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The Arts
08.20.08

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Fade from Black

Fall films to watch for

By Richard von Busack


Fall is really the time for the garage-sale stuff the distributors picked up at Toronto and Sundance—and they looked like such bargains at the time (Hamlet 2, Towelhead)! Now is also the time for talking dogs (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt) and heart-wringers (I've Loved You for So Long, The Soloist, literally bringing out the violins). Starred films are recommended, on previews and the track records of the filmmakers alone. Dates are movable things.

Sept. 5 'Bangkok Dangerous' Remake of the Pang Brothers' Thai gangster movie, starring Nicolas Cage as an enforcer. 'I Served the King of England' Director Jirí Menzel (Closely Watched Trains) hits the rails again in this World War II–era story of a waiter who runs afoul of communists and fascists alike. 'Ping Pong Playa' Jessica Yu's film-festival circuited comedy about a basketball-loving kid who is stuck playing ping-pong. *'Trouble the Water' Small-camera documentary about the Katrina disaster.

Sept. 12 'Burn After Reading'Pitt, Malkovich and Clooney in a Coen Brothers' story of a CIA memoir that gets loose among the public. 'The Duchess' Keira Knightley as the Duchess of Devonshire, the model for Sheridan's Lady and girlfriend of the Earl Grey (Dominic Cooper).

'The Family That Preys' Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodward co-star as the matriarchs of two different and equally troubled families. 'Righteous Kill' De Niro and Pacino as New York coppers on the trail of a poetic serial killer who is picking off deserving criminals.

'The Women' Diane English (Murphy Brown) does the sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves remake. Meg Ryan plays the wife who learns that her husband is untrue; Annette Bening, Eva Mendez, Candice Bergen and Jada Pinkett-Smith give her a good pat on the back with a dagger.

Sept. 19 'Towelhead' A Lebanese girl becomes involved with a much older military reservist after she goes to live with her father in a backward Texas suburb. Alan Ball (American Beauty) directs. *'Flow: For the Love of Water' Irena Salina's documentary about the global politics of water. 'Ghost Town'David Koepp's comedy about a man (Ricky Gervais) who can see dead people—particularly one annoying dead person (Greg Kinnear). *'Igor' Tim Burton–lite computer-animated story of a rebellious hunchback (voiced by John Cusack). 'Lakeview Terrace' Neil LaBute unleashes the ethnic cleansing of LAPD officer Samuel L. Jackson; Jackson gets to play Othello and Iago at the same time.

'Management' Comic romance of two underachievers: a saleswoman (Jennifer Aniston) pursued by a motel owner (Steve Zahn). Woody Harrelson plays the slouchy third man in the triangle. 'My Best Friend's Girl' Dane Cook as an asinine Boston guy who gives newly single girls such bad dates that they go back to their boyfriends.

Sept. 26 'Blindness' Central Station's Fernando Meirelles' horror story of a plague of blindness hitting a modern-day city. Only Julianne Moore can see what's happening. 'Choke' Chuck Palahniuk's dark-comic novel informs this film about a promiscuous weasel (Sam Rockwell) who pays his mother's medical bills by scamming. 'Eagle Eye' Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan are forced into a bizarre game of Simon Says by a killer who has them both under surveillance.

'The Lucky Ones' Three wounded Iraq vets (Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena) on a trip across America. *'Miracle at St. Anna' In 1942, four black GIs are trapped across enemy lines in Tuscany. After publicly donnybrooking Clint Eastwood, Spike Lee's work is cut out for him. 'Nights in Rodanthe' Diane Lane and Richard Gere are reunited; this time, it's a Brief Encounter romance. 'The Pool' In Goa, a poor rural boy becomes fixated with the perfect swimming pool of a wealthy resident.

Oct. 3 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' In live-action animation, Drew Barrymore is a pampered lapdog who gets stuck in Mexico; an all-star cast of Latino entertainers do the voices. 'The Express' Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) was the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy; Dennis Quaid plays the no-doubt tough-but-fair coach who helped him get there.

