Stars of the fall

The leaves will be brown, the sky will be gray, Bob Grimm previews the upcoming movies of fall and winter days

Top row, <i>The Matrix Revolutions</i>; middle row, Ian McKellen in <i>The Return of the King; </i>bottom row, Jessica Biel in <i>Texas Chainsaw Massacre</i> and Antonio Banderas in <i>Once Upon a Time in Mexico</i>.<br>

Top row, The Matrix Revolutions; middle row, Ian McKellen in The Return of the King; bottom row, Jessica Biel in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Antonio Banderas in Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Not one film made in America in the first eight months of 2003 has earned the orgasmic popcorn rating that denotes excellent movies in this publication. While films such as this summer’s Seabiscuit and Open Range can be considered the only real Oscar contenders at this point, they are flawed movies nonetheless. As of late August, the French He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not qualifies as the year’s best and the only movie to garner a rating that resulted in popcorn sticking to the ceiling.Will the film year rally with its annual autumnal/winter offerings of award contenders? Here’s a rundown of my Top 10 most anticipated films between now and Dec. 31, listed in ascending order to the film generating the most excitement.

10. The Matrix Revolutions: The first sequel, Reloaded, was a supreme letdown. Here’s to the Wachowski Brothers and Keanu coming together and making something that plays well, as opposed to the over-polished, self-important junk that was the second film in the series. Really, the effects were just awful looking. No more rave scenes!

9. Something’s Gotta Give: Until this week, I really could not have cared less about this Nancy Meyers’ project starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves. After seeing a preview trailer, I can’t wait. Nicholson seems to have found a comedy that boasts his best traits, and Keaton gets a role in which she is worshipped by men young and old, something she most certainly deserves.

8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Another film that’s got me all hyped after seeing the preview. Yes, it’s produced by Michael Bay, but he doesn’t direct, so there’s hope for this remake of the bloody classic. Yes, this one makes the excitement list over two brainy Nicole Kidman offerings, Cold Mountain and The Human Stain. I know Nicole turns out some good products, but this is Leatherface!

7. Once Upon a Time in Mexico: Robert Rodriguez, who turns out movies faster than McDonald’s regurgitates milkshakes, appears to go nuts in this sequel to Desperado, which was a weak sequel to the overrated El Mariachi. Still, early Internet buzz says Johnny Depp is in top form, and Willem Dafoe costars.

6. Kill Bill Volume One: Miramax decided to split Quentin Tarantino’s latest into two parts when they learned that the film was clocking in at almost four hours, with the director refusing to make cuts. I happen to like four-hour movies, so this marketing move has me a little peeved. Still, who doesn’t want to see Uma Thurman kicking David Carradine’s ass? Actually, quite a few people probably don’t give a damn. It will be interesting to see how the box office does on Volume Two.

5. Elf and Stuck on You: I have an equal amount of enthusiasm for these two silly looking comedies. Elf stars Will Ferrell as an elf, and that’s enough to get me in line. Stuck on You is a Farrelly brothers movie with Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon playing conjoined twins. Prime material for nasty sex jokes.

4. School of Rock: After a stellar performance in High Fidelity, Jack Black has been looking for a vehicle to permanently establish him as leading man material. He failed with Saving Silverman and Shallow Hal, but this one (directed by Dazed and Confused‘s Richard Linklater) appears to be the perfect film to tap into Black’s wild Tenacious D persona. October will see the release of a Tenacious D DVD, and if it weren’t for the postponement of Envy, his currently-in-turmoil Ben Stiller team-up, the season would be saturated with Black. Tenacious D fans: A film featuring the world’s greatest band is in the works.

3. Big Fish: Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Billy Cruddup and Jessica Lange in a Tim Burton movie. Sounds good. Sounds too good.

A little ditty about Jack and Diane. That’s Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in <i>Something’s Gotta Give.</i><br>

2. Intolerable Cruelty: Normally, any film directed by the Coen brothers would go to the top of the heap. But this film year features a movie that has hobbits in it, so it must be relegated to second place. No matter, this courtroom comedy starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones should still be one of the year’s best films.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: One of the greatest film series ever put to screen will end with what director Peter Jackson is calling “the reason for the other two films.” Frodo heads towards his destiny at Mount Doom, Gollum behaves badly, and Aragorn gets his big day. It’s a sad thing when you want a few months in your life to pass by in the blink of an eye in order to see a movie, but that’s exactly what I’m wishing for with this movie. Such a geek.

Five that don’t look so good

Cheaper by the Dozen: Hot on the heals of Bringing Down the House, Steve Martin looks all set to once again embarrass his die-hard fans, this time with a lame film about child care. Steve, you are killing us, man. Rather see a sequel to The Jerk.

The Cat in the Hat: This film contains a creature that looks absolutely horrifying, too over-the-top to ingest, an entity that just takes things way too far. Yep, it stars child actress Dakota Fanning. Mike Myers plays the famous cat.

Brother Bear: Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas of SCTV bring back their McKenzie brothers routine as animated talking moose. Fans will have to settle for this instead of Strange Brew 2. That hurts.

Mona Lisa Smile: Julia Roberts takes her hack at the Dead Poet’s Society format as an unorthodox teacher showing young girls how to break free of convention. If she starts shouting, “Seize the day!” I’ll renounce my recent support of her acting career and walk out. Actually, this one has Maggie Gyllenhaal, so I won’t walk out, but I’ll be pissed.

Radio: Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a mentally handicapped man, complete with prosthetic teeth. I Am Sam alert!