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Fall Movie Preview

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Posted: Friday, September 8, 2006 10:00 pm

Last week, I took a look back on the great, good and not-so-good summer releases.

Now, since we're in the transitional period between summer's popcorn pleasures the more sophisticated fare coming up in the fall, here's a look forward to some upcoming releases that have the potential to be the year's big winners.

• "The Departed" (Opening Oct. 6) - If early buzz is to be believed, then this may be the movie to beat come Oscar time. And I'm prepared to believe it, especially considering the names involved with this American remake of the hit Hong Kong action film "Infernal Affairs." Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon as a cop undercover as a criminal, and a criminal undercover as a cop, respectively. With supporting work from Jack Nicholson as a ruthless mafia boss, this one looks to be a scorcher of a thriller, and may finally net Scorsese the Oscar recognition he's craved for his entire career.

• "The Prestige" (Oct. 20) - This new film from director Christopher Nolan ("Memento," "Batman Begins") stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as two turn-of-the-century magicians who set out to ruin each other by revealing the closely guarded secrets behind the other's signature illusion. I read Christopher Priest's original novel several years ago, and with the exception of the confusing, anti-climatic conclusion, I think it will make fitting fodder for Nolan's twisty brand of neo-noir. Plus, it co-stars David Bowie as real-life mad scientist Nikola Tesla. What's not to like here?

• "Casino Royale" (Nov. 17) - Just as Nolan reinvented the Batman mythos last year, filmmaker Martin Campbell ("GoldenEye," "The Mask of Zorro") hopes to reimagine the James Bond franchise by going back to the beginning. This entry into the never-ending Bond series - based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, previously filmed as a comedy starring David Niven - is said to be darker than any previous installment (if it's only half as vicious as "License to Kill," I'll be pleased), and I'm confident Daniel Craig has it in him to be the best Bond ever.

• "For Your Consideration" (Nov. 17) - If this were simply the next mockumentary from the minds behind "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind," that alone would be enough to warrant placement on this list. Add Ricky Gervais (of the British phenomenon "The Office") into the mix, and you've got what is sure to be one of the year's funniest movies. This one focuses on the cast and crew of a horrible film that somehow garners awards buzz, and I've got a feeling writer/director Christopher Guest will add a wealth of insider humor to spice things up.

• "The Fountain" (Nov. 22) - Fact: "Requiem for a Dream" is the greatest film made in the past 25 years. Another, less compelling fact: Its director, Darren Aronofsky, has not made another movie in the six years since "Requiem for a Dream" was released. "The Fountain" marks the filmmaker's (hopefully) triumphant return, and I couldn't be more excited. However, my excitement is inspired only by the cast and crew of this reportedly tricky foray into existential science-fiction. As for the plot, I'm a tad skeptical. As taken from the Internet Movie Database: "Spanning over one thousand years, and three parallel stories, 'The Fountain' is a story of love, death, spirituality, and the fragility of our existence in this world." What exactly that means, I have no idea. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

Also of note:

• "Man of the Year" (Oct. 13), starring Robin Williams as a political comedian who finds himself elected president as the result of a major voting error. Barry Levinson last delved into timely political humor with "Wag the Dog," which was one of the best films of its year.

• "A Good Year" (Nov. 03) re-teams Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott, who directed him to a best actor Oscar in "Gladiator." This time things are more mellow, with Crowe starring as an English bloke who inherits a vineyard in Provence, France. It's been a while since Crowe (today's best and most versatile performer, by any measure) was featured in a straight-up character study, so I'm curious what he can do with the material.

• "Apocalypto" (Dec. 08) probably won't perform well financially for a litany of reasons, the least of which is director Mel Gibson's recent drunken behavior. This end-of-the-world thriller featuring a cast of unknowns speaking a dead language may remind some of Gibson's wildly successful "The Passion of the Christ," but this one won't have religious support to fall back on. Regardless, Gibson hasn't let me down yet, so I'm keeping an open mind.

Leonardo Di Caprio, left, stars with Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed." (Courtesy photo)

• "Dreamgirls" (Dec. 21) is a big-screen adaptation of a hit, Tony-winning musical. It's written and directed by Bill Condon ("Kinsey"), and stars Eddie Murphy in what will hopefully be a career-defining role as a famous singer. You should need no further explanation of why this is one of the season's most hotly anticipated projects.

• "Children of Men" (Dec. 25) may seem like a strange project for Alfonso Cuaron to be involved with, but when you consider that his previous movies have been as diverse as "A Little Princess," "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," it starts to make more sense for him to be attached to this futuristic tale of a man (Clive Owen) trying to save Earth's last pregnant woman. Like most of the movies discussed in this column, it could be a disaster. Hopefully, it will instead be a prime example of how the talents of a filmmaker and his cast can salvage an otherwise dubious production.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jwallis@runbox.com.



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