Grimm’s fall movie preview
Our reviewer looks at upcoming movies and determines the good, the bad and the delayed
If you don’t give a rat’s ass about any of the movies coming your way during the next few months, I seriously can’t blame you.
For six years, I’ve reviewed films for this publication, and I’ve entered each of the movie seasons eager to see what’s out there to stimulate and entertain, although I was rather dreary going into summer 2000—Battlefield Earth was the big sci-fi offering!
Now, like never before in my lifetime, movies represent a diversionary tactic more than an entertainment option. They’re a way to take a break from misery, and that’s likely to be the case for quite some time.
For me, going to the movies has always been a pleasure, but it’s also a job. Actually, calling it a job is perhaps a bit too grand, considering the paycheck. Journalism majors, rethink your career tactics! Keep writing, maintain hipness and, please, back yourselves up with a nice mining degree!
While I hope the movies coming this fall and holiday season are quality entertainment, I also hope they will provide a safe haven for many of you to relax during a very difficult time. I hope they are the equivalent of your favorite over-the-counter pain reliever.
Officially, the fall movie season has already begun, and so far, not so good, but that’s normal for September. We’ve already endured the Keanu Reeves sports gambling movie Hardball and the Mark Wahlberg misfire Rock Star. Mariah Carey’s Glitter is the stuff that nightmares are made of—nightmares that consist of women making inhuman, high-pitched screeching sounds that are supposed to pass for singing after donning cutoff shorts five sizes too small (actually, I guess that’s some people’s idea of a good time).
Scanning the list of films on the way, I see there is a noticeable lack of big-budget studio extravaganzas. The studios seem to be afraid of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and have shuffled their big-dollar movies to next May (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Most Asinine Title to Come Along in Years) and summer (Men in Black 2).
Postponements & cancellations
The recent tragedies have resulted in studios scrambling to remove potentially shocking, ill-timed materials and films from the market in the immediate future. I’m grateful that we won’t have to sit through Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Collateral Damage, a film involving the terrorist bombing of a skyscraper, anytime soon. That movie has been indefinitely shelved due to its content, as has Tim Allen’s Big Trouble, a movie involving terrorists and a black-market nuclear bomb. Whether these are quality films is not important. We just don’t need that type of subject matter right now.
A scene in which a Middle Eastern terrorist threatens to nuke Wall Street has resulted in Joel Schumacher’s Bad Company, starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock, having its December release date cancelled. We have no Schumacher film this coming holiday season, and this is cause for much rejoicing. Christmas has come early for me.
Other changes being implemented by the studios include the World Trade Center’s being removed from Ben Stiller’s Zoolander and John Cusack’s Serendipity, as well as the pulling of a Spider-Man preview that featured a web between the Twin Towers capturing a helicopter. Men in Black 2, which also looked to utilize the buildings, shut down to rework its script. Also postponed until November is Ed Burns’ Sidewalks of New York, simply because it’s set in Manhattan.
Jackie Chan has scrapped plans to star in Nosebleed, where he was to have played a World Trade Center window washer. Chan has revealed that he was supposed to have been filming atop the Twin Towers at the moment they were attacked. A late script saved his life.
You won’t be seeing Dreamworks’ remake of The Time Machine this Christmas, possibly due to a scene that would have depicted the moon exploding and showering fragments on Manhattan. Al Pacino’s People I Know will also be removing some stylish shots of the towers from a few scenes. As for View From Above, a film that was to star Gwyneth Paltrow as a flight attendant, it appears to be a cancelled project. The list of script changes, marketing campaign reworks and postponements are sure to compound in the weeks to come.
I’d like to use this forum to put out a request that filmmakers not start digitally removing the World Trade Center from their work. The people who perished in the towers were more than likely working in those buildings at the time they were captured on film. Every time those buildings show up in future films, it honors their memories. It might be jarring for us to see the towers, but they are forever part of our history, and leaving the buildings in seems to be the proper move.
Excitement level 1: STOKED!
I’m quite surprised by the long list of films that qualify as eagerly anticipated by yours truly. A slew of big directors are leading the way with what looks to be decent brain food.
Martin Scorsese teams with Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs of New York, his first film in four years. Watch for this one to gain Oscar steam, even if it turns out to be only slightly less than nausea-inducing, because Scorsese has never won, and he is due. Scorsese is slacking off with his film output. Perhaps some lazybone attitude rubbed off on him while hanging with Peter Gabriel during production of The Last Temptation of Christ. Hey, Peter—put out an album, you lazy bastard!
If a Scorsese film isn’t enough to get film buffs revved up like a crackhead full of Frappuccino, then perhaps a Coen brothers film will do the trick. Taking no time off after O Brother, Where Art Thou?, they return with a black-and-white piece of film noir called The Man Who Wasn’t There, starring Billy Bob Thornton as a barber in a blackmail plot. The Coens shared Best Director honors at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with David Lynch, who has turned his failed ABC television pilot Mulholland Drive into a feature film. This is generating some major buzz.
Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Director, Stephen Soderbergh, continues his prolific ways with Ocean’s 11, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon. Another incredible cast graces Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tennenbaums, starring Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman and Gwyneth Paltrow. Anderson is responsible for two of the finest films of the ‘90s, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore.
