It’s that time of year again — fall blockbusters, Oscar hopefuls and the so-so films leading up to them.
Summer 2010 has amounted to a rather weak tentpole season for movies, so I was initially a little worried the same would be true of the fall. But after perusing the September-December release calendar, it seems there are several movies worth getting excited about.
Below are my top five most-anticipated movies of the fall:
Honorable mentions: “Jack Goes Boating,” “Buried,” “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “RED,” “127 Hours,” “Morning Glory,” “Love and Other Drugs” and “How Do You Know.”
5. “Never Let Me Go” (Sept. 15)
Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Kiera Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) are childhood friends who grow up at a seemingly traditional English boarding school. When they enter the real world, they explore love, friendship and a life they can never have, as their own reality is something much darker.
Mark Romanek’s bleak adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel looks like an intriguing blend of “Atonement” and “Children of Men” in terms of tone and style. I’ve never read the book, but I’ve heard it’s an emotional ride with twists too good to reveal. It’s gotten rave reviews so far and could potentially be the path to second Oscar nominations for Mulligan and Knightley. It’s also the first of two major fall releases for Garfield, known to most as the next Spider-Man.
4. “The Town” (Sept. 17)
Ben Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a Boston bank robber who falls in love with a bank employee (Rebecca Hall) he and his band of thieves hold hostage. As he pursues a relationship with the one woman who could bring the thieves down, Doug faces pressure from his best friend and fellow robber (Jeremy Renner), his incarcerated father (Chris Cooper) a desperate old flame (Blake Lively) and the FBI agent (Jon Hamm) determined to put him behind bars.
Affleck proved he has directing skills with “Gone Baby Gone,” and “The Town” is his chance to prove that wasn’t a fluke. If the intense trailer is any indication, he’s about to have another winner on his hands with “The Town.”
3. “Black Swan” (Dec. 1)
Natalie Portman stars as Nina, an uptight young ballerina who wins the coveted lead role in her company’s production of “Swan Lake.” She has what it takes to play the pure and innocent White Swan, but her teacher (Vincent Cassel) tries to persuade her to evoke a darker, seductive side for the dual role of the Black Swan. A new rival dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), possesses these qualities and soon becomes Nina’s alternate. They form a strange friendship as Nina’s growing dark side threatens to consume her.
Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to “The Wrestler” looks as dark and twisted as it does visually stunning and meticulously detailed. Early reviews have been positive, many saying Portman and Kunis give career-best performances.
2. “The Social Network” (Oct. 1)
Based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires,” “The Social Network” tells the story of the founding of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to success. While an undergraduate student at Harvard, Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has an idea to bring the social aspect of college to the Internet. His project exploded into Facebook, and he became the youngest billionaire in history. But along the way, he falls out with his best friend and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) when Saverin claims he was ousted, and faces a legal battle with the Winklevoss twins, fellow Harvard students who claim he stole the idea for Facebook from them.
“The Social Network” will undoubtedly get a lot of people talking about the founding of the Web site that has attracted 500 million users. Zuckerberg has already expressed his distaste for the film. Though people may have mocked “the Facebook movie” at first, the somber tone of the trailer proves director David Fincher isn’t taking the subject lightly.
1. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” (Nov. 19)
In the first part of the “Harry Potter” series’ final installment, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) choose not to return to Hogwarts for their seventh year so they can track down the remaining horcruxes, the objects containing pieces of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) soul that must be destroyed before the dark lord himself can be killed. Part 1 deals largely with the physical and emotional toll of the trio’s task leading up to the epic final battle of Part 2, which will be released next July.
Like the books, the “Potter” films have continued to get darker and darker, and “Deathly Hallows” looks like the darkest yet. Based on the trailer, director David Yates isn’t shying away from the themes of death and political corruption that are so crucial to the book. Eduardo Serra’s cinematography looks breathtaking, and Radcliffe, Grint and Watson appear to be giving it their all in their final turn as Harry, Ron and Hermione.
But what do you think? Did your favorite make the list? What movies are you most looking forward to this fall? Sound off in the comments section.
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Follow Alexa Milan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexamilan.