Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman.

Oct. 19: The Sessions: Another film that's enjoying a surge of post-Toronto adulation is The Sessions, the true story of Mark O'Brien, a man mostly confined to an iron lung who seeks love and the loss of his virginity. John Hawkes as O'Brien proves again he belongs in the elite actor category, even if he doesn't have the box office credentials—yet—to back it up. Helen Hunt, who doesn’t appear in many movies these days, makes the best of her screen time with her strongest role yet as the kindly sex therapist O’Brien hires. It’s a sweet, surprisingly funny film that doesn’t claw for easy empathy.

Oct. 26: Cloud Atlas: This adaptation of the previously thought unfilmmable genre-bending novel by David Mitchell left critics in Toronto alternately praising and damning this drama of cause-and-effect linking the fate of people through the centuries. It stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving, with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and siblings Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy) as co-writers and co-directors. Even if this highly ambitious film is flawed, as some contend, it would appear the whole is better than its parts.

Nov. 2:

Flight: Denzel Washington stars as an airline pilot who saves a flight from crashing, and whose life is subsequently turned upside down by the intense media scrutiny that follows. Robert Zemeckis gives up the ghost on his creepy performance-capture animation work and returns to live-action films. The trailers promise an intense drama with a great cast (including John Goodman, Don Cheadle, and Oscar winner Melissa Leo) and a message that offers relevant commentary on today’s media.

Wreck-It Ralph: As a classic video gaming enthusiast I acknowledge my bias for a film that celebrates the days of 8-bit gaming. More than that, I’m excited to see what the film’s talented voice cast, led by John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, and Jane Lynch, makes of the whimsical story of a video game baddie (Reilly), weary of his job as villain, who leaves the Donkey Kong-esque game in search of being a hero elsewhere in the arcade. McBrayer plays Wreck-It Ralph’s hero who goes in search of his former nemesis, and Silverman is one of the many colourful video game characters Ralph encounters as he hops from game to game.

Nov. 9: Skyfall: Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) takes the directorial reins of the latest 007 feature and Daniel Craig returns as the deadly British super spy. While Skyfall leaves behind the unfinished plot threads of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, it continues the new Bourne-inspired gritty realism of the Craig-as-Bond films. Javier Bardem, who won an Oscar as the unstoppable killer in No Country for Old Men, is perfectly cast as Bond's new nemesis, Raoul Silva.

Nov. 16: Lincoln: The so-so trailer didn't convince me this is the historical epic I know Steven Spielberg is capable of, but knowing the all-star cast is crowned by Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th U.S. president provides hope there's much more guts and grit to this drama than the he trailer would suggest. Also worth noting: Tony Kushner, who won a Pulitzer for his play Angels in America, wrote Lincoln. He also was co-nominated for a screenplay Oscar for 2005’s tale of retribution and its price, Munich, which Spielberg also directed.

Nov. 21:

Life of Pi: Ang Lee stays in his art-house comfort zone for this anticipated adaptation of Yann Martel's bestselling 2001 fantasy adventure novel of an Indian teenager adrift on the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger. Early word on this 3-D film is strong, and the visuals and cinematography shown off in Life of Pi’s trailer only enhance my anticipation for the movie.

Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper recently left behind the world of The Hangover to show off some dramatic acting chops as a bestselling author who stole his popular work from someone else in Words. He continues this dramatic bent as a former teacher who, after being institutionalized, moves in with his parents and works to make amends with his ex-wife. Then another woman with problems of her own (Jennifer Lawrence) enters his life. Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker also star, with David O. Russell, riding high off The Fighter, writing and directing. Russell has a history of films with damaged characters, and Silver Linings Playbook may be his best yet, considering it took top honours at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Nov. 23: Rust and Bone: Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) and Matthias Schoenaerts star in this French drama about a single father who moves in with his sister, a killer whale trainer who experiences a horrific accident that ultimately brings the siblings closer together. The drama is winning raves; expect an Oscar nomination for Cotillard.

Dec. 7: Hyde Park on the Hudson: National treasure Bill Murray is receiving critical accolades for his take on Franklin D. Roosevelt in this quirky drama about the former president and his love affair with his distant cousin Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney). The film takes place in upstate New York with Queen Elizabeth and King George VI visiting FDR for a weekend. Olivia Williams plays Eleanor Roosevelt.

Dec. 14: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Finally, after years in limbo—decades, really—The Hobbit makes it to the big screen with Peter Jackson again shepherding the project, as well as directing and co-writing the screenplay, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved work. In addition to featuring some familiar actors from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, including Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey also stars Martin Freeman (British version of The Office) as Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who joins a team of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim treasure stolen by the terrifying dragon Smaug. Jackson said he is expanding The Hobbit to include other characters and stories from Tolkien’s work, and he recently announced that his film adaptation will be split into three movies.

Dec. 21: The Impossible: This gripping drama is the true story of a family's fight to survive the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Southeast Asia and its aftermath. The film stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as a husband and wife, along with Tom Holland as the oldest of their sons.

Dec. 25: Django Unchained: There’s always high anticipation for a Quentin Tarantino film, and based on Django Unchained’s trailer this shouldn’t disappoint. Tarantino writes and directs this sure-to-be bloody-violent western of freed slave turned bounty hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) who, with help from his German mentor (Christoph Waltz), sets out to kill a gang of killers and then to rescue his wife from a ruthless Mississippi plantation owner. The film also stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Jonah Hill, Kerry Washington, RZA, and Don Johnson.

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