Fall Movie Preview 2010: Action and Thrillers

It’s no secret: summer is action movie season. Studios usually place all their action films in summer (and now spring) so that the dramas can begin to stroll in in the fall. Well, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some action films (and some thrillers) out there worth seeing. In fact, sometimes these are the best and most underrated movies of the fall.

So that’s my advice to you: don’t forget about these guys. A number of these eight movies might rank as Fall 2010’s best films.

8. Resident Evil: Afterlife (Sept. 10)

Written and directed by Paul W.S Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter

The Word: There might not be a bigger advocate for 3D than Paul W.S. Anderson, at least among big-name directors. Anderson returns to direct the fourth film based on the zombie apocalypse video games for that very reason. The plot for this film takes Alice to Los Angeles where she leads a group of survivors to a supposed safe haven that is in fact overwrought with undead.

My Thoughts: I’ve never gotten on board with this franchise, but it certainly has its fans (or should I say Jovovich?) and will perform reasonably at the box office. However, based on this summer’s result, there’s been a backlash against 3-D sequels and there’s no question “Afterlife” will be more on the exploitation side of 3D.

7. Skyline (Nov. 12)

Directed by Greg and Colin Strause
Written by Joshua Cordes, Liam O’Donnell
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donal Faison, Brittany Daniel

The Word: Independently financed, in-house visual effects and filming mostly in one of the director’s apartments, the scale of “Skyline” has won comparisons to “Cloverfield” but the plot is more “Independence Day” as this is definitely an “unfriendly alien invasion” story. But while there is a buzz, there is also the obvious: these brothers are the same duo that brought us “Alien v. Predator: Requiem.”

My Thoughts: When a film is directed by someone(s) who made an Alien or Predator film that isn’t Ridley Scott, James Cameron or John McTiernan, I have a right to be skeptical. It’s easy to jump on what this film “appears” to be and it certain holds some promise, but the curtain might be more interesting than what’s behind it.

6. Unstoppable (Nov. 12)

Directed by Tony Scott
Written by Mark Bomback
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson

The Word: It seems that prolific and respected director Tony Scott has a thing with trains of later. His 2009 film was “The Taking of Pelham 123” and though it was one of the more sour of his nought films, “Unstoppable” has a much more original premise that mixes in elements of “Speed.” Basically, a freight train appears barreling at destructive speeds and carrying explosive materials and these characters must find a way to stop it. The film is based around true events and re-teams Scott and Washington once again, this time with “Star Trek” (2009) star Chris Pine.

My Thoughts: Even if “Unstoppable” isn’t one of the more exciting films of the year — which I do think it might be —  it’s bound to be entertaining. Tony Scott might not always make great action films or thrillers, but no one is more consistently entertaining than he, especially if you consider that he churns out a new film every year. Considering this is a simple premise, there’s a chance that this could be a tightly packed couple hours of great fun and intensity.

5. The American (Sept. 1)

Directed by Anton Corbijn
Written by Rowan Joffe, Martin Booth (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Irina Bjorklund

The Word: It’s rare that George Clooney steps out of his comfort zone to go with a rare director, no less a Dutchman by the name of Anton Corbijn whose biggest credits are Depeche Mode music videos. He did direct a tiny, well-received film in 2007 entitled “Control,” but working with a name like Clooney — that’s big. Hollywood’s king of suave plays an assassin on the proverbial “one last job” where he falls for a woman as well as appears to be hunted.

My Thoughts: It’s been awhile since we saw Clooney getting gritty with a gun, but it’s certainly welcome. The film is not being screened for critics, but Clooney doesn’t turn in junk — it’s not in his nature. “The American” might go quietly considering the “last assassin job” lacks some originality, but so long as the writing is good (Rowan Joffe wrote a solid “28 Weeks Later” script) this should deliver in some capacity.

4. Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Sept. 24)

Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by John Orloff and Emil Stern, Kathryn Lasky (novels)
Starring: (voices) Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess

The Word: The contemporary king of style, Zack Snyder, tries his hand at the world of animation in this adventure film based on a book series. The animation looks stunning, not a surprise considering this is the same animation studio that brought us the Oscar-winning “Happy Feet.” The film is about Soren, a barn owl who is captured by a group of evil owls that brainwash young owlets into soldiers. In desperation, they search the legendary owls of Ga’Hoole to fight against the evil owls.

My Thoughts: It’s hard to dismiss any animated film these days, no less one that ought to be pretty gorgeous considering Snyder was involved. I put this on the action list because I expect it to be more visual and fantasy-based than humorous — a “Lord of the Rings” for animated films.

3. Hereafter (Oct. 22)

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Peter Morgan
Starring: Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind

The Word: It would be unwise not to keep an eye on a Clint Eastwood project, even if only one digital still and no poster or even teaser has yet to surface. Re-teaming with “Invictus” star Matt Damon, Eastwood dips into the realm of the supernatural thriller. “Hereafter” involves multiple storylines from what I gather, each dealing with death, but not in the dark, dramatic way, more in a “Sixth Sense” kind of way. That’s about as much as we know. The film could be pushed back at this point considering marketing is so far behind.

My Thoughts: Eastwood is great, but Peter Morgan might be even better. Morgan wrote the screenplays for “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon.” The thriller genre appears to be an experiment for Morgan, but maybe he’s always wanted to break away from the historical fiction and he finally got his chance.

2. The Town (Sept. 17)

Directed by Ben Affleck
Written by Ben Affleck, Adam Stockard and Peter Craig, Chuck Hogan (novel)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, John Hamm

The Word: Affleck’s second directorial effort after the acclaimed but under-appreciated “Gone Baby Gone” stays in Boston but focuses on a team of bank robbers. Affleck plays a robber who has fallen for one of the bank managers involved in one of his jobs, but as if that wasn’t enough, he and his buddies are trying to fend off the FBI (that’s where John Hamm comes in).

My Thoughts: The trailer for this film when you see it the first time rocks — then the title comes up. “The Town?” was that the best they could do? Well, don’t let it knock this off your radar, because it’s set up for success. The amount of talents in this film are impressive. If you still haven’t seen “Gone Baby Gone,” you have to. As much as Affleck is the but of many Hollywood jokes, he’s got a lot of skill on the other side of the camera.

1. RED (Oct. 15)

Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by Jon and Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner (graphic novel)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman

The Word:  Summit Entertainment brilliantly bought the rights to this DC/Vertigo comic realizing they could load up on top-notch middle-aged or older stars while still appealing to a younger crowd. The sense of humor is clear from the trailer and German director Schwentke (“Flightplan,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife”) is one of the hot names going about for studios looking for directors for action flicks. “RED” focuses on a group of retired CIA agents that discover someone or something is after them.

My Thoughts: As anyone who’s gung-ho about “RED” aka “Retired Extremely Dangerous” will tell you, what’s not to love about Helen Mirren with a machine gun? All the pieces of a unique and fun movie experience are here and in a down season for action movies, “RED” is certainly the bright spot. We don’t often get to see these guys (okay, Willis aside) kicking ass and you have to imagine the cast had as much fun with it as we expect to come Oct. 15.


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