'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People'Screenwriter Peter Straughan adapts Toby Young's novel about journalism; Simon Pegg stars. 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' After-hours romance in New York's nightclubs and underground clubs with Michael Cera (Superbad) and Kat Dennings. *'Religulous' Bill Maher and Larry Charles investigate the resurgence of religious fanaticism.

Oct. 10 'Body of Lies' Reporter David Ignatius' novel about an ex-journalist (Leonardo DiCaprio) recruited by the CIA is the source of this Ridley Scott thriller; Russell Crowe co-stars. *'City of Ember'In a mystical city, the lights are about to go out for good; Bill Murray is the mayor. 'Rachel Getting Married' Anne Hathaway gets to play a mean, rehab-prone lady who turns up for her sister's wedding. Jonathan Demme directs.

Oct. 17 *'Ashes of Time Redux' Wong Kar-wai's re-edited 1994 costume martial-arts movie, based on the classic novel The Eagle Shooting Heroes. 'Flash of Genius'Greg Kinnear strikes again as Robert Kearns, the college professor who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, only to be stiffed by Detroit automakers. 'Max Payne' Mark Wahlberg in the film of the video game about a cop turned avenger.

'The Secret Life of Bees' Dakota Fanning plays a motherless child in the rural south of 1964. *'W.' Josh Brolin furrows his brow and utters malapropisms in Oliver Stone's biopic. As his crew: Thandie Newton as Condi, Toby Jones as "Turd Blossom," Richard Dreyfus as Cheney and Jeffrey Wright as the longsuffering Colin Powell.

Oct. 24 *'The Brothers Bloom' Rian Johnson's (Brick) sophomore film about a group of international con men. *'Passengers' HBO vet Rodrigo Garcia directs this thriller, in which a group of survivors of a plane crash are debriefed by a therapist (Anne Hathaway). Then they start to disappear one by one. 'Pride and Glory' Also shame and ignominy. Saga of an NYPD family over the generations. 'Saw V' Litterbugs, jaywalkers and those who don't cover their mouths when they cough: beware!

Oct. 31 'Changeling' Clint Eastwood's thriller, based on an L.A. case from the 1920s, features a single mother (Angelina Jolie) whose child comes back strange from a kidnapping. *'I've Loved You So Long' Philippe Claudel follows the adventures of Kristin Scott Thomas as an ex-con trying to re-enter life. 'RocknRolla' Guy Ritchie's thriller about swindlers scrambling after a crooked land deal in London. *'Zack and Miri Make a Porno' Kevin Smith's got overworked Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks as novice skin-movie makers.

Nov. 7 'The Lonely Maiden' Security guards at a museum miss a painting they used to gaze at—so they heist it. Peter Hewitt (Zoom) directs. *'Quantum of Solace' James Bond (Daniel Craig) discovers that Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) has a posse. In South America, Austria and Italy, Bond tracks them down in a mission that's half-vendetta, half-business. The girl in the picture is Camille (Olga Kurylenko). 'Slumdog Millionaire' Danny Boyle directs a story about a Mumbai orphan who wants to be a contestant on an Indian game show.

*'Stranded: I Have Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains' Gonzalo Arijon directs this documentary version of Alive; here are the first-person interviews with the survivors of the 1972 Andes plane wreck. *'Synecdoche, New York' Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ) returns with the tale of a drama professor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who tries to fold a life-size version of New York City into a warehouse.

 

Nov. 14 'Australia' Baz Lurhmann goes old-time-movie big with Nicole Kidman as a high-toned Englishwoman who inherits some Oz land. Hugh Jackman co-stars; both get to witness the famous bombing of Darwin by the Japanese. 'Role Models' A pair of slackers are forcibly enlisted into the Big Brothers program. Directed by Stella vet David Wain. *'Soul Men' The last of Bernie Mac; he plays a music legend who agrees to reconnect onstage with his former partner, Samuel L. Jackson.

Nov. 21 'The Soloist' Joe Wright (Atonement) directs Robert Downey Jr. as a journalist who discovers a former prodigy (Jamie Foxx) living as a homeless violinist on the streets of L.A.


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