FALL ARTS We're halfway through 2010, which so far doesn't seem fast-tracked to be one of cinema's greatest years. There was Toy Story 3, and the kinda overrated Inception, and some scattered wide-release indies (tip: Winter's Bone is still playing). But other than that, the mainstream's been kinda meh (and baffling — how did Alice in Wonderland make over $300 million?) Anyway, forget the pain that Sex and the City 2 and The Book of Eli caused you, because it's practically fall already. Read on for a highly selective, critically biased survey of what's on tap through December. As always, release dates (and opinions) are subject to change.
Aug. 27 Centurion, the latest from writer-director Neil "The New John Carpenter" Marshall (2005's The Descent) pits invading Romans against tribal warriors in what would eventually become the Scottish highlands. (Read my interview with Marshall at www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision .)
Sept. 1 At last, in the long history of movies with American in the title (Psycho, Pie, Beauty, Graffiti, Gigolo, Werewolf in Paris, Ninja, Pimp, Splendor, etc.) George Clooney finally stars in an assassin thriller (set in Italy) simply called The American. Anton Corbijn (2007 Joy Division docudrama Control) directs.
Sept. 3 Everyone's favorite fake trailer becomes a real film: Machete. Now, let's see if we can get Edgar Wright to make a full-length Don't! next. Also out today: Amir Bar-Lev's powerful look at the cover-up surrounding soldier Pat Tillman's "friendly fire" death, The Tillman Story.
Sept. 10 Finally, a remake that sounds interesting: with A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop, Zhang Yimou (2004's House of Flying Daggers) remakes the Coen brothers' noirish 1984 Blood Simple. Plus, today brings a two-fer of docs about wackjobs real and (possibly) fake: The Agony and the Ecstacy of Phil Spector and I'm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix.
Sept. 17 The world hovered, poised to snark, when Ben Affleck released his directorial debut, 2007's Gone Baby Gone. But, truth be told, the Dennis Lehane adaptation was a pretty solid thriller. Affleck returns to the director's chair, and to Boston, for crime drama The Town. This time around, he also stars (uh-oh), but then again, so do Mad Men's Jon Hamm and The Hurt Locker (2009) Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. Plus: Emma "The New Lindsay Lohan" Stone gets a much-deserved starring vehicle with high-school comedy Easy A.
Sept. 24 Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps brings back Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, with perfect mid-financial crisis timing. Genius! But Shia LaBeouf costars. Hmm. On the plus side, it also stars An Education (2009) breakout Carey Mulligan, who's also in Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation Never Let Me Go, out today as well. Also today: James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in Howl.
Oct. 1 David Fincher's detour into the vat o' sap that was 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button might yet be forgiven: The Social Network, about the creation of Facebook, looks to be one of 2010's most intriguing films. The very idea that a remake of 2008's Swedish vampire tale Let the Right One In even exists (it does, and it's called Let Me In) has already outraged purists aplenty. And Wes Craven sneaks one out before 2011's sure-to-be-super-hyped Scream 4: serial killa-thrilla My Soul to Take.
Oct. 8 Two from very different filmmakers who've earned fans for very different reasons: Gaspar Noé's Irreversible (2002) follow-up, the Japan-set, drugs 'n' ghosts drama Enter the Void; and the latest from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (2006's Half Nelson), mental-hospital dramedy It's Kind of a Funny Story.
Oct. 15 Here's a double feature for adrenaline junkies: Red (stands for "Retired Extremely Dangerous") lures former CIA agents (Willis! Freeman! Mirren! Malkovich!) back into the ass-whipping game, and Jackass 3-D. Yep.
Oct. 22 Just in time for Halloween, Clint Eastwood's paranormal activity-tinged Hereafter, starring Matt Damon and penned by Frost/Nixon (2008) scribe Peter Morgan, does box-office battle with Paranormal Activity 2. (Prediction: Paranormal Activity 3-D in 2011. Just sayin'.)
Oct. 29 Ben Affleck gets laid off in The Company Men, written and directed by the multi-Emmy'd John Wells (ER, The West Wing).
Nov. 5 21 Grams (2003) costars Sean Penn and Naomi Watts reunite for Fair Game, which is not a remake of Cindy Crawford's 1995 big-screen debut (and swan song). Nope, this Fair Game is about outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, with nary a Baldwin in sight.
Nov. 12 Rachel McAdams is a harried TV producer in Morning Glory, also starring Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford; Denzel Washington has to halt a runaway train in Unstoppable, directed by his frequent collaborator Tony Scott (who, after Ridley's DOA Robin Hood, is probably the more enjoyable Scott brother nowadays).
Nov. 19 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One. Perhaps you've heard of this already.
Nov. 24 Wait, Cher and Christina Aguilera are in a movie called Burlesque, and it's not in 3-D? Way to drop the ball, Hollywood.
Dec. 17 Tron: Legacy. Jeff "The Dude, Now With Oscar" Bridges returns in the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 video-game classic.
Dec. 22 Wanna see: Sofia Coppola's latest, Somewhere, about a movie star (Stephen Dorff) who's unexpectedly saddled with daddy responsibilities; and Crazy Heart — er, Country Strong, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as a country singer. Don't wanna see: Little Fockers. Just ... don't.
Dec. 25 This year's Christmas Day pick? Gotta be Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit remake, starring Jeff Bridges in the role John Wayne made famous.
Dates TBD, but too interesting to leave out: Danny Boyle follows up his Oscar land grab with 127 Hours, with James Franco as trapped mountain climber Aron "Cut Off His Own Arm to Survive" Ralston. And if the mind-bending trailer is any indication, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman as a besieged ballerina, is gonna be a must-see.