BOP 25 of Fall: Selections 25-16

By BOP Staff

September 5, 2007

Fall means one thing and one thing only to North America: football. But we are not a football Web site. So, we bear the onus of convincing you, the readers, that the post-Labor Day period at the box office is not the graveyard you consider it to be. Of course, this used to be a harder task. This year, September and October both offer a surprising number of excellent-looking films, with many of them likely to be vying for awards contention. Suffice it to say that Fall is no longer the Not Good Enough for Summer dumping ground it had been up until recently. The 2007 September/October schedule features any number of movies we can't wait to see, and we aren't just saying that in order to boost this list up to 25. Okay, maybe we are for 23-25, but that's it.
I don't think there's anybody around...if you know what I mean. 25) Sydney White

Recently deceased auteur Robert Altman immortalized the art of the Hollywood pitch in 1992's The Player. As you know –or should know, anyway – the tracking shot at the start of the movie peers into the window of a pitch meeting featuring descriptions of awkwardly disjointed juxtapositions of movies are tied together in hopes of selling a new idea. Until the release of Sydney White, I had never seen a real world representation of this process that was a blueprint recreation of Altman's idea. Simply put, Sydney White is Snow White Meets Revenge of the Nerds. If the simple idea of that is not enough to make you want to see the movie, you are clearly different than the staff of our site.

Sydney White does to the Disney staple, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, what 10 Things I Hate about You did to Shakepeare's Taming of the Shrew. It recreates the classic's premise by setting it in the modern world while featuring a sassy but well intended heroine. In this instance, the paragon of virtue is portrayed by BOP fave Amanda Bynes. Her story is one of a titular college freshman whose arrival on campus is met with genuine disinterest by most and transparent loathing by one. This lady, Rachel, would be most accurately described as a, well, wicked witch. She won't let Rachel join her sorority even though the girl is a legacy. Instead, Rachel is cast down to the lowest of the low Greek houses, a group comprised of seven socially awkward young men. Technically, they are not undersized, but they are most assuredly social dwarves. Can White work with these nerds and mold them into the type of men good enough to usurp Rachel's place on the student council? Not only do we expect this to happen but we also think she might spend time doing some PG-rated fraternizing with a Prince Charming-esque sort of boy. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Oh, baby, I'm wearing the park ranger uniform you love and yes, I do have the hat on. 24) Rogue

BOP as a group is quite consistent in one regard. Give us a movie where an animal terrorizes and/or devours humans, and we are a bucket of popcorn and some twizzlers away from ecstasy. Clearly, Rogue is right in our wheelhouse. It tells the story of an unfortunate group of tourists whose trip down the Australian Outback doesn't quite live up to the promises made in the sales brochure. Their ship is destroyed by a killer crocodile (YES!), and they find themselves stranded on the only piece of land they can reach before their boat sinks.

Unfortunately for them but luckily for us, their new sanctuary turns out to be the proverbial belly of the beast. Okay, it's not quite the monster's belly (that comes later, obviously), but it is the creatures. What follows is a battle for dominion where most of the audience will root for Alias star Michael Vartan and Pitch Black star Radha Mitchell while BOP's staff passionately celebrates the crocodile's newfound human buffet. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I am so going to romance that stone. 23) King of California

Despite what the title might have you believe, King of California has nothing to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead, it is a good ol' fashioned treasure hunt, but we don't mean one of those where the Louvre and the Washington Monument turn out to be hiding a detailed map to the treasure's location. No, this quest for loot involves a crazy father, a dubious daughter, and a Costco. What's not to love about the idea of that combination?

Michael Douglas is back, and he's given up any pretense of trying to look handsome. Instead, he's taken on the style of ZZ Top in this one, presumably because he already has Catherine Zeta-Jones, so he doesn't have to keep trying any more. As Charlie, the proverbial King of California, Douglas plays a lousy father who returns two years after carelessly (albeit unintentionally) abandoning his teenage daughter. Naturally, this girl, Miranda, is skeptical of his reasons for return. Since he's such a lovable buffoon straight out of the mold of Jeff Bridges' The Dude, however, she can't help but be won over by his bumbling charms. Together, they work to recover a fortune that may or may not exist, bonding along the way.

Both Douglas and the actress playing his daughter, Evan Rachel Wood-Manson, have been receiving glowing critical praise for their work in this movie. It's probably going to be on the small side in terms of release pattern, meaning you will have to work a bit harder to see it. We think King of California is a nice sleeper as we enter awards season, though. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Get your pizza in 30 minutes or less or I kill myself! 22) Wristcutters: A Love Story

It's no secret that BOP loves Patrick Fugit. He captured our hearts all the way back in 2000 with a genuinely marvelous star turn in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous. Since that time, he's had a solid supporting turn in the little-seen drug movie Spun and also featured in the underrated Saved! Suffice it to say that when we see this young an attached to a project, we tend to take notice.

