Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fall Foliage: September


Summertime. Who doesn’t love it? Countless hours roasting at the beach, just swirling your tongue around a chocolate covered waffle cone, making sure that every last bite of that sweet, soft vanilla ice cream makes it into your hot mouth. And if your imagination happens to be running wild under the influence of a mild heat stroke, you can always seek shelter in a cool, dark auditorium for a big, summer movie. You like strapping superheroes? You got it! You like babes and bombs? It’s all waiting for you! If you’re anything like me though, you see the summer as just a few months of mostly mindless distraction designed to pass the time before the fall. Fall is a time for prestige and pedigree, thought and revelation. Fall is a time for cerebral celebration. And while summer is not quite done with us yet, the fall is just around the corner. Over the next few weeks, Black Sheep will be looking at each of the coming months, one by one, and highlighting the most exciting films to be appearing amidst the changing leaves. So as not to get too far ahead of ourselves, how about we begin with September?

Last fall brought us the eventual Oscar winner and 2007 Mouton d'Or winner for Best Picture, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, by the infamous writer/director siblings, Joel & Ethan Coen. This September, the brothers are back and while there is little to no Oscar buzz this time around, the cool factor that used to surround every project they were involved with is finally back after a string of disappointments. BURN AFTER READING is certainly lighter in tone than their last picture as two dodgy gym employees decide to use a computer disc containing potential CIA secrets they find in a changing room as leverage to get what they want out of life. As per usual, all the stars, from Clooney to Malkovich, to Swinton, McDormand and Pitt are out for the occasion.

Opening the same weekend, “Murphy Brown” writer, Diane English’s THE WOMEN looks to continue the trend of successful female driven pictures that proved themselves and then some this summer (see SEX AND THE CITY and MAMMA MIA!). A remake of the 1939 classic, English has rounded up a stellar cast that includes Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing and Eva Mendes. If English pulls it off, this could be the picture that finally gets Bening her Oscar and even more impressively, gets America to fall back in love with Meg Ryan.

You would think that winning an Academy Award for writing a screenplay that genuinely struck a chord with audiences or creating a groundbreaking television series that forced people to face death in a whole new way would be plenty to get your first directorial effort sold in no time. Apparently not so. Alan Ball, the writer of AMERICAN BEAUTY and creator of “Six Feet Under”, screened TOWELHEAD at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and it was days before it was bought up by the now defunct Warner Independent. At the time, it was called NOTHING IS PRIVATE but when it resurfaced at this year’s Sundance festival, it had gone back to the title of the novel it was based on.

Spike Lee is still making joints and not pictures but they are nothing like his earlier work. Or so it would seem on the surface. His later works might have a greater reach after mainstream success like THE INSIDE MAN but Lee is still fighting for the cause of the African-American people just by making sure they are front and center and getting their stories told in a fashion that is neither exploitative nor watered down for a wider audience. MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA is a fresh WWII story about a battalion of black soldiers that only gets heard in 1984, after a postal worker who served in that same battalion commits a seemingly inexplicable murder.

The month closes with a throwback to the summer time. Not every fall movie is Oscar bait. Believe it or not, some people still want to have an explosive good time. Enter Shia LaBeouf in EAGLE EYE. This terrorist thriller reteams LaBeouf with the director that propelled him to stardom. No, I’m not talking about the Shia-obsessed, Steven Spielberg, but rather DISTURBIA director, D.J. Caruso. LaBoeuf, along with blossoming starlet, Michelle Monaghan, unwittingly become roped into a terrorist plot that I’m sure they will be desperately trying to foil. This production was a bit of a rush, has many a writer to its credit and was pushed back from an earlier August release date. Ordinarily these would all be very bad signs but LaBeouf is the hottest young star on the planet so if anyone can change the direction of the harsh fall wind, he can.

Also in September … Nicolas Cage kills for money in BANGKOK DANGEROUS … Box-office golden boy, Tyler Perry takes a road trip in THE FAMILY THAT PREYS … Al Pacino and Robert Deniro reteam to the delight of every man’s inner boy in RIGHTEOUS KILL … Samuel Jackson torments his beautiful new mixed race neighbours (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) in LAKEVIEW TERRACE … Keira Knightly throws on her best Victorian wig in THE DUCHESS … As previously reported, CITY OF GOD director, Fernando Meirelles gives us a world without sight in BLINDNESS … Actor Ed Harris directs for the first time since POLLACK with the western, APPALOOSA … John Cusack voices the little guy who finally demands his glory in IGOR … One of Hollywood’s favorite writers, David Koepp, returns to directing with GHOST TOWN, a vehicle for Ricky Gervais where he can talk to dead people … Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena are a trio of soldiers road tripping through a homeland they no longer recognize in THE LUCKY ONES … and Richard Gere and Diane Lane reunite for love in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation, NIGHTS IN RODANTHE.

Tune in next week to see how Hollywood intends to scare the crap out of you in October!

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