Looking for something to do between now and Thanksgiving -- cinematically speaking?
Well, I've combed through the 50-plus releases due out between now and then, and the obvious one everyone asks about is ...
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 (Nov. 19) Or, the alternate title that's equally long but more accurate -- "How to Milk a Wizard for Every Ounce of Movie Money Imaginable." I like my title better. Not surprisingly, the studio didn't care for it.
This final battle between Potter and Voldemort has been dangled in front of our noses for nearly a decade. It's time to wrap this up, but it won't happen this year. July 2011 is the projected month for the final, final chapter. By then, the Potter actors should be eligible for Social Security.
Here are some other films that have caught my attention for fall 2010.
HEREAFTER (Oct. 22) This is supposed to be a supernatural thriller about three people dealing with death in different ways. On its face, not exactly a standout. But it stars Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, and is directed by Clint Eastwood. How will the ol' master filmmaker do in a genre he's never dabbled in? I wouldn't bet against him.
SECRETARIAT (Oct. 8) Not to be confused with the 2003 Oscar-nominated "Seabiscuit." This is a horse of a different color -- and it may be a better story than its predecessor, but sadly, it's not a better movie (I've seen it). It's still good and inspirational, but truthfully, it's Seabiscuit Lite.
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (Sept. 24) Director Oliver Stone doesn't believe in sequels -- until now. Twenty-three years after "Wall Street," Stone decides the recent stock market fiasco is too good to pass up. What a time to bring back Mr. Smooth himself, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). He's got another bright young charge to toy with in Shia LaBeouf, who was so adept at real-life market trading during production that he turned a $20,000 investment into $400K. Maybe for his next role he could play the treasury secretary.
127 HOURS (Nov. 5) This is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, who amputated his own arm five days after it was trapped under a boulder near Moab in 2003. The re-enactment scenes are apparently so intense that a couple of patrons at two recent Telluride Film Festival screenings received medical attention for lightheadedness and a panic attack. I had the same reaction when Mel Gibson called to wish me a happy %$#&^% birthday.
DEVIL (Sept. 17) And speaking of downward spiraling careers, M. Night Shyamalan makes a pact with the Prince of Darkness (not Ozzy) to star in his latest scare thriller. Maybe M. Night has come to his sixth senses and wants to make interesting movies again. This certainly has a chill factor, but then so did the trailer for "The Happening," and we all know how that turned out.
RED (Oct. 15) Retired Extremely Dangerous. That's the code name for a group of geriatric black-ops agents who are having trouble adjusting to civilian life after hanging up the guns. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren get dragged back into the game, and they're only too eager to play. It's pretty funny, but makes one fatal mistake that changes the whole tone of the film. It's too bad, because I enjoyed most of the characters until they weren't.
LET ME IN (Oct. 1) Two years ago, a Swedish film called "Let the Right One In" captured art house audiences with its unusual take on the vampire genre. Sadly, the English-dubbed DVD sounded like they hired the Smurfs to do the voices. It was awful. Hopefully, this Hollywood reshoot will be the "make-good" that fans are looking for. I'm not holding my breath, but I am covering my neck.
DUE DATE (Nov. 5) From the writer/director of "The Hangover" comes a new road-trip comedy featuring a soon-to-be-dad Robert Downey Jr. and a soon-to-be-overused Zach Galifianakis inexplicably driving cross-country in hopes of arriving before the baby is born. I'm sure there's a good reason for the lack of the air-travel option; if not, it will make me crazy and I will not be amused. If it's successfully explained, I look forward to laughing unabashedly.
UNSTOPPABLE (Nov. 12) Loosely based on real events, this film has Denzel Washington in his second train movie in as many years (it follows "The Taking of Pelham 123"). It's up to Denzel and Chris Pine to decide if they're willing to risk their lives to stop a runaway train carrying toxic chemicals and bearing down on a community. I'm guessing they did; otherwise, this wouldn't be much of a dramatic movie.
THE TILLMAN STORY (Sept. 17) Every time I think of this brave young man, it breaks my heart. He leaves a lucrative NFL career to fight for his country and is gunned down in the line of duty. That's the story the Army tried to sell. His family fought to discover the truth. And I'm afraid the truth is going to make us very unhappy.
JACK GOES BOATING (Oct. 8) Phillip Seymour Hoffman goes on a rare, awkward blind date and vows to take the nice lady boating in the summer. It was a panic move. Jack doesn't know how to swim. So his best friend agrees to teach him, even as he's struggling in his own relationship. Since it's Hoffman, expect lots of quirky insight filled with uncomfortable warmth. Yep, that's our PSH.
YOU AGAIN (Sept. 24) Imagine your worst memories from high school coming back to haunt you. Kristen Bell was tormented by the cool girl on campus, who is now about to marry her brother. To complicate matters, Bell's mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) had a similar nightmare with the cool girl's aunt (Sigourney Weaver). I have a feeling we're going to see some serious hair-pulling -- hopefully not from the audience.