Wristcutters: A Love Story feels a bit like the great television show Dead Like Me in its premise. Fugit plays a young man named Zia. After Zia slices his own wrists, he enters a strange afterlife reserved only for suicides. In this world, everyone still bears the scars that indicate the method in which they "eliminated" themselves (think: Beetlejuice) and the world they wander through is a strange, twisted form of the reality they knew in real life.

Zia becomes determined to set out into this strange new world to find his true love. Along the way, he encounters plenty of strange individuals - from a bummed out suicide bomber to an angel in disguise. He does manage to find real friends in Russian musician Eugene (Shea Whigham) and Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), an inhabitant who might be simply in the wrong place. Together, the trio sets off to find what they could not in their corporeal lives.

Wristcutters: A Love Story has already received numerous awards nominations and prizes, including Best Director at the Seatle International Film Festival, Best First Feature at Philadelphia's Festival, and a nomination for Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, among others. With great indie buzz and a killer (ha ha!) premise, we definitely feel this one deserves our attention. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
That's the youngest witch doctor I've ever seen. 21) Fierce People

Most readers probably don't recognize the name Anton Yelchin, but a number of us here at BOP came to appreciate the young man's work when he was just about 12-years-old and starring alongside Anthony Hopkins in the hidden gem Hearts in Atlantis. Now, Yelchin will star alongside a fairly stellar group of actors in Fierce People, a movie that has seen numerous delays but still looks excellent when it comes to premise.

Yelchin plays 16-year-old Finn, a young man who aspires to spend his summer with a bit of cultural anthropology. He'll escape his home in New York City to head off to South America, where he will study the Iskanani Indians ("fierce people") alongside his father - whom he happens never to have met. Unfortunately, those plans go totally awry when Finn is arrested as he attempts to help his drug-addicted mother (Diane Lane), a masseuse. In an effort to put them both on the right track, his mother moves them into the guest house of a former client (Donald Sutherland) - a man who is also a billionaire. In this new world, Finn discovers that he might just have a "fierce" tribe to study after all, in this case, the super wealthy. Finn falls for the billionaire's daughter (Kristen Stewart), befriends the man's son (Chris Evans) and even comes into favor with the old man himself. Naturally, things can't continue in an easy manner, and Finn's world is shaken up again.

Fierce People looks dark and incisive, and should be a departure of sorts for director Griffin Dunne, who previously directed fluffier stuff like Addicted to Love and Practical Magic. It offers a look into the lives of people most of us never have an opportunity to meet, and hopefully some sly commentary on their existence. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
I wonder what type of shadow puppet he's making. 20) Control

The Independent has called Control "the coolest British movie of 2007", and the accolades don't stop there. Control received the Golden Camera - Special Mention award at this year's Cannes Film Festival and has become a solid indie buzz film for fall. Director Anton Corbijn has previously worked in video, and it appears that his style has translated over, as The Guardian notes that the film works in "beautiful realism".

Control is based on the book Touching from a Distance, which was written by Deborah Curtis, wife of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis. The film examines Curtis' life, as he evolves from a young man with aspirations to be like the Sex Pistols to one of the key members of the Manchester music scene. It's a story that has previously been touched on in 24 Hour Party People, a marvelous ode to the rise and fall of Factory Records, but Control will focus entirely on Curtis' story whereas 24 Hour Party People was more the story of music producer Tony Wilson.

Curtis is a fascinating character in musical history because of the demons that followed him. He suffered from epilepsy and also had a rocky marriage that suffered further due to his infidelity. Eventually, he commited suicide, with his frequent seizures believed to have contributed to the circumstances that surrounded his death.

The movie stars Sam Riley (who also appeared as The Fall's Mark E. Smith in 24 Hour Party People) as Ian Curtis and the wonderful Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis. Performance poet John Cooper Clarke has a cameo as himself.

