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Fall Movie Preview 2012

The leaves are changing, the air is cooling ... okay, so not quite yet, but in the movie world, summer is come and gone. Time for fall, the movie year's mixed bag. All the more important, then, that you have us, the Player Affinity Movie staff, watching your back ... or at least ready to help you sort through the endless fall movie slate and hone in on what will be worth your time, whether just an entertaining diversion or an early entry in the Oscar race.

As we've done in the past, we've pooled together our Top 10 movies for the fall into one big list and filled in the gaps with critic's picks, or movies that made our individual lists but didn't make the collective Top 10. Check it out and let us know what you're excited for this fall in the comments below.

10. Frankenweenie (Oct. 5)

Stop-motion animation is something of a novelty in the world of mainstream animation. However, this year already saw The Pirates! Band of Misfits and ParaNorman, and right around the corner is Frankenweenie, Tim Burton’s newest flick that derives from his 1984 short film. In this horror-comedy, a boy loses his dog and brings it back to life a la Dr. Frankenstein.

Burton certainly has a hardcore base of fans, but he might need to make it up to them before it’s too late. Alice in Wonderland might have been the biggest commercial hit of his career and one of the biggest in cinematic history, but it didn’t win over more discerning moviegoers. Dark Shadows, which arrived earlier this year, wasn’t a particularly huge success on either side of the spectrum.

The film’s upcoming stint at the BFI London Film Festival suggests a quality outing. It packs an impressive voice cast including previous Burton collaborators such as Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder and references old horror films such as Bride of Frankenstein and The Bad Seed. Hopefully these pieces spell a Burton comeback in so far as quality. ~ Julian

Directed by Tim Burton
Written by John August, Tim Burton, Leonard Ripps
Starring: (voices) Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short



Other Notable Animated Films This Fall

Finding Nemo 3D (Sep. 14) One of Pixar’s most beloved films is back and in 3D. — Disney/Pixar

Hotel Transylvania (Sep. 28) Adam Sandler voices Dracula in movie about a human who stumbles upon a hotel for the world’s scariest. — Sony

Wreck-It Ralph (Nov. 2) Disney takes the Toy Story treatment to the world of arcade games. Read more down the page. — Disney



9. Sinister (Oct. 5)

Looking at the utterly lame late-year slate of horror films (especially in comparison to some great early-year offerings such as The Woman in Black and The Awakening), Sinister looks to break this downward spiral if nothing else. Although at a root level it shares much in common with 2010’s sleeper Insidious (demons haunt a family, etc), Sinister nevertheless still looks like an exceedingly creepy little flick.

Ethan Hawke stars as a father who unwittingly unleashes the demon known as “Bagul” (who persists through pictures and film) and yearns for the souls of children. Nice going, man.

Scott Derrickson (behind one of the last great exorcism films, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs this supernatural thriller, and as far as smaller horror movies go, this truly looks like one to see in a pitch-black theater (while squinting through your fingers and crossing your legs to prevent unwanted urination).

Sinister first debuted as SXSW and FrightFest and gained hugely positive early word of mouth. And check out the damn creepy trailer that goes along with it. ~Simon

Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by C. Robert Cargill
Starring Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, James Ransone, Juliet Rylance


Max’s Critic’s Pick: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Oct. 26)

It wouldn't be easy or creepy if it weren’t Silent Hill. While not incredible, the 2006 film was a relatively faithful adaptation of the creep-fest series that has players often running from horror rather than fighting. A protracted six years stuck in development hell has brought forth a sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.

For years, Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) has been on the run with her father Christopher Da Silva (Sean Bean) from forces she doesn't fully understand. As her 18th birthday approaches, her father disappears and Heather, along with classmate Vincent (Kit Harington, Game of Thrones) are pulled into Silent Hill, a town where hell holds power over the living. Learning she isn't who she thinks she is, Heather must brave the town's many horrors (human and creature alike) to find her father and escape with their souls.

The biggest thing Revelation has going for it is that it is virtually a direct adaptation of the series' most celebrated entry, Silent Hill 3. Michael J. Bassett has also vocalized his love for the series and has put a high premium on practical effects versus CGI, though the trailer makes this difficult to believe. However, with a budget of only $28 million to play on, Revelation could have the low-budget feel horror fans love while providing some actual visuals to snack on (no "bumps in the night" for this series). In the games, atmosphere and creepiness outweigh violence and camp. Hopefully this transitions successfully to Revelation.

Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Written by Michael J. Bassett
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Kit Harington, Carrie Anne-Moss


Other Notable Horror Films This Fall

House at the End of the Street (Sep. 21) A girl moves into a new house with her mother and becomes involved with her neighbor, whose parents were recently murdered. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue and Max Thieriot. — Relativity

V/H/S (Oct. 5 – Limited) This small-budget found-footage film about several people hired to steal a VHS tape that ends up being more than they bargained for is already available through video on demand, but you might want to check it out in theaters if you’re a fan of the genre. — Magnolia Pictures

Paranormal Activity 4 (Oct. 19) Katie is back, as she and Robbie bring their terror to a teenage girl and her mother. — Paramount



8. Seven Psychopaths  (Oct. 12)

Colin Farrell, Woody Harelson, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits, Gabourey Sidibe, Olga Kurylenko and Abbie Cornish form the wildly eclectic bunch of whackos that comprise Martin McDonagh’s off-kilter lark, Seven Psychopaths. The film tells the tale of a struggling screenwriter who gets caught up in a dognapping scam.

This effort marks the British director’s follow-up to the acclaimed dark comedy In Bruges from 2008 and if this story of (Shih Tzu-inspired) arrested development is even a fraction as entertaining and memorable as that, then it would make McDonagh a filmmaker to watch absolutely.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the countdown goes like this: the seemingly normal one, his best friend, the one with issues, the hot girlfriend played by a bond girl of course, the non-violent one, the passive-aggressive girlfriend and the one with the bunny. Get them all together and you’ve got one hell of a party. ~Simon

Directed by Martin McDonagh
Written by Martin McDonagh
Starring Colin Farrell, Woody Harelson, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell



Simon’s Critic’s Pick: Taken 2 (Oct. 5)

Also unofficially known as “Taken Again,” “Taken: Istanbul” and “Taken: The Wife Chronicles” (ok it’s not even unofficially known as any of those) Liam Neeson is back regardless as villain-punishing former C.I.A. operative Bryan Mills taking it to Albanian mobsters once again in the sequel to the mega sleeper hit.

The original Taken was a fun little trifle, brimming with icy violence and made people across the world believe that Liam Neeson could pummel the ever-loving shit out of you. This sequel promises nothing than more than the same, and though I didn’t even find the first to be the resurrection of the action film, I still enjoyed it and expect to enjoy this entry equally.

Since studios took notice of Neeson’s action abilities, he has been sidetracked by mediocre and sometimes atrocious fare (Battleship, Wrath of the Titans) as much as he has scored in the genre (The Grey, The A-Team). At the very least, Taken 2 should put the man back in a stripped-down comfort zone of sorts and give us a diverting 90 minutes.

Directed by Olivier Megaton
Written by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Šerbedžija



7. Killing Them Softly (Oct. 19)

Premiering at Cannes this May to only mildly positive reviews, Killing Them Softly must have quite a pedigree to rank so high among this fall's booming crop of films. Brad Pitt, of course, is coming off a career year (The Tree of Life, Moneyball), and he's surrounded in this film by a brilliant mix of veteran character actors and promising young talent. 

That said, it's director Andrew Dominik who really propels this one onto our list. His The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a real stunner back in 2007. For his follow-up, he's moving away from the Great Plains and into the New Orleans criminal underworld (a place last visited in Werner Herzog's crazy good Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans).

Based on the novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, Pitt plays mob enforcer Jackie Cogan, who along with Richard Jenkins (playing a character known only as Driver … is that a thing now?), is called after a high-stakes poker game is knocked off by two local kids. Spectacular cinematography is virtually a guarantee (The Assassination of Jesse James was inarguably one of the most beautiful films of the last 10 years). If Dominik can present a story that resonates as strongly as the visuals, this one will be special. ~John

Directed by Andrew Dominik
Written by Andrew Dominik
Starring: Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta



Other Notable Crime Thrillers and Dramas This Fall

The Cold Light of Day (Sep. 7 - Limited) A young Wall Street trader’s family is kidnapped in Spain and confronts several questions about his parents in the process. Starring Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis. – Summit Entertainment

End of Watch (Sep. 21) The writer behind Training Day is behind this gritty look at the dangers of police life. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena and Anna Kendrick. – Open Road Films

The Paperboy (Oct. 5 - Limited) Precious director Lee Daniels tells this story of a reporter returning to his Florida hometown to investigate a case surrounding a death row inmate. Starring Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey. — Millennium Entertainment

Alex Cross (Oct. 19) James Patterson’s best-selling detective gets a reboot of sorts. In this film, Alex Cross is lured in by a killer who says he’s killed one of his family members. Starring Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox and Rachel Nichols. – Summit Entertainment


John’s Critic’s Pick: Flight (Nov. 2)

Denzel Washington returns to serious-minded motion pictures, while director Robert Zemeckis steps away from the animated pod people of The Polar Express and Beowulf. Flight has flown a little under the radar, but based on trailer and talent, it's as promising as anything hitting theaters this season.

The premise is based on a plane that narrowly avoids crashing thanks to some nifty, seemingly impossible maneuvering by its pilot, played by Washington. He's a national hero — not unlike Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who landed a plane in New York's Hudson River a few years ago. 

That might be interesting enough of a movie, but Flight asks what might happen if this man was found to be at fault for the crash. The trailer is inconclusive, but Washington's character, it seems, might have been drinking. He faces a flurry of press, as well as possible jail time. It all sounds very juicy. If it lives up to its potential, it could be a stealth Oscar contender. Washington, especially, seems poised for awards consideration. 

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Written by John Gatins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Melissa Leo



6. Argo (Oct. 12)

From an actor whose name was the cause of derision to one of the best emerging directors, Ben Affleck has proven himself with two critically well-received thrillers (Gone Baby Gone and The Town). This time, Affleck has stepped out of his comfort zone of crime thrillers set in Boston and into a historical spy thriller based on a true (declassified) story.

The year is 1979 and the Iran hostage crisis is in full swing. Six American Embassy staff members have found refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Desperate to get them out, the CIA launches a risky and ambitious plan: telling the Iranians that they are part of a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film. They go to great lengths to prove their cover.

It is clear from the trailer that Argo is aiming for a comic-dramatic tone like Charlie Wilson’s War; both movies tell a true story that is stranger then fiction. After rave reviews at Telluride last weekend, Argo stands a chance of receiving more than a few Oscar nods. ~ Kieran

Directed by Ben Affleck
Written by Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman


Kieran’s Critic’s Pick: The Man with the Iron Fists (Nov. 2)

The Man With the Iron Fists could end being absolutely bloody awful or bloody awesome. Either way, this martial arts film will hopefully be a lot of fun. Rapper RZA makes his directing debut and he has a lot of friends helping: Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino, specifically. RZA both acted in and recorded music for Kill Bill.

The cast isn’t too shabby either, with Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, and Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch). RZA stars as well as The Blacksmith, a man who makes elaborate weapons in a 19th Century Chinese village. But when a traitor threatens to destroy the village, The Blacksmith has to join a group of warriors and assassins to protect the community.

The Man With the Iron Fists seems to mix old-fashioned marital arts with a more modern, stylized approach, fitting for some working for Tarantino. It will probably be a cult hit for one reason or another.

Directed by RZA
Written by RZA, Eli Roth
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Bryon Mann, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung


5. Wreck-It Ralph (Nov. 2)

You've got to start somewhere. Hollywood seems to have a hard time understanding the adaptation of video games into films, so Disney Animation Studios aims to bridge the two worlds through a new, original character: Wreck-It Ralph.

Voiced by John C. Reilly, Ralph has been a video game villain for more than 30 years; his job being to destroy a building that the game's titular hero, Fix-It Felix Jr., repairs. Tired of being the bad guy, Ralph leaves his game and wanders the arcades’ various games/worlds, meeting various characters while attempting to do right. As Ralph journeys, he learns of a threat that could alter the shape of the arcade — one he might have accidentally put in motion.

The real seller here is the world of Ralph, that while original, has several shout-outs to classic game series such as Mario, Q*Bert, Halo, Pac-Man and even Mortal Kombat (in a Disney movie?!). No idea how big a role these licensed worlds could have in Ralph, but the potential cameos for gamers to squeal over is already getting people to talk about the upcoming Disney flick.

