I'm choosing not to dwell on the depressing mediocrity of the freshly wrapped summer movie season. Instead, let's look forward to the fall/winter season, and 15 movies that will hopefully prevent 2007 from being a completely forgettable year at the movies. To start, here are the five releases I'm most looking forward to for the rest of the year:
1) "There Will Be Blood" (Dec. 26) - The trailer for this one sent chills down my spine. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (who hasn't helmed a film since 2002's "Punch-Drunk Love") and starring Daniel Day-Lewis (who hasn't starred in a major release since "Gangs of New York" that same year) as a pioneer in the cut-throat oil business, there's no way this won't be one of the season's premiere attractions.
2) "Sleuth" (Oct. 12) - The original, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine as two men who get caught up in an escalating battle of psychological warfare, is my favorite film of all time. I'm not usually a proponent of remaking such already-perfect pieces of cinema, but considering this is directed by the reliable, inventive Kenneth Branagh and features Caine playing the role Olivier originated, I'm sold.
3) "Lake of Fire" (Oct. 3) - Oh, what a deliciously divisive film this will be! Reclusive filmmaker Tony Kaye has made a two-and-a-half-hour, black-and-white, reportedly unbiased abortion documentary that shows both sides of the debate in graphically sterile detail, and you can bet it will rile the feathers of activists of all political persuasions. Festival buzz pegs it as the best documentary in years.
4) "American Gangster" (Nov. 2) - I don't know much about this one, other than the fact that Ridley Scott directs Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in a hard-edged story about drug smuggling in the 1970s. Incidentally, that's all I need to know.
5) "Eastern Promises" (Sept. 14) - The "History of Violence" team of David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen reunites for this film about a ruthless gangster who must protect a Russian crime family from a woman (Naomi Watts) who knows too much. If it's even half as tense and engrossing as their last film together, it should rank as one of the year's finest.
Five more that leave me giddy with anticipation:
"No Country for Old Men" (Nov. 9) - The Coen Brothers return to form with a gritty crime drama that is getting some heavy buzz.
"Across the Universe" (Sept. 14) - The trailer, featuring a kaleidoscope of trippy '60s images set to The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face," speaks for itself.
"Hatchet" (Sept. 7) - The triumphant return of the '80s-style slasher film, with Kane "Jason Voorhees" Hodder himself doing the slashing.
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Oct. 12) - Nearly 10 years after Cate Blanchett portrayed Queen Elizabeth I under the direction of Shekhar Kapur, the two return for the second film in a purported trilogy.
"Shoot 'Em Up" (Sept. 7) - Clive Owen shoots a bunch of stuff. Paul Giamatti plays the bad guy. How could this not be the coolest thing ever?
And finally, five movies about which I am cautiously optimistic:
"Walk Hard" (Dec. 21) - I was more excited about this music industry send-up before I saw the bland trailer, but I'd trust writer/producer Judd Apatow with anything.
"I'm Not There" (Nov. 21) - A Bob Dylan biopic with seven different actors (including Cate Blanchett) playing the legendary singer/songwriter. It may be just crazy enough to work.
"The Darjeeling Limited (October) - With any luck, Wes Anderson's comedy about three troubled brothers will be quirky and smart (like "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums") instead of quirky and annoying (like "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou").
"The Heartbreak Kid" (Oct. 5) - The Farrelly Brothers return to R-rated territory with this remake starring Ben Stiller. With this one, I'm definitely more cautious than optimistic, as the Farrellys have broken my heart one too many times.
"Sweeney Todd" (Dec. 21) - Tim Burton's vision of the Broadway musical looks a little more gothic than I would like, but, as always, I'll reserve judgment.