Movies & Films: Fall Movie Preview

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The Great Fall Movie Preview of 2014

By Johnny Pomatto

After a pretty lackluster Summer, now comes the time of the year that I love best.  That time when the studios trot out their award bait and I have difficult choices to make regarding how many films I can realistically see on their opening day.  I usually would make a list of 10 films I’m most excited to see, but there are so many coming out this season that I upped my list to 15.  Now some of these films might not be great.  I don’t know.  Frankly, I’ve tried to stay in the dark and know as few details about them as possible.  These are the films I’m most curious about, sometimes based only on a director or actor I particularly like.  Always fun to see at the end of the season how in tune my guesses were, versus how many disappointed.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, here’s what I’m excited to see.  Feel free to chime in with your picks in the comments below.

15. BIG EYES- Oooof.  Here we go again.  I swore after “Alice in Wonderland” that I wasn’t going to give Tim Burton any more chances.  He hasn’t made a halfway decent film since 2001’s “Planet of the Apes” remake, and even that wasn’t a good film, but rather morbidly fascinating.  The only reason I have a shred of hope for BIG EYES is because it’s the first time Burton has returned to grounded reality since 1994’s “Ed Wood,” and this film shares that film’s screenwriters, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.  Like “Ed Wood,” this is another strange tale of artists, Walter and Margaret Keane, whose kitschy paintings of children with enormous eyes found a cult following.  I may regret getting my hopes up for this, but the fact that the Keane’s are being played by two of my favorite actors, Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, makes me wonder if this time things will be different.  At the very least, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are nowhere in sight.  12/25

14. BIRDMAN– Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “Amores Peros”) often makes films that I want to like but have trouble connecting with fully.  His new film has an outstandingly tantalizing trailer, but I fear that under the impressive visuals is a mess of a film.  Still, with Michael Keaton in the starring role, there’s no way I’m not seeing this.  Hopefully this is the comeback Keaton needs get him back on the A list again.  I’ve missed him so.  10/1

13. THE INTERVIEW- I have no real way of knowing if THE INTERVIEW is going to be a good or funny movie, but became a fun story to follow once Kim Jong-Un said that the mere release of the film would be considered an act of war.  Well now I guess we HAVE TO release it.  Seth Rogen and James Franco get the opportunity to interview the infamous North Korean dictator and figure they should take advantage of the opportunity and assassinate him, hopefully with hilarious results.  This might end up being dumb, but it’s exciting to see that a comedy can ruffle this many feathers.  Too bad Kim Jong-Un isn’t cool like his dad, who seemed to have no problems with his depiction in Trey Parker’s “Team America: World Police.”  12/25

12. DEAR WHITE PEOPLE- Race is a pretty serious subject (especially if you’ve been watching the news lately), but Justin Simien’s debut feature looks to be treating race and identity with some much-needed satirical levity.  This tale of a small minority of black students in a lily-white Ivy League school looks like something that a young Spike Lee would make.  Back when he still had a sense of humor.  10/17

11. GONE GIRL- I tend not to get excited about films based on popular books.  Even if I haven’t read it (I haven’t), too many people already know the story so these often feel like re-enactments rather than proper adaptations.  When something like GONE GIRL comes out, I feel like I have to endure months of hearing people claim that the book was better.  Ever since I was at a movie a few months ago and a stupid old lady in the audience screamed out the twist ending to this movie during the trailer, I’ve been pissed off.  But then I remind myself that this is a new David Fincher film and he can make material like this feel fresh and original, (just as he did with “Dragon Tattoo” a few years ago).  Plus this stars our Greatest Living Affleck so it will be nice to see him carry a movie again before Zack Snyder destroys his career forever with that dumb Batman movie.  10/3 

10. ANNIE- I don’t know where my love for the musical ANNIE came from.  I saw it onstage at an early age, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the uneven mess that was John Huston’s film adaptation.  There was definitely room for improvement there, and while I’m not always on board with modern interpretations and unnecessary updates, I think this new take on the classic story looks to be pretty seamless.  At any rate, it will be fun to see Quvenzhane’ Wallis on screen again after her stunning debut in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  In addition to Wallis, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx both seem to be having fun in the Miss. Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks roles.  This is going to be some Christmas fluff but I think I’ll get a lot more enjoyment from watching a spirited “Hard Knock Life” dance number than I would be watching Rob Marshall’s interpretation of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”  12/19

9. THE HOMESMAN- The Western is my all time favorite genre and we don’t get nearly enough of them.  I know very little about the new one starring and directed by Tommy Lee Jones, but damn if seeing a bearded Jones on a horse doesn’t remind me of the glory days of “Lonesome Dove.”  Jones’ previous directing efforts have been quite good and he’s put together a cast including Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, and Meryl Streep for this.  Consider me there.  11/14

