Your guide to the season's new releases
by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
Now that the Avengers have stopped an alien invasion, the Dark Knight has foiled Bane's plans to occupy Gotham, and the Amazing Spider-Man has wall-crawled his way to new heroic heights, we can thankfully be rid of superheroes for the time being. The Men in Black have hung up their sunglasses, Snow White and her Huntsman are done slaying ogres, and the conspiracy theorists toiling to find a larger cover-up involving all those connected to Jason Bourne have run into a brick wall. Summer has come and gone, and the fact that we no longer have to think about the last three months of cinematic overkill doesn't bother me in the slightest.
On to fall we go, and holding my excitement in check over the lineup of curiosities and events to come might just prove to be impossible. With new flicks from the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master), Rian Johnson (Looper), Tim Burton (Frankenweenie), Lee Daniels (Paperboy), Ben Affleck (Argo), Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly), and Andy & Larry Wachowski and Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas), the months of September and October alone are filled to the brim with potential goodies I can't wait to see.
Here are some of the films hitting Seattle-area theaters this month and next. As always, release dates are subject to change.
2 Days in New York - Julie Delpy's semi-sequel to 2 Days in Paris is a showcase for Chris Rock, something I never thought I'd write. The hyperbolic standup comic comes into his own as an actor here, stealing just about every scene he's in. The rest of the movie? Sadly, it's more or less forgettable.
Bachelorette - The greatest comedy ever? No. Goes places or does things we don't expect or see coming? No. Funny? Hell to the Yes. Laugh-out-loud? Most definitely. Would I watch it again? In a heartbeat.
The Cold Light of Day - Henry Cavill (the new Superman), Bruce Willis, and Sigourney Weaver star in a thriller about a young Wall Street trader searching for his family after they're kidnapped while on vacation in Spain. It isn't screening for the press in Seattle, which probably tells us all we need to know about its quality.
The Inbetweeners Movie - A theatrical spinoff of the hit BBC series, this isn't as funny or as endearing as its makers clearly intended it to be. Fans of the show will probably enjoy it, but overall this American Pie-style riff on adolescents at play doesn't do anything new and offers up little of value for the uninitiated.
The Words - Intriguing premise, bad movie. That's all that comes to mind when I process The Words with Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, and Jeremy Irons. A muddled mess, this film floats between two competing narratives, never finding the balance necessary to make either of them resonate. Everything builds to the type of melodramatic, threadbare conclusion that had me rolling my eyes in frustrated disbelief.
Arbitrage - Richard Gere gives an impassioned performance as a Wall Street hedge fund manager dealing with a variety of personal and corporate crises on the eve of the recent financial meltdown. While this movie isn't nearly as successful or as profound as it wants to be, Gere is admittedly fantastic.
Chicken With Plums - A French import about a talented musician (Mathieu Amalric) who loses the will to live when his wife destroys his treasured violin during an argument. It gets quirkier and more surreal from there, and the less said about it here, the better. A gem.
Finding Nemo 3D - The classic returns, and you don't even have to speak Whale to think so.
Little White Lies - This massive, star-studded French comedy written and directed by Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) revolves around a group of friends on vacation and the one member of their posse left behind after a near-fatal accident leaves them trapped in the hospital.
Resident Evil: Retribution - The fifth entry in this seemingly never-ending series finds a bevy of previous cast members (most of whom we thought were dead) returning to the franchise, assisting star Milla Jovovich in trying to bring down the unstoppable Umbrella Corporation.
Dredd - In this attempt to remove the Sylvester Stallone version from our collective memories, the bloodthirsty comic-book hero returns to wreak havoc and save the citizens of Mega City One from a new mind-altering drug. The trailers make this look like an almost instant remake of The Raid: Redemption, only with more automatic weapons fire and less martial arts.
End of Watch - Found-footage thriller involving a pair of rogue cops (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña) marked for death by a vicious drug cartel. Written and directed by David Ayer, the man behind such similar titles as Dark Blue, Street Kings, Harsh Times, and Training Day.
Hello I Must Be Going - Smart, funny, and perceptive, Melanie Lynskey shines as a struggling thirtysomething who returns home to live under her parents' roof and enters into a May-December affair with the son of one of her father's business associates. A winsome, heartfelt gem.
The House at the End of the Street - Fresh off The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence stars in this thriller about a single mother (Elisabeth Shue) and her teenage daughter moving into a house hiding a gruesome secret involving a murdered family who used to live next door. Let's just hope it isn't as derivative as it sounds.
How to Survive a Plague - A fantastic documentary chronicling the rise of ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) during the 1980s and '90s as both groups struggled to combat the AIDS epidemic ripping apart the LGBT community. Inspiring, educational, and filled with emotion, this is a film everyone should see.
Liberal Arts - A comedy written and directed by How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor, involving a thirtysomething man returning to his alma mater and falling in love with a 19-year-old coed (Elizabeth Olsen).
The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) returns with this intriguing drama centered on a charismatic cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his loving wife (Amy Adams), and the naval war hero (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls under his spell. Without a doubt, this is September's most anticipated release.
Trouble With the Curve - Clint Eastwood headlines (minus the empty chair) as a Major League Baseball scout who is forced to show his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) the ropes before being put out to pasture by his bosses.
