BOP 25 of Fall 2006: 25-16

By BOP Staff

September 6, 2006

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 prior to last year. With the Academy Awards voting period pushed up a month, the release schedule now features a surprisingly strong October in addition to the usual C-grade action films available in September. Suffice it to say that Fall is no longer the Not Good Enough for Summer dumping ground it had been up until 2004. The 2006 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'm keeping my distance because I heard about your STD. 25) Man of the Year

Did you hear the one about the comedian that ran for President? Yeah, his campaign was a joke! (Ow, stop hitting me!) In the fine tradition of Dave and Bulworth, Man of the Year takes a stab at political satire from the angle of "wouldn't it be great if a straight-shooter got into the White House?" Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, a Jon Stewart-esque (he's named checked in the trailer, along with frequent Daily Show contributor Lewis Black) fake news show host who launches a fake run for President. The problem? He actually wins. So now what?

This looks to be a vehicle for Williams's quasi-improv talents, aimed at the arena of politics, though expecting any ground-breaking insights would be a mistake. This is a middle-of-the-road comedy aimed at a populist audience... hey, wait a minute!

Barry Levinson directs, reuniting with Williams for the first time since, uh, Toys, though the marketing campaign would more likely have you remember Good Morning, Vietnam. Christopher Walken, Laura Linney and Jeff Goldblum round out the big names in the cast. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
You can see both of their hands, so we don't know why they're smiling. 24) The Last Kiss

BOP digs Zach Braff. From his charming yet goofy antics on Scrubs to his more measured, melancholy star turn and directorial debut in Garden State, Braff has proven to be a talented performer who always merits our attention. He toplines the contemporary dramedy The Last Kiss, a project that is based on the acclaimed Italian film L'Ultimo Baccio. The movie will examine love, infidelity, friendship, marriage and the notion that turning 30 is a momentous occasion in a young person's life.

Along with Braff, The Last Kiss boasts a solid pedigree. The screenplay was handled by Paul Haggis, who was responsible for the adaptation of Million Dollar Baby and directed last year's Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Crash. Actor Tony Goldwyn is directing, hoping to translate his television helming experience on shows like Grey's Anatomy and Law & Order to similar success. Braff's co-stars are an eclectic bunch, with former Real World-er Jacinda Barrett playing the female lead. Also onboard are the always charismatic Casey Affleck (who has yet to suffer the backlash experienced by his brother), The O.C.'s wonderful Rachel Bilson, Blythe Danner, and the always terrific Tom Wilkinson. If The Last Kiss can capitalize on the talent involved, it should be a force to contend with. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
2 of these people are funny. The other is Dane Cook. 23) Employee of the Month

Dax Shepard and Dane Cook must be the only two people in North America who never saw a clip of Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. How else could they explain the fact that the two men spend the body of Employee of the Month chasing after a woman who cannot distinguish between chicken and Chicken of the Sea? The moral of the story here is that seeing an attractive woman in daisy dukes makes men do stupid, stupid things.

The unlikely premise of the story is that an employee has recently transferred from a different store in the franchise. When her new co-workers try to find out more about this ridiculously beautiful cashier, Amy, they discover she has a weird fetish. She only dates people who have gotten their face on the everyman wall-of-fame known as the employee of the month collection. This is good news for Vince. After all, he's won the honor (?) for almost a year and a half in a row. Popular underachiever Zach is undeterred, however. He embarks on a mission to turn around his career for a period of roughly four weeks, long enough to earn the titular honor and (presumably) Amy's heart. Wait, why did we vote for this dreck? Oh right, it's because many of the men here have seen Jessica Simpson in daisy dukes. (David Mumpower/BOP)

It's the Mexican non-union equivalent of Kate and Hurley! 22) Feast

To date, the movies that have emerged from the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-created development program for screenwriters, Project Greenlight, have been fairly safe. Stolen Summer and The Battle of Shaker Heights never particularly tore it up at the box office, but they were noteworthy for taking a chance on some unproven creative minds and unspooling the entire process in front of viewers in a television reality series. The most recent movie to emerge from this program is Feast, a horror flick written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, with John Gulager taking the helm. Along with Damon and Affleck, scream film master Wes Craven also takes an Executive Producer credit.

