Normally I would open this column with some jokes or other, but this month is going to be different. While we’re all planning out our moviegoing for September, many Chewers from three Southern states will probably not be making it to a theater this month. On behalf of all the staff, I want to extend our well-wishes to all of those who have been affected by this tragic disaster.

And for the rest of us who are lucky enough to have homes and electricity and to be able to go to the movies and discuss them here at CHUD – even donating just the cost of one or two movie tickets can make a difference in the relief effort. Skip popcorn and soda at your next movie outing and donate that extra 78 bucks. If you don’t know where to donate, Network for Good has plenty of options for you.

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September 2

A Sound of Thunder

 Devin says: I first read the Ray Bradbury story A Sound of Thunder when I was 12 and in the hospital. Stuck in that hospital bed, Bradbury’s story about the smallest of things having the biggest of consequences blew my fucking mind. Now the story has been turned into a movie, as time traveling tourists head back to the age of dinosaurs and discover that something as simple as killing a butterfly millions of years ago can have devastating repurcussion across the eons.

Prognostication: This film has been sitting on a shelf somewhere forever and ever. Sir Ben Kingsley, who starred in what may be a dry run for his work with Uwe Boll, claimed that the film was delayed while getting the FX right. But I can’t imagine any amount of computer tinkering is going to do much to improve Ed Burns’ performance.

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Transporter 2

 Dave says: After successfully unloading the living Asian cargo of the first film, beefy Brit Jason Statham prepares to hit the road for the second Transporter movie, again playing a high-octane ex-commando ex-courier, now getting into sticky situations in America. Unleashed director Louis Leterrier and writer/producer Luc Besson conjure up new ways to get Statham shirtless and coated in various liquids on his mission to rescue the kidnapped kid of the affluent family who currently employs his driving services.

Prognostication: Statham has the stoic demeanor and martial artist thing down, and the first flick was filled with fun, if homoerotic, action. The sequel has faces being kicked, vehicles driven at startling velocity and a machinegun-toting chick in lingerie shooting everything. Plus, Matthew Modine! If that other stuff won’t get you there, surely the star of Vision Quest and Cutthroat Island will do the trick.

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 Dave says: Drumline percussionist Nick Cannon goes undercover in this action-comedy, playing a fresh-faced cop assigned to a private school to investigate a stolen auto racket run by mutant Shawn "Iceman" Ashmore..At least he’ll be sandwiched by a double dose of sexy: X2’s adamantium-clawed hottie Kelly Hu plays Cannon’s police contact, while superspicy Roselyn Sanchez is a slinky school teacher and love interest for Cannon’s cop. Cheech Marin plays the police captain, who is expected to yell unhappily on at least one occasion.

Prognostication: It sounds like a combination of 21 Jump Street and Fast and the Furious, but since it’s based on Cannon’s own idea we shouldn’t expect much more than that. It’s also been sitting on a shelf for ages (it’s the feature debut of video director Marcos Siega, whose own follow-up Pretty Persuasion beat it to theaters). Perhaps the studio was waiting for Cannon’s popularity to rise. Perhaps a lot of people are. Not me, though, I’m waiting for him to go away. Mostly for forcing me to endure Love Don’t Cost a Thing (reviewed and hated HERE).

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The Baxter

 George says: Have you ever found yourself at the losing end of a love triangle? How about being left at the altar? If so, you’re a goddamn Baxter. Such is the term used in Michael Showalter’s romantic comedy about being that guy that always seems to get screwed out of the good stuff.

Prognostication: The majority of mainstream rom-coms have become extremely formulaic in recent years, but Showalter’s The Baxter seems to be putting a more unique spin on these familiar proceedings. It’s also more of a throwback to the films of yesteryear with its sharp wit and clever dialogue. So, if you dig that sort thing and you’re not exactly up for ass-kicking chauffeurs, craptastic-looking films starring Nick Cannon, or fuck ups of the space-time continuum, then you’ll be sure to find something hip here. But don’t take my word for it; Read Devin’s very positive take right here.

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September 9

An Unfinished Life

 George says: Lasse Hallström, the director behind ABBA: The Movie (co-wrote it too), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, and Chocolat is back alongside Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez (of all people), and Morgan Freeman with a story set in the ranchlands of Wyoming that examines the relationship between family and friends, coping with memories, and the true nature of forgiveness. Redford plays Einar Gilkyson, a tough skinned (leather, I think) retired rancher who’s disillusioned with events of the past. Lopez takes the role of Einar’s daughter-in-law, Jean, while Freeman plays Einar’s hired-hand and only trusted friend, Mitch (not Uncle).