Backwards - A sports-themed drama about a wannabe Olympic rower (screenwriter Sarah Megan Thomas) forced to take a coaching job to make ends meet, who finds redemption and a new purpose for her life in the process. Nothing overly familiar or cliché about this premise at all. Not a tiny bit.
The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best - A music-driven comedy that has generated its fair share of buzz at film festivals across the United States, including here in Seattle. All you need to know is that the buzz is completely warranted.
Hotel Transylvania - A computer-animated comedy revolving around Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and his attempt to run a Transylvanian hotel for those of the supernatural persuasion. Things become complicated when a human boy (voiced by Andy Samberg) discovers the place and books a reservation, much to the consternation of the other guests.
Looper - In perhaps the year's most-talked-about sci-fi thriller, Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) crafts a scenario about 2072 hit man Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a killer who specializes in taking out his targets 30 years removed from the present. When his latest assignment turns out to be an older version of himself (Bruce Willis), Joe is thrown into a head-spinning conspiracy traversing the very fabric of space and time.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Director Stephen Chbosky's spectacular adaptation of his own acclaimed novel is, as of this writing, the best film I have seen in 2012. In all honesty, I don't think anything else needs to be said.
Won't Back Down - An inspirational drama with Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Holly Hunter about two mothers - one a teacher - looking to transform a run-down inner-city school into something positive. Guess what happens?
Frankenweenie - Tim Burton crafts a feature-length version of the short film that put him on the map, still gloriously animated using stop-motion techniques, revolving around a young boy who brings his beloved pet pooch back from the dead.
Pitch Perfect - Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Twilight) stars in a musical melodrama about a college freshman persuaded to join an all-girl singing group. Think Step Up meets Glee and you've got a good idea what's going on with this one.
Sinister - A found-footage horror film with Ethan Hawke as a true-crime novelist who uncovers the truth behind a grisly murder, much to his dismay. The word on this is extremely positive, and I for one can't wait to get a look.
Taken 2 - Liam Neeson returns as a mysterious man with a particular set of skills who is once again forced to save his family (this time both his daughter and his wife) from certain death.
V/H/S - Sometimes brilliant, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes nauseating, sometimes chilling, this collection of found-footage scares revolving around a group of thieves tasked with stealing a prized videotape certainly isn't without its positives. The scares it generates are genuine but so are the headaches, and I'm not entirely sure the positives here outweigh the negatives.
The Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival - The Seattle stalwart returns for its 17th year. We'll have full coverage of the festival start to finish, with capsule reviews of as many of the films as possible. For more information, check out www.threedollarbillcinema.org.
Argo - Ben Affleck's third trip behind the camera is his must buzzed-about yet, the talented writer/actor/director crafting a tale about a CIA 'exfiltration' specialist tasked with freeing six Americans trapped at the home of the Canadian ambassador during the Iranian Revolution. Based on recently declassified documents, this movie has the potential to be nothing short of sensational.
Here Comes the Boom - Kevin James as a biology teacher who masquerades as a mixed-martial-arts cage fighter to raise money for his struggling school. Yeah, I'm not exactly sure how to respond to that synopsis, either.
The Paperboy - Lee Daniels follows up Precious with this star-studded adaptation of Pete Dexter's novel revolving around a reporter returning to his Florida hometown to investigate a murder. The response out of Cannes wasn't exactly euphoric, although Matthew McConaughey's performance received praise.
Seven Psychopaths - Can't. Wait. That's all I have to say about this raucous-sounding black comedy. In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh returns with a tale of a struggling screenwriter inadvertently caught up in an underworld bloodbath after a gangster's beloved Shih Tzu is kidnapped.
Alex Cross - Tyler Perry takes over for Morgan Freeman as the title character of this Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) directed enterprise, a supposed origin story for the popular James Patterson creation, revolving around the detective's pursuit of the killer responsible for murdering a member of his estranged family.
Paranormal Activity 4 - You really thought they'd stop at three? Don't be silly. This latest chapter in the saga sports a yet-undisclosed plot, which takes place five years after the events of the first film.
Killing Them Softly - Andrew Dominik's (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) latest garnered rave reviews out of Cannes and revolves around a professional enforcer tasked with learning the truth behind a heist during a mob-protected poker game. Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini star.
Chasing Mavericks - A surfing drama inspired by a true story, this movie is notable for the fact that original director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) was forced to step down due to health issues, being replaced by Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist) for the final three weeks of shooting.? Cloud Atlas - Andy and Larry Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) join forces for this ambitious, star-studded science-fiction spectacle sprung from the pages of David Mitchell's best-selling book. Good, bad, or in-between, this is arguably the must-see cinematic event of the entire year.
Fun Size - This kid-friendly comedy is about a teenager who wants to go to a gigantic Halloween party thrown by the boy she's got a crush on, but who is forced to babysit her peculiar little brother instead. Victorious star Victoria Justice and Suburgatory scene-stealer Jane Levy are featured.
The Sessions - A Sundance favorite with John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, about a 36-year-old man in an iron lung who wants to lose his virginity. Oscar buzz on this one is high, even if the concept is a bit cringe-inducing.
War of the Buttons - A French import based on the timeless Louis Pergaud novel, this film revolves around a pair of rival kid gangs battling it out for supremacy during World War II, who realize their mutual animosity might be misplaced when they learn the Nazis are on the verge of discovering that their beloved neighbor is a Jew.
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