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Fall Movie Preview 2011

As summer fades, the minds of moviegoers being to change ever as the leaves turn colors and flitter effortlessly toward the ground. But at Player Affinity, we avoid such metaphor nonsense and give it to you straight: it’s time for some original and thoughtful movies — enough of the brainless cash-cow remakes and sequels.

Like we’ve done with the past few major movie seasons, we of the PAM staff have pooled together our collective 10 most anticipated movies of Fall 2011 (from this weekend through Nov. 11) into one major list, and each of us has offered one or two other films, from lesser-known festival films to guilty pleasures, as Critic’s Picks.

All we can say is this is not a fall you’re going to want to sleep through on your way to Holiday Season. 

10. Moneyball (Sep. 23)

Who doesn’t love a good sports movie? And Moneyball has a lot
of talent behind it; it is based on a successful non-fiction book by Michael
Lewis, has Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, American Beauty)
and Aaron Sorkin writing it and had Bennett Miller (Capote) in the
director’s chair (replacing Steven Soderbergh). Added to that, Brad Pitt leads
the cast that includes Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright.
Even Christopher Nolan’s long time cinematographer Wally Pfister worked on this

Moneyball focuses on the early
2000s rise of the Oakland Athletics, an unfashionable baseball team lacking the
financial resources to compete with the bigger payroll teams. Tired that the
Athletics being on the bottom of the MLB, their general manager, Billy Beane
(Pitt), turned to Peter Brand (Hill), a mathematician who comes up with a
radical sabermetric approach to look for players who are consistent performers
but undervalued by other teams. Moneyball could be this year’s The
Social Network
, a true story that mixes drama and quick, witty dialogue.


Directed by Bennett Miller
Written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Michael
Lewis (book)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman


Kieran’s Critic’s Pick: Machine
Gun Preacher
(Sep. 23 – Limited)

Machine Gun Preacher could easily be the title of an exploitation
movie, but it is in fact a serious drama about Sam Childers. Machine Gun Preacher has some great
potential; it is directed by Marc Forster whose credits include Monster’s
, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner and Quantum of
and he is a director who has reputation for getting great
performances from his actors.

Gerard Butler leads this movie and seeing as he also has a
supporting role in Coriolanus this fall, he looks like he trying to
prove himself as a serious actor. Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon support

Sam Childers is an ex-biker who has done some terrible things in his
life and ends up being a born-again Christian. After seeing the horrors of what
is going on in Darfur, Childers vows to go to the troubled province and protect
its orphans from the Janjaweed.

This type of movie has been popular with the awards bodies, Schindler’s
and Hotel Rwanda being examples, though it could be more along
the lines of well-received but not awarded like with Blood Diamond. Either way, Forster’s movie brings us the first
story about the Darfur conflict — no, I’m not counting Uwe Boll’s attempt.


Machine Gun
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Jason Keller
Starring: Gerald Butler, Michelle Mongahan, Michael Shannon


T8. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Oct. 21 – Limited) 

Elizabeth Olsen (yes,
she’s related to those Olsens) leads Sean Durkin’s indie flick Martha Marcy
May Marlene
, the story of a girl who’s taken and influenced by a cult
leader. The low-key drama played to rave reception at both the Sundance Film
Festival and Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, as well as some Oscar buzz
for its leading lady.

Even with all of that
going for it, will it wow audiences? Sometimes there’s a significant disconnect
between moviegoers and film critics (see The
Tree of Life
), but a film like Martha Marcy May Marlene could bridge
such a gap. Unlike other “indie fare,” the sense of danger in this one is
always present, and many who’ve seen it say even go as far to say that it’s a
horror film.

What’s more, the
performances from Olsen and John Hawkes as the ruthless cult leader appear to
be not only in top form, but also tinged with hues of drama and never escaping
the realm of reality. Despite what might happen at the box office, Martha
Marcy May Marlene
looks like a hit to me. ~Julian


Martha Marcy May
Writtend and Directed by Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth
Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson 


Critic’s Pick:
Red State (Oct.
19 – Limited)

For better or for worse,
Kevin Smith is one of the most notable directors in the film industry thanks to
his quirky body of work and occasionally controversial remarks. It’s rare that
his films don’t inspire laughs, at least with certain crowds, but his new film Red
sees him taking things in a starkly different direction.

Red State is a horror/thriller that more or less takes
inspiration from the Westboro Baptist Church. It stars Michael Parks as the
leader of all the chaos, while Melissa Leo and John Goodman look to have some
incredible supporting roles to chew on.

The film debuted at the
Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to mixed reception and a bizarre
distributor “auction” where Smith bought his own film. Despite the varying
opinions, the concept and performances are intriguing enough to instill
interest in this potentially haunting feature.

Red State has played in several locations across the country
since the Sundance premiere, including a one-week stint in New York to qualify
it for Oscar attention; it hits theaters Oct. 19 but is expected to be
available on-demand and on DVD/Blu-ray around the same time.


Red State
Written and Directed by
Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Parks, Michael
Angarano, Melissa Leo, John Goodman


Critic’s Pick:
Take Shelter (Sep.
30 – Limited)

The apocalyptic
movie is coming on strong toward the end of the year with the release of Lars
von Trier’s Melancholia and this film
from writer/director Jeff Nichols. Take
was featured at both Sundance and Cannes, and it stars the future
General Zod, Michael Shannon, as well as 2011’s “it girl,” Jessica Chastain.

The film
follows a man who starts seeing apocalyptic visions and begins building a storm
shelter to protect his family should any of these visions become reality. His
wife, friends, and family are extremely worried about him, however, especially
after it becomes known that there’s a history of mental illness in his family.
But nothing will stop him from completing the shelter.

It sounds
like a premise Hitchcock would have loved, and a quick look at the trailer
shows some very Hitchcockian themes and images. Shannon is always great in
roles like this, and early word suggests this could be the performance of his
career. Though it strikes me as a very non-commercial film (and not one that’s
likely to rack up Oscar nominations), it does look very creepy, very visually
interesting and extremely promising.


Take Shelter
and Directed by Jeff Nichols
Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, and Shea Whigham


T8. The Thing (Oct. 14)

No…it’s not a typo
and you’re not surprised. They have indeed remade The Thing … again.
For those unaware, the 1982 classic is actually a remake of a 1951 film The
Thing From Another World
. The plus is it has the awesome Mary Elizabeth
Winstead (of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World fame) as the leading lady. The
con is it’s a remake — kind of.

The story apparently
takes place three days before the events of the original film (so it’s a prequel,
dammit!) when Dr. Kate Lloyd (Winstead) joins a team made up of Norwegian and
American scientists in Antarctica. Upon arrival, it is quickly discovered that
the scientists have unearthed an alien ship, housing a (frozen) creature
thought to be long dead. When they melt it down for study (uh-oh), the creature
soon escapes and soon they discover that it can mimic human form by killing the
ones it imitates. As the crew hunts the creature, paranoia sets in as they
realize that any of them could be the monster.

Sound familiar?
That’s because it’s happened before! Still, with Winstead taking the lead, the
producers of the better-than-expected Dawn of the Dead remake behind the
camera and the always awesome Ronald D. Moore (who helped create the revamped
and superior Battlestar Galactica series) pitching in on the script,
perhaps this updated The Thing can sweep one out from under the rug … or
ice. ~Max


The Thing
Directed by Matthijs van
Heijningen Jr.

Written by Ronald D. Moore, Eric
Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr. (story)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth
Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje


Critic’s Pick:
Paranormal Activity 3
(Oct. 21)

In what has
essentially become the new “Saw” franchise without the violence, we are now on
number trois of the “Paranormal Activity” series. To recap, the first film was
the first, the second a prequel to the first and now we are getting a mega-prequel
(as far as we can tell). Feeling dizzy yet? You should, especially given
the massive success of the first two films, which raked in over $300 million
combined when they cost just more than $3 million to make.

Now, Paramount is
hitting us with Paranormal Activity 3. Little is known about the actual
plot, but the trailer shown takes place in 1988, when Katie and Kristi
(protagonist of the first and second film respectively) were little girls being
stalked by the demon for the first time. The events of their childhood
hauntings were heavily mentioned in both “Paranormal Activity” films, but it is
still not clear if the third entry will be a complete prequel or a parallel
sequel in the vein of its predecessor. Regardless, given its October release
date and slightly increased budget (up to $4 million), you can bank on this one
being a financial success. Whether it’ll be well0received by the public is
another matter, but don’t worry: Paramount will get its money back.


Paranormal Activity 3
Directed by Ariel
Schulman, Henry Joost

Written by Christopher B.

Starring: They haven’t
told us yet


Critic’s Pick:
Dream House (Sep. 30)

Dream House is the sort of movie that can add a small spark to
the horror genre or utterly fail because of predictability. Take one haunted
house, add a brooding man, his pretty wife and picture-perfect girls, and a
know-it-all neighbor and you’ve got yourself what could be the easiest plot to
figure out ever.

My skepticism lies in the
marketing. The trailer shows what seems to be the entire story. Daniel Craig
plays Will Atenton, who relocates with his family to a small New England town.
Too bad the home they move in has a legend about the murder of the previous
owner’s wife and kids at the hands of said husband. Will goes about figuring
whose house he is living in only to realize he is the husband and was just
released from the mental hospital.

A few things: why doesn’t
the neighbor (Naomi Watts) who is shown talking to Will tell him he is the husband?
Something else is going on here — a conspiracy I hope! In any event, some nice
camerawork, the direction of a veteran dramatic director in Jim Sheridan and
dreamlike visuals may enhance this otherwise predictable tale.


Dream House
Directed by Jim Sheridan
Written by David Loucka
Starring: Daniel Craig,
Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz 


7. 50/50 (Sep. 30)

titled I’m With Cancer and Live With It, this comedy/drama has
settled on the ambiguous 50/50, but
by the looks of it and the early buzz, the odds are much better than a coin
flip that you’ll enjoy the latest film from director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness).

Gordon-Levitt stars a 27-year-old who discovers he has cancer and as good of a
chance to die as he does to live. With Seth Rogen in tow as the best friend,
you can bet that this take is somewhat irreverent but presumably in a way
that’s sensitive enough. At the least, the film is bravely going into territory
deemed too depressing for Hollywood before.

50/50 has made quite an
impression in the early going, with some critics considering it a serious Oscar
contender if it didn’t have Rogen and his R-rated comments tossed in. Levine
definitely showed he could work both ends of the spectrum in “Wackness,” which
should be on your to-watch list regardless how this one turns out. ~Steven


by Jonathan Levine
by Will Reiser
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard


Critic’s Pick:
A Very Harold & Kumar
3D Christmas
(Nov. 4)

It seems the holiday
season is upon us early this year with the third entry in the cult franchise as
the now-estranged stoner duo eventually unite after Kumar burns down Harold’s
family Christmas tree. From there it’s off to find an apt replacement (no doubt
with a few bumps along the way).

The first “Kumar” flick
was a surprise to audiences and critics alike; it brought a new light (pun
intended) to the genre. And again in 2008, the average Joe found a lot to like
in the follow-up comedy. After the fun that was the first two, I have a feeling
that third time will not be the charm for this franchise but who can be a total
pessimist around the holidays?

The trailer seems very
teaser-like as none of the central plot is touched upon, but who really cares
about a proper ramp-up concerning a film like this. Before his resurgence
thanks to How I Met Your Mother,
hosting gigs, Emmy wins and TV guest appearances, Neil Patrick Harris was a
highlight of these movies’ setup as a foul-mouthed, womanizing version of
himself to great effect. Despite his shift in stature (and possibly fatal
encounter at a brothel), the man is back for a third helping of Christmas
brownies (the movie would not have been the same without him). “H&K 3” delivers
this Christmas munchies about a month and a half early on Nov. 4.


A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
Directed by Todd
Written by John Hurwitz
and Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: Kal Penn, John
Cho, Neil Patrick Harris,

6. Real Steel (Oct. 7)

Rock‘em Sock‘em Robots
beat Battleship to the cutting room floor it seems. No, Mattel’s classic two-player
toy has not actually been made into a motion picture — quite. Real Steel tells
the story of some down-and-dirty robots who beat the metal parts off of each
other in the ring. But there is more to it than heads popping off with
dignified thespian Hugh Jackman in the credits.

Set in the future where
robot boxing has rendered human cage fighting obsolete, a down-on-his-luck
promoter (Jackman) finds a discarded robot that may be his ticket to regained
fame. For the sake of drama and heart, a long-lost son (Dakota Goyo) is thrown
into the mix to push the plot along.

It sounds ridiculous, it
sounds stupid, but so did highly intelligent talking apes taking over the
world. From the trailer it is obvious much funding has been spend on bright
well-chiseled robot designs and special effects. Just as Rocky and other
fight movies prove irresistible to a segment of fans, Real Steel will
make a mint even in the face of a George Clooney political vehicle and a Judd
Apatow comedy that same weekend. ~Dinah 


Real Steel
Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by John Gatins,
Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven
Starring: Hugh Jackman,
Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo


Critic’s Pick:
Killer Elite (Sep. 23)

Guys beating other guys up
is the first ingredient in a movie I may like. Throw in Jason Statham and Clive
Owen, two British blokes that make me want to change continents, and I’m 100
percent in.

This shoot-‘em-up action
flick offers some dignity to the decidedly undignified Robert De Niro. The gist
is this: two elite operatives Danny (Statham) and Hunter (De Niro) are up
against a secret military society led by (Owen). The trailer shows an awesome
sequence where Statham escapes the grasp of Owen while handcuffed to a chair.
It makes no sense and that is why it is awesome and must be seen.

We’ve seen all of this —
and from these very men — before. The twist is this is a highly stylized true
story. It appears a step up from the Crank and Transporter franchises
Statham is accustomed to and with Owen’s pedigree might class up the funk left by
De Niro’s predictable phoned-in performance. The action looks awesome, the cast
is delicious, and I can’t wait to see this in late September. 


Killer Elite
Directed by Gary McKendry
Written by Ranulph
Fiennes, Gary McKendry, Matt Sherring  
Starring: Robert De Niro,
Jason Statham, Clive Owen 


Critic’s Pick:
Safe (Oct. 28)

Jason Statham is as much
of a staple to the action genre now as Sylvester Stallone was when leading the
“Rambo” films. He’s solidified himself in the genre with performances in films
like The Italian Job, the “Transporter” series, Death Race, and –
perhaps the biggest sign that he was welcome to the Action Hero Club – The

Although he’s definitely
capable with action, there’s room for some growth in his dramatic acting chops,
and that hunger might be satisfied with Boaz Yakin’s Safe. Typical to
what Statham usually does, the film features the leading man as a former agent
seeking to save a young girl from some sort of danger. Unfortunately, details
on this one are scarce at the moment — there’s not even a trailer for it just

Despite the lack of
knowledge out there about Safe, the film might see Statham tackling some
more drama than he’s used to, while still retaining the take-no-prisoners
action that he can probably pull off in his sleep in films such as Killer Elite, also out this fall. 

Written and Directed by
Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham,
Chris Sarandon, Catherine Chan


5. In Time (Oct. 28) 

Justin Timberlake has
done well enough with The Social Network and Friends with Benefits.
Now he aims to be an action star with the upcoming In Time, which takes
place in a dystopian future where the aging gene has been rendered ineffective
and can be controlled at humanity’s will. The new currency becomes time itself,
where the rich live forever (never aging past 25) and the poor must barter for
what time they can get.

When workingman Will
Salas (Timberlake) crosses paths with a rich but world-weary aristocrat (Matt
Bomer), he unknowingly inherits his vast wealth of time — and a murder
accusation as a result. On the run from the ruling class, Will enlists the help
of Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), in an attempt to clear his name and overthrow
the class system split by time.

Its premise is a
little stretched (a la The Adjustment Bureau), but the trailers — which
give far too much away — look slick and packed with enough action to warrant an
entry into the crowded sci-fi genre. Combine action with a brimming (beautiful)
cast, a romantic subplot that hopefully goes somewhere and an intriguing enough
premise, In Time looks to take a big chunk of the date night
demographic. ~Max


In Time
Written and Directed by
Andrew Niccol

Starring: Justine
Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde


Critic’s Pick:
The Three Musketeers (Oct. 21)

I admit it: I have a
love for Milla Jovovich. She’s gorgeous and badass all wrapped into one and the
only real reason I would go to see The Three Musketeers from the guys
that brought us Resident Evil: Afterlife. Still, Paul W.S. Anderson can
have some fun ideas when in the director’s chair, especially when he’s got
Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice), Ray Stevenson (Thor),
Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Orlando Bloom (Lord of the
) and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) to throw around.

To try and explain
the synopsis would take far more room than my editor (or common sense) would
allow, suffice it to say there are three legendary swordsmen (The Musketeers)
that get wrapped up in all kinds of shenanigans that involve royal
assassination attempts, stolen airship plans, a priceless diamond and a
double-agent femme fatale (Jovovich); all of which involve explosions, chases,
sword fights and yes — 3D. It’s obviously the exact way author Alexandre Dumas
intended his work to be translated. Anyway, it sounds (and looks) out of
control but could wind up to be one of the more entertaining films to come out
of the normally sullen (or scary) fall season.


The Three Musketeers
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Written by Andrew Davies, Alex

Starring: Ray Stevenson, Matthew
Macfadyen, Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich


4. The Ides of March (Oct. 7) 

The fall
is a time for movies that mean something, and considering today’s tense
political climate, a film reminder of how politics can change us for the worse
might be something all of us need. And who better to turn to for that than
George Clooney and some of his finest fellow actors?

For the
first time since 2008’s Leatherheads,
Clooney directs, and unlike that film, this one looks good — really good.
Clooney plays a rising governor with his eyes on the White House. He seems like
the ideal man to rally a nation behind, which is what draws a hot young staffer
(Ryan Gosling) to his campaign team. But when he learns a damning secret about
his candidate, the opposing side approaches him and he must decide where his
loyalties lie.

If that’s
not a juicy enough description for a fall prestige film, consider for a moment
that Gosling and Clooney are joined by the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman,
Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood. Need another
reason to see it? Check out the awesome trailer. It promises a lot of amazing
acting, some smart dialogue and a few surprises. And if buzz means anything,
this is a film we’ll be talking about all the way until Oscar night. ~John 


The Ides of March
by George Clooney
by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Starring: George
Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood


Critic’s Pick:
Like Crazy (Oct. 28 –

No film
came out of Sundance with more buzz than Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy, a romantic drama with rising stars Anton Yelchin and
Felicity Jones. Yelchin you already know from films like Star Trek and Charlie
. Jones might be unfamiliar, but she won’t be for long. She took
home a Special Jury Prize at Sundance this past January, and she’s an early
contender for a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

The film
follows two students, Jacob and Anna, who fall madly in love but are torn apart
suddenly when Anna is deported back to the U.K. and banned from re-entering the
States. The two try a long-distance relationship, but it’s wrought with
complications, making them both rethink what’s important to them and whether or
not it’s best to continue as a couple.

certainly not the most original premise, but if the trailer and buzz is any
indication, the film is an honest and emotional look at the highs and lows of
young love. The film gives off similar vibes as 2009’s indie romance (500) Days of Summer, and if the acting
and writing in this film come close to that level, it’ll be a contender for my
end-of-year top 10 list, for sure.


Like Crazy
by Drake Doremus
by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence


3. Contagion (Sep. 9)

Steven Soderbergh
returns to mainstream film with The
! writer Scott Z. Burns and they’ve roped in a cast that cannot be
described with words, just a list: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet,
Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes and more. The film
appears to put the fad of global outbreak science-fiction films into as real of
terms as possible.

The film follows
a disease from its first cases to worldwide pandemic. On the large scale, a
team of doctors must determine a swift course of action to contain the virus
and on the small scale, a father/husband (Damon) deals with the consequences.

who sees this film will probably comes away with OCD, but it’s certainly
fascinating in premise and in star power. I’m worried about it juggling too many
story lines in trying to show how government is handling the outbreak as well
as how it’s impacting people on an individual level, but Soderbergh has shown
he can direct large ensembles successfully and handle multiple stories (Traffic). ~Steven


Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law


Steven’s Critic’s Pick: Immortals (Nov. 11)

You can blame a lot on 300. Zack Snyder’s highly stylized
sword-and-sandals epic based on a graphic novel becoming an unprecedented
success in March a few years back convinced every major studio that mythology
and related epics were insanely bankable. But the more examples we get, the
more 300 proves to be the exception.

