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A guide to fall movies

POSTED: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The busy fall movie season is upon us. Awards will be won, tears will be shed and it will be safe for grown-ups to go to the movies again. Here’s a glance at some of the more intriguing pics to be released during the next few months.

‘The Duchess'

(Sept. 26)

  • The setup: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley) was a fashion icon and political player in 18th century England. Tired of her passionless marriage to the Duke (Ralph Fiennes), she begins an affair that puts everything at risk. Love triangle and political intrigue ensue.
  • Why we should see it: It's a lavish-looking production, just as a period romance should be. Knightley is a virtual lock for award nominations, and Fiennes is always worth watching.
  • On the other hand ...: Anyone else feel like we've seen this movie before?
  • Bottom line: This will be one of the major players in the awards race, and the buzz says director Saul Dibb shows great potential.

'Choke'

(Sept. 26)

  • The setup: Victor (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict trying to sort out major issues with his infirm mother (Angelica Huston), and to overcome his addiction. A frank, tragicomic look at psychosis.
  • Why we should see it: "Choke" is based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, author of "Fight Club." Characters bottom out, audiences will both laugh and squirm.
  • On the other hand ...: The graphic, honest-yet-funny portrayal of a sex addict's activities might not be for everyone. And it isn't as much of a comedy as the trailers suggest.
  • Bottom line: Rockwell is a great choice for Victor, and first time director Clark Gregg does very well with difficult material.

‘How to Lose Friends & Alienate People'

(Oct. 3)

  • The setup: Comedy about British writer Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) trying to survive the world of NYC publishing and high society. Young spars with colleague Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst) and befriends starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox).
  • Why we should see it: Pegg and Dunst are perfectly cast and show hints of chemistry in trailers. That duo, along with Jeff Bridges and Thandie Newton, should lend the romantic comedy genre some much needed wit.
  • On the other hand ...: This could just be a re-hash of "Devil Wears Prada" with a gender switch.
  • Bottom line: Pegg is one of the few actors who will get me to the theater regardless of the movie, and this seems like a worthy vehicle for him.

'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist'

(Oct. 3)

  • The setup: Nick (Michael Cera) is an insecure, sensitive dude recently dumped by his girlfriend (Alexis Dziena). At a club one night, Norah (Kat Dennings) asks him to be her boyfriend for five minutes to avoid her ex. Nick and Norah encounter farce and romance as they cruise the city all night.
  • Why we should see it: Director Peter Sollett's indie drama "Raising Victor Vargas" was fresh and invigorating. Expect him to do something original with the teen romance scenario.
  • On the other hand ...: Movies trying to attract teens by being hip often suck (or whatever the kids are saying these days).
  • Bottom line: We already love Cera, Dennings is on the verge, and this should be the perfect way for both to step out of the Apatow style.

'Rachel Getting Married'

(Oct. 3)

  • The setup: Drug addict Rachel (Anne Hathaway) struggles to maintain sanity and sobriety during her sister's wedding weekend.
  • Why we should see it: There's already buzz that red-hot Hathaway will score an Oscar nod. She's supported by Debra Winger, Rosemarie DeWitt and Anna Deavere Smith and directed by Jonathan Demme. I'm sold.
  • On the other hand ...: Movies about drug addicts don't exactly set the box office afire. And soul searching in the midst of a wedding weekend isn't exactly new territory.
  • Bottom line: Demme is perhaps the most underrated director in America, and the trailer crackles with frantic, desperate energy.

'W'

(Oct. 17)

  • The setup: Oliver Stone's bio-pic follows current president Bush (Josh Brolin) from boyhood to frathood to presidency.
  • Why we should see it: Curiosity. And a crazy-talented cast. But mostly sheer curiosity.
  • On the other hand ...: It's possible this will be the ultimate example of Hollywood liberalism run amok.
  • Bottom line: I just have to see what Stone is up to here, and Brolin is intriguing after "No Country for Old Men."

'Changeling'

(Oct. 24)

  • The setup: In 1928 Los Angeles, Christine Collins' (Angelina Jolie) son is abducted. The LAPD return a boy they claim is her son, but she is certain it is not. Preacher-turned-police-watchdog Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) leads the crusade for justice as the police punish Collins to cover up its own corruption.
  • Why we should see it: Director Clint Eastwood exposing L.A. corruption, Jolie showing her full range and a great supporting cast.
  • On the other hand ...: None that I can see.
  • Bottom line: I'm looking forward to this as much as anything this fall.

'Zack and Miri Make a Porno'

(Oct. 31)

  • The setup: Longtime friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are both broke, so obviously the solution is to make an adult film. In the process, the friendship might be growing into romance.
  • Why we should see it: In this order: The title, Rogen, Banks and director Kevin Smith. It seems like a good combo of actors, director and subject matter.
  • On the other hand ...: Smith has yet to equal the hilarity of his first movie, and this could be one gratuitous T&A shot after another.
  • Bottom line: Smith is due for a good one, and this cast should give him a big boost.

'The Soloist'

(Nov. 21)

  • The setup: True story of how down-and-out journalist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) befriended mentally troubled, former musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). While Lopez helps Ayers resurrect his musical career, they rescue each other's spirits.
  • Why we should see it: Director of "Atonement" and writer of "Erin Brockovich" meet Downey, Foxx and Catherine Keener, who plays Lopez's wife. This has all the makings of a truly inspirational experience.
  • On the other hand ...: Might be too "made-for-Oscar." (But I doubt it.)
  • Bottom line: Tell me you don't want to see Downey, Foxx and Keener work together while all are at their peak. And the trailer alone will make you tear up.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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