2010 Fall Movie Preview: November is Harry Potter Month

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
Photo: Warner Bros.

There’s no mistaking it, November 2010 is the month of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (11/19). No other film comes close to it in terms of anticipation and/or expectation. There may be a few people with little interest in the Harry Potter franchise, but certainly they are in the minority when it comes to audience members that will be checking out the first part of the final two chapters in the Harry Potter saga. This is a franchise that has grossed over $1.7 billion domestically plus an additional $3.7 billion from international markets. I think it’s safe to say a $5.4 billion franchise coming to a close is a bit of a big deal.

When it comes to the Harry Potter films there is one interesting aspect that stands out, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is still the largest domestic grosser at the box-office out of the first six films. I expect both Deathly Hallows films will surpass it considering they are both being released in 3D, but considering the success of the franchise it’s amazing the first film still holds the #1 domestic box-office crown.

However, beyond Harry Potter there are other films to consider. They may not end up making as much at the box-office, but box-office dollars aren’t always a symbol of quality as we’re all well aware.

In terms of other big studio features you have Tony Scott’s Speed on a train in the Denzel Washington and Chris Pine (Star Trek) starrer Unstoppable (11/12) and The Hangover director Todd Phillips is bringing along Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis for his comedic follow-up Due Date (11/5). Both films are interesting based solely on the talent involved, but I can’t help but feel Scott is mining the same territory he’s tackled before and Due Date looks like it may have run the risk of giving away the majority of its punchlines in its trailer.

Genre fans will be serviced with Skyline (11/12), directed by Alien vs. Predator – Requiem helmers Greg and Colin Strause while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pushes the kiddie flicks aside for a second to star in the R-rated actioner Faster (11/24).

Skyline looks like your typical PG-13 alien abduction flick trying to appease video game audiences with its visuals, but I’ll hold out hope the idea of human abduction on a mass level holds some appeal beyond the simple vision of thousands floating up into UFOs.

As for Faster, I’m almost starting to think the reason Johnson did all those kid flicks was in an effort to drop “The Rock” from his name and sell his films without his wrestling moniker. I’m sure most of you know this, but anytime the WWE wrestlers use their pro wrestling names in other media Vince McMahon, WWE CEO, gets to add his name to the producer’s credits and gets a cut of the profit. Johnson didn’t need “The Rock” to sell a story of him babysitting little girls so it was a way for him to make films for mass public consumption and get his face out there without “The Rock” label attached. CBS Films is clearly using only Dwayne Johnson to market Faster in which he stars alongside Bill Bob Thornton so I guess we’ll see if his move has paid off.

Additional mass consumption films belong to the month’s two animated features by way of DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind (11/5) featuring the voice work of Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt and Disney’s alternate take on the Rapunzel story with Tangled (11/24). I can’t say I am immediately interested in either of them though Will Ferrell’s involvement in Megamind certainly tips what little interest I am able to muster in that film’s direction.

When it comes to the more adult related features for the month Doug Liman’s Fair Game (11/5), Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours (11/5) and Paul Haggis’s The Next Three Days (11/19) all carry a certain interest for me.

I saw Fair Game in Cannes and enjoyed it with a few admitted reservations considering the truthfulness of the story, but I still see it as a solid watch. I’ll be seeing 127 Hours in Toronto and have already heard great things from someone who’s seen it and can’t wait to take it in myself. As for The Next Three Days, it looks to be the wild card between these three where 127 Hours is probably the strongest, Fair Game stuck in the middle and Next Three Days serving as a thriller that may not be unique enough to find much interest. The trailer certainly looked intense, but it also conjures up memories of so many films just like it. It’s simply a matter of whether or not it can surprise us or if it just leaves as bored with a blank stare.

Two films that may manage to break out and find wider audiences are Paramount’s Morning Glory (11/12) and the Screen Gems musical Burlesque (11/24) starring Christina Aguilera in her feature film debut alongside Cher. Between the two I see Morning Glory as having much more of a chance than Burlesque primarily thanks to the fact it’s a late season dramedy with much loved talent in the form of Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams. And with it releasing just before the Thanksgiving holiday I see it having some long legs if its any good whatsoever. Having Notting Hill director Roger Michell at the helm doesn’t hurt either.

At this point, Burlesque is just a huge question mark. Certainly Cher has talent as does co-star Stanley Tucci, but can Aguilera appeal to wide audiences? Will it be good enough to garner Oscar attention or does the fact it’s a Screen Gems release tell us all we need to know? It’s all a guessing game at this point so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Speaking of Oscar, there are a couple films vying for definite Oscar attention. Most prominently would be Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs (11/24), which has been receiving acclaim for Anne Hathaway since much earlier this year. Of course, this is obvious Oscar chatter considering Hathaway plays a woman with Parkinson’s, which is always Oscar bait. However, with two trailers being released already people can’t seem to figure out if it is just another generic romantic comedy or something worthy of awards attention. Watch both trailers below and you decide.

Domestic TrailerInternational Trailer

Another serious Oscar contender is Tom Hooper’s period piece The King’s Speech (11/24) starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle and Derek Jacobi. This one chronicles the story of King George VI’s effort to overcome his nervous stammer with the assistance of speech therapist Lionel Logue and will be playing in Toronto, but due to scheduling conflicts it already looks like I may miss it.

Possible Oscar films don’t end there as Alex Gibney offers up his second documentary of the year with Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (11/5), which is yet another title I hope to catch while in Toronto. In terms of the Oscar race this one may be looking simply at a nomination as it would appear Inside Job and The Tillman Story will be battling it out for the big prize with a possible surprise third candidate in Restrepo. However, don’t doubt Spitzer’s charms, he was after all… Client 9.

Finally we end with a pair of indie films. First is the James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart feature Welcome to the Rileys (11/5), which was initially picked up by Apparition after a strong showing at Sundance, but was handed off to Samuel Goldwyn Films as Apparition did a little shuffling of their own. I’ve heard the film is good and delivers some great performances so I have hopes it holds up to the early buzz. The film revolves around a couple whose marriage is on the rocks when the husband (Gandolfini) meets a young prostitute (Stewart), on a business trip to New Orleans. He extends his stay to help her, as his wife (Melissa Leo) finds a way back to him.

Lastly is Sony Classics’s Made in Dagenham (11/19), which is said to potentially hold an Oscar nomination for Sally Hawkins. It’s playing in Toronto as well, but it looks like the schedule will have me waiting to see it when I get back to the Emerald City.

Featured just below are the ten films I’m anticipating most, although one of them (which I marked with an *) I’ve already seen. I’ve ordered them in order of release date and by the looks of it November 5 is quite the release date with four of my most anticipated November releases all coming that day. The 24th is a close second, however, with three of its own.

Browse the Rest of My 2010 Fall Movie Preview: