There are certain advantages to working for a film website. Aside from all the fortune (translation: payment in expired Amazon vouchers), fame (translation: getting death threats on Twitter from "Wrath of the Titans" fans) and sex (translation: desperately awkward attempts at flirting during roundtable interviews), the main one is that sometimes you get to see films a little bit early.
With the fall season getting underway (read our full fall preview here), the critical bar has been raised a little higher than during the summer months, and some of the films we've seen at festivals over the last year or so are finally making their way into theaters proper (as well as stopping by at some of the other festivals too). We've kept it to films with a firm release date so far, but you can find links to some of the other movies we've seen that are playing TIFF or NYFF at the bottom as well. Read on for more, and let us know what you think of the fall releases you've seen so far in the comments section.
Synopsis: Long term love will be put to the test when elderly woman Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a paralyzing stroke, which affects both her husband George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and daughter (Isabelle Huppert).
Our Verdict: Once known as "These Two" and originally cancelled by the director when he saw a Canadian film with a similar premise (possibly Sarah Polley's "Away From Her"), the Austrian great finally got underway on the retitled "Amour" in February 2011, and the film bowed at Cannes in May to enormous acclaim and the director's second Palme d'Or. Kevin Jagernauth was very, very slightly cooler about the film when he saw it on the Croisette, finding fault with "a couple of ineffective, shock-style sequences." But for the most part, he found it excellent, with leads Riva and Trintignant delivering "two of the best performances of the festival so far," and the film being "the work of a filmmaker who isn't afraid to ask the big questions about human nature." And it's not quite as bleak as it sounds, either: " 'Amour' is a tough, harrowing picture, but also one that, curiously, remains optimistic and full of heart," Kevin said in his full review. Certainly one of the must sees of the season.
When? Plays TIFF and the New York Film Festival before opening on December 19th in limited release.
Synopsis: A pair of teenage girls fall in love, only for one to reveal she's a werewolf.
Our Verdict: Originally intended to reteam "Juno" stars Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby, it's taken some time for "Jack and Diane," director Bradley Rust Gray's follow-up to 2009's "The Exploding Girl," to get going. But the film finally mounted last year, with rising stars Juno Temple and Riley Keough ("The Runaways") in the leads, and our hopes were high, especially considering that the film featured animated sequences from stop-motion legends the Brothers Quay and an interestingly diverse supporting cast, including Dane DeHaan, Jena Malone, Lou Taylor Pucci, Cara Seymour and pop legend Kylie Minogue, as a tattooed lesbian. Unfortunately, Christopher Bell wasn't impressed when he saw the film for us at Tribeca, calling it "an unsatisfying and empty relationship movie," with a rushed central romance, "missing the energy and warmth that should exist between people so crazy about one another." The horror aspects are well done, with the animation sequences impressing, and Gray "displaying a knack for suspense we didn't know he had." But for the most part, Chris thought it was "an utterly unfulfilling experience." Read more from his review here.
When? Hits iTunes on September 28th and theaters on November 2nd.
Synopsis: A documentary filmmaker (Thure Lindhart) and a literary agent (Zachary Booth) make an unexpected connection after a one-night stand.
Our Verdict: Ira Sachs' follow-up to his acclaimed "Forty Shades of Blue" sounds like a U.S.-set version of last year's acclaimed "Weekend," and if Simon Abrams was correct when he reviewed the film for us at Sundance, it's every bit as good as its predecessor. "Sachs pulls no punches" he wrote, with "every moment poignant and significant in some way." Aside from one heavy handed scene, the film was "stunning... there's no melodrama here, just a moving and totally engrossing story of two men in love." The central performances from Zachary Booth ("Damages") and Danish actor Thure Lindhart ("Into the Wild," "Flame & Citron") seem like they could be star-makers as well. And if you weren't convinced already, the score is made up of cuts from the great Arthur Russell. Hopefully it'll manage to break out a little more than the woefully underseen "Weekend" did.
When? Opens September 7th.
Synopsis: A troubled, hard-drinking former sailor (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in with a charismatic man in the process of setting up his own religion (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Our Verdict: With just five films spread out over the last fifteen or so years, Paul Thomas Anderson has become one of the most celebrated American directors working today. It’s been nearly half a decade -- his longest gap ever -- since his masterpiece “There Will Be Blood” became the director's highest-grossing and most critically acclaimed film, and the wait for his next effort was pretty much worth it, according to Charlie Schmidlin, who caught a secret 70mm screening in Chicago earlier this month. While it's not the evisceration of Scientology that many suspected ("Anderson never creates an atmosphere of outright derision," he wrote), it seems to be a powerful and compelling drama, closer to "There Will Be Blood" than his earlier work, with three terrific performances and visuals that have "an immediate and immersive quality [that] combined with the film’s sustained atmosphere of dread, is altogether an experience at which to marvel." It's not without its issues; Phoenix's protagonist is "an immensely passive character to center the film around," and the film feels a little "listless" as a result. But for the most part, it seems that expectations will be more than matched. Read Charlie's review here.
When? Plays Venice and TIFF before opening on September 14th.
Synopsis: A long-time-coming adaptation of Jack Kerouac's famous Beat Generation novel, the story follows drifter poets Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty as they travel across the country in search of themselves, colliding with a rigid and impermeable society along the way.
Our Verdict: Over thirty years in the making, director Francis Ford Coppola has been trying to get this picture mounted since the mid 1970s. Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles signed on to make the picture in 2005, with Coppola exec producing, but none of it became a reality until early 2010 when casting and financing finally coalesced. The film stars Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley as the two leads with Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi and more, rounding out the colorful cast, but per our Cannes correspondent James Rocchi, it's a mixed bag. There are strong performances, as he notes that Hedlund is "engaging and reprehensible," Stewart is "liberated" and Mortensen and Adams have "drugged-up grit and gravel." And the film is "beautifully shot" by "Into the Wild" DoP Eric Gautier. But it's also "full of things -- having sex, doing drugs, being free -- that are far more enjoyably experienced by one's self as opposed to watching other people enjoy them on screen," and ultimately, "the film feels like any other road trip." Read James' full review here.
When? TIFF on September 6th and 7th, then goes on release on December 21st.