As summer trickles out with the usual hopeless Labor Day menu of schlock that should have gone straight to video, Hollywood takes its usual breather for a few weeks, but starting in October some of the year’s most keenly anticipated movies will begin to roll out. Here are five that look like major potential crowd-pleasers.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (Nov. 15)
Leonardo DiCaprio is an overrated actor, but the principal reason he’s overrated is that he’s usually very good in Martin Scorsese films like this one (though he stumbles with other directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood).
The movie sounds like a gleefully cynical, Goodfellas-like take on the booming 1990s financial industry, minus Oliver Stone’s groaning liberal cliches about corruption. Instead, the adaptation of a memoir by former stockbroker Jordan Belfort (an outsider who made it into one of America’s most exclusive clubs, much like Henry Hill in Goodfellas, before an equally spectacular downfall) is being billed as a boys-will-be-boys black-comedy spree.
Through Scorsese’s mischief-loving eyes, Wall Street will be shown in a state of ecstatic excess characterized by dwarf-tossing, coke-snorting and wanton sexual misbehavior. The movie sounds buzzy, funny, dark, rude and politically incorrect.
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2. Gravity (Oct. 4)
Early reviews have been rapturous for this intimate outer-space drama that seems certain to win an Oscar nomination for its lead, Sandra Bullock.
She and George Clooney (who apparently has a smaller role than hers) play two astronauts stranded in orbit and dodging debris after a disaster befalls their space shuttle. The first viewers have said the film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), works on both the artsy, 2001 level and also as a spellbinding piece of popcorn entertainment that makes viewers feel as though they’re right there in the shuttle as it departs Earth, hangs in space and gets blown to pieces.
Unlike Clooney’s other movie in the closing months of this year, the World War II comedy-drama The Monuments Men, due Dec. 18, his work in Gravity is confined to acting and the latter film doesn’t appear to have a political message.
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3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 22)
Okay, the first Hunger Games was no Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it was entertaining for its visual spectacle and kids’ adventure, and Jennifer Lawrence has long since proven she has both acting chops and leading-lady charisma.
This time director Gary Ross has been replaced by the more talented Francis Lawrence who did I Am Legend. Meanwhile, two top-notch screenwriters, Oscar-winners Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), have joined him and seem likely to excise the campy Twilight-like elements of the somewhat wobbly first film.
This time Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) spark a populist rebellion against the evil Capitol. Who knows, maybe the theme of standing up against a depraved central authority will revitalize the Tea Party.
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4. About Time (Nov. 1)
A sweet British time-travel romcom in which lovable characters get second chances at re-living parts of their lives sounds like Groundhog Day meets Notting Hill.
Richard Curtis, the writer of Notting Hill and writer-director of Love, Actually, says this will be his final film as a director. It stars little-known actor Domhnall Gleeson, who played Ron Weasley’s brother Bill in the Harry Potter movies. Early reviewers say Gleeson (son of actor Brendan) stands a good chance of making a name for himself opposite Rachel McAdams.
He plays a shy 21 year old who discovers that, by clenching his fists really tightly, he can step back into time to seize missed opportunities — including a chance to make a connection with the lady of his dreams and to strengthen his relationship with his father (Bill Nighy).
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5. Ender’s Game (Nov. 1)
Hoping to launch a new franchise (and beat an attempted boycott by gay-rights groups offended by the personal opposition to gay marriage of Orson Scott Card, the author of the 1985 book that inspired the movie), this one stars Asa Butterfield of Hugo as a teen military recruit tasked with saving humankind from a race of aliens called Formics resembling huge, nasty insects.
The book’s pro-military message, which has endeared it to the Marine Corps among other institutions, makes fans hopeful that the film will promote conservative themes, especially given that Card has ribbed the mainstream media for its biased coverage of Sarah Palin.