Prognostication: It’s difficult to say. I haven’t heard much about this film but I can’t help shake the feeling of familiarity in the dynamic between Redford’s character and Freeman’s character with that of Eastwood’s and Freeman’s in Million Dollar Baby… at least according to what’s on paper. And then there’s Jennifer Lopez who hasn’t made much of a dent in the public eye since the whole Gigli debacle. I personally find her more appealing when attempting dramatic roles (the results of which are up for debate), so it may work out yet. Redford and Freeman are always great, and looking back on Hallström’s filmography, there’s no reason to think that this won’t, at the very least, be a film with solid performances. Oh, and Josh Lucas is in this too. He’s cool, right?

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Green Street Hooligans

 George says: Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) gets booted out of Harvard. The next logical step? Go and visit your sister (played by the beautiful Claire Forlani) who lives out in Limeywood (England). While there, Matt befriends his sister’s brother-in-law (Charlie Hunnam) – the bad-boy type – who introduces him to the dangerous world of football (that’s soccer) hooliganism.

You know, it’s great to see Elijah doing these more off-the-radar type flicks since donning the curly follicles in Return of the King. Eternal Sunshine, Sin City, this, and Everything is Illuminated (which opens the week after this – read Devin’s take on that one a little further down)… it’s varied work, which is always a plus. And after viewing the trailer for this, it looks like it could be worth a watch… preferably while drunk and punching people.

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The Exorcism Of Emily Rose

 Devin says: Finally! Someone has finally made Law & Order: Demon Hunting Unit. When a young girl dies during an exorcism, lawyer Laura Linney takes the defense of the priest who oversaw the ritual. Based on a true story, the film has a pretty good cast – beside Linney there’ Tom Wilkinson as the priest and Campbell Scott as a mustachioed man.

Prognostication: Nick visited the Canadian set of this one, and brought back good word. I haven’t seen the film but it’s been screening, and I keep hearing good stuff from folks. And boy, the trailer for this one looks great. September’s not the kind of month one usually associates with quality, but I have high hopes for this.

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September 16

Cry Wolf

 Dave says: In this indie cheapie, high school kids mess around on the internet, creating a fictional serial killer who turns out to be real. Plus they get a nasty worm virus from a porn site. Why won’t today’s teens get Norton?

Prognostication: Focus Features is obviously looking for a Saw-sized return on this low-budget acquisition, which doesn’t seem to have either the twists or the style of that film. It does have both Gary Cole and Jon Bon Jovi, which may actually result in some sort of waveform collapse that could spell the end of existence. But then, I was never good with theoretical physics.

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Just Like Heaven

 Devin says: Did you know that not every state in the union has outlawed necrophilia? This movie is for them. It starts with the right idea – Reese Witherspoon is killed. But her spirit hangs out at her apartment, which Mark Ruffalo has moved into. And while they may fight and fight, wouldn’t you just know they end up falling in love. I hope he kills himself at the end so they can be together.

Prognostication: Here’s how Mark Ruffalo’s post-You Can Count on Me career works for me – anything he is in where he’s a supporting actor is worth seeing. But when he’s a lead, like 13 Going on 30 or this film, you should avoid the film. It’s too bad, since Ruffalo is a good actor with a nice presence. And Reese? Go back to Zeta Reticula!

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Lord of War

 George says: Nic Cage is the Lord of War. Based on fact (loosely), he plays Yuri Orlov, a globetrotting arms dealer who’s trying his best to make cash, avoid his enemies, and always be one step ahead of a tenacious Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke) who’s hot on his trail. For the boys, there’s also the deliciously gorgeous Bridget Moynahan on tap while the gals get Jared Leto minus the goofy gay glances from Alexander.

Prognostication: Andrew Niccol, the man behind Gattaca – one of the great modern sci-fi films, is back in the director’s chair after the speed bump that was S1m0ne (some would also include The Truman Show there too). Judging from the trailer, we seem to be getting a smart, clever film in the guise of an action-adventure romp. A very fun-looking one too. It’s a great trailer. Whether it delivers on that or not is another matter. But for now, I’d say it looks like a good bet. Plus, Ian Holm!