Fallen rock icons are a constant source of fascination to the public. If you need proof, simply look to stars like Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Ian Curtis's career may not have been long-lasting, but it was impacting. We're expecting Control to be a compelling look into the mind of one of Britain's lost creative souls. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Your eyes...I never noticed how beautiful they are! 19) We Own the Night

It's no surprise to see that thematic clones of The Departed would find their way to the screen after last fall's double-crossing gang thriller walked away with the Oscar for Best Picture and over $130 million. What is surprising is how quickly some of them have come out. Take We Own the Night, for example, which liberally borrows the "two sides of the law" theme that was prevalent in it, one of its actors, and even the graphical style of the trailer. The film puts Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix together as brothers, one a cop and the other the owner of a night club home to the kind of characters that attract cops. Their father (Robert Duvall) is the chief of police, so it's not a tough guess which one is the favorite. A drug deal gone bad puts Phoenix on the wrong side of the law, leading him to take on a risky informant role to get right with both the justice system and his family. While this film doesn't boast quite the incredible cast or the known quantity of the source material as The Departed, We Own the Night could fill the same niche of crime drama this fall. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
BOP: now 30% more homoerotic! 18) Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Is there any form of cinema better than a tale of malevolent people receiving their just desserts? Okay, there is porn, but other than that, what beats a story in the vein of A Simple Plan? This is our thought process in voting for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, a movie of betrayal and justice. It features a morally bankrupt broker named Andy, whose financial woes place him in desperate straits. With no other good options at his disposal, Andy determines that the best way to restore his fiscal status is to perform a heist.

After choosing the target, a jewelry store, Andy finds a partner in crime in his brother, Hank. The two men share a complicated relationship with Hank harboring a secret. He has cuckolded Andy by seducing his the man's wife, Gina. Clearly, these are two no-good-niks, but it's the particular jewelry store they embark upon robbing that makes them pathetic. This particular business is owned by their mother and father. Even worse, the heist does not go as planned, not that they ever do in movies. In this instance, Andy and Hank's mother is fatally shot, leaving their father bitter and bloodthirsty for revenge.

Papa Charles sets out to hunt down the animals that robbed his store and killed his wife. Little does he know that the two men responsible for her death are his only sons. Two men try to hide the dark secret of their matricide while a third travels the inexorable path to justice that leads directly to his scions. It's a great premise, and it stars Academy Award winning actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei as well as Academy Award nominated actors Albert Finney and Ethan Hawke. What more could we ask for? Err, other than porn. (David Mumpower/BOP)
BOP: now 30% more heteroerotic! 17) Lust, Caution

Ang Lee knows exactly what BOP wants from our major awards contenders: lots and lots of explicit sex. In fact, we strongly suspect that this adaptation of Eileen Chang's story was originally intended to be a PG affair until Ang (we are a first name basis with him) saw our staff's collective scowl. Realizing that such a vanilla tale would be unlikely to attract our intention, he upped the ante to an overtly sexual tale with some moments of implied sex, thereby tipping the scales to an R rating and piquing our interest somewhat. In the end, he decided not to leave the fate of Lust, Caution up to chance, committing to enough full frontal nudity to make Jenna Jameson blush. The end result is the rare mainstream NC-17 release, winning Ang a permanent place in BOP's heart. It's official, kind sir. All is forgiven for The Hulk. Now make with the nude and naughty Wei Tang stuff! (David Mumpower/BOP)
I see you've played Knifey Spooney before! 16) Resident Evil: Extinction

When we last left the heroes of Raccoon City, the nightmare scenario had occurred. Despite the best efforts of Jill Valentine, Carlos Oliviera and the mysterious Alice, the T-virus won out. The infection had spread into a plague, forcing a tough call to be made. The city was nuked from orbit. It was the only way to be sure.

Where does that leave the good guys? They now wander the land in a zombie-proof bus as they seek out fellow survivors in a world overrun by the undead. That's right. The government-approved destruction of Raccoon City failed to stop the spread of the disease. It's everywhere now, and the group lead by Alice lives in a post-apocalyptic Hell, a dystopian society where death is no longer permanent. The only driving force for most of those in human form is hunger, hunger for flesh.

Resident Evil: Extinction is the third film in the franchise, and this one seeks to combine many of the plot elements of the Sega Dreamcast (and later Playstation 2) game Codename: Veronica with some of the ideas from the recent Dawn of the Dead re-make. The heroes explore the Nevada desert in search of stragglers who were not devoured and turned into the shambling undead when the T-virus reached America's playground, Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Alice continues her voyage of self-discovery as she tries to determine exactly what the Umbrella Corporation did to her and how can use her super-human abilities to save a virtually extinct species of animals, mankind.

Long time readers of BOP know what big fans we are of the videogames. The first two Resident Evil movies have also proven to be a guilty pleasure. The anticipation for a new release in the series is overshadowed in only one way. Once we get Codename: Veronica out of the way, the next movie should be based upon the greatest videogame of all time, Resident Evil 4. Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. (David Mumpower/BOP)

BOP 25 of Fall: 15-6
BOP 25 of Fall: 5-1



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