IFC.com’s 2011 Fall Movie Preview Guide

IFC.com’s 2011 Fall Movie Preview Guide (photo)

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Summer may be the season of the blockbuster, but September through December is where studios release their most varied titles. From sci-fi thrillers to dramas and potential Oscar nominees, Hollywood unleashes a veritable storm of A-list talent and often brilliantly original films. Here are our picks for the highlights of Fall 2011.

Select a monthSept | Oct | Nov | Dec

9/2 – “APOLLO 18” (Dimension – Gonzalo López-Gallego – Sci-Fi Thriller)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: Apollo 17, which launched in December 1972, was NASA’s last official manned mission to the moon. However, in December 1974, the Department of Defense sent two astronauts on a top secret, under-the-table kind of mission, and the found footage from that journey reveals why we’ve never returned to the moon since. What’s up there? Aliens? Ghosts? Russians? A bunch of sound and light cues? Or something even more terrifying?

Why We Care: We cry foul with the whole “the reason why we never returned to the moon” angle, ’cause if there was anything resembling life (or afterlife, or whatever it is) on that rock, we’d be up there every day and twice on Sundays with scores of military types, scientists, psychics, hippies, you name it. Still, the premise does succeed in giving us a bit of the heebie-jeebies, especially since it involves something as seemingly innocuous as the moon (versus, say, Mars, which everyone knows is crawling with nasty aliens). We’ll call it right now as a mix of “Paranormal Activity,” “The Blair Witch Project” and “Alien,” and we’re surprised the whole “found footage” horror gimmick hadn’t been translated to an outer space setting earlier — there are plenty of opportunities with such an approach to shell out some good jump scares (and rake in some decent box office) on a low budget. Let’s just hope “Apollo 18” turns out to be actually scary, and if it has to have a twist ending, let’s hope it actually enhances the movie we’ve just seen rather than negates it.

9/2 – “SHARK NIGHT 3D” (Relativity – David Ellis – Horror)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: Sexy and inexplicably/unnecessarily obnoxious young people show off their Hollywood-perfect abs and bikini bodies during a weekend getaway at a lake and find that sharks don’t need salt water to wreck havoc on the attractive. Sara Paxton plays (lest anyone be confused) a gal named Sara, a hot, smart and sensitive blonde who might last a little longer than any of her idiot friends — though, if you remember “Deep Blue Sea,” being “hot, smart and sensitive” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re completely safe from harm all the way up to the closing credits.

Why We Care: Because it’s called “Shark Night 3D,” which means there are sharks and when they bite people in half, that shit’s gonna fly out into your face. We’re not quite sure about that “Night” part, though, as every scene in the trailer seems to take place during the day — are we actually going to get some nocturnal shark attacks, or is that part of the title supposed to be meta-ironic-cool and stuff? Anyway, director David Ellis is right at home when it comes to this kind of outrageous mayhem, whether it be in three dimensions (“The Final Destination”) or not (“Snakes on a Plane”) — the only thing kind of disheartening is that PG-13 rating, which means the kill scenes won’t be too graphic, which seems a bit self-contradictory with this sort of flick (and, uh, basic premise). Maybe we’ll get a more visceral Director’s Cut on Blu-ray… and some more night scenes.

9/9 – “CONTAGION” (Warner Bros. – Steven Soderbergh – Action Thriller)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: Famous movie stars get really, really sick in director Steven Soderbergh’s ensemble examination of a worldwide epidemic in which a highly dangerous (and wildly infectious) super-virus lays waste to the population and spreads fear, suspicion and panic. The impressive dramatis personae includes Matt Damon as a husband and father whose wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is one of the earliest victims of the bug; Lawrence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Kate Winslet as three of the doctors racing against time to find a cure (or at least containment); and Jude Law as a San Francisco journalist.

