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Falling for autumn films

Published: September 9, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.


Late summer has never been a great time for cineastes. Just take a glance at your local movie listings: “Shark Night 3D,” “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” “Conan the Barbarian.” Combined, they’re enough to make you swear off movies for good.

Thankfully, things should be changing pretty quickly. The fall is always a good time for quality movie releases, since that’s when studios release their prospective award winners in hopes of maximizing the amount of attention they receive. While we’ll still have to wait a few weeks (or months) to see these films, virtually all of them have played at the major film festivals like Cannes and Venice, so reviews have started to float around. From the looks of it, there’s quite a number of gourmet choices awaiting moviegoers come fall. I’ve listed just a few of them below.

“Drive”

Ryan Gosling stars as a stuntman who also happens to work as a getaway driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive.” When things go wrong in a robbery, he finds himself on the run while also simultaneously protecting a mother and child from harm. After it screened at Cannes, “Drive” immediately received attention for its sleek style and excellent performances, and the trailers released for it thus far bear out that promise. (Sept. 16)

“Take Shelter”

When average husband Curtis (Michael Shannon) begins experiencing strange visions, he’s determined to protect his wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter—the only problem is that he doesn’t know whether he should protect them from a natural disaster or from himself. “Take Shelter” is only director Jeff Nichols’ sophomore feature, but it promises to put a fresh cinematic spin on mental illness. (Sept. 30)

“The Skin I Live In”

During the years, director Pedro Almodovar has developed a reputation for visually sumptuous, adventurous films that are not afraid to play with genre conventions. With his latest film, he’s tackled both science fiction and horror. Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) ranks as one of the most esteemed plastic surgeons in the world, and he achieves new notoriety when he reveals he’s developed a way of growing skin. In doing so, however, he may have utilized a few unwilling test subjects. (Oct. 14)

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”

The Olson twins have long been a staple of the American pop culture scene—you’ll never forget “Full House” no matter how hard you’ve tried (and believe me, I’ve tried). Both Mary-Kate and Ashley have attempted to break out with adult roles but so far neither has found much success. In contrast, their younger sister Elizabeth Olson stars in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a drama that scored rave reviews at Sundance. Olson portrays a woman who has just escaped the influence of a menacing cult; once she’s safely ensconced at her sister’s home, however, she begins to fear she’s being watched. (Oct. 21)

“Melancholia”

Hollywood has long been obsessed with apocalyptic films—think “Independence Day” or “The Day After Tomorrow.” The apocalypse will get a Danish art-house flair with director Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” which mixes disaster with psychological drama. Two sisters—the newly married Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg)—confront their different perspectives on life as Earth nears collision with another planet, the ominously named Melancholia. (Nov. 11)

“The Muppets”

The Muppets should obviously be a part of everyone’s childhood but they’ve been conspicuously absent from movie theaters for the last decade. That’s about to change with “The Muppets.” In this latest film, Kermit and friends face the possible demolition of the Muppet Theater after oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) discovers oil on its land. To avoid its destruction, Kermit—with the help of humans Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams)—must reunite the muppets and stage a telethon. (Nov. 23)

“A Dangerous Method”

Few figures have impacted our way of thinking of the mind in quite the same manner as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung; for whatever reason, though, the story of their lives hasn’t found much success on celluloid. Director David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” however, will focus on these two giants (as played by Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender) and the woman (Keira Knightley) who came between them both intellectually and emotionally. (Nov. 23)

“Young Adult”

When director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody collaborated in 2007, the result was “Juno,” one of the most successful, acclaimed comedies in recent memory. They’ve reunited for “Young Adult,” a film with a decidedly darker bent: Mavis Gray (Charlize Theron), a young adult fiction writer, returns to her hometown. Her mission? To romantically reunite with her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson)—who just happens to be happily married. (Dec. 9)

“Carnage”

There’s something great about putting four people in a room and watching them explode (emotionally, of course)—just think “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” based on a 2006 play, observes what happens when two upper-middle-class couples meet to discuss a schoolyard fight between their sons. As it turns out, they quickly lose their tempers and dark comedy follows. With a top-notch cast—Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly—it would be hard to justify not watching this. (Dec. 16)