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 George says: Gwyneth Paltrow plays Catherine, a young girl who has spent an awful long time caring for her genius but unstable father, Robert (Anthony Hopkins). Isn’t being unstable a requisite characteristic of being a genius now? Anyway, Catherine also has to deal with the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire (Hope Davis) as well as love interest Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal) who happens upon a strange and crazy discovery in one of Robert’s many notebooks of genius ramblings. I think I smell a Mike MacGuffin here.

Prognostication: John Madden (not that one), the director of award magnet Shakespeare in Love and award repellent Captain Corelli’s Mandolin seems to be delivering yet another in a line of sentimental dramas that’ll try hard to garner the respect and adulations of critics everywhere. It’s like A Beautiful Mind, except NOT focusing on the crazy smart guy. Honestly, color me completely indifferent.

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Everything Is Illuminated

 Devin says: A very precise and bottled up American, Jonathan Safran Foer travels to the Ukraine to find his grandfather’s old home shtetl and the woman who helped saved him from the Nazis. His guide is Alexi, a young Ukraine who mangles English, Alexi’s grandfather who drives the car and thinks he’s blind, and Sammy Davis, Jr, Jr, grandpa’s “Officious Seeing Eye Bitch.” The film is based on the best selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, and is the directorial debut of CHUD’s beloved Liev Schreiber, the bane of my Spell Check. Can’t he just change his name to Live?

Prognostication: This is just a wonderful movie. Hilarious and heartbreaking, Everything is Illuminated has earned itself an early spot on my top ten for the year. Elijah Woods plays Jonathan Safran Foer behind glasses that impossibly magnify his already huge eyes, but the film is stolen again and again by Gogol Bordello singer Eugene Hutz making his acting debut as Alexi. Schreiber has his first at-bat and he hits a grand slam.

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 Devin says: Justin is 17 and still sucks his thumb. His domineering father tries to shame him out of the habit; his school tries to medicate him. Justin travels through a series of other addictions as he finishes his last year at high school and tries to come to terms with his strange parents. Lou Pucci, who plays Justin, has been getting rave reviews and winning awards for his layered portrayal of the titular thumbsucking guy.

Prognostication: I quite liked this film. First time director Mike Mills (not that one) adapts the novel Thumbsucker with its spirit, if not its events, intact. He has made a movie about a regular kid having regular kid problems, and he’s smart enough to have stocked it with great actors – Vincent D’Onofrio as the dad, Tilda Swinton as the mom, Vince Vaughn as Justin’s debate coach, Kelli Garner as the source of my boner and Benjamin Bratt in a hilarious small role as a drug addicted TV actor. Thumbsucker is an impressive debut.

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Seperate Lies

 George says: The film tells the story of James (Tom Wilkinson), a man who lives his life contently with the thought that his marriage to Anne (Emily Watson) is just about the most perfect thing ever. But when an old flame (Rupert Everett) from Anne’s past resurfaces, as well as details of a fatal accident the two had ties with, James’ seemingly perfect marriage begins to unravel.

Prognostication: This is the directorial debut of Julian Fellowes, the man behind the Oscar-winning screenplay for Gosford Park (an award that really should’ve gone to Christopher Nolan for Memento). Word is that this film has excellent performances, especially from Tom Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who was last seen in Batman Begins and will more immediately be seen in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (another flick getting pretty positive buzz) is a damn fine actor. And Emily Watson has always been a fave of mine. Seems like a film with very grown-up sensibilities. Depending on who you are, that’ll either translate to intriguing or very boring.

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September 23


 Dave says: In one of the many skybound terror projects now making us uncomfortable to fly again, Jodie Foster takes to the skies in a brand new airliner, playing a mom whose daughter this time somehow vanishes during a flight. Sean Bean is our captain today, while Peter Sarsgaard plays a nearby passenger who tells her to chill and offers his crappy little bag of pretzels.

Prognostication: Flightplan marks the US directing debut of German helmer Robert Schwentke, whose decent first feature Tattoo I covered in a previous edition of Dave’s Underground (RIGHT HERE). The aerial chills come courtesy of Touchstone and manga-haired producer Brian Grazer. Note: this movie does NOT feature a character named Jackson Rippner.

