Paul Thomas Anderson
Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
This long-deferred movie actually couldn’t have been better timed. An apparent allegory for the creation of Scientology, The Master comes along just as public interest in the (alleged!) money-grubbing cult is at an all-time high, post-Tom/Katie divorce. In this telling, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the L. Ron Hubbard-like figure who snares untold numbers of believers into his thrall. Plot details, per Paul Thomas Anderson’s standard, are hazy, but the trailer reveals simply that Mr. Anderson has kept up his keen attention to aesthetic compostion–and that Amy Adams, playing a devoted cult wife, may be this film’s MVP. Can we arrange for Katie Holmes to present her the Oscar?
Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Sam Rockwell
Andrew Dominik’s follow-up to the much-loved, little-seen Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford jumps forward in time–it’s a modern-day store of mobland America, based on a pulp crime novel. The movie was a hit at Cannes, and may be yet another feather in the cap of good-looking weirdo character actor Brad Pitt, who plays a hitman’s assistant, or “point man.” The whole thing promises to be a real boys’ club, with costars like Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, and Ray Liotta, who knows a thing or two (actually, just one thing) about mob movies.
Jim Field Smith
Yara Shahidi, Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell
Little is really known about this long-delayed satirical film. How long-delayed was it, you ask? The early buzz was that Jennifer Garner’s character, a housewife and competitive butter-sculptor, was based on Presidential front-runner Michele Bachmann. Director Jim Field Smith hails from the U.K. but takes on heartland rituals in this look at the dairy-art circuit, whose protagonist is an adopted orphan daring to take on the longtime champions (Ms. Garner and Mr. Burrell). Somehow, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde, and Alicia Silverstone fit into this puzzle–no word on what Ms. Silverstone, noted vegan, did around the enormous blocks of milk product.
Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin
Ben Affleck, flamed-out Hollywood star, has had a successful second career as the director of Boston heist pictures, but his third directorial effort, Argo, finally takes him outside of the old neigborhood. Mr. Affleck stars as a CIA officer who comes up with a cunning plan to rescue escapees during the Iran hostage crisis–he fakes the production of a sci-fi movie (Iran makes a lovely moonscape, after all) and attempts to airlift out the Americans, pretending they’re crew members. Sounds fairly tidy, but we’re sure complications will ensue–and we haven’t even read the Wired article on which the whole thing’s based!
Tom Twkyer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry
Everyone believed that the mammoth David Mitchell novel, encompassing millennia of human experience, was unfilmable. And maybe everyone was right! All we know right now is that the Wachowskis (of the Matrix films) and Tom Twkyer (of Run Lola Run) have turned all of their creative over-enthusiasm towards putting together the most rollicking movie ever to contain both a Martin Amis-style comedy of manners and a post-apocalyptic agrarian community on Hawaii. Somehow, major stars like Tom Hanks and Halle Berry fit into the equation. As you read this description, you’re already significantly behind; you’d better start reading Cloud Atlas this minute if you hope to have it finished and marginally comprehended by October!
Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes
The next, and long-delayed, installment in the James Bond story comes with a schmancy pedigree–director Sam Mendes has experienced diminishing returns since the 1990s, but he still, you know, has an Oscar. So too does Javier Bardem, who promises to be the most menacing villain since Dr. No. Un-bedecked by golden trophies are new Bond girls Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe, but that’s hardly the point, is it? About the plot, little is known, but for the promise of spy-queen M’s past coming back to haunt her. All the better: it’s about time Judi Dench got to stretch her acting muscles in the Bond movies.
Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Joe Wright just can’t resist the charms of Keira Knightley–and he’s hardly alone! Mr. Wright made it cool to think Ms. Knightley was a good actress by directing her in well-received roles in Pride & Prejudice and Atonement–without his attentions, she’s languished a bit. But Ms. Knightley is back doing what she does best (aristocratic hauteur, wearing elaborate garments, telling off gentlemen), and this time, she’s got a complement of men to choose from. Though all of us English majors know how it ends, let’s form factions rooting for Jude Law’s Karenin or Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky–or, at least, let’s decide after the fact who had the most convincing Russian accent.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 2
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
The series that launched a million magazine covers has finally ended (though the saga of its stars’ offscreen love will surely inflate the bottom line at many a media company for years to come). It’s the final installment of the Twilight series–or “Saga,” as the producers would Germanically have it–and if you waited a week to see any of the fine independent films released last week, get in line early for popcorn. Every tween and teen and regressing thirtysomething within a five-mile radius cannot wait to see just how the Bella-Edward vampire-mortal union ends–even though the book came out years ago! No matter. Fandom, like vampirism, is eternal.
Life of Pi
Irrfan Khan, Gérard Depardieu
November 21, 2012
Another unfilmable novel adapted to the screen? It must be fall! Ang Lee attempts something of a comeback with his adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel, wherein a boy and a tiger are trapped on a raft floating in uncharted waters. Mr. Lee has a lot to prove, having released a couple of films consecutively that couldn’t quite match Brokeback Mountain in terms of popular acclaim. Perhaps the transfer to a wholly new environment, with the challenge both of a dense, allusive text and of a, you know, tiger, will move him to new heights! If not, it’ll at least be the season’s most compelling misfire.
Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway has subjected you to her songs through lo these many Oscar ceremonies–and now she finally has the opportunity to belt it out on film! The world’s most energetic entertainer shifts down a gear to play doomed prostitute Fantine in the adaptation of the world-rattling Broadway show; her costars include Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe playing, respectively, the unfairly convicted Valjean and the doggedly devoted Javert. Other cast members in director Tom Hooper’s first post-Oscar flick include Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the garrulous-to-a-fault Thénardiers, but it’s Ms. Hathaway who’s likely dreaming a dream… of Oscar!