Michael Mann, a director who created some of the last decade’s most beautiful-looking films (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans), shows up with Ali, in which Will Smith has allegedly transformed himself into The Greatest. A nice curio in this one is Jon Voight playing Howard Cosell.
For laughs, Zoolander stars Ben Stiller as history’s most dangerous being: the male model. There’s an evil plot by a megalomaniac fashion designer (Will Ferrell) to assassinate the president of Malaysia, and Derek Zoolander is the world’s only hope. The fact that Stiller stars, writes and directs co-stars Ferrell and Owen Wilson is encouraging. However, the film is based on a five-minute VH-1 skit, and that is a bit unnerving. The great Jack Black teams with the hit-or-miss Farrelly brothers for Shallow Hal, in which Gwyneth Paltrow pulls an Eddie Murphy by donning a fat suit.
Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star in From Hell, about the search for Jack the Ripper based on the Alan Moore graphic novel. Jim Carrey, still apparently pulling green-fuzz remnants of his Grinch costume out of the far reaches of his body, teams with director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) for The Majestic. Tom Cruise is once again working for his Jerry Maguire boss, Cameron Crowe, in Vanilla Sky, and Steve Martin stars as a dentist in Novocaine, a dark comedy in which Bernadette Peters, Goldie Hawn and smiley-happy clowns are suspiciously absent.
Finally, there’s the first The Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring. Who among us isn’t excited beyond words for this cinematic manna, besides those who hated the novels, think Hobbits and wizards are lame, and believe that the stinky Ralph Bakshi-animated POS did the classic justice? The trilogy, approaching a cost of $300 million, will be released one movie at a time over the next three years and is directed by Peter Jackson of Heavenly Creatures (wonderful) and The Frighteners (Michael J. Fox’s darkest cinema hour, if you discount The Secret of My Success).
Excitement level 2: SOMEWHAT EXCITED
While I see a few more films out there getting me mildly excited, the list tends to dry up quickly. Robert Redford shows up in two of them, The Spy Game (with Brad Pitt) and The Last Castle. This provides the opportunity to witness two rousing performances from this classic actor, providing we can see him through all the screens and filters they shoot him through nowadays. Kevin Spacey also pulls double-duty in K-Pax, co-starring Jeff Bridges, and The Shipping News, the long-awaited screen adaptation of Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Some decent animation appears to be on the way, with Pixar’s Monsters Inc. leading the kiddie fare, featuring the voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Richard Linklater’s Waking Life is an experimental film in which live-action actors, including Ethan Hawke, are painted over through computer wizardry.
Hawke also comes to you, sans paint job, as Denzel Washington’s co-star in the cop drama Training Day, and Washington is absolutely nowhere to be found in Heist, the latest from David Mamet, starring Gene Hackman. The chick-flick spirit looms large and holds the hand of Drew Barrymore in Riding in Cars With Boys, and that same spirit spits upon and mocks Bandits, starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton.
Brotherhood of the Wolf, a French monster movie, is supposed to be horrifying, and I suspect the same of Todd Solondz’s Storytelling. He’s the maker of Happiness, one of the scariest films of recent years.
Excitement level 3: NOT TERRIBLY EXCITED
I know it’s got a huge throng of followers and that the books are as vital as Flintstones vitamins to some children, but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is just not filling me with anticipation. Maybe it’s because the great Terry Gilliam (Brazil and Monty Python) was once in the running to direct, and the project wound up with Chris Columbus, the guy who made Mrs. Doubtfire, a film that mercilessly messed with my blood sugar levels.
I’m still bitter about Russell Crowe winning an Oscar for Gladiator, so I’m skeptical about A Beautiful Mind, directed by Ron Howard, for childish and unprofessional reasons. John Travolta has been alarmingly bad as of late, so his Domestic Disturbance threatens badness. The presence of Vince Vaughn and Steve Buscemi in that film lends promise, although the film’s preview trailer is a plot-divulging travesty.
Corky Romano, a comic vehicle starring Saturday Night Live‘s sometimes overwrought Chris Kattan, could wind up hurting a few, as could Black Knight, starring trigger-happy Martin Lawrence, and Bones, with Snoop Doggy Dog as a ghostly pimp-like killer. I would also like to single out Tim Allen’s Joe Somebody as worrisome, because this column needed one more sap to pick on, and the results of a quick phone survey by myself revealed Allen as a star worthy of slagging.
Although a movie won’t—and shouldn’t—take our minds completely off the horrors currently unfolding in the world, I do hope a few of the above manage to soothe the populace. Stuff like Corky Romano and Glitter will probably result in minor rebellions and the lobbing of theater seat cushions at the screen, but more than a few of these movies should provide a much needed good time.
In closing, I toss out this possibility: If each of us were to see a movie once a week and purchase a ticket, a small popcorn, a medium drink and some Red Vines at current theater prices, enough money would get pumped through the economy to avoid the oncoming recession. Yes, this concession spending will render us unable to afford prominent, brand-name undergarments, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.