Fall Arts: Popcorn -- and human pies

Fresh Coppola and eternal winter in a fall new-movie top 10

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1. Across the Universe Stage visionary (The Lion King) turned occasional film director (Titus, Frida) Julie Taymor's latest attracted advance attention of the wrong kind. Revolution Studios found her final cut of this Vietnam War–<\d>era musical drama — whose characters break into Beatles songs — too surreal and abstract, reediting it without her consent. Given that, Taymor's extravagant visual imagination, a script by two 70-year-old Swinging London veterans, low-watt leading actors, and weird cameos (Eddie Izzard, yes; Bono, god no!), this could turn out great, awful, whatever — but it shouldn't be ordinary. (Sept. 14)

2. The Brave One Jodie Foster is Ms. 45! Or she's Charles Bronson in Death Wish — take your pick. She's a New Yorker turned vigilante after suffering a violent assault. Reasons this probably won't be cheesy include director Neil Jordan and Terrence Howard, Mary Steenburgen, and Jane Adams in supporting roles. (Sept. 14)

3. The Last Winter Global warming has provided an agenda for various cautionary documentaries, nature flicks, and penguin-centric cartoons. This latest by underappreciated genre specialist Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) puts it where it really belongs: in a horror movie. James LeGros and Ron Perlman lead an advance team planning oil drills in pristine Arctic Alaska. Cabin fever, the supernatural, and perhaps a fed-up Mother Nature fast decimate these human intruders. Recommended for those who like their horror ambiguous and psychologically fraught. (Sept. 28)

4. Lust, Caution OK, Hulk wasn't so hot. But that aside, is there a working commercial director with a higher-quality track record than Ang Lee? Great expectations are de rigueur for this Mandarin-language drama entangling Joan Chen and Tang Wei with politically powerful Tony Leung in World War II–<\d>era Shanghai. (Oct. 5)

5. For the Bible Tells Me So Like No End in Sight and Sicko, this is one of those documentaries you'll wish every diehard conservative would see. Daniel<\!s>G. Karslake's feature takes an evenhanded, big-picture look at just how and why the US religious right has made homosexuality its favorite target. (Oct. 12)

6. No Country for Old Men By all accounts, this lesser Cormac McCarthy novel has been adapted into the greatest Coen brothers movie in aeons. Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, and Kelly Macdonald are among those embroiled once Josh Brolin finds $2 million, mucho cocaine, and a lotta corpses in the Texas desert. Trouble is, evil Javier Bardem wants his dough and his blow back. Gruesome splatstick ensues. (Nov. 21)

7. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten Julien Temple's documentary portrait of the late Clash-leading punk rock hero has been praised to the skies — though not having seen it, I'm a little unclear as to why Johnny Depp, John Cusack, and Matt Dillon are leading interviewees. (Dec. 6)

8. Atonement Ian McEwan's extraordinary novel — about the havoc wrought by a child's misunderstanding in pre-WWII England — required careful handling. With a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, direction by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice), and a cast including Brenda Blethyn, Keira Knightley, and Vanessa Redgrave, this might well be as good as it needs to be. (Dec. 14)

9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street This looks like a perfect match for director Tim Burton, whose work has largely disappointed since 1994's Ed Wood. But can Johnny Depp as the titular murderous Victorian — or Helena Bonham Carter as his human pie–<\d>baking pal — actually sing this demanding Broadway-operatic score? Can Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, or Sacha Baron Cohen? The breaths of Stephen Sondheim's and Burton's fans are bated. (Dec. 21)


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