"Some promising titles between now and the holiday movie season

It’s a sad time of year for movie fans. We know the score. If the powers-that-be have a comedy or action film they believe in, it gets released in the summer or held for the holidays. And if the powers-that-be have a drama they are proud of, it gets held until November or December to cash in on the holiday crowds and to position the movie for the Oscars and all the other awards. Which leaves us with the leftovers.

Thankfully, it’s not quite that grim. Some filmmakers recognize that quality movies have a better chance of standing out now than in the highly competitive summer and holiday seasons. Here are a few of the more promising upcoming titles. Whether they will deliver the goods remains to be seen, but at least they look good on paper.

All dates are subject to change. Highly.


The Basics: Film noir, based on the James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) book about detectives investigating the brutal murder of a young woman in Hollywood. Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart are the cops, Scarlett Johansson is Eckhart’s honey-bunny and Hilary Swank is a femme fatale, because where would a noir film be without a femme fatale? Sept. 15.

What Looks Good: Director Brian De Palma also did Scarface and The Untouchables, so he presumably will know just what to do with a nasty-ass James Ellroy story.


The Basics: Robert Penn Warren’s novel about a corrupt politician reminiscent of Huey Long won a Pulitzer Prize. The 1949 film based on it won several Oscars, including Best Picture. Sept. 22.

What Looks Good: With Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson and Anthony Hopkins on board, the cast appears nearly as strong as the material.


The Basics: Gritty thriller set in the near future. The human race has become infertile — the last baby was born 18 years ago. Ah, but a young woman is pregnant and an ex-activist is persuaded to help spirit her to safety. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine star and Alfonso Cuaron directs. Sept 29.

What Looks Good: Prior to his acclaimed turn behind the camera for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuaron made his mark with the outstanding Y Tu Mama Tambien. This man knows how to make a road movie that feels fresh and rings true.


The Basics: What did the leaders of Britain do the week Princess Diana died? Helen Mirren appears as the queen and Michael Sheen plays Tony Blair. Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) directs. Sept. 30.

What Looks Good: Solid cast, strong director, intriguing concept. 


The Basics: Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen in a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Internal Affairs. Set in Boston, the story deals with an undercover cop who infiltrates the mob and a mobster that infiltrates the police force. Oct. 6.

What Looks Good: Hey, it’s a dark crime thriller by Scorsese with a cast full of extremely talented actors who all just happen to be very c-o-o-l.  


The Basics: Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are dueling stage magicians in this period film set at the turn of the last century. Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie costar. Oct. 20

What Looks Good: The cast is impressive ‚ bonus points to whoever signed up David Bowie — but what really looks good is the person in the director’s chair, Christopher Nolan, the man behind Memento and, more recently, Batman Begins. Expect a puzzle film with lots of twists and turns.


The Basics: Clint Eastwood directs an ensemble piece about the six soldiers who planted the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima in WWII. Oct. 20.

What Looks Good: Clint Eastwood, a great idea, a skilled cast of young actors — what doesn’t look good? Incidentally, next year Eastwood plans to release another film looking at the same event from Japan’s point of view.


The Basics: Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly) takes the nonfiction exposé by Eric Schlosser and, with the author’s help, turns it into a fictional drama. Ethan Hawke and Greg Kinnear star. Oct. 20.

What Looks Good: Fine, so this one sounds iffy. No matter — I have a great deal of faith in Linklater. Incidentally, the cast includes Wilmer Valderrama, who has morphed from the squirrelly foreign kid on That ’70s Show to smarmy ladies’ man on MTV. Weird, huh?


The Basics: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal star in a sprawling multistory film set in Morocco. An accident involving two young goat herders ends up affecting a wide variety of people. Oct. 27.

What Looks Good: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu proved adept at making multistory movies with 21 Grams. The presence of Brad Pitt is also encouraging. His film selections are almost always interesting.


The Basics: Russell Crowe reunites with Gladiator director Ridley Scott … for a comedy. Nov. 10.

What Looks Good: The idea of these guys paired up for a comedy may sound weird, but they both have a strong track record on selecting film projects.


The Basics: Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) is back with a new ensemble comedy starring all the usual suspects. Nov. 17.

What Looks Good: Please re-read the previous sentence.




Recommended for you