Previewing The Movies: Fall 2009
With summer coming to an end, there's one major thing to consider: what's going to be entertaining for the next three months? We assume you're thinking the same thing (great minds being alike and all), so here's the rundown of what Hollywood has coming:
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall
Gamer will be one of the coolest movies of the season because it actually manages to bring a fairly new concept to the action genre. In the near future, with mind control technology pretty much commonplace, billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) introduces "Slayers," a video game where players control other human beings (death row inmates, actually) and lead them into battle. If an inmate can survive thirty sessions of the game, they win their freedom. Kable (Gerard Butler) has survived 27, and is coming dangerously close to getting his life, his family, and his revenge.
Though certain elements of the movie are borrowed from other films (Death Race immediately comes to mind), the video game/mind control angle is fresh enough to make the movie stand on its own. This is going to be a classic thrill-ride, and should be a must-see for everyone this Fall.
Other movies out this week: All About Steve, Extract
Director: Dominic Sena
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht
This is a movie that depends entirely on setting, and it definitely found a good one. Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko, an U.S. Marshal investigating a murder in Antarctica. With the antarctic winter coming fast, she has only a few days to find the killer before the continent is covered in white (get it, whiteout?).
If the setting was anywhere else, this might be just another homicide thriller, but Antarctica provides the perfect mix of isolation and plausibility that gives this movie a very creepy vibe. The trailer also hints at a conspiracy motivating the killer, which separates this movie from the many simple-minded, maniac-on-the-loose type films that so often get the "thriller" tag. Most importantly, this movie will feel real - the audience will be able to imagine it all happening to them - and that effect is often the most thrilling, not to mention frightening, of all.
Other movies out this week: 9, Sorority Row, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself
The Informant! (09/18/09)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Joel McHale
The Informant! is based on the true story of Mark Whitacre (played by Matt Damon), a high-ranking executive who agreed to work undercover for the FBI in order to expose his own company's corrupt business practices. I know what you're thinking here - Matt Damon, FBI, undercover...stop yourself right now. This is not Jason Bourne. This is not James Bond. Hell, this isn't even Austin Powers.
This is the story of perhaps the most improbable FBI informant that the world has ever seen. Matt Damon shows off his incredible range as the bumbling Whitacre, a man whose good intentions are matched only by his ineptitude in bringing them about. Though he has a good reason for seeming so incompetent, I will omit it here because I don't want to spoil any of the plot. If you really want to know, look up Mark Whitacre and read his story for yourself, and either way, show up at the theater when this movie comes out. It's going to be a hilarious, engaging story about a regular guy trying to do the right thing.
Other movies coming out this week: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Jennifer's Body, Love Happens
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Bruce Willis, Rosamund Pike, Ving Rhames
It seems that futuristic, mind-control movies are in this month. Surrogates takes place in a future where people no longer have to leave their homes to live their lives. Instead, everything is done through surrogates, fully customizable robots that are controlled by their human owners. Since no one ever has to leave the house, the world is a much safer place - that is until people start dying while connected to their surrogates. That's where FBI Agent Greer (Bruce Willis) comes in. An avid surrogate user himself, he will have to leave the safety of his home and step out into the world if he is to discover who the killer is.
There is no doubt that Surrogates is going to deliver in the action department, and it's probably going to be worth seeing just for that. There is another aspect to it, though, an intelligence that isn't usually present in this genre. If this movie truly commits to its idea, the possibilities are endless, and if it can successfully resolve the question at the center of the plot (how is it possible for someone to die as a result of injuries sustained by their surrogate?), it will be one of the most satisfying and unpredictable movies of the season.
Other movies coming out this week: Fame, Pandorum, Pool Boys
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg
If you enjoy dry humor and making fun of "serious" zombie movies, you're going to love Zombieland. The title pretty much says it all - it's a movie about how the world would be if it was overrun by zombies. Woody Harrelson plays Tallahassee, a man's man for whom the zombie infestation is a bit of a blessing, seeing as the one thing he's really good at is killing (re-killing?) the undead. He's joined by his sort-of sidekick Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a coward who's managed to stay alive by listening to his fear and staying around Tallahassee.
Zombieland is billed as a horror-comedy, and that is a combination that only works if the comedy part comes first. This movie understands that, and plays with the ridiculousness of a world where zombies are the majority. Don't go see this movie if you're wanting to get scared, because you will be disappointed. If you want a good laugh, however, Zombieland will certainly deliver.
Other movies coming out this week: The Invention of Lying, Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (3D), Whip It
Couple's Retreat (10/09/09)
Director: Peter Billingsley
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Malin Akerman
What movie season would be complete without a ready-made, cookie-cutter romantic comedy? Couple's Retreat is about four relationships - one happy, one dying, one dead, one delusional - and how they will change during a couple's retreat on a tropical island.
The cast is full of big names on this one, but that can't overcome a rather bland and overdone story. Let me save you a bit of time here: One of the couples is going to have an unexpected revelation, one of the couples is going to realize how much they really love each other, and one of the couples will appear worse off for having gone on the retreat before returning to normal by movie's end. That last one is the only real uncertainty I have, as the movie could decide to throw a curveball and leave one of the couple's permanently ruined by the retreat. That wouldn't be altogether unexpected, but there's something to be said for trying.
Predictable as it will be, Couple's Retreat should at least be serviceably funny. I guess if your date really wants to see it, go ahead and bite the bullet. The movie might not be original, but it isn't worth a fight.
Other movies coming out this week: Night of the Demons
Law Abiding Citizen (10/16/09)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Viola Davis
This movie has the potential to be the best one on this list. It's got two characters who could plausibly be heroes or villains, and they might even switch back and forth as the movie goes along. I'm not talking about an awkward, unexplained twist in the movie here - I'm talking about characters developed to the point that you can see the good and evil in them fighting to come out.
Law Abiding Citizen stars Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton, a family man whose life is shattered when his wife and daughter are murdered. Jamie Foxx is Nick Rice, the district attorney who makes a deal with one of the killers in order to convict the other. Shelton, disillusioned with the system, takes the law into his own hands, first killing the men who killed his family, and then turning his wrath on the system which failed to get them justice in the first place.
This movie has a lot going for it: An exciting story, complex characters, a bit of action, a bit of drama, some social commentary...I could go on forever, but suffice it to say that this will be one of the best movies of the season.
Other movies out this week: The Road, Step Father, Where the Wild Things Are, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
This Week's Best Celebrity Fashion: Emma Watson, Miley Cyrus & More! Amanda Bynes: A Brief History Of Her Past Troubles