CAPTION: Ghengis Khan is all up in this yurt.
So last week I saw that flick Mongol, you know, the new epic about Ghengis Khan made by a Russian director (Sergei Bodrov), starring a Japanese dude (Tadonubo Asano), nominated for an Oscar, and inexplicably released stateside in the middle of the summer movie season. It was a pretty good movie that held my interest for two hours by exposing me to a culture I know little about and featuring a well played out historical epic story arc complete with requisite kick-ass battle scenes. Sitting there getting frosty in the air-conditioned theater while the heat and humidity raged outside, I couldn’t help thinking this was a movie better suited for the prestigious autumnal season. With the most gluttonous of film seasons in full swing (is The Dark Knight out yet?), I decided to take a look ahead at my favorite season in film and weather.
Here I present my list of most anticipated movies for Fall 2008:
1. The Miracle at St. Anna (scheduled release date: 9/26)
The Director: Spike Lee
The Stars: Derek Luke, John Leguizamo, James Gandolfini, Joseph Gordon Levitt, some cute Italian kid, Alexandra Maria Lara, and a boatload of other people and familiar faces
The Scoop: Okay, so I will admit it right here, right now. I love Spike Lee. I even liked She Hate Me. He’s a cunning provocateur who’s had numerous peaks and valleys in his career but just won’t stop no matter what and always seems to get his name in the papers–witness Clint Eastwood telling him recently to “shut his face”. Spike is coming off the most commercially successful film of his long career with Inside Man. With this adaptation of the novel by James McBride about a group of African-American soldiers trapped in Tuscany during WWII, he’s giving us his first epic since Malcom X. The trailer for this film is a smashing success that manages to sell the film as both a murder mystery and a searing Saving Private Ryan style WWII drama. This latest Spike Lee Joint has so many great things going for it: an auteur on the precipice of a personal artistic and commercial Renaissance (much like the one Scorsese recently went through with The Aviator and The Departed); a great storyline that has the potential to provoke discussions of history, race, religion and politics in a historic Presidential election year; and a multi-ethnic cast that includes a cute Italian kid, and as a special bonus for me, the devastatingly seductive Alexandra Maria Lara, whose beauty alone made Francis Ford Coppola’s recent debacle Youth Without Youth worth watching.
Watch the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3941007641/
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (scheduled release date: 12/19)
The Director: David Fincher
The Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond
The Scoop: This is the fantastic case of a gimmick film (it tells the not so simple story of a man who ages backwards, folks) with a literary pedigree (adapted from a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald). I first saw the trailer for this in front of the latest Indiana Jones flick, and the packed house was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Its epic scope appears to be a complete departure for director Fincher, and its unique story and images sweep over you in the masterfully crafted trailer-much kudos thus far to the marketing team. This film has the potential to be monumentally huge or just another curiosity grabbing for Oscar gold at Christmastime. Will Fincher (robbed of an Oscar nod for Zodiac last year) and uber-star Pitt (robbed last year for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) finally get their due?
CAPTION: Two Oscars please, my good man! Oscars for me and the Finch!
Watch the trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/thecuriouscaseofbenjaminbutton/
Official Site: http://www.benjaminbutton.com/
3. Australia (scheduled release date: 11/14)
The Director: Baz Luhrmann
The Stars: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Australia!
The Scoop: Baz the Spazz changes gears completely with this big historical epic depicting heroism and romance against the backdrop of a Japanese attack on Australia during WWII. The trailer sells the imagery and scope of the film very well, making it look Gone with the Wind Down Under, though the frame story of Kidman telling a fairy tale to the Aborigine girl seems a bit strained (and remarkably similar to Tarsem’s The Fall.) Luhrmann appears to have abandoned his hyper kinetic style for the dreadful sumptuousness that always seems to sell tickets during the big holidays at the end of the year. Kidman and Jackman certainly look the parts, and lord knows they could both use a big hit. Will critics be eager to embrace the new Luhrmann after a seven year hiatus? More than any other film, I think critics have the chance to make or break this one.
Watch the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi2917663001/
Official Site: http://www.australiamovie.com/
4. The Soloist (scheduled release date: 11/21)
The Director: Joe Wright
The Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Jamie Foxx
The Scoop: Brit Joe Wright atones for his period pieces by making this American set musical biopic. Downey Jr. is back on the A-list, the director is taking on a genre held in high favor in recent years, and playing a schizophrenic musical genius seems right up Foxx’s alley. There are no trailers or official sites yet, but I can’t wait to see what kind of tracking long shots Wright cooks up for this one–I’m picturing a shot the begins with an overhead dolly and travels down and through the crowd and orchestra at a grand concert hall.
5. Revolutionary Road (scheduled release date: 12/26)
The Director: Sam Mendes
The Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
The Scoop: I have to admit, the plot of this one (from a novel by Richard Yates) sounds like a snore-fest: a young couple in 1950′s Connecticut deal with problems and such. However, Mendes has yet to make a bad film, suburban dystopia is his bread and butter (American Beauty, anyone?), and the reunion of Titanic stars Leo and Kate in a Christmastime release give this film some palpable buzz. No trailers or official site have appeared yet.
Other Films of Interest:
Changeling: 10/31. The latest from Clint Eastwood has some mixed buzz coming from its Cannes’ premier. This 1920′s set psychological thriller about a mother who begins to doubt the identity of her young son who has been returned to her after going missing will have a hard line to tow while it tries to convince people it’s not a remake of a horror film with the same name and is instead a prestigious Oscar bid for its uber-star Angelina Jolie.
Defiance: 12/2. Yet another WWII epic, this one is based on a true story and staring Daniel Craig. Directed by Edward Zwick, the film of course reeks of quality, and the trailer has been getting some good buzz (at least amongst my friends and family), but it looks nobly cliched to me. If that new Spike Lee Joint strikes a cord, this runs the risk of being overshadowed as the later release.
Watch the trailer for Defiance: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi2008154393/
Oh, yeah, there’s also a new James Bond flick (Craig again) idiotically entitled Quantum of Solace (11/7), and a wacky crime caper from Oscar darlings the Coen Brothers zanily called Burn After Reading (9/12) and staring, you guessed it, Brad Pitt.
Watch the Quantum of Solace trailer: http://www.moviefone.com/movie/quantum-of-solace/26922/trailer?trailerId=2150289
Written by David H. Schleicher