Combine that with a cast that includes Reilly, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman, along with the studio responsible for hits like Bolt and Tangled, and we could have something for everyone: gamers and non-gamers alike. ~Max

Directed by Rich Moore
Written by Jennifer Lee, Phil Johnston
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Alan Tudyk, Dennis Haysbert



Max’s Critic’s Pick: Resident Evil: Retribution (Sep. 14)

"Evil Goes Global," the taglines tell us, though that was pretty clear in the last Resident Evil film from Paul W.S. Anderson and company. It seems the difference here is that Alice (Milla Jovovich) is truly taking her show on the road after the events of Afterlife, and her posse keeps getting bigger.

Retribution opens as the T-Virus — developed by the Umbrella Corporation — has turned the planet into an undead playground with few survivors walking around. Alice awakes (yet again) in another Umbrella facility, where she learns (even more) about her past with the shadowy company. Breaking free, she makes her next moves against the company responsible for the outbreak, taking her to Tokyo, New York, Moscow and Washington D.C and crossing paths with former allies and new faces alike.

Retribution marks the third film directed by Anderson, who has acted as a godfather to the entire series. Like any of his entries, Anderson is mum on the details of Alice's travels, but what we do know is that Retribution will be packed to the gills with characters from both the films and games. New additions like Ada Wong and Leon S. Kennedy are to be expected, but what nobody gets is how characters like Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) or Carlos (Oded Fehr) are back, seeing how both have died in past films (our money is on cloning). Complaints of Afterlife often stemmed from the fact very little happened. Retribution could rectify that, as it appears to up the scale of Alice's challenge (hordes of zombies with weapons! Lickers! An air force!) to go along with her globe-trotting adventures.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Johann Urb, Li Bingbing, Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr



4. Cloud Atlas (Oct. 26)

Many said that David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas, which takes place in six different time periods and consequently focuses on a diverse array of characters, was “unfilmable.” Still, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski – three directors never known to say no – embraced the challenge and even gave it a twist, aligning an impressive cast to play multiple roles that see them altering gender, race and age.

An ambitious period/sci-fi hybrid such as this could go either way, but we’re hopeful that Tykwer and the Wachowskis have pulled off something marvelous. If nothing else, “Atlas” should be incredible from an aesthetic standpoint, particularly for its visual components.

Academy Award winners Halle Berry and Tom Hanks seem to have top billing, while fellow winners Jim Broadbent and Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, and many other notable names also appear in this ambitious endeavor. Cloud Atlas will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival later this month, which will tell us early on whether “Atlas” is something special or an ambitious mess. ~Julian

Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Written by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski; David Mitchell (novel)
Starring: Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon



Julian’s Critic’s Pick: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Sep. 21 – Limited)

Summit Entertainment (now under Lionsgate’s banner but still with films left to release under its own name) is perhaps best known for the teen- and young adult-targeted Twilight franchise, but the studio has released more serious material such as 50/50, A Better Life, and Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker. Summit once again tries for the teen audience with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but we’re dealing with real-life relationships and drama this time around – not a human-vampire romance.

Logan Lerman, probably best known for the Percy Jackson franchise, leads as a shy and lonely freshman in high school that befriends two seniors, the outgoing Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson).

It’s exciting to see Harry Potter star Emma Watson tackling roles outside of her comfort zone. Yes, she’s still playing a student in high school, but “Perks” seems to focus on more mature themes than the actress has tackled previously. Melanie Lynskey, Paul Rudd, and Johnny Simmons also star in the film.

Wallflower could very well fit into every annoying “indie chic” cliché that comes to mind, but early word is positive, and its bow at the Toronto International Film Festival seems promising.


Directed by Stephen Chbosky
Written by Stephen Chbosky (screenplay, novel)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller



Other Notable Independent Dramas and Comedies This Fall

Liberal Arts (Sep. 14) A man goes back to his alma mater and fall for a student. Starring Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen and Richard Jenkins. – IFC

Butter (Oct. 5) An annual butter-carving competition brings out the worst in several small-town Iowans. Starring Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry and Hugh Jackman. — The Weinstein Company

The Sessions (Oct. 26) A man with an iron lung seeks to lose his virginity in his late 30s through the help of a professional sex surrogate. Starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy. — Fox Searchlight

This Must Be The Place (Nov. 2) A retired rocker living off royalties in Dublin returns to New York City to find the Nazi that tormented his father during World War II. Starring Sean Penn, Frances McDormand and Judd Hirsch. — The Weinstein Company



3. Looper (Sep. 28)

Given his track record with indie films Brick and The Brothers Bloom, filmmaker Rian Johnson probably expected to make a little sci-fi film that not too many people would be interested in. He’d already recruited his Brick star, the ever-rising Joseph Gordon-Levitt, when Bruce Willis fell in his lap. Now, Sony is marketing the film as though it is one of the can’t-miss films of the fall — and we’re inclined to believe them.