The concept of the story is simple. A number of bar patrons find themselves stuck inside their favorite watering hole. Monsters surround them, hoping for a yummy human meal, but our heroes will fight to stay alive. The cast includes Navi Rawat (Ryan's love from Chino on The O.C.), Krista Allen, Balthazaar Getty (most recently seen on Alias), Henry Rollins and BOP fave Jason Mewes. It's only getting a token, brief theatrical release before quickly becoming available on DVD, so Feast will be an easy film to catch this fall. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Is that Butterbean he's kicking? 21) Jet Li's Fearless

Jet Li swears this is it. He's done. There will be no more martial arts movies for the most talented actor of the genre since Bruce Lee. No, BOP doesn't believe it any more than we believe Paris Hilton is living a celibate lifestyle, but that's not the point. If Jet Li is so pleased with the result that he has decided it would be impossible to top Fearless at any point in the near future, is there any higher action pedigree possible for the production?

In the eight years since Li entered the North American spotlight in Lethal Weapon 4, he has proven time and again that no one in the world is more adept at kick-ass action scenes. If he says he's maxed out the genre with Fearless, that's plenty good enough for BOP. We don't care about the plot. We don't care about the co-stars. We don't care about the future (for the moment, anyway). All we want is to watch Jet Li defy gravity, logic, and human physiology all at once as he proves once and for all that he is the greatest martial artist turned actor of the past quarter century. (David Mumpower/BOP)
We can't wait to hear him talk with a Scots brogue. 20) The Last King of Scotland

You know what there simply hasn't been enough of? That's right, movies about the life of Idi Amin. For those unfamiliar with politics and history, Amin was the dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, and largely considered to be a complete and utter nutter. In the West, he is believed to be one of the most brutal and murderous leaders to rule a country, though media from other countries simply portrayed him as a buffoon. It's impossible to think of Amin without remembering him as a cannibal, though such charges were never truly proven.

Based on a book by Giles Foden, The Last King of Scotland relates the story of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, a physician who is on a medical mission in Uganda. Through a strange confluence of events, Garrigan becomes private physician to Amin. Although Garrigan is initially flattered by the attention he receives from the Ugandan leader, he soon realizes that Amin is a cruel and barbaric man, and the doctor must make every effort to extract himself from the man's employ – and Uganda – with his life intact. The Last King of Scotland has a stellar cast, with Forest Whitaker portraying Amin, James McAvoy playing the doctor and Kerry Washington and Gillian Anderson in supporting roles. Look for it to be a minor player when awards season rolls around, too. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
A cowboy with a girl? This is not what we've been trained to expect recently. 19) Flicka

If there is one thing that we have learned over the past several years, it's that young girls love horses. And if movies like Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Dreamer haven't quite been massive blockbusters, they have certainly been steady, well-received examples of the genre. Mary O'Hara's novel My Friend Flicka has been adapted for the big screen before, but it gets a more modernized update – and a shorter name – for this fall release.

The movie will star up-and-comer Alison Lohman (most recently seen in Where the Truth Lies) as Katie McLoughlin, a young woman who lives on her family ranch and has aspirations to be in charge someday. Unfortunately, this notion doesn't sit particularly well with her father (Tim McGraw), who thinks that horse ranching is men's work and that Katie would be better served to knit or cook or play with dolls or do whatever it is that womenfolk do. Determined to prove that she has what it takes, Katie claims a wild horse as her own and trains it. Hearts everywhere become warm, and Tim McGraw learns another lesson (last year he was the angry, drunken father in Friday Night Lights who finally realized that his expectations of his son were way off kilter). In a year where people across the country sent cards, letters, toys and best wishes for the recovery of a horse named Barbaro, it's obvious that there's something about these beautiful creatures that makes us happy. And hopeful. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Abra abra cadabra! I wanna reach out and grab ya! 18) The Covenant

Okay, we know what you are thinking. Yes, The Covenant is probably going to be the sort of garbage that has kept the mafia knee deep in sanitation contracts for the past fifty years. We acknowledge that in advance. Even so, you have to hand it to whoever handled the special effects and cut the trailer. That shot of the car exploding, disassembling, and re-forming in the blink of an eye is sensational. I am not exaggerating when I say that I cannot think of a single sequence from summer 2006 box office that offered the same degree of visual gratification than that. The fact that it's from the same people who gave the world the Underworld franchise makes the whole situation understandable.

