Let's play blockbusters
It’s that time of year again: DONALD CLARKEcasts his eye over the potential legends – and stinkers – of the fall (that’s autumn to you and me)
WE’VE BEEN HERE before. We all know the drill. As the leaves fall, Hollywood goes into brief hibernation, before flinging an array of Oscar fodder at us in the last few weeks of the year. Christmas also brings a couple of big fat blockbusters.
Well, it’s not quite that way this year. The Hobbit seems to have scared all the other flashy marquee movies into hiding. Moreover, such potential Oscar contenders as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained have all been kicked into the New Year. Last weekend, US cinemas registered their lowest three-day take in more than a decade. You’d think Hollywood would pump a little more adrenaline into the bloodstream.
Never mind. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master has, against the odds, been attracting early reviews comparable to the raves he received for There Will be Blood. Leos Carax’s mad Holy Motors (featuring a turn from Kylie) and Ben Wheatley’s madder Sightseers (featuring rural murder to the strains of Jerusalem) won deserved raves at Cannes. Michael Haneke’s Amour is a bit of a masterpiece. And Liam Neeson is slicing up more evil foreigners in Taken 2. We’ve had worse winters.
More shenanigans in the former East Germany. Christian Petzold, director of the underestimated Yella, follows a doctor as she is located to a remote country hospital.
Already had enough of American politics? Well, tough. Jay Roach’s comedy finds Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis running against one another for a seat in congress.
Can a film develop a cult following even before it goes on worldwide release? That happy fate seems to have befallen Leos Carax’s extraordinary, deranged, hilarious portmanteau piece concerning mad goings on in Paris.
Rian Johnson’s thriller concerning a hoodlum who eliminates villains dispatched from the future has already picked up deserved degrees of buzz. You really will believe that Joseph Gordon-Levitt could grow up to be Bruce Willis.
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION 3D
Hang on. Are these things still going? Indeed they are and they make a fortune. As ever, Paul WS Anderson directs Mila Jovovich, his good lady wife, in zombie mayhem.
PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
The jury is still deliberating – indeed it’s been arguing in a luxury hotel for a decade – as to whether Emily Watson can become a star. Hermione’s latest adapts Stephen Chbosky’s novel about adolescent jiggery-pokery.
You’ll never guess what happens. Oh, you already have. Liam Neeson must once again hunt down villains who have captured some members of his immediate family.
Surprisingly effective horror film with a very familiar plot: Ethan Hawke moves into a house where a terrible murder once took place. The child-abducting monster looks eerily like Michael Jackson. No, really.
WHAT RICHARD DID
Lenny Abrahamson, director of Adam and Paul, returns with a hugely impressive, consistently troubling drama concerning a well-off Dublin teenager whose comfortable life is threatened following a sudden act of violence.
HIT & RUN
Both literally and figuratively, Dax Shepard, director and star, gets plenty of mileage from the post-Tarantino chatter thriller in this comic chase movie.
Genndy Tartakovsky, the hugely gifted animator, wanders into gothic territory with a family film focusing on a resort that welcomes a selection of classic monsters. Adam Sandler is Dracula. Cee Lo Green is The Mummy. If you say so.
ON THE ROAD
Jack Kerouac’s puzzlingly lauded stream of funky non-sequiturs finally becomes a film. Walter Salles propels Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart across the great tumble-weeding sprawl of night-stretching, blood-bleeding, heart-defying death limbo that . . . And so on.
Pat O’Connor directs an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel concerning a soldier looking back on his experiences in the first World War. Sure to be seen as a companion piece to Spielberg’s take on the same writer’s War Horse.
It’s taken a while but, whether or not we want it, we finally have an English-language version of Nicolas Winding Refn’s gritty Danish thriller. Richard Coyle stars as the titular unauthorised pharmacist.
Where have Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris been hiding? The folks behind Little Miss Sunshine finally return with an offbeat romantic drama featuring (and written by) the prodigiously talented Zoe Kazan. Paul Dano is also on hand.
Tim Burton is back in (very) familiar territory with a full-length, stop-motion remake of his short film about a boy who brings his late dog back to life.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Extravagantly acclaimed at both Sundance and Cannes, Benh Zeitlin’s phantasmagorical debut focuses on an African-American father and daughter as they attempt to flee rising waters in the Deep South.
Sally Potter’s elliptical British drama follows two young girls as they face unpleasant realities in the days before the Cuban Missile crisis. An impressive cast includes such luminaries as Elle Fanning and Annette Bening. Very nouvelle vague, by all accounts.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED
The latest film in the talking animal sereis received surprisingly strong reviews on its US outing way back in June. Why are we been made to wait so long?
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4
For the first time since the release of the original picture, the distributors of this found-footage franchise are screening an episode for the press. Sounds promising.
The word is good on the latest attempt to ride the Glee wave. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are among the competitive a cappella singers. Let’s just hope they leave Don’t Stop Believin’ well alone.
Do you get the reference? No? Then you must be a very dull boy indeed. Rodney Escher’s terrific documentary investigates conspiracy theories concerning Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Apparently, the new Sam Mendes film follows some secret agent named James Bond as he gets in a spot of bother with various foreign ne’er-do-wells. Daniel Craig plays the hero. Can’t see it catching on.
The amiable Ross Noble plays a killer clown from beyond the grave in the latest picture from Irish gore-master Conor McMahon. You will never look at balloon animals the same way.
We seem a bit short of Halloween movies this year. And this one isn’t even a horror flick. Various people from various teen shows turn up in a comedy concerning a party that goes awry.
FOR A GOOD TIME CALL
Yes, it’s about phone-sex workers. Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller, both reliable supporting players, make a break for the big time in a mid-budget comedy.
