By Vincent Abbatecola
After the film industry’s dreary performance at the box office this summer, audiences can expect the silver screen to heat up as the fall movie season approaches.
From the disappointing Iron Man 2 to the bigger disappointment Robin Hood, the rest of the summer was grim, with a couple of notable exceptions.
Disney and Pixar’s latest masterpiece Toy Story 3 and Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending action thriller Inception served as exceptional diversions from the summer’s uninspired remakes and sequels. Also, the breakout indie comedy The Kids Are All Right became a critical success and an audience favorite.
This fall, there is a batch of new adventures headed to the silver screen. The last few months of the year are typically the time when studios plan to unleash their films that they hope will become Oscar bait. Many of these movies turn out to be independent films and this fall is no exception. For example, Ryan Reynolds battles claustrophobic conditions in Buried. Academy Award nominees Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams pair up for the love story Blue Valentine. Also, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis are competing ballerinas in Darren Aronofsky’s dark thriller Black Swan.
Although summer is usually the season of the blockbusters, this fall will have a presentable package. TRON: Legacy, the sequel to 1982’s TRON, will attract sci-fi fans and conjure up ’80s nostalgia. Also this upcoming season, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, has potential to become the biggest film of the year.
The fall movie season begins with Buried, which opens on Oct. 8. Reynolds (The Proposal) is Paul Conroy, a truck driver who wakes up in a coffin six feet underground with just a knife, a lighter and a cell phone. Unable to recall how he got there, Paul must begin to piece everything together to find out how he arrived in this death trap before time runs out. After engaging in several comedic roles like last year’s The Proposal, Reynolds is now immersing himself in more serious roles.
Hereafter, a supernatural drama directed by Clint Eastwood, will open on Oct. 22. It details three separate storylines dealing with mortality. Matt Damon (Invictus) plays a San Francisco citizen who has the ability to speak to the dead, which ruins many of his relationships. French actress Cecile de France plays a Parisian anchorwoman who almost perishes in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Two new actors, Frankie and George McLaren, play English children around the time of the tragic 2005 London subway bombings. Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village), Jay Mohr (TV’s Monk) and Richard Kind (A Serious Man) also star in the film.
Making its way to theaters the same day as Hereafter is the sequel to one of last year’s most popular horror films, Paranormal Activity 2. At the end of Paranormal Activity, it was apparent that a sequel would be made, especially because of the ending with the boyfriend’s death and the girlfriend’s whereabouts unknown.
The trailer doesn’t provide much information, but the viewer can gather that the demon-possessed Katie Featherston (Paranormal Activity) is back to cause more terrifying trouble. The film will continue to use the handheld camera process of storytelling, which will surely add to some of its appeal and bring back the fans of the first film.
As of now, the most anticipated film of fall is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which debuts on Nov. 19. The seventh and final chapter of the Harry Potter saga has been split into a two-part epic, with part two due July 15, 2011. To launch the grand finale of the Harry Potter series, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) decide not to return to their beloved school of magic, Hogwarts. Instead, the trio sets out on a perilous journey to obtain the evil Lord Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes, which are items safeguarding parts of Voldemort’s soul. Harry knows that only one of them can triumph in the end, and realizes that his final confrontation with Voldemort is fast approaching.
Black Swan, an indie drama in which the sudden friendship between two ballerinas doesn’t just get competitive, it gets deadly, opens on Dec. 1. One might not expect Darren Aronofsky, director of gritty films such as The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream, to make a movie about ballerinas. But the film is about a ballerina tapping into her dark side, which highlights Aronofsky’s style. When the director of a New York City ballet company decides to present “Swan Lake,” director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, Eastern Promises) needs to replace his main ballerina, Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder, Star Trek), with a girl who can portray both the elegant White Swan and the sensual Black Swan in the production. Competing dancers Nina (Natalie Portman, Brothers) and Lily (Mila Kunis, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) start an unusual friendship that roots itself in their rivalry, and Nina soon finds that a dangerous part of herself begins to surface.
Like last year’s Avatar, TRON: Legacy, which opens on Dec. 17, will supply sci-fi fans with another 3D adventure. Joseph Kosinski directs this sequel to 1982’s TRON. Twenty-seven-year-old Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund, Friday Night Lights) is disturbed by the disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart), who was once the world’s top video game developer. When Sam detects a signal from his father’s abandoned arcade, he gets taken to a world that has kept his father imprisoned for 20 years. With the help of warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde, Year One), the two Flynns journey across this new world in order to take down a powerful villain that will do everything he can to keep them trapped.
A favorite dysfunctional family returns this year in Little Fockers (Dec. 22). After Greg (Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum 2) and Pam (Teri Polo, Meet the Fockers) marry and have twins, Greg begins to feel the onset of a mid-life crisis as he worries about being an attentive father and sustaining a job to support his family. As Greg’s father-in-law, Jack (Robert DeNiro, Machete), realizes something’s amiss, his suspicions about Greg rise once again. Much of the original cast from the first two movies return, including Blythe Danner (Meet the Fockers), Barbara Streisand (Meet the Fockers), Dustin Hoffman (Last Chance Harvey) and Owen Wilson (Marley and Me). New additions are Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four) and Harvey Keitel (National Treasure: Book of Secrets).
On the romantic side of this year’s indies is Blue Valentine, which premieres on Dec. 31. The life of a married couple, Dean (Ryan Gosling, The Notebook) and Cindy (Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain), is examined over the course of a few years as Cindy encounters some difficulties with marriage and as Dean focuses on keeping their family together.
It’s hard to ask for a better crop of movies to hit the multiplex. As always, there is something for everybody. But it’s highly recommended to look for an indie that’s playing close by. It’s a wonderful surprise to find how much originality can be put on display in an indie film. With everything that’s coming out this season, it will be a challenge not to find some quality cinematic escapism.