Sweet release

With zombies, apocalypses and roller derby girls, get ready for fall movies

The summer movie season wasn’t what I would deem awful. It had its share of stinkers (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, All About Steve, The Guy With a Hygiene Problem In the Back Row Who Should Be Ashamed of Himself). But it did have some shining moments (Star Trek, Up, Inglourious Basterds).

Now comes the time for studios to push their awards-worthy pictures—and a few blockbuster wannabes—and here is a list of my most anticipated films through the end of the year. My level of anticipation comes after the mass consumption of Internet jabber, preview trailers and snacks, not necessarily in that order.

Where the Wild Things Are: After many delays, director Spike Jonze will finally deliver his adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book. It has, perhaps, the most talked about preview trailer out there right now. Are people excited about it for the arresting visuals and potential fantastic realization of one of their favorite childhood stories, or is it just the really cool Arcade Fire song getting them amped up?

A Serious Man: The Coen brothers look to be keeping it funny after the hilarious Burn After Reading. They also seem to be getting back to basics. A peek at the cast reveals no huge stars and no Coen mainstays like Frances McDormand or Steve Buscemi. It’s about a man (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) in ’67 dealing with a lazy brother and a disenchanted wife. It’s the Coens, so I’m naturally, and perhaps just a tad pathetically, excited.

The Men Who Stare at Goats: While the Coen mainstays aren’t appearing in their latest, you can find some of them in this movie. George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Stephen Root all have parts in this comedy about an elite Army force being trained to fight with psychic powers.

2012: John Cusack stars in a film where the whole planet gets smoked, Roland Emmerich style. (He’s the director who kicked our collective ass with The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day). I just like the idea of watching the apocalypse with Lloyd Dobler providing the commentary. “The world I love is destroying itself … I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.” Will he hold a boombox over his head while Vegas crumbles?

Zombieland: This one features a zombie apocalypse as Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg battle the undead while cracking wise. Director Ruben Fleischer claims he was inspired to make this film after watching Shaun of the Dead. No shit?

The Road: More apocalypse, this time with Viggo Mortensen trekking a barren countryside with his son in a Cormac McCarthy adaptation. Like Where the Wild Things Are, this one has had more release dates than a retired thoroughbred during breeding season.

The Informant: Buzz is already pegging a portly Matt Damon for serious Oscar consideration in this film about a loose-lipped informant blowing the whistle on a big corporation.

This Is It: Oh yeah, the King of Pop gets his last big cinematic shindig, and I can’t breathe just thinking about it! Actually, I jest. I couldn’t give two shits about this thing. It’s Michael Jackson rehearsing and getting really, really close to dying, and some folks with deep pockets are going to try to pass it off as a celebration of his music. Most of us will just watch it looking for hints of his imminent demise. OK, I’ll be watching it for hints of his imminent demise.

Avatar: The latest from the long dormant James Cameron has already gotten its butt kicked based on the trailer. Admittedly, the preview makes it look goofy, but Cameron has always proven that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to gigantic cinematic spectacles. Still, Hitler’s condemnation of the trailer on YouTube is a bit disconcerting.

Amelia: Hilary Swank’s Amelia Earhart accent drives me nuts in the preview trailer, but she does have a couple of Oscars to her credit, so maybe it’s just a case of bad preview editing. Or, maybe it’s just a case of Swank sporting a truly annoying Amelia Earhart accent. Come to think of it, I didn’t even know Earhart had an annoying accent. She has one now.

Whip It: Color me crazy, but I’m really excited about Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut. It stars Ellen Page as a rising roller derby star, with the likes of Barrymore, Kristen Wiig and Juliette Lewis dispensing elbow smacks beside her.

Gentlemen Broncos: Jared Hess, director of the much beloved Napoleon Dynamite, returns with the likes of Sam Rockwell and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) in his cast. The movie is about a young man who discovers his idea for a story has been plagiarized by a famed author. I’m eagerly anticipating the film but also eagerly anticipating Clement’s answer to whether or not he will do a third season of Conchords.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson changes pace with a stop motion animation movie featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray. Looks interesting enough.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Probably my least anticipated movie, but I’ll mention it because a large swath of the public seems to be into Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s patented brand of vampire moping.

Nine: Daniel Day Lewis and just about every hot actress in Hollywood is on hand for this Rob Marshall-directed musical. Yay!

Invictus: For those of you who didn’t know, Clint Eastwood is directing a film about Nelson Mandela starring Morgan Freeman. Matt Damon is in it, too. That’s enough for this one to make the list.

The Lovely Bones: I have a love-hate relationship with the Alice Sebold novel. The ending pissed me off. But Peter Jackson’s take on a dead girl (Saoirse Ronan) trying to solve her murder from the afterlife looks like it has a shot at being amazing.

Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. gets another franchise with this Christmas Day release, which offers up the famed sleuth as a man with equal strengths in his fists and brains. It also has Rachel McAdams, so I’m there on opening day.

Brothers: The usually reliable director Jim Sheridan comes back with a promising-looking drama after that odd 50 Cent movie. Jake Gyllenhaal takes care of his soldier brother’s wife (Natalie Portman) after he goes missing in Afghanistan. Troubles ensue. Sure, this is a done-to-death plot, but look at that cast. No, seriously … look at it.