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Corpse Bride

 George says: Here’s something from a news item I wrote a few months ago… “The film is loosely based on a 19th century Russian folktale which is supposedly built on the historical fact that anti-Semitic gangs would often attack Jewish wedding parties, kill, and then bury the bride in her ceremonial wedding gown.” That’s some crazy source material, especially for a film whose audience will include a healthy dose of children. I love it! And the very basic premise is that our leading (clay) man (Johnny Depp) accidentally marries one of these “corpse brides” (Helena Bonham Carter). She then gets resurrected (somehow, someway… I’m sure it’ll be hilarious) and expects her living hubby to love her like a man would a normal (living) woman. Normal woman? Is there such a thing? [Rimshot]

Prognostication: Fans of the brilliant Nightmare Before Christmas are eagerly awaiting with bated breath for this one (myself included). And how could you not? Tim Burton’s fantastical worlds often are best translated in forms that aren’t live action. And stop-motion has slowly become a rarer and rarer form of cinematic art (with the exception being Aardman Animations and their upcoming Wallace & Gromit film). For those of you who have never seen a stop-motion picture, do yourself a favor and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. Watch the Wallace & Gromit shorts. Watch 1933’s King Kong. The original Mighty Joe Young. The classic Ray Harryhausen films. It’s a key form of cinema that really needs to make a more mainstream reemergence. Even if Burton’s Corpse Bride is a miss, I can’t help but applaud the filmmakers for at least attempting it. So yeah, go watch it or be punched in the face.

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Dear Wendy

 Dave says: A small-town loner (Jamie Bell) allow his pacifist ways to slide when he becomes enamored with pistols and starts a club of firearm fetishists (Wendy is the name of a beloved gun in the film). What do you think is going to happen? Lars von Trier penned the script for fellow Dogme Dane Thomas Vinterberg to direct.

Prognostication: Bell just showed up in The Chumscrubber, another below-radar flick with a dark sensibility. This British kid is stealing roles from our future Jake Gyllenhaals! Bill Pullman, X-Wing pilot Porkins and American Pie’s Sherminator are also in it, for some reason. But how many moviegoers in this country will have an interest in Danish filmmakers’ perception of American gun culture? Probably about as many people who saw Dogville and It’s All About Love in theaters.

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Dirty Love

 Devin says: Jenny McCarthy has written a movie. Let that sink in for a minute. This is that movie, a film where she gets jilted by her photog boyfriend and heads off looking for her soulmate. The film also stars Carmen Electra and Shitbreak from American Pie.

Prognostication: I don’t know what to expect. Actually, I do know what to expect, as I was told there was a lot of titties in this film. So at least McCarthy is writing to her strengths. What else is there to say about this except that Playboy models can get their scripts made and you can’t.

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Oliver Twist

 Devin says: Hey, it’s Sir Ben Kingsley month! The bald thesp leaps from the Jurassic to the Victorian with this latest (IMDB spits out 19!) adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. Oliver Twist is a young vagabond who winds up chilling with Fagin and his group of young pickpockets. And seriously, with a name like Fagin, Twist should be psyched that he’s just picking pockets.

Prognostication: A movie starring kids directed by… Roman Polanski. It’s like he’s begging for the jokes. And do we really need another take on this tome? Polanski follows up his Oscar dynamite The Pianist with a film that sort of feels like a trifle. And it’s not even a musical. God, who doesn’t miss Oliver!?

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Roll Bounce

 George says: Quite unfortunately, I’ve missed out on Bow Wow’s previous film efforts: All About the Benjamins. Like Mike. Johnson Family Vacation. And while it took some time to recuperate from those missed opportunities, I see that my patience has paid off soundly. Set in the late 1970s, Roll Bounce looks at the culture of roller skating and the place it held for a group of kids who lived and loved it. Expect to see the likes of the aforementioned Bow Wow, the delightfully cute Meagan Good, the often not funny Mike Epps, Charlie (My brother’s Eddie) Murphy, and Nick Cannon (twice in the same Prognosticator!).

Prognostication: You know what? I’m actually completely intrigued with the dance/skate routines these guys are pulling off in this film. I’m a sucker for well-choreographed dance numbers and the added dynamic of roller skates makes it all the more intriguing to me. And director Malcolm D. Lee? Undercover Brother? Shit, I enjoyed that film! So… what am I saying? I’m saying this doesn’t look bad at all. There’s some drama being thrown into the mix, a more than likely hip ‘70s soundtrack, and for the love God, it’s got Chi McBride!

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September 30


 George says:
The subject tackled by Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in both his book and this film is one of the more profound in American writing. Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s sets out to Kansas with long-time friend, and future author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), on a writing assignment for The New Yorker which would have him examine the events of a murder of four members of a well known farm family – the Clutters – and how this affected a small town in the West. What Capote discovers is basically the collision of two completely distinct Americas: the safe, sheltered country known to the Clutters and the amoral, rootless one known to their killers.

