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Thrills, chills, and Oscar-bait

Superheroes aside, there's something for everyone at the cineplex this fall

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In the movies coming to theatres in the next few months, the only things resembling a comic book superhero is a dour, gun-toting judge and a pumped-up Santa Claus.

That makes fall 2012 seems a little anti-climactic after a big box-office summer that saw three different superhero movies -- The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man -- raking in the bulk of the box-office cash. (Those three films and The Hunger Games have already won the top four spots of 2012's box-office race so far.)

So who will save Hollywood in the fall, given the precipitous drop-off of super entities? It looks like the more typical autumnal assembly of Oscar-bait, action, thrills and kid films. Fall flicks, assemble!


The Master (September) is the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), an examination of a self-help prophet (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a damaged war vet (Joaquin Phoenix) who together embark on the creation of a cult. It's said to be inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Clint Eastwood stars as a baseball scout losing his eyesight but gaining a relationship with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) in Trouble with the Curve (Sept. 21). Won't Back Down (Sept. 28) is the story of a single mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) driven by an unfeeling school system to start a charter school. Following up his success with The Town in 2010, Ben Affleck stars in and directs Argo (Oct. 12), a real-life thriller about how an "extrication specialist" (Affleck) snuck six Americans from the home of the Canadian ambassador during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979.

In Killing Them Softly (Oct. 14), Brad Pitt reteams with director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) for a crime story based on a novel by the great George V. Higgins (The Friends of Eddie Coyle) in which Pitt plays a mob enforcer investigating a heist of a mob-protected poker game.

Cloud Atlas (Oct. 26) is a mind-bender from the Wachowskis (the filmmakers who gave us The Matrix) tracking the fates of various people and their incarnations through past, present and future, with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry among the cast.

Director Martin McDonagh places an innocent screenwriter (Colin Farrell) in a kidnapping plot involving the Shih Tzu of a feared gangster (Woody Harrelson) in Seven Psychopaths (October).

In Flight (Nov. 2) Denzel Washington stars as a pilot first deemed a hero after saving dozens of lives by landing a damaged plane, only to find himself under damaging scrutiny in the investigation that follows. Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg directs Oscar-winner Daniel Day Lewis as the non-vampire-hunting Great Emancipator in Lincoln (Nov. 16), examining the president's tumultuous final months in office.

Director Ang Lee rose to the challenge of filming the presumed unfilmable Life of Pi (Nov. 21) about a young man marooned at sea with a Bengal tiger.

Director David O. Russell offers a romance between two mentally disturbed individuals (played by Bradley Cooper and Hunger Games it girl Jennifer Lawrence) in Silver Linings Playbook (Nov. 21).


Karl Urban plays the comic book revenger Judge Dredd (a role once ignominiously played by Sylvester Stallone) in Dredd 3D (Sept. 21). A rookie cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself up to his neck in trouble on the mean streets of L.A. in End of Watch (Sept. 21).

The busy Jennifer Lawrence is a woman in distress when she discovers her new boyfriend has terrible secrets in House at the End of the Street (Sept. 21). The time travel thriller Looper (Sept. 28) stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as an assassin whose career of killing victims sent from the future takes an unexpected turn when his latest victim (Bruce Willis) turns out to be his future self.

Liam Neeson puts his "very particular set of skills" to use against the kidnappers who have made off with his ex-wife in Taken 2 (Oct. 5). Formerly played by Morgan Freeman, titular police psychologist Alex Cross (Oct. 19) is retrofitted for Tyler Perry, sans drag. RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan takes to the director's chair in the ultra-violent martial arts epic The Man with the Iron Fists (Nov. 2) starring, of all people, Russell Crowe.


Ethan Hawke is a novelist who moves into a murder house and discovers his own children may be at risk by a pagan deity housed in the attic in Sinister (Oct. 5). After the disappointing last instalment, we're wondering if the found-footage terrors of Paranormal Activity 4 (Oct. 19) may have finally run their course.

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Oct. 26) is a long-awaited sequel to the creepy video-game based frightfest about a town filled with malevolent residents.


Anna Kendrick (a Broadway vet when she was barely a teen) is a college student drafted to perform in a competitive a cappella team in Pitch Perfect (Oct. 5), a kind of singing version of Bring It On!

Kevin James is a high school teacher who enters the world of mixed martial arts to save the career of his school's music teacher (Henry Winkler) in Here Comes the Boom (Oct. 12).

Former Taxi Driver Robert De Niro seems resigned to a career in domestic comedy, playing a patriarch who must pretend he is still married to his first wife (Diane Keaton) for a weekend in The Big Wedding (Oct. 26).


Honestly, we lost track of the Resident Evil universe some time ago, but Milla Jovovich is still engaged gunning down monsters and zombies with a vengeance in Resident Evil: Retribution (Sept. 14).

It's been a long time coming, but James Bond finally got his act together and is returning (hopefully in better form than the last outing) in Skyfall (Nov. 9) starring Daniel Craig as a beer-swilling 007 and Javier Bardem as the designated Bond villain.

One wonders if the whole Robert Pattinson/Kristen Stewart affair might detract from the box office as The Twilight Saga finally comes to an end in Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 (Nov. 16). We doubt it.


Pixar continues turning their back catalogue into 3D, but that should actually translate well underwater in Finding Nemo 3D (Sept. 14). Adam Sandler voices Count Dracula, a vampire eager to prevent his daughter (Selena Gomez) from having a relationship with a mortal (Andy Samberg) in the animated comedy Hotel Transylvania (Sept. 28). Continuing the Gothic juvenile trend, Tim Burton stitches the boy-and-his-dog story to Frankenstein and emerges with Frankenweenie (Oct. 5), a stop-motion animated version of Burton's mid-'80s live action short.

Disney takes the title bad guy of an 8-bit video game and makes him the redemption-seeking hero of Wreck-It Ralph (Nov. 2), a comedy that includes a support group for video-game villains.

A barrel-chested he-man Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny and a Tooth Fairy are among the heroes who band together to stop a global threat to kiddies in Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21).

Local flavour

Winnipeg filmmakers muscle their way into the fall line-up with a couple of attention-getting projects.

Passionflower is an award-winning film from director Shelagh Carter about a young girl forced to come to terms with her mother's mental illness, circa 1962. It plays at Cinematheque beginning Friday, Sept. 21.

From Astron-6, the maniacs who brought you Fathers Day comes another retro-shlock masterpiece, Manborg (beginning Oct. 26 at Cinematheque), director Steve Kostanski's homage to RoboCop and less accomplished '80s cybernaut movies.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2012 D1

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