I’ll skip the diatribe about how the year in movies has been so far. It sucks. Let’s look forward.
The second half of the year brings everything from film-festival favorites and art-house Oscar bait to documentaries and big-budget blockbusters.
Perhaps what’s most intriguing about the fall is the lineup of directors. A quick scan through the slate reveals names like Clint Eastwood, Oliver Stone, Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen, David Fincher, the Coen brothers and Danny Boyle. And that’s just a taste.
The films listed here are also just a sampling of what’s to come. But there’s enough here to start getting excited. (Release dates are subject to change.)
I'M STILL HERE
Synopsis: Casey Affleck’s documentary on Joaquin Phoenix’s fall from A-list movie stardom (and clean-shaved looks) to the worst rapper that never was.
My 2 Cents: Is the fall of Phoenix one of the most epic movie-star declines ever, or one of the biggest hoaxes in pop-culture history? We probably won't get the answer with this doc. Still, it should be entertaining as hell.
Synopsis: Ben Affleck’s second directorial effort centers around a pair of bank robbers, Doug (Affleck) and Jem (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner) whose livelihood is constantly threatened by a federal agent (Jon Hamm) and Doug’s love interest (Rebecca Hall), who might be able to sell them out.
My 2 Cents: Shot with same gritty realism as his first film, Gone Baby Gone, The Town, along with a few inspired performances from Affleck and Renner, could be a sleeper hit.
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER
Synopsis: Woody Allen is back with a London-based melodrama that circles around the lives of several angst-ridden romantics (including Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts) who wish to trade their tired relationships for someone new.
My 2 Cents: Allen hasn’t fared well with melodrama in recent years. And I'm still not over Whatever Works. If nothing else, Stranger should be better than that. Right?
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
Synopsis: Oliver Stone’s sequel to his 1987 manifesto on corporate greed finds Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) fresh out of jail and back in business. He’s promoting his book, reconnecting with his daughter (Carey Mulligan) and mentoring/using her Wall Street trader boyfriend (Shia LaBeouf) for his own gains.
My 2 Cents: Wall Street could bring together two things I never thought I would see again: a good Oliver Stone movie and a great Michael Douglas performance.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Synopsis: Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, The Social Networktells the story of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) fight to keep both the legal rights to his online community site and real-life friendships intact.
My 2 Cents: David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) directing is all the reason I need to hit the "like" button on this movie.
Synopsis: Clint Eastwood directs Bryce Dallas Howard, new muse Matt Damon and others in this drama about several couples and their struggles with mortality.
My 2 Cents: More often than not, Eastwood’s proclivity towards heavy-handedness weighs his films down
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Synopsis: Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle jumps from the streets of India in Slumdog Millionaire to the cliff faces of the Utah mountains to tell the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a thrill seeker who had to amputate his arm to free himself from a boulder that nearly pinned him to his grave.
My 2 Cents: Boyle always brings a wild new vision to the table. But can Franco rise above his mixed track record (for every Milk there's a Spider-Man 3) and support the Oscar-winning director? I remain skeptical.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1
Synopsis: The end is near for the boy wizard and his schoolmates. Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) gears up for his climactic showdown with Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).
My 2 Cents: With the series finally hitting the right level of darkness and Fiennes actually being in it (Half Blood Prince was lacking without him), Hallows might be the first Potter film to hit all the right notes.
Synopsis: A psychological thriller from Darren Aronofsky about an ambitious ballet dancer and her competitive relationship with a newcomer who both seek the lead in a production of Swan Lake.
My 2 Cents: Dropping the convoluted ridiculousness of The Fountain for reality-based successes like The Wrestler, Aronosfky is becoming quite the Hollywood/art house hybrid. Black Swan could solidify him in that role.
Synopsis: Mark Wahlberg stars as real-life 1980s boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward, who came out of retirement for a comeback in the ’90s.
My 2 Cents: The Fighter has been Wahlberg’s passion project for years. It had been on the ropes due to the trouble casting Ward’s brother and trainer. Finally, Christian Bale signed on. With the crafty David O. Russell directing, the wait will most likely have been worth it.
Synopsis: The follow-up to the 1982 cult classic finds Jeff Bridges reprising his role as Kevin Flynn. Flynn, stuck in the Tron server for 20 years, plans an escape when his estranged son comes to the rescue.
My 2 Cents: 1980s nostalgia never gets old, but Tron’s special effects have. Thankfully, a flashy, hyper-active trailer shows off the technological updates given to the long-awaited sequel. Throw in 3-D, and Tron has the potential to be one of the most entertaining moviegoing experiences of the year.
Synopsis: Alejandro González Iñárritu uses his favored spider-web structure to tell this existential tale about Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a man who feels death creeping up behind him and seeks redemption and clarity before it’s too late.
My 2 Cents: An Inarritu film is always a breath of fresh air. But I’m more excited to see Bardem. His performance has already earned a best actor award at Cannes and early Oscar buzz.
Synopsis: Queen of melancholy Sofia Coppola delivers her first directorial effort in four years. Somewhere concerns a freewheeling A-list actor (Stephen Dorff, ironically) whose life is turned upside-down when his estranged daughter (Elle Fanning) shows up at his doorstep.
My 2 Cents: Resembling something closer to Coppola’s Lost in Translation than the disappointing Marie Antoinette, Somewhere could be one of the year's biggest surprises.
Synopsis: A Coen brothers remake of the classic John Wayne western about a young girl who hires a group of roughneck cowboys, led by Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges, pictured above with Hailee Steinfeld), to find her father’s murderer.
My 2 Cents: As unholy as it is to remake a Wayne western, the Coens are bringing a near-extinct genre back to multiplexes. And they're re-teaming with "The Dude." All is forgiven.
Synopsis: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star in this drama about a couple’s six-year relationship that’s full of ups and downs.
My 2 Cents: A Sundance darling in January, Blue Valentine has not only garnered early Oscar buzz but it also bolsters two of the best young actors working today. This is one the must-sees of the year.