Jacques Audiard, director of A Prophet, delivers an impeccably acted melodrama concerning a layabout who befriends a whale trainer after she suffers an appalling accident. Marion Cotillard is on top form.
The increasingly unavoidable, reliably charming Chris O’Dowd plays the manager of an indigenous Australian soul group that sets out to entertain troops during the Vietnam War.
Two old hands – Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted – team up to direct a biopic of the late surfer Jay Moriarty. Few subjects suit the cinema so neatly as that wild sport.
Yorgos Lanthimos, Greek director of the first-rate Dogtooth, is back to puzzle us further with a film involving a group of people who impersonate the recently deceased as a way of easing the relatives’ grief.
It seems a long time ago that we were forced to stop making fun of Ben Affleck. His latest effort as director concerns the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. Apparently it’s funnier than it sounds.
THE BIG WEDDING
It seems the wedding comedy craze is still with us. Robert De Niro (who last made a good film in 1623) and Diane Keaton (see entry for De Niro) play the parents of the groom. Robin Williams is the priest. It might not suck.
HERE COMES THE BOOM
What was that? Here comes the groom? Oh, thank goodness it’s “boom”. Kevin James plays a teacher who takes up mixed martial-arts fighting. This does not sound in any way broad.
Surely the most eagerly anticipated film of the season, Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama gestures towards Scientology as it tells the story of a disturbed ex-sailor and his sinister mentor. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix have drawn raves.
PEOPLE LIKE US
Family melodrama in which a bereaved son is required to deliver a large sum of money to a young boy he has never met. Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks are among those trying to unravel the mystery.
There were few objections when Michael Haneke picked up his second Palme d’Or for this unsentimental, rigorous drama concerning an elderly man caring for his seriously ill wife.
MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS
RZA, former Wu-Tang maestro, makes his directorial debut with an adaptation of an early Balzac novel. Only kidding. It’s a martial-arts drama featuring Russell Crowe.
TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN
An entire generation is about to be left bereft as the unfairly maligned teen vampire drama reaches its protracted conclusion. Recent revelations will add spice to the scenes between Ms Stewart and Mr Pattinson.
A strange one this. A key artefact of the 1960s – that heist comedy featuring Michael Caine – gets rewritten by the Coen brothers. But they don’t direct. Michael Hoffman, best known for The Last Station, inclines his megaphone towards Colin Firth.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
The erratic David O Russell directs Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in an adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel concerning a man trying to get his life together after spending time in a mental institution.
END OF WATCH
David Ayer won over connoisseurs with his excellent police drama Harsh Times in 2005. His new picture features Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as two cops who encounter trouble after pocketing some money from a drugs cartel.
NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER
Sorry? What? To the amazement of everybody who saw it, that soppy comedy about a school nativity play seems to have made enough money to inspire a sequel. This time round, David Tennant is in charge.
Tyler Perry, the hugely successful African-American director and actor, takes over the role of James Patterson's most famous creation, in a thriller by Rob Cohen.
CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play a couple trying to keep their friendship alive following their divorce. Mr Samberg deserves a break after suffering bravely through Adam Sandler's That's My Boy.
Isn't this a bit late for the Dickens bicentennial? Mike Newell's adaptation of Charlie's most cinematic novel casts Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham. What larks, Pip!
After a difficult few years, Thomas Vinterberg, director of the groundbreaking Festen, hits gold with this hugely engrossing melodrama starring Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher wrongly accused of sexual abuse.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS: 3D
The latest effort to launch a winter family franchise stars Chris Pine in an animated adaptation of William Joyce's books concerning interactions between the Tooth Fairy, The Boogeyman, Santa Claus and others.
Do not miss the latest film from Ben Wheatley. A bizarre amalgam of Mike Leigh's Nuts in May and a serial-killer shocker, the picture is funnier than Wheatley's superb Kill List (what isn't?), but is every bit as dark.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE
Clint Eastwood will not, so far as we are aware, be talking to any chairs in Robert Lorenz's antidote to Moneyball. The great man plays a baseball coach who believes in the old values.
Gabriel Byrne stars in an adaptation of Elsa Lewin's novel concerning a (what else?) conflicted cop investigating a brutal murder. The inestimable Charlotte Rampling adds further class.
PJ Hogan directs Liev Schreiber and Toni Collette in the story of a "mental" nanny caring for five young girls. Looks as if Christmas is looming.
Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener sound like a workable couple. So do Allison Janney and Oliver Platt for that matter. The foursome play neighbours in a comedy from Julian Farino.
What a title! Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken are among those swearing and joshing in Martin McDonagh's follow-up to cult favourite In Bruges.
Miley Cyrus plays a "tough, street-smart private eye" who is hired by the FBI to go undercover in a college sorority. Say it isn't so.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN
Based on a scenario by Ahmet "son of Frank" Zappa, this peculiar-sounding picture concerns a magical child who transforms a small town.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Do we need to tell you anything more about this? Peter Jackson returns to the Tolkien trough with the first of three films derived from his modestly sized first novel.
TINKERBELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS 3D
Didn't Disney promise to stop releasing mid-budget sequels to animated classics. Oh well. That recent Pooh movie was genuinely adorable.
LIFE OF PI
Ang Lee enters Oscar season with his take on Yann Martel's Booker-winning novel concerning (if I remember it correctly) a tiger in a rowboat. Hmm?
Tom Cruise stars in - somewhat astonishingly - the first feature adaptation of a novel by the enormously popular Lee Child.
And the year ends with a none-more-typical Christmas holiday release. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are left in charge of the grandkids with (let's hope) hysterical results.