This fall, there may be weekends when nothing new in theaters appeals to you, but it won't be for lack of trying on the part of filmmakers, studios and cinemas. Between now and the end of December, more than 100 films and film programs will unspool across Columbus; 10 are scheduled to arrive next Friday alone.
Along with a list of every movie announced to date through the end of the year, we've spotlighted 10 to look out for, from Oscar contenders to a program of international shorts to a new shot at respect for Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Manhattan Short Fest
Sept. 26 at the Wexner Center
This 11-year-old traveling festival of shorts picked a good time to make its first stop here, riding high after a 2007 program that included three future Sundance selections and an eventual Oscar nominee. But as founder Nicholas Mason explained, "What it's really about is showing the world what's going on in the world." This year, that means an Irish view of the first day of school, a Dane's run-in with a former bully and an American woman's take on dating rituals. Columbus is one of 115 cities hosting the fest next week. All audiences are invited to vote on the best short for a prize ceremony Sept. 28.
Many early reviews said Angelina Jolie's Daniel Pearl biopic A Mighty Heart would bring the tabloid-favorite actress back to the Oscars for the first time since she won for 2000's Girl, Interrupted. That movie fizzled, but the supermom's new role as a 1920s mother is generating buzz once again. And this time, she's got multiple-Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood on her side. In the thriller, Jolie plays a mother whose kidnapped son is returned to her - only she believes it's not actually her son. The police have no intention of reopening her case and say she's insane, leading her to wonder if she actually is.
"Wild" and "ridiculous" were among the comments floating around the North American premiere of the latest from the writer-director of Snatch and Swept Away. They came from a positive place. Working with Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton and ever-reliable Tom Wilkinson, Guy Ritchie has reportedly brought the fun again to his plot-twisting, adrenaline-ratcheting crime capers. As for that hex wife Madonna supposedly put on his career, maybe the distraction of her own directorial debut, the upcoming Filth and Wisdom, put a damper on it.
If you're in the mood for a sprawling, old-school-style period romance, try Australia. Set in the land Down Under just before World War II, it stars Nicole Kidman as an English aristocrat who inherits a cattle ranch and Hugh Jackman as a ranch worker who helps her drive the herd to protect the place from a takeover plot. Over the course of the long journey, of course, they fall in love. What piques our interest is it's the first film in seven years from gloriously over-the-top director Baz Luhrmann, whose Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet are visually stunning works of art.
The title covers both the star and the subject of this French-language celebrity parody centered on Jean-Claude Van Damme. Early screenings of the film, which follows "the Muscles from Brussels" through a grueling custody battle and a stumbled-upon bank robbery he's mistakenly blamed for, have left critics gaping over the action star's previously un-hinted-at acting chops (Variety wrote that one monologue "must be seen to be believed") and his sense of self-deprecating humor. Director-cowriter Mabrouk El Mechri is also garnering praise for a polished visual style and a smart, funny script.
Eleven years after they were catapulted into superstardom, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite onscreen for the first time as 1950s suburban married couple Frank and April Wheeler. Directed by Winslet's husband, Sam Mendes (American Beauty), this isn't an epic love story of Titanic proportions, but rather an intimate look at a struggling marriage that devolves into constant arguments and strife. DiCaprio and Winslet have matured into two of the best actors of their generation, so it'll be a treat to see them tackle a relationship story that moves beyond the falling-in-love stage.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
This hypnotic-looking tale, about a man who's born old and ages backward to infancy, is based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story and directed by David Fincher. Brad Pitt plays Button in each stage of his life, Cate Blanchett is the woman he falls in love with, and the plot centers on the difficulties of this romance-in-reverse. The preview looks more like Tim Burton-style magical romance than typical Fincher-style sordid noir, but Fincher proved he can handle enthralling drama with the underappreciated Zodiac. Could this finally be the role that brings Pitt some Oscar love? Re-teaming with his Fight Club/Seven director certainly can't hurt.
John Patrick Shanley's on-again, off-again relationship with Hollywood has had two peaks so far: his 1988 Oscar win for the Moonstruck screenplay and his one feature as writer-director, 1990's Joe Versus the Volcano, an underrated fable that first paired Tom Hanks with Meg Ryan. He's stuck mostly to plays since, including Doubt, about the changing Catholic Church of the 1960s and allegations of sexual misconduct against a popular young priest. A 2005 Pulitzer winner, the play has lured Shanley to the director's chair again for a screen adaptation, with a cast led by Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. More awards may follow.
With this being an election year, TV interviews with politicians are making headlines, which might be what makes this dramatic retelling of the 1977 interview between fluffy British host David Frost and fallen President Richard Nixon look so timely. The preview promises a good mix of journalism-ethics struggles, political wrangling and biting humor. It's adapted from the stage play by Peter Morgan, whose gift for sharp political commentary was proven with his script for 2006's The Queen, and both Frank Langella as Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost reprise their Broadway roles.
It's been eight years since Gus Van Sant dropped big-budget filmmaking for small-scale projects like Elephant and Paranoid Park. The move, like his time in the mainstream (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester), produced mixed results. Now he's back with more money, more stars and a new entry into the biopic genre, enlisting a thinned-out Sean Penn to play Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in U.S. history (Josh Brolin, James Franco and Emile Hirsch fill supporting roles). Based on the trailer, widely seen before opening-weekend shows of Burn After Reading, Van Sant may have found the sweet spot between intensely personal and pandering.
All for fall
(Dates subject to change)
"Battle in Seattle"
"The Lucky Ones"
Manhattan Short Film Festival
"Miracle at St. Anna"
"Nights in Rodanthe"
"Stealing America: Vote by Vote"
"Trouble the Water"
Wexner Center Visiting Filmmaker: Phil Solomon (through Oct. 16)
Wexner Center Retrospective: David Lean (through Oct. 30)
"Beverly Hills Chihuahua"
"Flash of Genius"
"How to Lose Friends and Alienate People"
"Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"
"It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School"
"It's Still Elementary"
"Body of Lies"
"City of Ember"
"I Served the King of England"
"Girl Cut in Two"
"The Secret Life of Bees"
"Government Radiation and Other Cinematic Referendums" (shorts program)
"Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind"
"High School Musical 3: Senior Year"
"Pride and Glory"
"The Order of Myths"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"What Just Happened?"
"Zack and Miri Make a Porno"
"Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film"
"Filth and Wisdom"
"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"
Columbus International Film & Video Festival
"Breakfast with Scot"
"Nothing Like the Holidays"
"Quantum of Solace"
"Ashes of Time Redux"
"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"
"Synecdoche, New York"
Zoom Family Film Festival
"Fear(s) of the Dark"
"Punisher: War Zone"
"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
"A Thousand Years of Good Prayers"
"Vivre sa Vie"
"The Tale of Despereaux"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Marley & Me"