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From Thehotbutton.com

David Poland’s Fall 2005 Preview (serenity mention)

Sunday 14 August 2005, by Webmaster

Ah, fall...

Seventy-seven studio/dependent films and twenty true indies over four months.

There are all kinds of ways to slice this preview up. But this season has a unique feature that demands a month-by-month analysis... September marks the end of two studios as we knew them. As a result, December has 20 releases, November has 21 releases, October 22... and September? 30 studio releases. The month also features half of the indie features currently on the schedule.

Part of the heavy September is caused by the calendar. There are five Fridays. But more importantly, nine of September’s thirty are proverbial dumps. Miramax/Dimension will release seven titles, while MGM/UA kicks two off into the ether. The only film of the group that either company is even pretending will be worth remembering is Miramax’s Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis and Anthony Hopkins.

Don’t get distracted by the 18 month-plus delay in releasing the film. No, the film will be forgotten quickly on merits alone.

September 2 Miramax dumps Underclassman while UA dumps The Woods on one of the worst dates of the year. But 20th Century Fox throws some real meat on the barbecue with The Transporter 2, the sequel that plays as much like a sequel to Man of Fire as The Transporter.

September 9 New Line hopes that The Man isn’t neutered while Sony Screen Gems gets seriously scary with The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Both parts of the Miramax family (Miramax and Dimension) dump films into the deep end, expecting them to drown, as the no-budget Curandero meets the high budget car wreck, An Unfinished Life, starring Robert Redford and Ms. Lo.

September 16 DreamWorks’ Just Like Heaven wins the weekend going away. Reese Witherspoon near her career-best opening weekend for Sweet Home Alabama wins, even if it disappoints at the box office. After that, you have nine, count ’em, nine releases, many of which are actually worth watching. But no one will see most of them since, even in L.A. and N.Y., the logjam makes it impossible.

The two likely breakouts are Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which Warner Bros is taking out in limited release, hoping the thriller will catch on, and The Libertine, which will draw attention to Johnny Depp’s performance, even if you can hear the wheels of the studio machinery spinning on that one.

Miramax can expect Sylvia-like numbers for Proof, maybe a little better because of Hopkins. If they get to half of The Human Stain, they will be thrilled. Dimension’s Venom will look great in its two screens. Sony Classics will try to launch Thumbsucker. Focus can’t seem to get any interest in Cry Wolf. Not much enlightening will occur because no one will see Everything Is Illuminated. (Maybe they can add some penguins.)

Lions Gate is serious about Lord of War, but finding footing will be a huge challenge. And Bob Berney’s first fresh pick-up to hit theaters, the Paul Reiser family comedy The Thing About My Folks is a Paul Reiser comedy. It’ll play great on grandma’s DVD.

September 23 Two big films hit the multiplex this weekend, with Jodie Foster in Flightplan looking like the monster and The Corpse Bride looking like it can fly pretty high in that $50 million Nightmare Before Christmas way.

Fox Searchlight’s Roll Bounce smells like a summer success... being released in the fall. And Oliver Twist has the look of a potential Oscar movie... being released in September.

Miramax’s Daltry Calhoun, Lions Gate’s Waiting and DreamWorks’ The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio all get a quick ride to a dirt nap. The most memorable element involved is that Daltry Calhoun represents the very end of the Weinstein legacy at Disney. Good night, sweet princes.

September 30 This is really the first interesting weekend of the fall season. True, this is the weekend that sends MGM off into that great good night, care of Ms. Alba and her bikini.

Universal’s attempt to squeeze cash from a stone, Serenity, a movie based on Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly, hits theaters and the million Firefly hard cores could all show up on Friday night.

Fox’s family movie, Little Manhattan, opens in New York, hoping to find some footing, while Disney releases The Greatest Game Ever Played, a feel-good gold movie that should do better than Stroke of Genius, but will probably have a hard time doing a whole to of business, in spite of a really nice trailer.