THE TOWN (Sept. 17) Poor Boston. First, the Red Sox are fading and now this -- bank robbery capital of America? Ben Affleck and friends find yet another gritty crime drama to foist upon old Beantown. If you didn't know any better, you'd think he hates the place. Just check out all the heavy accents in the trailer -- and not a smiley face among 'em. How do you like dem apples, eh?
THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Oct. 1) Who really started Facebook? Frankly, I couldn't care less. But I think it would be amusing to watch a bunch of computer whiz kids fighting over the millions of dollars that are coming out of this cyber phenomenon. And let me say this without hesitation: I like Justin Timberlake. Not for his singing -- couldn't name one of his songs -- but he's actually a pretty good actor. I'm just sayin.'
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE (Sept. 24) Can someone explain to me how the director of "300" and "Watchmen" got hooked up with a talking-owls movie? Wait. I'm told they wear warrior helmets and raise fighting owl armies. OK, now I get it.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (Oct. 8) Here's one I really don't get. Two single people, played by Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel, are legally thrown together when their mutual best friends die in an accident, leaving an orphaned girl. Really? Hollywood has officially run out of ways to force two people into a romance they don't want but eventually can't live without. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be sick.
WAITING FOR SUPERMAN (Sept. 24) Our education system is destroying the dreams of our children. Say what? That's the point of this documentary, made by the same guys who tried to shine a spotlight on global warming through "An Inconvenient Truth." You want to see heartbreak? There's actually a lottery back East where a handful of kids are randomly selected to attend the best schools. I'd say something's definitely wrong.
CASE 39 (Oct. 1) Renee Zellweger's got her serious game face on for this one. She plays a social worker who tries to save a young girl from an abusive parental situation, only to discover the abusers may be the abusees. What's with this little girl? And who or what is after her? I'm getting a whiff of "The Orphan" here -- anyone else?
MONSTERS (Oct. 29) From the trailers, this looks like "Cloverfield" meets "District 9," with a hint of "The Mist." In other words, big, scary unseen creatures are wreaking havoc on our neighbors to the south -- Mexico. How do we know? People keep looking skyward in horror and are hearing big, loud, unfriendly noises. Totally cool! Count me in.
JACKASS 3-D (Oct. 15) I'll be the first to admit it. Watching these morons try to destroy each other makes me laugh. Not so much for their ridiculous antics, but because they have proud parents at home saying "That's my boy!" You'd think they would have set their sights a little higher. Hey what's your son up to? He just graduated from medical school. Yours? He just fell from a 60-foot pine tree while wearing a Santa suit. Oh.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (Oct. 29) Remember how horrified you were watching Katie stand next to her bed, watching her husband sleep, for hours? Well, she's back with a baby and a German shepherd. OK, officially not cool. You can frighten us, but babies and dogs? That's just sick and wrong. Besides, remember "Blair Witch 2"? Neither do I.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Nov. 19) Russell Crowe is planning to break out his wife, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for a murder he believes she didn't commit. He will devise a brilliant plan that will force him to the dark side, but at what cost? Apparently, the old file-in-the-cake routine needs a fresh coat of frosting. I expect Russell will bring it.
FAIR GAME (Nov. 5) Sean Penn still wants to yell at the Bush administration. I get it. He's angry and feels betrayed. He wants to talk about Valerie Plame being outed as a CIA operative by a high-ranking White House official. That happened seven years ago. It was a lousy, petty thing to do. Sadly, I don't trust Sean to tell the story without high drama and low blows. I hope I'm wrong.
MORNING GLORY (Nov. 12) A new producer is brought in to help a struggling morning TV news show. Didn't Katherine Heigl already trounce this type of storyline? Maybe an A-team that features Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton will make the difference. Maybe I'd rather see "Anchorman 2: The Return of Ron Burgundy" instead. A boy can dream, can't he?
CONVICTION (Oct. 15) Hilary Swank loves to champion powerful women, and this one's a real doozy. She plays Betty Anne Waters, a single mother and high school dropout who puts herself through law school in an effort to overturn her brother's unjust murder conviction. If this wasn't a true story, you'd be rolling your eyes that Hollywood could come up with such nonsense. Rest assured, this is the real deal -- with maybe just a hint of the dramatic.
MEGAMIND (Nov. 5) Two babies sent from a home planet to Earth grow up to be adversaries. Metro Man (Brad Pitt) is the goody-two-shoes superhero, while Megamind (Will Ferrell) is the sniveling villain determined to take out the pretty boy. But he learns a world without opposition is boring and creates a new dude (Jonah Hill), who goes rogue. Can Megamind turn it around and save the day? Can we get back to pushing for "Anchorman 2," please?
SKYLINE (Nov. 12) Pretty lights draw people out of their L.A. homes and then they're sucked into the sky like some superevil Dyson vacuum cleaner. Here's a thought. How about NOT going toward the light for a change? And why do aliens always show up and want to eat us? Don't they have turkey and dressing on their home world? Which brings us back to Thanksgiving. We've arrived at our destination. Holiday movies can't be far behind.
Steve Salles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.