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DRIVE (SEPT. 16)
Ryan Gosling delivers a macho star turn as a taciturn Los Angeles mechanic and stunt driver who moonlights as a wheelman for high-risk heists. Quirky Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn won Best Director at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for this terrific, moody film noir update. Gosling, who keeps cool even with patrol cars and police helicopters on his tail, captures the soft-spoken magnetism of Steve McQueen. Any film that puts Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks in the same scene already has a lot going for it, and Drive also co-stars Carey Mulligan and Christina Hendricks.
MONEYBALL (SEPT. 23)
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the general manager of the cash-strapped Oakland Athletics who assembles a winning baseball team with unconventional recruiting methods. The Social Network's Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin co-wrote this adaptation of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, so expect interesting baseball factoids comparable to The Blind Side's prologue about the value of quarterbacks and left tackles. The trailer suggests that Pitt and Jonah Hill, who concocts an "Island of Misfit Toys" approach to building a team, make a great comedy duo.
THE IDES OF MARCH (OCT. 7)
Intergenerational dreamboats Ryan Gosling and George Clooney co-star in this presidential campaign film. Clooney reteams with his Good Night, and Good Luck co-scripter Grant Heslov to co-write, direct and star in a political drama in which a rising political strategist (Gosling) reconsiders his loyalty to an idealistic presidential candidate (Clooney). Beau Willimon's original play Farragut North was loosely based on the 2004 presidential run of Howard Dean. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei have supporting roles, but it could be the kind of film that looks more significant than it actually is (see: Primary Colors, All the King's Men).
J. EDGAR (NOV. 9)
Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover in this biopic directed by Clint Eastwood. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for Milk, shifts his attention from an openly gay historical figure to an allegedly gay one. Hoover served as director of the FBI for more than three decades, and J. Edgar explores Hoover's longtime relationship with FBI associate director Clyde Tolson (The Social Network's Armie Hammer). J. Edgar wades into controversy about Hoover's personal life, but reportedly shies away from speculation that America's No. 1 G-man liked to wear ladies' dresses. The film also examines Hoover's persecution of activist group leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But can DiCaprio, who was so-so as middle-aged Howard Hughes in The Aviator, effectively play Hoover as a senior citizen?
A DANGEROUS METHOD (NOV. 23)
Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings, Keira Knightley of Pirates of the Caribbean and Michael Fassbender of X-Men: First Class team up for ... a period drama about psychoanalysis? In A Dangerous Method, Knightley's Sabina Spielrein, one of world's first female psychotherapists, creates a rift between rockstar headshrinker Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and his protégé Carl Jung (Fassbender) on the eve of World War I. Director David Cronenberg helms Christopher Hampton's (Dangerous Liaisons) adaptation of his own stage play, The Talking Cure. Biopics about famous thinkers seldom match the significance of their subjects, but Cronenberg has explored abnormal psychology for his entire career, so if he can't make it compelling, no one can.
THE DESCENDANTS (NOV. 23)
Alexander Payne, director of Election and About Schmidt, moves from his beloved Omaha, Neb., plains to the sunny climes of Hawaii for a bittersweet drama. George Clooney plays an emotionally distant father who must reconnect with his daughters and uncover family secrets when his wife lapses into a coma. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendents looks to be more of a weep-and-reconcile heart-warmer than one of Payne's acerbic satires. But it could prove to be a top-notch character study on par with the director's last feature film, 2004's Sideways.
THE MUPPETS (NOV. 23)
Kermit the Frog and company return for their first theatrical release in 12 years. Amy Adams and Jason Segel play ordinary folks who fall in love when trying to reunite the Muppets to save their beloved theater. The behind-the-scenes pedigree is impressive: Director James Bobin co-created HBO's hilarious "Flight of the Conchords" series with musician/star Bret McKenzie, who serves as musical director. Segel co-wrote the script with Nicholas Stoller — you may recall their Dracula puppets from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So far this year, the clever marketing campaign includes hilariously misleading trailers and an OK Go cover of "The Muppet Show's" theme song. As long as people don't get sick of the Muppets before the movie actually comes out, it should be fun.
In the latest 'Emory Looks at Hollywood' episode, Judith Evans Grubbs, Emory Professor of Roman…
"In the movies' worst scene..." should be "movie's"
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