Fall’s Best Includes Drew, Clooney and a Juno Reunion

Some people like autumn for the leaves changing colors—for us, it’s the quality movies piling up in theaters between Labor Day and New Year’s.

Clive Owen makes us remember why we liked him so much in the first place (who told him to do The International? Fired!) in The Boys Are Back, in which he plays a sportswriter who becomes a single parent after a tragedy, adapted from Simon Carr’s memoir (Sept. 25). The Observer’s Rex Reed writes: “Clive Owen plays all the colors and emotions of the parenting dilemma with a probing wit and sense of humanity that are thrilling to watch. Roguish yet vulnerable, he gives a performance that is both rough-hewn and gently nuanced.” The following weekend (Oct. 2), brings slightly less heavy material, courtesy of the man who always steals the Emmy Awards, Ricky Gervais, who co-wrote and directed The Invention of Lying. Mr. Gervais plays a man who discovers he’s the first person in the world with the ability to lie—and no, it’s not a retread of Liar, Liar, smarty-pants!. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner (Juno reunion!) round out the cast.

Also making a directorial debut is Drew Barrymore: Her Whip It is about an indie misfit who joins a roller derby league and stars yet another former Juno player, Ellen Page.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fall without a Coen brothers film, right? A Serious Man brings the Coens back to their comfort zone: black comedy. Set in 1967, this film centers on a Midwestern professor (Michael Stuhlbarg), who watches his life spin out of control after his wife prepares to leave him, thanks to his brother, who won’t leave the house. Hmmm, are the Coens working out some issues?

Moving on! Did you happen to hear that Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers have redone this Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are? Kidding, of course! Besides a kabillion-word New York Times Magazine story and Internet posts galore, people have been yapping about this film for seemingly forever and anticipation is high. Same weekend brings New York, I Love You, an anthology of 11 short films (if this reminds you of Paris, je t’aime, you’re onto something) with an ensemble cast that includes Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Blake Lively, Orlando Bloom, Chris Cooper, Christina Ricci, Julie Christie, Robin Wright Penn and Ethan Hawke. Here’s hoping it’s better than He’s Just Not That Into You (Oct. 16).

On the weekend of Oct. 23, slightly mannish Oscar magnet Hilary Swank climbs into the biopic-y shoes of Amelia Earhart, the legendary pilot who disappeared in 1937, in Amelia. Directed by Mira Nair (The Namesake), and co-starring Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor, this sort of sweeping thing just screams for awards, right? Maybe not so much for the latest from Lars Van Trier, Antichrist, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe. Rex Reed saw it up at the Toronto Film Festival and called it a “barf job,” adding that “pickle-faced” Ms. Gainsbourg, “who always looks embalmed, prunes away her genitalia with garden shears.” Yeouch!

November! Right out of the gate, comes Sundance and Toronto big winner (though, in our opinion, terribly titled) Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. The film is about an overweight and illiterate teenager (Gabourey Sidibe) who’s pregnant with her father’s child and quite understandably has a horrific relationship with her mother (Mo’Nique, apparently the front-runner for Best Supporting Actress). Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey co-star! The film is apparently beyond harrowing, but also a must-see (Nov. 6).

Changing gears, did you know it is time to blow up the world? Again? That’s right, 2012, starring John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and Amanda Peet, looks like it will make our previous favorite apocalyptic film, Knowing, look like The Velveteen Rabbit. Do you need to know the plot, really (global cataclysm, the Mayans said so, etc.)? Roland Emmerich directs, and boy oh boy does this look like it’s going to make our heads go boom. On the flip side of things is a movie we’re guessing we’ll see in the big 10 Best Picture nominees come next January: Up in the Air, starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga. It’s from wonder boy Jason Reitman (again, Juno! Also, son of Ivan), and tells the story of lonely on-the-road travelers who find weary love (Nov. 13). Sign us up, please. More Clooney, same weekend, in Fantastic Mr. Fox, an animated flick from twee-heart Wes Anderson, which looks—shockingly—adorable, and boasts the additional voices of Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston and The Observer’s own James Hamilton!

Oh, Thanksgiving. For so many of us, you are a holiday we desperately want to escape from, preferably to a bar or the nearest dark theater. For the teens (and wannabe teens), The Twilight Saga: New Moon hits theaters early on Nov. 20, and yes, Robert Pattison and all of his sexy hair is in it, and no, we don’t know whether he and Kristen Stewart are really dating. If bleak is what you are after, look no further than The Road. This was probably the book that freaked us out the most, ever, and if the movie is half as dark, it will be pretty amazing. With Viggo Mortensen in the lead, we’re guessing it will be. If you’re getting enough horror at home from your relatives (hi-o!), then go razzle-dazzle instead with Rob Marshall’s Nine. Can the director pull off what he did with Chicago way back when? Can Daniel Day-Lewis really sing and dance as well as we dream he can? Is there a beautiful actress out there who wasn’t cast in this thing (it has Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, and Sophia Loren)? These questions will be answered on Nov. 25.

Look, we’re just not ready to even deal with December yet. Brothers, a war movie that actually looks amazing and co-stars Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal; The Lovely Bones;  another Eastwood with Matt Damon; and, oh yeah, Avatar! Stay tuned.

London Calling, With a Fab New Ingenue

Get ready to fall in love with Carey Mulligan! The winsome 24-year-old British actress has Hollywood a-swooning for her tremendous performance in the poignant and bittersweet coming-of-age film An Education, in theaters Oct. 9. Ms. Mulligan plays Jenny, a bright, hardworking 16-year-old student in 1960s suburban London who hopes she’ll be accepted to Oxford. Her parents (played by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) are fairly strict and conservative, and Jenny longs for life outside her small town, daydreaming of the days when she’ll be free to dress all in black, smoke and listen to French records as much as she likes. In other words, she’s ripe for a seduction. Enter Peter Sarsgaard, who plays too-smooth 30-something David, a somewhat mysterious man who enchants Jenny by showing her a different way of living, one where school takes a back seat to glamorous restaurants, concerts and trips to Paris. In addition to the inappropriate age difference, the audiences will quickly realize (with an early stomach lurch) that David is not all that he appears to be. We’re not tellin’!

Directed by Lone Scherfig and adapted by High Fidelity author Nick Hornby from the memoirs of Lynn Barber, the movie never trivializes Jenny’s feelings, nor devolves into sentimentality. The whole cast—which includes Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike—is terrific; and Mr. Sarsgaard’s English accent is so convincing that even his laugh sounds British. But this movie is all about Ms. Mulligan, and the extraordinary transformation she makes from innocent schoolgirl to disillusioned young woman. A star is born.

  Fall’s Best Includes Drew, Clooney and a Juno Reunion