The Covenant is certain to highlight style over substance, but BOP needs that from time to time as a break from Kate Winslet's next Academy-adored performance. Sometimes, it's fun to see a B-movie with bad acting and the occasional exquisite special effect. Besides, the film is directed by Renny Harlin and while his last three films (Driven, Exorcist: The Beginning and Mindhunters) were all garbage, this is the same man who gave us Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea. The talent still exists within him to be a sensational action sequence director. We are willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt on The Covenant based on that ultra-hot trailer. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Brokeback Mountain 2: Summer Camp 17) Gridiron Gang

Finally, The Rock has come back to the realm of pigskin warfare. For those of you who mainly know him as an eyebrow-raising, smack talking quip master or, God forbid, as the star of Doom, you might be surprised to know that The Rock is a legitimate football stud. The artist formerly known as Dwayne Johnson was an All-American high school player who earned scholarship offers from any number of major colleges. He finally settled upon the highest possible college football pedigree, signing up to become Warren Sapp's successor on the defensive line at Miami. A back injury cut short any hope he had of a professional career in football but not before he had a solid career playing defensive tackle at The U. In fact, Dwayne Johnson is oftentimes credited as being the reason Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward pursued a career in the NBA rather than the NFL. Johnson once tackled Ward so hard that the FSU QB realized a less physical league would be a more intelligent way to make a living. In short, The Rock was once a legitimate football stud back in the day before he became a wrestling icon and B-level movie star.

With Gridiron Gang, The Rock is afforded the opportunity to combine the great love of his youth with his new profession. Unlike the fairy tale-ish August release, Invincible, Gridiron Gang is a much harsher true-life tale. A well-intended detention officer named Sean Porter (The Rock) sees a bunch of ill-fated kids who have little hope for life save the occasional gang war. In an attempt to show the boys how to become men, he organizes a football team of the juvenile delinquents. Despite heavy political pressure to cut the program before someone gets killed, Porter holds true to the notion that these young men had never been given a fair shot in life and football could be their salvation. To his own surprise, his faith is justified when the Mustangs come together as a team and compete for the CIF League championship. We have seen this general theme before, with a recent example in 2005's Coach Carter, as well as previous variations such as Dangerous Minds, Stand and Deliver, Mr. Holland's Opus, Dead Poets Society, and To Sir with Love. And we're suckers for the premise every time. Gridiron Gang promises to remind us that the soul of teaching is leadership by example and that redemption and hope are possible for people of any background, any circumstance. And if we get The People's Eyebrow a couple of times, that's simply a happy bonus. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Oh, snap! 16) DOA: Dead or Alive

"You're a simple man, Dick." So sayeth Veronica Mars scene stealer Logan Echolls to his comrade, Dick Casablancas, as the latter gentleman celebrates his puerile enjoyment of DOA's virtual cast of girls in bikinis playing beach volleyball. Logan's words of wisdom have never rung truer than with the release of DOA: Dead Or Alive. The movie promises to mesh the fighting game sequences from the videogame franchise along with the shameless and stubbornly gratuitous T&A from the volleyball follow-up. Just how popular is the volleyball game with teen boys, you might ask. An Xbox 360 sequel released later this year is already widely expected to be the most popular title for the system during the holiday season.

The movie will not see that degree of success, but that's okay by us. A stellar cast anchored by Sin City hit-woman extraordinaire Devon Aoki, Smallville villain Sarah Carter, Elektra kisser/killer Natassia Malthe and (particularly) My Name Is Earl icon Jaime Pressly is reason enough for our expectations of cheesy fun. This group offers just the right touch of up-and-coming actresses who can believably kick ass without worrying about breaking a nail and, frankly, we would watch Pressly in pretty much anything as long as she promises to say "Oh, snap!" at least once in it. Director Corey Yuen created a hip, stylish franchise with his work on The Transporter, and BOP strongly suspects he'll duplicate the feat with DOA: Dead Or Alive. This film's combination of action and *ahem* talent should go a long way in heating up those dull, slightly chilly fall nights. (David Mumpower/BOP)



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