Two of the very best films of the year, New Line’s A History of Violence and Sony Classics’ Capote both arrive. New Line will go after a wide audience for this remarkably thoughtful and violent David Cronenberg/Viggo Mortensen film, while Sony Classics will focus on New York and Los Angeles. But both films will be the start of the drumbeats for awards season. If you are waiting for "what’s good this weekend" to have a really clear answer, this is your weekend.

October 7 With the new month comes week after week of box office muscularity. To start with, we have a DreamWorks Animation entry, Wallace and Gromit: Tale of the Were-Rabbit, which is a huge European commodity and likely to have some solid success here, especially in light of The Corpse Bride being the only family film in more than a month... and that one is a bit dark.

Cameron Diaz is no box office guarantee these days, but she is a star and the trailer makes In Her Shoes look like a very likeable film.

Universal doesn’t seem to be screaming too loud about their Al Pacino/Matthew McConaughey/Rene Russo thriller about sports betting, Two for the Money... but that will change. (Here is the European trailer).

And two very weighty smaller films, Fox Searchlight’s Separate Lies and the George Clooney directed NY Film Fest opener from Warner Indie, Good Night. And, Good Luck.

October 14 This is auteur week at the multiplex. Cameron Crowe, Niki Caro, and even Rupert Wainwright, who has been stuck in thriller/horror films, but does have his own unique touch. We also get Tony Scott, who you may see as an exclusively commercial director, but who really offers his own vision here.

From this distance, Elizabethtown is the primary highlight. Every Cameron Crowe film is an event for movie lovers.

People love Whale Rider, so what will Niki Caro do with a big movie star and a budget? North Country will be Niki Caro’s first chance to answer that question.

Domino is a wild, wild ride that offers a sexy, funny, hard core turn from Keira Knightly, who will be used as Oscar bait by Focus with Pride & Prejudice in November. But if you’re looking for action, there will be one other alternative in the market with the remake of The Fog... ooooooo.... Aaaahhhhhhh....

Also, there will be Giddi Dar’s Ushpizin from Picturehouse.. for the ultra-orthodox Jewish demo.

October 21 DreamWorks brings Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story to Toronto with hopes of finding some traction. Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning and a horse co-star. What Dreamer has that The Greatest Game Ever Played does not is a star that already has a significant footprint in the family film game, especially after Sky High.

Steve Martin brings his subtle game to the Disney release of Shopgirl, based on the novella he wrote. Claire Danes plays the title character and New Line felt good enough about the film that they hired the director to handle their next wannabe franchise, His Dark Materials.

Marc Forster has had an amazing run, but the vibe around Stay is limp, to say the least. I’m not sure why Fox isn’t more thrilled by this thriller, but so it goes.

Universal bounced their videogame-inspired Doom all over the board last spring, but here it sits and here it comes. BOOM! We’re still waiting on a trailer.

And The Weinstein Company claims that their first film will arrive in this date. Derailed is a project that the brothers took from Miramax for the new company, starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston. Let’s hope they make the date.

October 28 Halloween gets it with both barrels as Lions Gate brings Saw II to theaters while Sony Classics releases one of the most fun horror thrillers in years, Three Extremes, a trilogy of terror from a Chinese, a Korean and a Japanese director. Great movie.

The big film of the weekend should be The Legend of Zorro, the sequel to the hit remake of the hit TV series based on the hit radio show based on the hit books. But really, I’m looking forward to it. I really liked the first film and Martin Campbell can do this stuff as well as anyone.

Paramount finally gets The Weather Man off its shelf... and apparently it’s not going to be real pretty.

Universal’s Prime has a tough name, but a really nice little trailer for this romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman from Boiler Room director Ben Younger.

Sony Classics re-releases Antonioni’s The Passenger for its 30th anniversary.

And Warner Indie takes a real risk, releasing the enormously controversial, but apparently brilliant take on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and specifically suicide bombing, Paradise Now.

And with that, October goes out with a bang.

Tomorrow, the second half of the season... which has no fewer than a dozen $100 million aspirants. Busy, busy, busy...