It’s the most wonderful season of fall

Ben Raymond

Between the high-budget, low-grade, dime-a-dozen thrills of summer blockbusters, the December Oscar hysteria, and those pre-Thanksgiving piles of festering yuletide crap lies one of cinema’s most promising seasons.

As the leaves change and the temperature drops, theaters premiere some of the year’s best filmic offerings. So take off your flagrant Halloween stripper getup, put some real clothes on and check out these films.

“American Gangster”

Nov. 2

Ridley Scott, the ageless genius behind such classics as “Alien” and “Gladiator,” tries his hand at gangster drama with the highly anticipated “American Gangster.”

Directed by the multi-talented Scott and featuring an exciting pairing of acting talent in Oscar-winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, “American Gangster” has the promise on both sides of the camera.

Based on a true story, the film is the story of drug kingpin Frank Lewis (Washington) who, in the 1970s ran one of the largest narcotics empires in New York City history.

Considered by many at the time to be the most dangerous man in Manhattan, even more powerful than the Italian mafia, Lucas was the target and obsession of NYPD detective Richie Roberts (Crowe), who investigated Lucas for many years.

“American Gangster” is a surefire hit both at the box office and with critics.

Experts estimate it could take in as much as $40 million over its opening weekend. Perhaps it will be able to piggyback on last year’s success of “The Departed,” while making a killing at the box office, thrill moviegoers nationwide in a possible run for an Oscar. This cat-and-mouse tale has all the makings of a winner. With the incomparable (and underappreciated) Scott at the helm and Crowe and Washington in the lead, you can’t miss it.


Nov. 16

I’m a little hesitant to recommend this film.

I can’t see how an anonymously-written ninth-century Scandinavian war epic about a Danish prince who fights a bar-crashing monster and has an affair with a pond-nymph will attract audiences.

But never underestimate the power of a lot of manly groaning and a sleekly animated Angelina Jolie to draw-in the flies.

From Robert Zemeckis, director of “Forrest Gump” and “The Polar Express,” comes the movie adaptation of the classic epic poem “Beowulf.” The dread of every academically indifferent high school student in creation, the story of Beowulf should be familiar to all. Now completely animated (using the same computer technology patented by “The Polar Express” three years ago), Beowulf is ready for his 21st century makeover.

Starring Ray Winstone (“The Departed”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs”) and a fully animated, scantily-clad, pond-soaked Jolie (complete with a scaly tail!), the film looks like a sexy, streamlined action flick. As long as the nudity is confined to Jolie and Hopkins keeps his surely age-ravaged naughty bits safely off-screen, it should be a safe bet for success.

“I’m Not There”

Nov. 16

Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw and Cate Blanchett are all Bob Dylan. “I’m Not There,” Todd Haynes’ biopic of the legendary musician, is one of the year’s most anticipated films. In an attempt to show the many dimensions of Dylan, Haynes decided to have six different actors play the singer during different stages in his life.

The biggest draw for “I’m Not There” isn’t the music, or the man behind the music, or the men playing the man behind the music.

It’s the lady playing the man behind the music.

That’s right. Blanchett is Bob Dylan.

Every review from critics lucky enough to see advanced screenings of the film has labeled Blanchett’s performance as one of the highlights of the year, as well as the film.

Trailers give a small taste of her mind-boggling ability to capture Dylan. From his voice, to his mannerisms, to the particular way his cigarette dangles from between his lips, Blanchett has Dylan down to poetry. I can’t wait. Oh, and tally up another Oscar statuette for Hollywood’s most capable actress. She’s a lock.

“No Country for Old Men”

Nov. 21

If there were an award for the most talked-about, most celebrated, most you-have-to-see-this film of the year, “No Country for Old Men” would win hands-down.

Audience favorite and runner-up for the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Coen Brothers’ (“Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski”) adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s blood-soaked Western is an early favorite for an Oscar nomination and the pick of most critics for year’s best film.

The film stars Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive”), Javier Bardem (“The Sea Inside”) and Josh Brolin (“Grindhouse”).

This cast is just one of the reasons that “No Country for Old Men” already has a cult following a month before its scheduled release.

Few films in recent memory have inspired such giddiness among us devoted cinephiles.

On Nov. 21, “No Country for Old Men” opens nationwide, when audiences will see three triumphs at once: the Coens’ return to form, a certain best picture nominee and Bardem coldly killing his way into the most hallowed halls of kickass assassindom.

So, readers, somewhere between your Hallow’s Eve keggers and gravy-induced coma, get a ticket for one of these promising fall films.