Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Movies

Fall movie preview: Get to know the primary candidates

No matter who wins the White House on Nov. 6, three days later there will be a Republican on movie screens, fresh from his stint as a vampire hunter.

Abraham Lincoln.

This won't be some Michael Moore-Sean Penn liberal Hollywood ax job. Lincoln is directed by Steven Spielberg, cinematic friend of war veterans and astronauts. Sure, he donated to President Barack Obama's campaign, but Saving Private Ryan was a patriotic movie, wasn't it?

Republicans won't mind Spielberg outsourcing the role of an American president to an Englishman, Daniel Day-Lewis.

With its subject and pedigree, Lincoln is the season's prime contender for year-end honors but not the only one.

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is generating buzz with its theme, apparently based — in unflattering fashion — on the history of Scientology. The Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas are each adapted from bestselling novels and marketed with two of the most beautiful trailers you'll see this year.

Moviegoers will say hello again to James Bond, serving Her Majesty secretly in Skyfall, and goodbye to the Twilight Saga (and not a moment too soon).

The fall movie preview covers releases between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, when our annual holiday movie preview will be published. As usual, release dates are subject to change. Just like voters' minds.

In honor of Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president and first on the Republican ticket, we offer 16 cinematic distractions from the election grind, strictly bipartisan.

SEPT. 7: THE WORDS

Bradley Cooper plays an author who isn't honest like Abe. He discovers an unpublished manuscript, claims it as his own work then sweats when the rightful author (Jeremy Irons) reappears from seclusion. A movie about ethics and literature? You know the summer movie season is over.

SEPT. 21: THE MASTER

Is this a thinly veiled dramatization of the early days of Scientology? Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) won't say for sure but similarities are striking. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an L. Ron Hubbard type whose new religion entices a troubled World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix).

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

Clint Eastwood lets someone else direct for a change, starring as a pro baseball scout with failing vision. An estranged daughter (Amy Adams) joins him for a scouting tour, and both are distracted differently by another scout (Justin Timberlake). Can't wait to hear Eastwood tell Timberlake: "Get off my infield."

SEPT. 28: LOOPER

A mob killer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets his targets from the future, sent back in time for elimination years before they can cause trouble. His latest assignment turns out to be his older self (Bruce Willis). Where was this guy when John Wilkes Booth was plotting Lincoln's assassination?

OCT. 5: FRANKENWEENIE

Disney dumped Tim Burton nearly 30 years ago, after his live-action short Frankenweenie was deemed too weird. Now that Burton has made millions for the Mouse House with Alice in Wonderland all is forgiven. Burton switches the story to stop-motion animation, but its chief theme — a boy and his undead but surgically resurrected dog — remains more intact than the pet.

OCT. 12: ARGO

After The Town and Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck is no joke behind the camera. This time he focuses on the true story of a 1980 hostage rescue in Iran, carried out by CIA agents posing as Canadian filmmakers shooting a sci-fi epic. John Goodman and Alan Arkin play Hollywood types assisting the ruse in Wag the Dog fashion.

OCT. 26: CLOUD ATLAS

The season's most inscrutable movie, requiring three mind-bending directors: Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer and Matrix trilogy creators Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski. A starry cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant plays multiple roles over several millennia to demonstrate human connectivity. And you thought it was a Microsoft handbook.

THE SESSIONS

Oscar buzz for co-stars Helen Hunt and John Hawkes began at Sundance, where this fact-based drama earned the audience favorite award. Hawkes (Winter's Bone) plays Mark O'Brien, a journalist severely debilitated by polio who hires a therapeutic sex surrogate (Hunt) to take his virginity. Touchy subject.

NOV. 2: WRECK-IT RALPH

The villain in a 1980s video game (voice of John C. Reilly) tires of being the bad guy, escaping to other games to prove he can also be a hero. The preview trailer is delightful for anyone who dropped quarters into arcade slots during the Donkey Kong era, with cameos by Q*bert and Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man.

FLIGHT

Robert Zemeckis ditches motion-capture animation for his first live-action film since 2000's Cast Away. Denzel Washington stars as an airline pilot hailed as a hero after successfully landing a disabled jet. Then it's revealed that the pilot had alcohol in his system, and may go to prison. That wouldn't happen to "Sully" Sullenberger.

NOV. 9: LINCOLN

It feels like four score and seven years since Steven Spielberg announced this project, focused on the final months of Abraham Lincoln's life. Liam Neeson dropped out of the title role, claiming he grew too old to play it during the wait. Two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis stepped in and appears poised to win another, as does Sally Field as first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Film opens limited release Nov. 9 and will expand Nov. 16.

SKYFALL

No, this isn't a sequel to James Bond's parachute entrance into the Olympics with Queen Elizabeth. Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) comes out of semiretirement to save MI-6 and its leader, M (Judi Dench), from arch-villain Silva (Javier Bardem). Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) is new to the franchise, so his license to thrill is more of a learner's permit.

NOV. 16: THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN, PART 2

All this time Edward (Robert Pattinson) worried about Jacob (Taylor Lautner) horning in on Bella (Kristen Stewart). He should have kept an eye on that Snow White and the Huntsman director. The breakup of StewPat or whatever they were called won't prevent TwiHards from seeing the saga to its conclusion.

NOV. 21: THE LIFE OF PI

Next to Cloud Atlas, the season's most esoteric offering. Director Ang Lee tackles Yann Martel's 2001 novel of survival and faith, with a boy (Piscine Molitor Patel) stranded at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger. Lee uses 3-D effects for the first time in his Oscar-winning career, making Life of Pi this year's Hugo in terms of state-of-the-art art.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS

A holiday twist on The Avengers, with Santa Claus (voice of Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost (Chris Pine) saving the world. Jude Law voices the supervillain who's always naughty, never nice.

THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Bradley Cooper started this fall movie preview, so he may as well finish it. This time he's a chronically depressed man recently released from a mental hospital, living with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver). Historians say Abraham Lincoln also suffered from depression, but he didn't have Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) for support.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

     

         
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