Why We Care: Steven Soderbergh pulled off a compelling portrait of several characters from radically different walks of life all linked by a multinational crisis with “Traffic” (which, believe it or not, is almost 11 years old now), and “Contagion” looks like it could be just as powerful an examination (if a bit louder and more frantic). As usual, he’s managed to gather a terrific cast, and he’s already thrown us for a loop with the trailer revealing that one of his all-stars dies pretty early on. It’s good to see Soderbergh back where he belongs: telling talented (and expensive) movie stars what to do and delivering a compelling story on time and under budget. No more talk of “retirement,” okay. Steven? We kind of need you out here.

9/9 – “WARRIOR” (Lionsgate – Gavin O’Connor – Action/Drama)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: Director Gavin O’Connor delivers a punchy Irish melodrama with this story of family and fightin’ (sounds pretty Irish, no?), as Tom Conlon (Tom Hardy), a high school teacher and former boxer, is trained to get back in the ring by his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte). And wouldn’t you know it — his opponent in a big mixed martial arts tournament ends up being his own brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton). Jennifer Morrison plays what appears to be the only female in this story’s universe.

Why We Care: No other sport lends itself to serving as a backdrop for a good screaming/crying/hugging family drama quite like boxing. “Warrior” definitely isn’t a new story — we’ve seen many variations of it over the years, from “Rocky” to “The Champ” to “Raging Bull” to last year’s excellent “The Fighter.” But when this type of story is done well (and it often is), there’s nothing quite like it — nothing can get your blood pumping quite like a good boxing movie. “Warrior” definitely looks to be another entry in the “good” category; the casting of Nolte as a drunken Irish trainer is inspired, and the two stars, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, are both about half a millimeter from complete and total movie stardom — this might be the film that makes them both Hollywood heavyweights. Director Gavin O’Connor’s last film, “Pride and Glory,” was nothing if not passionate and, rather admirably, completely and unapologetically earnest — expect the same treatment here.

9/16 – “STRAW DOGS” (ScreenGems – Rod Lurie – Crime Thriller)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: “Superman Returns” couple James Marsden and Kate Bosworth reunite for this sweaty Southern gothic in which a Hollywood screenwriter and his trophy wife move to her Dixie hometown, where they’re promptly terrorized by her hunky thug of an ex-boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard) and his gang of redneck ne’er-do-wells. A remake of the now-classic 1971 thriller starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Sam Peckinpah, which was based on the book “The Siege at Trencher’s Farm” by Gordon Williams.

Why We Care: Because it’s certainly been a while since we’ve had a sweaty Southern gothic! The original “Straw Dogs” was a harrowing tale about a meek pacifist driven to arguably psychotic levels of bloody retribution when violent men invade his home (and wife) — it’s the kind of movie that made your stomach turn, as only Sam Peckinpah could do. They just don’t make ’em like that any more, but this remake doesn’t seem like it’s trying to compete with its classic predecessor on any level, apparently content to deliver what looks like a well-made revenge flick that’s heavy on the sticky, dangerous atmosphere. This is a perfect role for James Marsden, who can pull off the crazy behind the eyes, and Kate Bosworth gets to prance around showing off her wet, scantily-clad body for the first time since “Blue Crush,” though this time in a much more sinister (and decidedly grown-up) context. And watch out for that Alexander Skarsgard fella — it’s only a matter of time before the “True Blood” vamp explodes and emerges Phoenix-like from his own ashes as a bona fide Hollywood superstar.

9/16 – “RESTLESS” (Sony Classics – Gus Van Sant – Drama)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: Gus Van Sant’s oh so quirky melodrama chronicles the romance between a terminally ill cutie (Mia Wasikowska) and a weirdo who likes to attend funerals (Henry Hopper) whose best friend is the ghost of a WWII kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase). No, we didn’t suddenly timewarp back to the ’90s; this bizarro indie flick was actually made in the past year — and if it doesn’t make you tear up at least once, you’re a sad, cold-hearted bastard who doesn’t believe in love (or ghosts).