The subject matter is absolutely fascinating and Capote’s book on the subject, In Cold Blood, is terrific. What’s more, there’s the fantastic casting of Hoffman who completely embodies the role of Truman Capote, the phenomenal and lovely Catherine Keener playing Lee, and Chris Cooper as the lead Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent. Now that’s one hell of a trio. Definitely looking forward to this one.

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The Greatest Game Ever Played

 George says: Based on the best-selling book of the same name, TGGEP tells the story of Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the birth of modern golf. Ouimet, an 20-year old amateur shocked and amazed the world of golf when he defeated Vardon, the British champion who was also the most famous pro golfer of his time and the inventor of what today is still considered the modern grip and swing. And all this time I’ve been crediting Peter North.

Prognostication: I should probably mention that this is being directed by BILL PAXTON. That’s a cool thing. His last film, Frailty, was a well made and quite chilling horror piece that proved the man had the chops to handle the reigns of a film. So what’s the only foreseeable problem with this? It’s a film about GOLF.

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A History of Violence

 Dave says: In director David Cronenberg’s (hopeful) return to greatness, The Vig is a small-town family man who takes down some thugs in his diner and becomes a media celebrity. The sudden attention, however, uncovers some dark secrets from his violent past, particularly some mobsters he crossed long ago.

Prognostication: The movie is based on a graphic novel (published by the same DC Comics imprint that produced the source material for Road to Perdition), but this is no mere comic book adaptation. Word has it that self-styled sicko Cronenberg has finally (sadly?) shifted away from gooey body horror to make a mature tale of rural terror that, in true Cronenberg fashion, doesn’t shy away from shocks and bloodshed. A cast that includes Ed Harris, Maria Bello and William Hurt can only improve matters.

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Into the Blue

 Dave says: In this 21st century variation of The Deep, expression-free humanoid Paul Walker and his gal, the dangerously hot Jessica Alba, play a pair of undersea divers (even though wood floats) who find a sunken ship full of valuable goodies. On the nearby ocean floor is a wrecked plane, and a full cargo of high-quality nose candy inside. When the drug dealers (led by ex-Goonie Josh Brolin) come looking for it, a whole bunch of really exciting stuff happens. Directed by Top Gun washout John Stockwell, who apparently developed a fondness for the sea and scantily clad chicks while filming Blue Crush.

Prognostication: Writhing bikini-clad babes with tight bodies and ridiculous tans. Underwater treasure hunters in over their heads. A script from the guy who “wrote” Torque. I’m all over this. But will it be good enough to battle with Stealth and XXX: State of the Union for my favorite terrible movie of the year?

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 Devin says: It’s the future. You can tell because every is dressed like cowboys yet fly spaceships. And they all curse in Chinese. It’s the world of Joss Whedon’s failed sci-fi show, Firefly, miraculously resurrected by Universal in film form. The movie takes up where the series left off, as the outlaw crew of the Firefly, headed by Captain Mal Reynolds, are chased for a mysterious young girl named River. Who’s chasing them? The mysterious Operative, played by Four Brothers’ baddie Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Prognostication: Here come the hate mail! Look, I think I may enjoy this film (even though I’m not a huge Firefly fan), but everything I have ever seen in the world of Hollywood tells me this movie won’t do well at the box office. And hey, if the movie is good, who cares? Well, anyone who wants the hinted-at trilogy, for one. And anyone who – like me – wants to see Nathan Fillion get more work.

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 Devin says: Helena is a 15 year old girl who is raised in a circus family has a fight with her mother – who almost immediately has a stroke. Just before her mother’s surgery, Helena finds herself trapped in a fantasy world of her own making, where two kingdoms are at war and only the Mirrormask can heal the ill White Queen and restore peace to the world. But Helena’s evil double has escaped the fantasy world and is wreaking havoc. Helena must work with the cowardly Valentine to make her way through a world full of monsters and bizarrely masked people to save the day.

Prognostication: The film looks amazing – illustrator Dave McKean directed this convergence of live action and CGI from a Neil Gaiman script. Everything else is dull, though. The story is such a standard “magical kingdom” fantasy story you can’t even pin down which it is aping (The Wizard of Oz is a fine place to start, though). Purely a movie for Gaiman fanatics and the stoned, Mirrormask will have a long life in dorm rooms.

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