Tarsem Singh’s Immortals (amusingly from the producers of 300) might change all that (at
least from a quality standpoint). The director of The Fall and The Cell
begins his resurgence five years later with this glowing action fantasy
starring your future Clark Kent/Superman Henry Cavill as Theseus, a demi-god
chosen by Zeus to defend humanity against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), a
power-crazy warlord. Hyperion seeks to obtain a bow that can be used to release
the vengeful titans that the gods defeated ages before whom he would ally with
to rule the world. Basically, it’s Clash
of the Titans
meets Disney’s Hercules.

easily looks like the best thing from a visual/cinematography standpoint since 300 and the cast of Cavill, Rourke,
Freida Pinto, John Hurt, Stephen Dorff and others will certainly help bolster
things. In fact, Singh’s film looks like the Thanksgiving dinner of visual
feasts (fitting for the time of year). The least fantasy fans can hope for is
to be riveted beyond compare.

Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Charley and
Vlas Parlapanides
Starring: Henry Cavill,
Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt



2. J. Edgar (Nov. 11 – Wide)

J. Edgar Hoover is certainly one of the most colorful characters in
American history. He was the first and is the longest-serving director of the FBI,
fought against gangsters in the 1930s and was accused by conspirators of
helping support them, was an ally of McCarthyism and more infamously was
suspected of being a homosexual and cross-dressing. One of my favorite quotes
about him is from Lyndon B. Johnson who said, “it’s better to have him inside
the tent pissing out then outside the tent pissing in.”

This biopic sets out to examine Hoover’s private life, particular
his alleged homosexuality, which should be no surprise coming from openly gay
screenwriter Dustin Lance Black of Milk
fame. Clint Eastwood has shown a knack for directing historical movies: Changeling,
Letters from Iwo Jima and Invictius were met well by audiences
and critics.

Leonardo Di Caprio adds another great director to his resume while
Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Naomi Watts and Judi Dench co-star. J. Edgar already has a strong Oscar buzz
behind it as one would expect with these talents. Unsurprisingly with Eastwood,
we’ve yet to see a trailer. ~Kieran 

J. Edgar
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Leonardo
Di Caprio, Arnie Hammer, Naomi Watts


Critic’s Pick:
Straw Dogs (Sep. 16)

The remake machine keeps
on churning in Hollywood and with so many classics having gone untouched, fuel is
abundant — so to speak. The original Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman
is widely considered an ahead-of-its time masterpiece, thanks in no small part
to its shocking depiction of rape and violence. Although the original is no
favorite of mine, I certainly do stand against such undertakings on principle
alone but in spite of my better judgment, this thriller has my interest piqued
thanks to a riveting trailer showcasing some solid talent including James
Marsden and Kate Bosworth as the leads and a great slate of television stars
such as Alexander Skarsgard, Dominic Purcell and Walton Goggins.

For those unfamiliar with
the general story, Straw Dogs follows
a couple that moves to the wife’s home to the Deep South (originally rural
England), where tensions arise between them and some locals, forcing Marsden’s
David to shed his timid shell and protect what’s his. The premise of this
reimagining seems to keep the same plot but no doubt with some modern twists.
Even if this fails to live up to the level set by the 1971 film (and certainly
will not in terms of impact on filmmaking as a whole), keeping a tense tone
with a nice slow burn could easily make this simply a solid fall thriller.

Straw Dogs
Directed by Rod Lurie
Written by Rod Lurie,
David Zelag Goodman and Sam Peckinpah (1971 film)
Starring: James Marsden, Kate
Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, Walton Goggins


1. Drive (Sep. 16)

Nicolas Winding Refn took
home the Best Director award for his indie action thriller Drive at
Cannes back in May and has been earning raves from critics and moviegoers alike
ever since. Ryan Gosling stars in the lead role; his second of three high
profile projects this year after Crazy, Stupid, Love and prior to the
George Clooney political thriller The Ides of March. Gosling portrays a
Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a hired hand for those certain high-octane
missions, but as fate would have it he crosses paths with the wrong man and
finds himself on the run.

The screenplay from
Oscar-nominated Iranian Hossein Amini (who will also unleash the samurai war
epic 47 Ronin and has
been rewriting bits of Snow White and the Huntsman, both due in 2012)
is reportedly incredibly strong as well, brought to life by Gosling’s intense
central performance and Refn’s stylish direction. Ample stunt work and chase
sequences are also promised which should entice camps looking for a potential
Academy Award winner as well as those who miss the action of the summer
blockbuster season. Regardless of what side you land upon, don’t expect this to
be the last time you hear about Drive. ~Simon 

Directed by Nicolas
Winding Refn
Written by Hossein Amini
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Cary
Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman

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