I’m Still Here
Directed by Casey Affleck
Whether Joaquin Phoenix really went crazy and quit acting to become a hip-hop star or if this is just a brilliant, ongoing piece of performance art remains to be seen (I believe it’s the latter), but Casey Affleck (friend and brother-in-law of the Oscar nominee) was there to capture the fall from grace. Sure to be the most fascinating documentary of the year.
Never Let Me Go
Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley
I’m still not sure exactly what this film is about, but I get echoes of Gattaca and Picnic at Hanging Rock from the trailer. Director Mark Romanek takes another sharp turn after the dark and disturbing One Hour Photo. Expect a metric ton of Oscar buzz.
Starring Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci
There isn’t a better actress under the age of 25 than Emma Stone, and it helps that she’s got beauty and great comedic timing in spades. So who better to put a modern-day twist on The Scarlet Letter than she? Adding to the great cast are a host of Oscar nominees including Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci and Thomas Haden Church. I’m dubbing this the sleeper hit of the fall.
Starring Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner
Affleck’s second outing as director, following the tremendous Gone Baby Gone, takes place in “the bank robbery capital of America” (a/k/a Boston) with the classic crooked-guy-wants-out-of-a-life-of-crime set-up. While it could slip into action movie clichés, this appears to have all the intensity of films like Point Break, The Departed and The Usual Suspects.
Jack Goes Boating (limited)
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega
Bob Glaudini adapts his own play, taking a look at two unconventional relationships in New York City. Hoffman pulls double duty here, making his directorial debut here and reprising the role he played on stage. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s Oscar buzz for all four actors.
Starring Megan Faccio, Nev Schulman, Rev Schulman
The hottest documentary at Sundance–though its truthfulness is highly suspect–deals with one man’s online romance, and the disturbing twist it takes once he meets his girlfriend face-to-face. I imagine this will be everything Paranormal Activity wanted to be but wasn’t.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Judy Reyes, Stephen Tobolowsky
Reynolds takes a rare dramatic turn as a truck driver buried alive. Told in real time, our protagonist has 90 minutes to escape before his oxygen runs out. Expect the emotional intensity to ratchet up to 11 for the entire run time.
Waiting for Superman (limited)
Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Whatever your thoughts on his political agenda, you can’t say the man doesn’t know how to tell a convincing story or at the very least make you think. The latest doc from the director of An Inconvenient Truth examines the pitiful state of the United States education system, which ranks in the lowest tier among developed countries. Can a documentary change the world? We’ll see.
Enter the Void (limited)
Starring Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Ed Spear
Told from first-person, Gaspar Noé’s latest film after the impressive but disturbing Irréversible follows Oscar through his short life and afterlife, as he fulfills a promise to his sister to protect her no matter what.
The Social Network
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
Perhaps my most anticipated film of the fall, David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) adapts the best-selling account of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power from Harvard nerd to the world’s youngest billionaire. And all he had to do was steal a little thing called Facebook. I foresee double-digit Oscar nominations in this film’s future.
Let Me In
Starring Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins
While many fans of Let the Right One In are crying foul for messing with a classic (a claim that’s not entirely unfounded), I’m excited to see what Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) will do in adapting the best teen vampire romance ever to hit the screen. While it probably won’t be as dark as the Swedish original–mainly because the MPAA isn’t as open to depictions of teenage sexuality as European boards–this could be the macabre response to Twilight that franchise haters have been waiting for.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (limited)
Starring Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zach Galifianakis
It’s the lighter side of mental illness as a teenager (Gilchrist, Showtime’s United States of Tara) checks himself into a hospital and meets a whole bunch of quirky characters including a father figure (Galifianakis) and a love interest (Roberts). If it sounds indie cliché, don’t expect anything of the sort from husband-wife duo Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Sugar).
Directed by Charles Ferguson
The most frustrating documentary of the year is narrated by Matt Damon and chronicles how the 2008 financial meltdown was not only preventable, but how reports of CEO bonuses were greatly exaggerated. As in, they made a whole lot more than you thought they did.
Starring Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Bam Margera
One of the only 3-D movies I’m excited to see (after Piranha, which was AWESOME) this year. Pretty much the same ol’ boneheaded shenanigans from the gang. This time in eye-popping 3-D. Read into that what you will.
Starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich
I hope this comic book adaptation is the movie Wanted wanted to be: funny, violent and witty. Plus, now I’m excited to see Morgan Freeman as a foul-mouthed old man with an itchy trigger finger.
Starring Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Kind
Details are far under wraps, but basically Damon can contact the dead… or something like that. But with Clint Eastwood’s subtle touch, expect another round of near-perfection from the 80-year-old director.
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx
Todd Phillips is definitely on a roll after last year’s surprise hit The Hangover (which I’ve seen, oh, five or six times). He directs Galifianakis again as one half of a duo on their way to see the birth of the first child of the other (Downey). The road picture has been done to death, but with Phillips’s sharp writing, he can breathe new life into the genre.
Starring James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Danny Boyle is one of the most exciting and inventive directors around, and I expect nothing less from his latest project about the exploits of mountaineer Aron Lewis, who was trapped for more than five days, his arm crushed by a boulder. Franco continues to make interesting choices and he’s likely looking at an Oscar nomination for his performance.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes
While I feel a little gypped that Warner Bros. is splitting this into two movies to double their profits, and I’m still reeling from the disappoint of the Half-Blood Prince (this is Hogwarts, not Beverly Hills 90210, people!), I can’t be anything but thrilled at seeing the final chapter of the seminal series.
The Next Three Days
Starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson
Has the prison break genre been done to death? Sure. But that cast is solid and when he’s in the director’s chair, Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) has yet to disappoint. Crowe teams up with Neeson to help his wife (Banks) out of prison. She’s in there for murder, and the accusation may not be entirely unfounded. I can’t wait to see what moral quandaries Haggis poses to the audience.