Looper imagines a future in which time travel exists but is illegal, used only by the mob to send its hits back in time to be offed by guys called Loopers. JGL plays one such Looper, but things get complicated for him when his future self appears (Willis). Failing to kill his target a.k.a. himself, his whole world is turned upside-down.

With an original sci-fi concept, Looper looks poised to be the most original sci-fi work we’ve seen since Inception. With the cast of JGL, Willis and Emily Blunt saying it’s the best time they’ve had making a film, we can’t help but be drawn to this one. ~Steven

Directed by Rian Johnson
Written  by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels



Steven’s Critic’s Pick: Dredd 3D (Sep. 21)

Comic book adaptation run rampant today, but that wasn’t the case in 1995, when Judge Dredd made his first leap to the big screen in the form of Sylvester Stallone. Needless to say, it wasn’t made with the same standard of excellence as today’s comic book adaptations. So, 35 years after the futuristic law-enforcement officer made his first appearance in British comic 2000 A.D., he gets a cinematic reboot.

Karl Urban (Star Trek) stars as the man in the helmet for Vantage Point director Pete Travis based on a script by Alex Garland (28 Days Later ..). Dredd and a rookie judge (Olivia Thirlby) track down a powerful drug dealer named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones) whose drug, slow-mo, has Mega City One completely hooked. The judges decide to take her down on her own turf — a 200-story building that she completely controls.

Early reaction to the trailer was decidedly skeptical, but screenings at Comic-Con in July drew some highly favorable opinions, namely that it’s a swift, well-executed bloodbath. Sure, the Comic-Con crowd is a specific group, but, uh — we’re that group. Dredd 3D looks like it ought to be a summer flick, which might be perfect for three weeks past Labor Day.

Directed by Pete Travis
Written by Alex Garland, Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner (characters)
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey



2. The Master (Sep. 14 – Limited)

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the few directors working today whose mere presence in the credits of a film is enough to thrust it near the top of a most-anticipated list. It's been five long years since he last stepped behind a movie camera (for 2007's tour-de-force There Will Be Blood), but a strong cast, dynamic trailer and deafening early buzz make it sound like the wait was well worth it.

If you're unfamiliar with the title of this project, perhaps you'll recognize it as "the Scientology movie." Yes, Anderson based The Master at least in part on L. Ron Hubbard and the controversial religion he founded in the 1950s, but it seems the lead character isn't Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Hubbard stand-in. Instead, it's Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell, a WWII sailor who is completely lost following the war. Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd takes him in and shares his philosophies, but is Freddie beyond help?

Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood teams with Anderson once again to provide what's sure to be a memorable original score while the film's cinematography (courtesy of Mihai Malaimare, Jr.) should look exquisite projected on 70mm (The Master is the first major motion picture to be filmed this way since 1996). ~John

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern



1. Skyfall (Nov. 9)

Bond is back! After MGM fell into financial trouble there was a risk that the Bond series could meet an indefinite hiatus, but with Sony’s help, Daniel Craig’s Bond is back and looking better then ever, getting his first Oscar winning director, Sam Mendes (American Beauty) to make his latest adventure, Skyfall.

Big-name screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo) comes in to work with Bond regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and the ensemble cast is just as impressive with Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Helen McCrory. Fan favorite Q returns to the series in the form of Ben Whisaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) and Naomie Harris (28 Days Later) is your new Bond girl.

After a mission goes wrong in Istanbul, Bond is presumed killed in action and a list of all of MI6’s undercover agents is leaked. M (Judi Dench) ends up being investigated, but when Bond returns, M asks him to seek out a ruthless and colorful villain, Raoul Silva (Bardem). MI6 faces its greatest threat and it turns out Silva has his own past with M and Bond.

Just from the trailers, Bardem, looks likely to be a memorable villain as Bond goes even darker and more distinctively stylist route, keeping up with the modern incarnation of series that began with Casino Royale. ~ Kieran

Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Ian Fleming (characters)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes


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