Fall movie preview: Anxious fathers, rogue agents, time travellers, and more
It’s a funny kind of fall, with more thrillers than think pieces on-screen, and the Hobbit-scaled Oscar bait moved to December. If there’s a common thread to this batch, it has fathers anxious about their daughters all over the damn place. Hard to say what this represents, except that men are freaked out about something; as a fictional character once said, if you have daddy issues, be sure to bring tissues.
Fresh from his award-winning Duet With Empty Chair, Clint Eastwood is an aging baseball scout having Trouble With The Curve, and with Amy Adams as his neglected daughter. In End of Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are young cops in over their heads dealing with L.A. drug lords. Sick of searching for national treasures, Nic Cage is after a Stolen child in this thriller from the fine directorial mind behind The Expendables 2. House at the End of the Street isn’t exactly yet another remake of The Last House on the Left, but it’s close, even if the presence of hungry Jennifer Lawrence sets it apart. And Dredd 3D is, reportedly, much closer to the graphic-novel original than the Sly Stallone version. Toronto director Ruba Nadda, (Sabah and Cairo Time) returns with Inescapable, her first thriller, also about a kidnapped daughter—not Nic Cage’s, we’re pretty sure.
Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon star in Arbitrage, about a hedge-fund manager facing an existential crisis. Down in secondary school, Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal play parents who Won’t Back Down from problems (petty or otherwise) at a crumbling inner-city institution. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same person, 30 years apart, in Looper, a time-jumping sci-fi item also starring Paul Dano and Emily Blunt. Ex-SNLers Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler team up again for the animated Hotel Transylvania, in which the former is the voice for a backpacker who wanders into a hostel environment run by the latter’s ukulele-playing vampire and his sort-of teenaged daughter (Selena Gomez). And over in Hong Kong, a downward-heading film director turns to kitschy porn to survive in Vulgaria.
Harry Potter veteran Emma Watson is among The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in Rent writer Stephen Chbosky’s take on his own college novel. The producers are hoping action fans can be Taken 2 dazzling new heights, with Liam Neeson back as an attempting-to-retire CIA agent dealing with the consequences of having rescued his—what else?—kidnapped daughter. More kids are at risk in Sinister, with Ethan Hawke as a true-crime novelist whose family takes over the last house at the left end of the street, or something. In Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick joins a college girl singing group and takes on campus rivals. And Tim Burton returns with the animated Frankenweenie, a black-and-white, 3-D tale of a boy and his rather unusual dog.
Ben Affleck directed and stars in Argo, based on true-life events during the 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis, with intriguing side doors into Canada and Hollywood. Kevin James is a teacher-turned-boxer in Here Comes the Boom, but only to save the school, where Salma Hayek is the nurse. Uh-huh. Sarah Polley is back, with Stories We Tell, or at least stories she tells. Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, and Sam Rockwell are among the Seven Psychopaths in this screenplay-within-a-screenplay caper. But where’s John Malkovich? Neither Chuck Norris nor any other Pinhead appears in Hellbound?, a doc about our changing notions of heaven and you-know-where.
October 19 The mysterious Tabu takes place in modern Portugal and 1960s Mozambique, and Rebelle is a Dutch film about a girl soldier in an unnamed African country. Tyler Perry leaves his comfort zone to play police psychologist Alex Cross, and Brad Pitt tries Killing Them Softly, as a mob cleanup man looking at a poker-game robbery. Just asking, but by the time we hit Paranormal Activity 4, isn’t it all getting kind of, you know, normal?
Like 15 Matrixes happening in both the future and the past, Cloud Atlas is a near-three-hour epic from the Wachowski, um, siblings. It stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and many others, some in multiple roles. In more family developments, a party girl is saddled with her quirky little brother in Fun Size, bohemian siblings drive each other nuts in The Color Wheel, and a daughter has terrifying nightmares about her absent dad in Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.
Denzel Washington pilots a troubled Flight for director Robert Zemeckis, and The Man With the Iron Fists is Russell Crowe, a blacksmith adrift in feudal China, where his knowledge of Yojimbo and The Seven Samurai is tested. Salman Rushdie adapted his own novel for Deepa Mehta’s take on Midnight’s Children, about growing up in a newly independent India. A couple used to getting Smashed is tested when the wife wants to go dry. John C. Reilly voices Wreck-It Ralph, the lead in a ’toon about recovering arcade-game characters.
The parachute-prone Daniel Craig is James Bond again, in Sam Mendes’s Skyfall. A driven student is drawn to a more artistic life in Taiwan’s When a Wolf Falls in Love With a Sheep. And in the Irish Citadel, a neurotic dad asks a vigilante priest to help him find his (yawn) kidnapped daughter.
Tatsumi weaves Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s introspective illustrations into an animated adventure, and France’s Leos Carax brings us the creepy Holy Motors. Oscar alert: Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln stars Daniel Day-Lewis and features a huge international cast and a Tony Kushner screenplay.
Hey, who knew we’d face another Red Dawn, this time with North Koreans invading Michigan? The animated Rise of the Guardians is from the folks who brought us Monsters vs Aliens and the Oscar-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Jennifer Lawrence, again, is a mysterious girl who meets Bradley Cooper’s deeply troubled teacher in Silver Linings Playbook. Philip Seymour Hoffman evokes Beethoven and melancholy as a chamber musician in A Late Quartet.
Keira Knightley is Anna Karenina in Joe Wright’s new take on the Tolstoy classic by way of writer Tom “Don’t stop me if you’ve read this” Stoppard.
The multilingual A Royal Affair views aristocrats caught in romance and revolution.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 Pusher gets a facelift for modern London, while The Sapphires are an Aboriginal girl group in 1960s Australia, and in The Monk, set in 17th-century Spain, a child is raised by Capuchin friars. The documentary How to Survive a Plague looks back at the history of AIDS activism. Paul Thomas Anderson’s massively dense The Master stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a cult leader loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard and Joaquin Phoenix as a post–Second World War follower. The big guy’s biggest weakness? His daughter, obviously.