8. THE BOXTROLLS- In an era of coddling and over-protection, the stop-motion animated studio Laika has never shied away from giving kids a bit of a scare.  Their previous films, “Coraline” and “ParaNorman” were full of creepy crawlies, bumps in the night, and mature subjects that never talked down to their young audiences.  The latter even dealt with the morally questionable murders of the Salem witch trials and featured the first ever openly gay character in an animated film.  By contrast, THE BOXTROLLS looks more cute and quirky than Laika’s previous efforts, but it still features some nasty little monsters and awesome stop-motion animation, the likes of which you don’t much see anymore.  9/26 

7. NIGHTCRAWLER- Jake Gyllenhaal has been on a roll these last few years with fantastic performances in films like “End of Watch” and “Prisoners.”  Once again he goes to the dark side with this Los Angeles noir about a paparazzi who starts filming crimes and then starts causing them.  This looks like 1980’s Michael Mann, which excites me to no end.  10/31

6. WHIPLASH- Damien Chazelle’s debut feature is about a young jazz drummer prodigy (the increasingly compelling Miles Teller), who encounters new challenges at a prestigious music school under the tutelage of a tyrannical teacher, played by J.K. Simmons.  Simmons has received raves for his performance in this film and this scene-stealing, beloved character actor may finally get some awards recognition that he’s deserved for years.  10/10

5. TRACKS/WILD – I hate camping and getting in touch with nature, but I like watching other people do it.  Two films that both look quite inspiring about true-life women pushing themselves to the limit.  In TRACKS, Mia Wasikowska walks 1,700 miles across the deserts of Australia.  In WILD, Reese Witherspoon walks 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Both films are said to have career high performances from their leads.  I believe this is the year when Witherspoon pulls a McConaughey and reminds us all what a great actress she is when she rejects the crappy rom-com scripts.  9/19-12/5

4. INTERSTELLAR-  Christopher Nolan’s films don’t always end up being flawless masterpieces, but the mystery that he shrouds them in during production always ensures that anticipations will be high.  Not much is known about INTERSTELLAR, but a fantastically teasing trailer, that seems to be comprised of footage just from the first reel of the movie, certainly has me curious to see what exactly is going on.  After last year’s “Gravity,” the market has proven to be hungry for more scientific space adventures.  On top of that you have Matthew McConaughey starring, in his first big screen role since winning an Oscar earlier this year.  The story involves him and a team of astronauts to head to space to look for answers when Earth has used up all its resources.  What they find there is anyone’s guess.  It may turn out to be a major disappointment, but damn if I’m not eager to find out.  11/7 

3. FOXCATCHER- Bennett Miller started his career with two near perfect films with “Capote” and “Moneyball.”  I, for one, am excited to see if he can get the hat trick with FOXCATCHER, the stranger than fiction tale of billionaire John Du Pont (played by a nearly unrecognizable Steve Carell), who sponsored Olympic wrestlers Mark and David Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), before things took a dark and tragic turn.  The advanced buzz on this film has been universally positive, and this could be the moment when Steve Carell makes the transition from being one of our greatest comedians, to one of our greatest actors.  11/14

2. MR. TURNER- No other director makes films like Mike Leigh.  On the surface, this biopic about painter J.M.W. Turner could look like another stodgy, British period film, but Leigh crafts his screenplays through months of intense rehearsal and improvisation and the results are always extraordinary.  Though his roots are based in working class England, Leigh has applied his radical methods to classical period pieces before, such as in the wonderful “Topsy Turvy” and “Vera Drake.”  Few directors get better performances from their actors, and given that Timothy Spall (a Leigh veteran) won the Best Actor prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, that’s all I need to make this one of the most anticipated films of the year for me.  12/19

1. INHERENT VICE- There aren’t many auteur filmmakers whose reputation makes a new film of theirs an essential film-going experience.  There have been times when I’ve complained that Paul Thomas Anderson wasn’t more prolific.  We get a new Woody Allen film every year but sometimes have to wait up to five for a new P.T.A. or Coen Brothers film.  But our patience is almost always rewarded and though I know very little about INHERENT VICE, just the director’s name is enough to make this my most anticipated film of the season, if not the year.  After getting a career best performance out of Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master,” P.T.A. casts him again as a stoner private detective, in this adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel.  Some have said that the tone of the film is reminiscent of Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” or the Coens’ “The Big Lebowski.”  With a supporting cast that includes Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short, this is one that can’t come soon enough.  12/12

And now we play the waiting game…

Questions? Comments! Feel free to connect with guest blogger Johnny Pomatto on:
Facebook & Twitter

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