The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
directed by David Fincher
This much-anticipated adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic short story concerns the title character (Brad Pitt), a man who is forced to view life from an entirely unique perspective. He is born as an old man and ages backwards, so as family and friends around him grow older, Benjamin becomes progressively younger. A tragic romance ensues when he falls in love with Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who, despite technically being the same age as Benjamin, can never grow old with him. Director Fincher’s third collaboration with Pitt could very well be his best. Positive early reports praise the movie’s stunning visual effects that convincingly turn Pitt from an 80-year-old man to an eight-year-old boy. If the movie can live up to its pre-release buzz, Fincher and company should probably plan on clearing off their shelves come awards season.
directed by Adam Shankman
Adam Sandler journeys into family-friendly territory with this fantastical comedy. He plays a hotel handyman whose life is turned upside down when the lavish tales he spins for his young niece and nephew start to magically come true. Boasting a solid supporting cast (including Keri Russell, Guy Pearce and Jonathan Pryce) and sure-to-be impressive special effects, director Shankman (Hairspray) will hopefully deliver a movie that can charm both kids and adults.
directed by Frank Miller
In this big screen adaptation of Will Eisner’s legendary comic book series, Gabriel Macht plays slain rookie cop Denny Colt, who returns from the dead as The Spirit to fight dark forces in Central City. His arch nemesis is the Octopus, played by the seemingly ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson. Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes co-star as Central City’s most seductive residents. Graphic novelist Miller’s first-time effort behind the camera was the critically and commercially successful Sin City, which he co-directed with Robert Rodriguez. Stylistically, The Spirit seems to inhabit similar territory, with its surreal, film-noir-inspired atmosphere. Whether Miller can shine as a solo director remains to be seen. But, if he does, The Spirit could be the surprise hit of the holiday season.
directed by Sam Mendes
Eleven years after their careers skyrocketed with Titanic, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are back together in this adaptation of Richard Yates’ acclaimed novel. They star as Frank and April Wheeler, a thriving couple with two young children living a seemingly idyllic life in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s. However, despite the Wheelers’ self-confident facade, both Frank and April feel dissatisfied and their repressed feelings threaten to destroy their marriage. The plight of bored suburbanites is a well-worn subject; mid-century suburbia has been explored in-depth in such movies as Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven and the Emmy-winning AMC TV series “Mad Men.” But leave it to director Mendes to put a fresh spin on the material, much as he did with his previous foray into the dark underbelly of suburbia, the Oscar-winning American Beauty.
directed by Bryan Singer
Based on actual events, Valkyrie tells the story of German officer Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), who led an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler near the end of World War II. With its risky subject matter, polarizing lead actor, release date changes and numerous late-stage re-shoots, the movie has been dogged by controversy. Director Singer is teaming up with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie for the first time since their breakthrough hit, The Usual Suspects. Whether this powerful, historically relevant action/thriller can lure adults into the multiplex during the crowded holiday movie season remains to be seen.
Marley & Me
directed by David Frankel
Based on the best-selling memoir by John Grogan, this three-hankie dramedy stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as newlyweds whose adorable yet troublesome Labrador retriever (named Marley) teaches his owners important life lessons. With its saccharine, possibly too-cute premise, Marley & Me seems headed toward cloying, overly sentimental territory. Yet, surprisingly enough, talented writer-directors Scott Frank (The Lookout) and Don Roos (Happy Endings) collaborated on the screenplay. Considering their previous, thought-provoking work, here’s hoping at least a modicum of their razor sharp wit is present in the finished product.
Last Chance Harvey
directed by Joel Hopkins
Call it Before Sunrise for the senior citizen set. Dustin Hoffman plays Harvey, an aging New Yorker who, during a whirlwind weekend, travels to London for his daughter’s wedding. After discovering he’s lost his job and that he won’t be giving his daughter away at the ceremony, Harvey thinks he has hit rock bottom. That is, until he meets an enchanting free spirit (Emma Thompson) who might just change his life. With its likable cast and refreshingly intimate story, Harvey might have a chance to break out and become a surprise late-year indie hit.
Waltz with Bashir
directed by Ari Folman
This animated biographical war drama follows director Folman, a former member of the Israeli army, as he interviews old friends around the world to try to comprehend a life-changing incident that occurred during his country’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. With its unique blend of fact and fiction, Waltz with Bashir is reminiscent of last year’s critically acclaimed Persepolis, and has already received rave reviews on the film festival circuit. Whether the quirky, daring movie can connect with a larger audience beyond the art houses remains to be seen.