Why We Care: Gus Van Sant could vomit on the sidewalk and exclaim “Hey, look at this!” and we’d probably at least nod and “appreciate” it. Few directors have been more idiosyncratic than he; he’ll try everything and anything without fear (or concern that it will make either sense or money) and yet all of his work is distinctly and recognizably his. It’s a good thing we love Van Sant so much, ’cause “Restless” (horrible title, that) looks like it’s going to require a lot of that love if we’re going to get through it without going into sugar shock. However, as ridiculous (way ridiculous) and obnoxiously sentimental as it looks, it’s also got Mia Wasikowska in its corner (or front and center, rather), which definitely goes a long way — and, through thick and thin, we believe in Gus, even when he tries to give us reasons not to.

9/23 – “MONEYBALL” (Sony – Bennett Miller – Drama)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: A sports story on a low budget, “Moneyball” chronicles Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane’s (Brad Pitt) successful attempt to put together a baseball club by shunning the hopelessly dated insight of baseball “insiders” and instead using computer-generated analysis to create a sort of hand-picked “Island of Misfit Toys” of great players. He is a assisted by Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a statistics whiz kid just out of college. Victory ensues.

Why We Care: The crusade of Billy Beane and his radical reinvention of baseball recruitment and management is one of the strangest and most interesting true-life sports stories out there. Really, this guy shunned decades-long traditions and practices and tried something so bizarre and out there that there’s really no way it should’ve not only succeeded but hit a home run straight out of the park and into the next neighborhood (figuratively and literally). Brad Pitt is the perfect choice to play Beane, and his knack for sly comedy should come in handy for his scenes with Hill, who looks to be doing wonders with what’s probably little more than a reactionary role. Add Philip Seymour Hoffman (who we just don’t see enough of these days) reuniting with his “Capote” director Bennett Miller and a screenplay co-written by Aaron Sorkin and you’ve got yourself an Oscar contender covering all the bases.

9/23 – “MACHINE GUN PREACHER” (Relativity – Marc Forster – Drama)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace,” “Monster’s Ball”) directs the true-life story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), a former drug-dealing biker who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been forced to become soldiers. Childers and his wife Lynn (played by Michelle Monaghan) founded and currently operate Angels of East Africa, the Children’s Village Orphanage in Nimule, Sudan.

Why We Care: Yes, thank you, Marc Forster, for giving Gerard Butler a role in something that’s not a lame romantic comedy co-starring Jennifer Aniston or Hilary Swank or whoever. Don’t let the somewhat goofy, “Hobo with a Shotgun”-esque title throw you off — the story of Sam Childers is a strange but true fable; whatever inspired a hard-drinking biker thug to drop his hellraising ways and go save the children in the name of the Lord can only be described as “miraculous.” Michael Shannon is in this, too, which is awesome, but we’re most looking forward to seeing Butler sink his teeth into his first truly lusty/juicy role since screaming (often) about Sparta as King Leonidas in “300.” Call this a Saul/Paul yarn for those who know their Bible, and Childers certainly knows his — and hundreds of kids thank him for it.

9/30 – “50/50” (Summit – Jonathan Levine – Drama/Comedy)

darby2-05302011.jpgWhat Is It: A bittersweet portrait of dying young, “50/50” tells the story of a 27-year-old who’s suddenly diagnosed with cancer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and how this affects his best friend (Seth Rogen), girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), mother (Anjelica Huston) and, above all, himself. Determined to beat the odds, he befriends both his young therapist (Anna Kendrick) and several fellow cancer patients (including Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer). Directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”) and based on the real-life experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser.

Why We Care: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fast becoming a national treasure. His performances in “Brick,” “Mysterious Skin” and “The Lookout” were all top-notch, and now he’s transitioning nicely into more mainstream fare with featured roles in “Inception” and the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises” (though let’s just forget about his turn as Cobra Commander in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” shall we?). He owned as a punk rock guardian angel/trickster earlier this year in “Hesher,” and now “50/50” looks like it could very well be his breakout hit. It’s extremely difficult subject matter handled with an Apatow-ian sense of humor and sensitivity — hopefully audiences won’t shy away from what’s bound to be an unapologetic tearjerker that won’t hold your hand through the rough patches.

Extra: Watch the “50/50” trailer with exclusive audio commentary from director Jonathan Levine

Continue to October »

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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